MEMPHIS (PAI) — Kellogg’s long lockout of 226 workers at its Memphis, Tenn., cereal plant is headed for federal court.
That’s because U.S. District Judge Samuel Mays in Memphis refused on July 16 to throw out the National Labor Relations Board’s suit against the giant cereal maker. That left the way open for a full-scale trial in federal circuit court in New Orleans.
The board seeks a court injunction ordering Kellogg’s to take the workers back and bargain in good faith with their union, the Bakery, Confectionery and Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM). Kellogg’s locked the workers out Oct. 22, 2013 after the workers refused to accept its contract demands for pay cuts and huge health care premium rises.
“The unnecessary suffering imposed by Kellogg on these 226 families has occurred for one reason and one reason alone: Kellogg’s insatiable thirst for profit even if it means destroying the very lives of its employees and their families to achieve it,” said BCTGM President David Durkee.
The lockout has attracted nationwide notice, since most of the Memphis workforce is African-American or Hispanic-named. The NAACP has alerted its chapters to the struggle and other civil rights groups have joined the coalition backing the workers.
Durkee and the workers, aided by the AFL-CIO’s Office of Investment, also took their cause to Kellogg’s recent shareholders’ meeting at its Battle Creek, Mich., headquarters with a resolution ordering the firm’s directors to provide a public “human rights risk assessment” showing if company actions in that field would help or hurt its internationally known brand.
“Perhaps if the company had done a robust assessment on its U.S. operations it would have discovered that a potential public relations disaster was brewing in Memphis,” Durkee added. It certainly did during the meeting: Besides the demonstration outside the meeting, the 8-year-old daughter of one locked-out worker walked up to the directors with letters from all the children asking why their parents aren’t working.