According to a report from The Intercept, the CEO of the Kellogg Co. is doing damage control after an audiotape revealed one of the company's top negotiators in the highly contentious labor dispute that was resolved last December sneered at union leaders as "terrorists."
The report notes that Ken Hurley, the VP of human resources and labor relations, was meeting company attorneys and "union suppression consultants" when he made the comments.
As the Intercept's Lee Fang wrote, "In hushed tones, Hurley described the tactics employed by activists during a nearly 10-week cereal plant strike last fall. The strike prevented concessions from workers and forced Kellogg’s to back off a plan to expand its two-tier wage system," adding, "The conversation was hosted by a human resources and labor relations trade group called CUE. Hurley said he was surprised by the aggressive nature of the union, which generally has not engaged in confrontational tactics or strikes."
On the tape, Hurley can be heard saying, "In my view the union leadership at the bargaining table were behaving more like terrorists than partners.”
Those comments led to Kellogg's CEO Steve Cahillane to jump into the fray with a statement saying, "We are just learning about these statements, as they were not authorized by Kellogg. We are embarrassed as a company – the comments and the tone in which they were delivered do not reflect the values of our organization or our position. We sincerely apologize. We have a long and productive history of working with our unions. We fully expect that will continue moving forward.”
As for the union leaders, Trevor Bidelman, president of BCTGM Local 3G, fired back, "You know, Ken Hurley fully believes that U.S. Kellogg’s workers have too much and we should be giving things back to make sure the business succeeds. Well, I’m sorry, nobody stood up for 20 years and everybody kept acquiescing to the fact that CEOs get paid $10 million and stock profits,”
The Intercept's Fang added, "The negotiations centered on a two-tier system of pay for many workers, with lower wages of $9 an hour and partial benefits for 'transitional workers.' This was a sticking point for union activists, in addition to higher overall wages. The final contract, signed in December, provides cost-of-living adjustments and a pathway for low-paid transitional workers to become full-time 'legacy' employees, who make nearly three times as much."
You can read more here as well as listen to the leaked audio.