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Kellogg says it will permanently replace striking employees

DON GONYEA, HOST:

The Kellogg's strike began on October 5 with 1,400 employees across the company's four plants that make breakfast cereal. This week, when the union rejected a deal after two months of negotiating, Kellogg's announced it will hire permanent replacement workers. And then President Joe Biden weighed in. NPR's Becky Sullivan has the latest.

BECKY SULLIVAN, BYLINE: One of the biggest issues for the striking workers is Kellogg's two-tier compensation system. Employees who were hired before 2015 have their own higher wage scale and better benefits. The union, which is called the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union, says they wanted to do away with that system or at least create a way for newer employees to eventually access that better pay. Last week, the union and the company reached a tentative five-year deal with raises for employees and that pathway to move between pay tiers. But on Tuesday, it was announced that the union workers had overwhelmingly voted to reject that deal. Here's Dan Osborne, head of the Omaha Local, speaking to local TV station KMTV.

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DAN OSBORNE: There's a lot of emotions, you know, involved. Ultimately, I think people still want to continue the fight against corporate greed. And they felt like this contract wasn't good enough.

SULLIVAN: The company's plants in Omaha, Memphis, Michigan and Pennsylvania have been running with temporary workers, which is why you can still buy Frosted Flakes and Froot Loops at the store. But now the company says it will hire permanent workers to replace the union members who are on strike. On Friday, President Biden said he was, quote, "deeply troubled by the company's plan to hire new workers," calling it, quote, "an existential attack on the union." He even said he would support legislation to ban the practice. The strikes have been supported by local donations of food and national donations of money to strike funds to help the striking workers make ends meet. And now in another show of solidarity, social media users have flooded the job listings on the Kellogg's website with fake applications, hoping to clog up the system.

SEAN BLACK: I'm not going to try to explain exactly what this does. I'm just going to show you. Go ahead. Run the code.

SULLIVAN: This TikTok user by the name of Sean Black even wrote some code to automate sending in fake applications.

BLACK: All of it, including filling out the resume. It automatically applies.

SULLIVAN: In a statement, a spokesperson for Kellogg said the company is still willing to negotiate with the union. 2021 has been a big year for organized labor, with high-profile strikes in all corners of the economy, including Frito-Lay, John Deere and Kaiser Permanente. And just this week, workers at a Starbucks location in Buffalo voted to form that company's first-ever union. Becky Sullivan, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.