President Biden issued a nervous written statement on Friday criticizing Kellogg’s decision to start hiring permanent replacements in its attempt to crush the more than two-month strike of 1,400 grain workers. The company announced the move after workers flatly rejected a concession contract backed by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Flour Mills (BCTGM) union last weekend.
The short eight-sentence statement is a clear sign of the nervousness within ruling circles that Kellogg’s movement could spark a social explosion within the working class. A first indication of the level of support from strikers against the move came earlier this week when Reddit users staged an online protest that brought down the servers Kellogg was using to hire replacements by flooding them with bogus claims. use.
The statement was released the same day the government announced that the official U.S. inflation rate hit a whopping 6.8% in November, the highest rate in 40 years. The significant erosion of workers’ living standards by inflation, itself a consequence of the economic and social dislocation caused by the refusal of most governments around the world to contain and end the pandemic, is a factor paramount in the tremendous growth in strikes and strike threats in recent months, of which Kellogg’s strike itself is one.
However, Biden’s letter did not announce any executive orders or other White House action to block Kellogg’s decision or to intervene directly. Instead, he called on the company and the BCTGM to unite to end the conflict: “My unwavering support for the unions includes support for collective bargaining, and I will defend both aggressively. I urge employers and unions [to] fully engage in the difficult task of resolving their differences at the bargaining table in a manner that equitably advances the interests of both parties.
However, the fact that Biden was not pressured to speak out on his concerns for workers’ rights is underscored by the fact that he made no such statement when unions were forced to sign contracts to sold out at John Deere, Kaiser or among IATSE union film production workers over the past month. In fact, Biden joined United Auto Workers chairman Ray Curry for a photoshoot only the day after the UAW ‘ratified’ Deere’s contract by forcing striking workers to vote again on a contract they had already rejected.
Biden also didn’t talk about it several months ago when management at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Worcester, Mass. Also began hiring permanent replacements to break a month-long nurses’ strike, or when bourbon maker Heaven Hill threatened to do the same to break a strike by workers at the distillery. In fact, the delay in Biden’s letter, occurring three days after the announcement at Kellogg’s, suggests that the administration was waiting to see if a direct acknowledgment would be needed.
Biden, a multi-millionaire advocate for the privileges of the employer oligarchy, has no principled opposition to crushing worker resistance. In fact, he supports it. But throughout his presidency, he sought to enlist the services of corrupt and pro-business unions to suppress the class struggle. That’s why he sent his Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, himself a former union official, to the Kellogg picket lines in Lancaster, Pa.
Biden greatly prefers a settlement involving a union-forced concession contract, similar to what the BCTGM already accomplished at Nabisco and Frito-Lay earlier this year when it ended strikes with unresolved deals. workers’ demands. Since the end of the strike in Nabisco, workers have reported to the World Socialist Website that they continue to work 80 hours a week, exactly as before.
The difficulty with Biden’s strategy, however, is that anger grows over these increasingly blatant betrayals by the unions, which have failed to stem the tide of worker opposition. The contract that workers rejected last week at Kellogg’s reportedly included wage increases of just 3%, less than half the rate of inflation, and removed restrictions on the number of less second-tier “transition” workers. well paid that the company could hire. The workers denounced the contract, which was dishonestly presented to them as offering a “path” to the top level for transitions, like a “Trojan horse”.
Frustration continues to grow with the BCTGM among Kellogg workers. “We are tired of being in the dark, hence the reason we are so divided,” said one worker. Referring to the fact that some strikers have caved in under the pressure in recent days and crossed the picket line, he added: “You don’t lose people out of fear, you lose because they have half the information and they are ready to go back to work.
A Kellogg’s employee in Battle Creek told the World Socialist Website, “With $ 105 per week [in strike pay], no unemployment, workers are forced to work elsewhere and / or withdraw money from their savings or 401k. You might think that our international [BCTGM] would be able to contribute more. I also think it’s BS that we’ve been working on throughout the pandemic when most of the United States has been racking up unemployment, and now we need it and don’t qualify. “
Support continues for Kellogg’s strikers
Workers across the United States continue to send statements in support of Kellogg’s strike to World Socialist Website. Tonya Osborne, a Southwest Airlines flight attendant who was recently interviewed by the WSWS about the impact of uniforms containing toxic chemicals, spoke out against Kellogg’s strike-breaking measures. “I believe more workers in all industries, whether it’s Kellogg’s, John Deere, the airlines, etc. should not have to endure threats of any kind. They shouldn’t have to fight or strike for their due for their hard work and commitment to the corporate giant. “
As for the union, she added: “Their union dues are deducted monthly from their pay checks. Ours costs $ 50 a month … and for WHAT, so they can blow smoke and throw us under the bus? Why would they reject an agreement in principle and be forced to vote on the same day? Bullying by your own union that you pay for? These hiring threats [second-tier] employees making less money and no benefits, putting that money in the pockets of the corporate giant is a slap in the face. “
A Deere worker in Des Moines, Iowa, said, “To all of my brothers and sisters who are currently working on strike against Kellogg’s: Greetings from Iowa, my admiration, support, prayers and love go out to all of you. The fact that you were unwilling to accept the surrender agreement despite union pressure speaks volumes about your courage and determination.
“While I can’t speak to your situation with Kellogg’s, I can tell you what happened to us who work at John Deere. The company threatened us with their “last, best and last offer”, and union leaders at the local and international levels did the same. They have told us many times that if we don’t accept their offer, they will definitely replace us.
“The majority of workers were not in favor of the contract, but they succumbed to threats of losing their jobs and voted yes under very shady circumstances. … The hope was to make history for all working men and women in the United States and around the world. Now the eyes of workers across the United States are on you in the hope that you will earn what you rightly deserve and set the standard for the rest of us so that we can learn. of your struggle. So be safe, be strong, stay united and stay informed because this is your greatest strength right now. “