Cereal company Kellogg's said most of its U.S. plant workers voted against a new five-year contract, forcing it to hire permanent replacements, CNBC reported Tuesday.
"Interest in the roles has been strong at all four plants, as expected," Kellogg's spokesperson Kris Bahner said. "We expect some of the new hires to start with the company very soon."
Roughly 1,400 unionized cereal plant workers went on strike Oct. 5 as their contracts expired and compensation talks entered a standstill. The company said there was no further bargaining scheduled and it had no plans to meet with the union.
Temporary replacements have already been working at the company's cereal plants in Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.
Kellogg's attributed the standstill to "unrealistic expectations." The union rejected six offers, including the latest which proposed wage increases, and allowed all transitional employees with four or more years of service to move to legacy positions.
"We are disappointed that the tentative agreement for a master contract over our four U.S. cereal plants was not ratified by employees," Kellogg's said in a statement regarding the last round of negotiations, The New York Times reported.
Union members said the proposed two-tier system by the company, in which transitional employees get lesser pay and benefits than longer-tenured workers, would take power away from the union by removing the cap on the number of lower-tier employees.
"They have made a 'clear path' – but while it is clear – it is too long and not fair to many," union member Jeffrey Jens said.
Dan Osborn, president of a Kellogg's workers local union in Omaha, said in an interview, veteran workers at his plant felt frustrated by the company's offer after working extended hours because of the pandemic, the Times reported.
"I think there's a lot of anger," said Johnnie Kallas, a project director of Cornell University's Labor Action Tracker. "It is a unique moment. But what sort of gains that translates into in the long term very much remains to be seen."
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