OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – Den Kellogg Co. has filed a lawsuit against its local union in Omaha, complaining that striking workers are blocking the entrances to its grain factory and intimidating replacement workers as they enter the factory.
The Battle Creek, Michigan-based company asked a judge to order the Omaha Chapter in Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union to stop interfering in its business while workers strike outside the factory. Workers in Omaha and at Kellogg’s three other U.S. grain factories have been on strike since Oct. 5.
“We respect the right of employees to legally communicate their position in this matter. We sought a temporary restraining order to help ensure the safety of all persons in the vicinity of the facility, including the fences themselves,” company spokeswoman Kris Bahner said Thursday.
The president of the trade union Omaha declined to comment on the lawsuit Thursday.
Kellogg’s lawsuit comes after a vehicle hit and killed a member of United Auto Workers last time he went to a striking line to join striking workers outside a John Deere distribution facilities in northwestern Illinois. A Iowa judge issued a temporary restraining order against Deere workers in Davenport, limiting their demonstrations to four picketers at a time.
Kellogg’s said in its lawsuit that union members have physically blocked the entrance to the factory as semi-trucks and buses try to get in and out.
The company also said in the lawsuit that people striking outside the factory have threatened the lives of people working at the factory, including “threats that a person’s wife and young children will be assaulted (including sexually) while away” from home and working with Kellogg. ”
Two days of contract negotiations earlier this month failed to reach an agreement. Earlier this week, Kellogg’s launched a public relations campaign that sought to sell workers on its latest offer because the union refused to put the agreement to the vote. But the company said Thursday that its offer to the union had now expired and no further talks are planned.
Ken Hurley, head of labor relations at Kellogg’s, said in a video posted by the company on its website that Kellogg’s has sought to address the union’s main concerns about its two-tier pay system, salaries and benefits in its offer.
“We have made every effort to build a bridge towards a new agreement, but these efforts are being met with rejections and more unrealistic demands,” Hurley said in the video. “We urge the union to reconsider its approach and agree to enter into real negotiations on a contract to get our employees back to work and back to their lives.”
Trade union officials told the workers after these contract negotiations that they could not recommend Kellogg’s offer because it was full of concessions.
Kellogg’s strike includes about 1,400 workers, four factories in Battle Creek; Omaha; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Memphis, Tennessee, which makes all of Kellogg’s brands of grain, including Frosted Flakes and Apple Jacks.
The company has said that it has restarted production at all the factories with salaried employees and outside employees, and it is now hiring new employees at the factories. CEO Steven Cahillane also told investors earlier this month when the company reported a quarterly profit of $ 307 million that Kellogg’s had stored grain in advance to help cope with the strike.
Workers at Kellogg’s and other companies are feeling brave this year to strike in the hope of getting a better deal due to the persistent shortage of labor.
In addition to the Kellogg’s strike, more than 10,000 Deere workers remain on strike after rejecting two different offers from the tractor manufacturer.
Employees are also less willing to compromise this year after working long hours during the coronavirus pandemic to keep up with demand over the past 18 months.
Earlier this year, about 600 food workers also went on strike at one Frito-Lay factory in Topeka, Kansas and 1,000 others resigned from work at five Nabisco factories across the United States.
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