- President Joe Biden released a statement saying he was “deeply troubled” by Kellogg’s plan to replace striking workers.
- Workers across four plants have been on strike since early October, and voted down a tentative agreement this week.
- One striking Kellogg’s worker said that Biden’s statement is “exactly what we needed at this time.”
President Joe Biden has chimed in on the ongoing strike by Kellogg’s workers, reiterating his “unyielding support” for unions and slamming the company for moving to replace workers on strike.
In a statement, Biden said that he was “deeply troubled by reports of Kellogg’s plans to permanently replace striking workers.”
Kellogg’s workers at four plants have been on strike since October 5, pushing back against a two-tier wage system that they say is unfair. Unit members “overwhelmingly” voted down a tentative agreement on Tuesday, according to the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International union, and have remained out on the picket line. A Kellogg’s presentation said that tentative agreement included 3% wage increases, and enhanced benefits, alongside an “accelerated” path to move workers out of the lower-tier wage system.
In response to members voting down the agreement, Kellogg said that “the prolonged work stoppage has left us no choice but to hire permanent replacement employees in positions vacated by striking workers,” with about 1,400 workers set to be replaced.
Biden is crying foul on that, saying that permanently replacing workers on strike “is an existential attack on the union and its members’ jobs and livelihoods.”
“I have long opposed permanent striker replacements and I strongly support legislation that would ban that practice,” Biden said, adding that it “undermines the critical role collective bargaining plays in providing workers a voice and the opportunity to improve their lives while contributing fully to their employer’s success.”
In a statement to Insider, Kellogg spokesperson Kris Bahner that the “the tentative agreement was a fully negotiated deal between Kellogg and the union,” saying that it “contained no concessions or takeaways.”
“We are very disappointed that it was ultimately rejected,” Bahner said. “We have an obligation to our customers and consumers to continue to provide the cereals that they know and love – as well as to the thousands of people we employ.”
Dan Osborn, president of the local union branch in Omaha, Nebraska, told Insider that Biden’s statement is “exactly what we needed at this time.” BCTGM told Insider that it “whole-heartedly” agrees with the president.
Osborn said that, even as members out on strike start defaulting on their mortgages, and facing down winter conditions, “we’re still out there.”
“We have people battling cancer. It’s going to really affect negatively our relationships with our spouses,” Osborn said. “That’s the reality and that’s the gravity of the situation we’re finding ourselves in, but, at the end of it, we still believe in what we’re fighting for.”
“They can permanently replace us and they could try to start our factories up without us. They can make as much as they want. If they’re not selling it, then they’re gonna be in trouble.”
Biden’s support marks another prominent voice coming out in support of the strikers, and is consistent with his positions on labor. He has said that he means to be “the most pro-union president, leading the most pro-union administration in American history.” He’s thrown his support behind the PRO Act, a labor-rights bill, with some of its provisions appearing in the Build Back Better Act.
“Unions built the middle class of this country,” Biden said. “My unyielding support for unions includes support for collective bargaining, and I will aggressively defend both.”