The Kellogg’s workers in Omaha are standing up for all of us
Bruce Springsteen’s Glory Days blasts on the Classic Rock station at the back entrance to the Kellogg’s plant in Omaha. I’m home for a visit to family and have joined the picket line with the workers who have been on strike here since October 5.
A lot of folks don’t really know much about what it means to be on strike — it’s a big risk and it takes a lot of organization, discipline and community. Forgoing a paycheck, making due with donations and maybe some modest strike benefits the union has saved up, showing up in whatever weather to join your co-workers and walk the line outside the plant. (Midwesterners are famously stoic about our harsh weather but the pic of an Omaha striker enduring the pouring rain went viral.)
Why? Why put yourself through this? The Kellogg’s strikers like the Nabisco workers before them (who won major concessions after their strike this summer) are doing the math, and seeing a company that made record profits during Covid while they showed up, day in and day out, worked long shifts so families all over the US could get their Fruit Loops, Frosted Flakes or Raisen Bran.
I walked with folks like Jody, Adrian, Mike, who have worked at this plant for 17 years — hard working, loyal, reliable — and they are saying: the CEO of Kelloggs made $11.6 Million in 2020 and we worked our tails off during the pandemic. We are all doing a great job here; thanks to our productivity, Kelloggs’ North America operating profit increased 21% in fiscal year 2020 to $1.47 Billion; so this makes no sense to cut pay and benefits for new workers.
Pretty basic: we are working hard and playing by the rules and we should ALL be doing well with this success. These strikers are NOT asking for too much. So do not let Kelloggs sell you Fruit Loops shipped in from overseas; make toast for breakfast and make a contribution to the strike fund so these folks can feed their families and keep going.
What blows me away about the Kelloggs strikers (and many of the strikes happening across the US right now) is that they are not fighting only for their own paychecks and benefits. They are saying NO to “two tier” systems: management says to the current workers — “hey you can keep your wages and benefits, but for the next round of folks hired we will make cuts, ok?” and these workers are saying NO — we’re on the picket line to make sure these are good jobs for new workers hired who come after us — we all need good jobs and we’re not going to sell the younger folks out.
Similarly several of these strikes have been workers putting themselves on the line to reject a two-tier system that gives temp workers a raw deal — they do the same job, work side by side with others making better pay and benefits, every three months they wait to see if they get re-signed and still have work.
The union workers on strike are just asking for their fair share and they are looking out for each other not just themselves. At a time in our country of so much division and strife, I find these worker actions to be such a ray of hope — we are all in this together, we are our brother’s and sister’s keeper. This is what unions do and this is why public opinion about unions is at an all time high. All workers deserve what these union workers have; a way to speak up and bargain for their fair share.
I love coming home to Nebraska. The sky is Big. The Missouri River majestic. The familiar smells at the local Runza Hut a total treat. Some people call my hometown flyover country — they think they know better than the folks who work hard and raise their families here. But do not be confused — these Cornhuskers are giving us all a lesson in economics, hard work, grit and solidarity. As Dan Osborne, president of the Omaha BCTGM Local put it best “we’re fighting for the survival of the middle class and the American dream”.