Publicly, cereal giant Kellogg has insisted that it has “made every effort to reach a fair agreement” with its 1,400 striking union employees, boasting each time that the tentative agreements include “no concessions or takeaways” from the union.
But a leaked email obtained by the Advance Friday from a plant manager in Battle Creek frames the latest tentative offer announced Thursday much differently. Union workers, who have been on strike since Oct. 5, are expected to vote this weekend.
“In short, [the] overall bucket of money (cost) stays the same. Just shifts money from one bucket to another. No gain overall for them with 3 more weeks of strike and no income. No ratification bonus,” the Friday email from plant manager Gregory Jackson reads.
“… I know everyone is tired and tense in the plant, please try to focus on what we need to do. Please try to keep negotiations talk to a minimum in the plant around the workers.”
Jackson had ostensibly sent the message to just his immediate staff and supervisors below him, but several Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) workers on strike also obtained the email and shared it with the Advance on Friday. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) held a rally in Battle Creek to support the strike that afternoon.
“My characterization of the deal was taken out of context. But let me be clear, the tentative agreement is more than fair and should be ratified,” Jackson said in an emailed statement provided by Kellogg Friday night.*
The BCTGM employees at four Kellogg plants, including 325 in Battle Creek, primarily seek an end to the company’s two-tier wage and benefits system, with newer workers receiving far less than their more experienced counterparts.
None of the company’s seven offers so far have included that concession. Union workers already voted down one offer earlier this month.
Donivan Williams, a member of the BCTGM Local 3G Executive Board, said Jackson’s words “don’t surprise me at all.”
“It’s appalling. But I’m not surprised at all,” Williams said, adding that it appeared Jackson was “comforting them [his staff] with our [union workers’] pain.”
“The strike vote went over so easily because of the way that people have been treated, and people are just being tired of being treated in that way,” he said.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Jackson has worked for Kellogg in some capacity since 2006. He has previously worked at the company’s locations in Ohio and Tennessee before becoming the Battle Creek plant manager in 2019.
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