Kellogg’s to replace 1400 striking workers after new contract is rejected – National & International News – WED 8Dec2021

1400 Kellogg's workers have been striking for two months protesting benefit cuts, low pay and long hours. Now Kellogg says they will be replacing the workers.

 

 

Kellogg’s to replace 1400 striking workers after new contract is rejected. Supreme Court weighs state funding of religious schools. German Chancellor Merkel leaves office after 16 years.

 

NATIONAL NEWS

Kellogg’s to replace 1400 striking workers after new contract is rejected

Since October 5, 1400 workers at several Kellogg’s plants in Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Tennessee have been on strike. Kellogg’s plants have a history of grueling 80-hour/week work schedules and low pay that long predates the pandemic. But the situation for Kellogg’s workers became even worse when the pandemic hit.

Leading the strike is Anthony Shelton, president of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union. Shelton explained that, “Kellogg’s response to these loyal, hardworking employees has been to demand these workers give up quality health care, retirement benefits, and holiday and vacation pay. The company continues to threaten to send additional jobs to Mexico if workers do not accept outrageous proposals that take away protections that workers have had for decades”.

Earlier this week, BCTGM members of the rejected Kellogg’s first offer of a new 5-year contract that offered a 3% raise and preserved most of workers’ healthcare benefits. Members overwhelmingly rejected the new proposal, believing that they deserve a more significant pay raise and better benefits for keeping the nation in cereal throughout the pandemic.

In response, Kellogg’s has announced that it will seek to permanently replace all 1400 striking workers. The company has been making do with salaried workers and scabs since the strike began over two months ago. Nevertheless, BCTGM plans to continue the strike.

“They don’t even treat us as well as they do their machinery”

Trevor Bidelman is a fourth-generation Kellogg employee at the Battle Creek, MI, plant and the president of BCTGM’s local chapter. Bidelman says of Kellogg’s decision to replace its striking workers, “This is after just one year ago, we were hailed as heroes, as we worked through the pandemic, seven days a week, 16 hours a day. Now apparently, we are no longer heroes. We don’t have weekends, really. We just work seven days a week, sometimes 100 to 130 days in a row”. Bidelman pointedly observes that, “For 28 days, the machines run, then rest three days for cleaning. They don’t even treat us as well as they do their machinery”.

The workers are not only protesting low pay and poor conditions. They are also opposing Kellogg’s plans for offshoring, domestic job cuts, and a plan for a two-tiered system that would see new workers receive less pay and fewer benefits than existing workers. 

Labor experts are skeptical about whether Kellogg will be able to fully replace the workers in the current labor crunch. The worker shortage and threats of public boycotts of Kellogg’s products may yet give the workers the leverage they need to win a more favorable offer.

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Supreme Court weighs state funding of religious schools

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments challenging a state policy in Maine that prohibits state funding of religious schools. The case has been brought by two families who argue they should have the right to send their children to a religious school and have the state pay for it. The families’ attorneys claim that Maine’s exclusion of these religious schools is discriminatory and violates the families’ right to free exercise of their religion.

Maine is an unusual case in that it has long used a combined public-private delivery system for high school education. This is because more than half of school districts don’t have a public high school. To serve children who live outside the catchment area of a public high school, the state contracts with the nearest public high school and provides transportation. Maine also pays the tuition of 82-99% of students attending its 11 non-sectarian private schools. The goal is to ensure that all children in Maine have access to education that is equivalent to a public school education. Starting next year, any private school receiving state fund will also have to teach the same curriculum taught in public schools.

But, it is Maine’s state policy to not fund schools that advocate a particular religious viewpoint above others through its teachings. Additionally, Maine’s non-discrimination laws apply to both its public and state-funded private schools. These policies, which include non-discrimination against LGBT students and staff, are at odds with the teachings in religious schools.

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INTERNATIONAL NEWS

German Chancellor Merkel leaves office after 16 years

After a drawn out process to establish a stable coalition following recent elections, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has officially handed over the reins to her successor. Taking over as Chancellor is Olaf Scholz, head of the center-left Social Democrats.

Scholz’s politics are not a tremendous departure from Merkel’s. Germans see him as a safe pair of hands in a crisis. His Chancellorship is unlikely to spark a significant change in direction for the EU’s only superpower. However, Scholz is co-governing with a coalition of leftist Greens and the libertarian Free Democratic Party. Scholz is known for his pragmatism, which hopefully will aid him in fostering cooperation among players with disparate political viewpoints. 

The most notable controversy attending Scholz’s first days in office is his choice of Karl Lauterbach as Health Minister. Lauterbach is an outspoken proponent of vaccine mandates and stricter measures to limit the spread of COVID-19. Lauterbach is therefore a polarizing choice in Germany, where 30% of the population is unvaccinated. By tapping Lauterbach for the job, Scholz is signaling a tougher stance on COVID preparedness in Germany, where cases are currently at an all-time high.

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