More than a year after their last contract ran out, nearly 200 members of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Local 390G went out on strike at International Flavors and Fragrances in Memphis, Tennessee, June 4. The workers produce soy protein products used by Nestle Purina, Kellogg’s, Kind Bars, Abbott and other companies to make baby formula, pet food, nutritional powders and beverages.
The union is fighting bosses’ demands for a contract that ends overtime pay, reduces benefits and allows the company to unilaterally change or cut their health insurance with 30-days notice. The company is hiring scabs.
“I’m striking for better benefits, and I’m fighting for my family,” striker Susan Tidwell said on the BCTGM website.
“What they’re trying to do is take away all benefits we have and have complete control over them,” the local’s president, Cedric Wilson, told ABC24 News. “So if we don’t fight now there’s a possibility we could lose our union.”
“The company just can’t make changes whenever it wants,” Ladarius Morgan, an operator at the plant, said.
A spirited solidarity rally at the picket line June 15 was joined by members of Teamsters Local 667, United Auto Workers Local 2406 and the West Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council, as well as Van Turner, president of the Memphis branch of the NAACP, and local politicians.
“Stay strong and don’t give up the fight,” Marlene Ramos wrote in a solidarity message on the strikers’ GoFundMe page. Ramos is a member of BCTGM Local 50 in Omaha, Nebraska, that struck Kellogg’s two years ago along with fellow unionists at the company’s plants in Memphis; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Battle Creek, Michigan.
You can drop off food, drinks and other supplies for the strikers and visit them at their picket line at 4272 South Mendenhall Road. Contributions to the strike fund should be made out to BCTGM Local 390G and sent to BCTGM Local 390G, 7527 Britt Way, Memphis, TN 38125.