LANDISVILLE, Pa. — Striking Kellogg’s cereal workers, members of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union Local 374G, held a cookout and rally at the fire station pavilion here Oct. 30. Some 1,400 BCTGM members have been on strike since Oct. 5 at four plants — in Battle Creek, Michigan; Omaha, Nebraska; Memphis, Tennessee; and here in Lancaster County. There are over 360 Local 374G strikers.
Critical issues are at stake, especially the bosses’ insistence on keeping a two-tier wage system that pays new hires roughly half what workers hired before 2016 get. One of the most popular signs on the picket line is “Equal pay for equal work.”
Other key issues include the bosses’ demands to end a cost-of-living clause in the contract that helps defend workers’ wages from the ravages of inflation, to cut vacation time, and make workers pay more for their health insurance.
Strikers heard from Local 374G President Kerry Williams, as well as David Woods, the union’s international secretary-treasurer, and Roger Miller, East-Central Region vice president.
“All four locals are standing strong,” Woods said. “We’re in this to win it.” He pointed to BCTGM strikes earlier this year, at Frito-Lay and Nabisco, where workers made gains and set an example.
“Our strike has received overwhelming support around the country,” Miller added. With that kind of solidarity, “We can win.”
Woods reported the company had agreed to a new round of negotiations at the beginning of the week, in Arlington, Virginia. All four locals will be represented.
Williams thanked Bakery Workers Local 6 from Philadelphia, whose members brought food and beverages for the cookout.
Pickets are up 24/7
The local is keeping pickets up 24/7 at the company’s East Hempfield Township plant gates. The bosses are bringing in scabs to try and keep some production going and to demoralize the strikers.
After the event this Militant worker-correspondent joined the day’s afternoon picket shift, talking with strikers as they waved to passing drivers.
“What is happening here with our strike, we’re revitalizing the union,” Keith White, an 18-year veteran at the cereal plant, said as we walked the line. I asked if the company is getting much production with the scabs. Pointing to the steam pipes beyond the fence with intermittent puffs of vapor, White said, “less than 25%.”
“Nabisco strikers set the stage for what we’re doing,” said Cheri Wilson, who’s Black and has worked at Kellogg’s for 33 years. “We’re fighting for the future. For the younger workers. We’re out here for the union.”
She said during her shifts no one has crossed. “Even part-timers and students who aren’t in the union have honored our pickets. It’s a testament to the solidarity in the broader Lancaster County.”
Wilson told me the union had played a part in pressuring the company to employ more African Americans.
Since the walkout began the local has won support and donations from unions and small businesses in the area and across the state.
Support has come from United Steelworkers Local 7687 in York, as well as USW Local 287M in Lancaster County. Two building trades unions, IBEW Local 24 and Carpenters Local 431, joined the picket and brought coffee and hand warmers. And rail workers from SMART Local 830, based in Harrisburg, joined the pickets and brought breakfast.
A number of local and national political figures have come as well. John Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor, attended the cookout and expressed his support for the union. U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh came to the picket line a couple days earlier. “The company is playing hardball. They want to see who’s going to break first,” warehouse worker Joseph Credito told him. “Well guess what? I’ll stay out here as long as it takes, one day longer than they will.”
As of the cookout, Local 374G has received donations of more than $56,000 through the union’s website.
The international union’s website — BCTGM.org — has two special sites, one describing the issues in the strike and the other listing five ways you can support the strikers. The latter offers internet links where you can contribute to each of the striking locals.