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American workers between fear and pride in massive strike action




Published on: 10/19/2021 – 17:48

Its Striketober in the United States. In October, more than 100,000 workers across the United States in various industries withdrew, demanding better wages and working conditions. From snacks to taxis to healthcare, workers have set foot on the ground. This wave of strikes represents a marked change in the American labor movement, which, according to our Observer, was driven by corporate greed and the Covid-19 pandemic.

At John Deere, an agricultural machinery company, 10,000 workers who are part of the United Auto Workers went on strike for better pay on October 14. And 24,000 Kaiser Permanente health care workers in California and Oregon authorized a strike on Oct. 11, giving their employer 10-days’ notice before leaving work to protest lower wages for new hires.

Countless more strikes, from taxi drivers to steelworkers, have broken out across the country, with workers demanding better hours, fair wages and benefits. The wave is a rare show of force on the part of unions and workers in the United States, and has met with broad support, both online and offline. The #Striketober hashtag was created to help strikers share their experiences.

John Deere strikers in Ottumwa, UAW Local 74, managed to convince a freight driver not to cross the picket line

– Jonah Furman (@JonahFurman) October 14, 2021 A freight truck driver in Ottumwa, Iowa, refuses to cross a picket line of striking John Deere employees to make a delivery to the plant, in this video posted on October 14, 2021 on Twitter.

UPS drivers, never cross the picket lines to make a delivery. We have the option of entering a non-delivery as a STRIKE. #Striketober

– J Ryan E (@RyanElward) October 15, 2021 UPS delivery driver shares tip to support striking workers on Twitter on October 15, 2021: never cross picket lines to make a delivery. We have the option of entering a non-delivery as a STRIKE.

The competitive US labor market emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic has given workers more bargaining power. In August, there were more job vacancies than unemployed people, due to childcare issues, health fears and losses from Covid-19.

Shortages, along with supply chain disruptions, have given workers an edge, with some large companies offering significant signing bonuses, better perks, and easier application processes to attract employees. The unions were able to take a tougher stance in contract negotiations, refusing to accept inferior offers from the companies.

In a now-viral photograph, Kelloggs employee Erin Shaffer maintained the picket line in Omaha, Nebraska, in the middle of the night of October 13 despite torrential rains.

We have seen the factory achieve record profits and we know the sacrifices we have made to achieve it

One of the main strikes was at Kellogg Company, known for its breakfasts and snacks. At four of Kelloggs’ manufacturing plants in Nebraska, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, 1,400 workers have been on strike since Oct. 5 to demand equal wages and benefits for employees.

Dan Osborn is the President of the Omaha Section of the International Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers Union (BCTGM). He worked at Kelloggs as an industrial engineer for 18 years.

This is the first time in 18 years that I have been a member of the union that such a thing has happened. The climate is definitely changing. It is a good possibility that Covid has emboldened people because they are going to work as frontline workers or essential workers. We never closed the plant, it continued to operate and make record profits. We have seen it and know the sacrifices we have made to achieve it.

Kellogg’s profits have indeed risen during the pandemic, with increased demand for ready-to-eat snacks and food items, but Osborn and hundreds of other striking Kellogg workers say those gains came at the expense. workers.

Throughout Covid, we worked seven days a week, 12 hours a day

Fought corporate greed. Kelloggs Achieves Record Profits, CEOs and Senior Executives Increase Compensation 20%, Millions of Dollars [Editors note: Kelloggs CEO earned more than $11.6 million in 2020 compared to $9.7 million in 2019].

Throughout Covid, we worked seven days a week, 12 hours a day, every day. As a mechanic, I have less time off, so maybe I would have a day off every 30 days, sometimes not. Sometimes I worked 60 days in a row. If there was anyone outside [with Covid-19], we had to cover them overtime. The company continued to make record profits during the pandemic on our backs. That they are trying to take anything from us right now, it just doesn’t make sense. I think people are fed up, I think it was over and they were bonding, coming together and taking a stand. We were trying to save our jobs, but save our jobs the way they should be, that is, with a living wage and good benefits.

[BCTGM] spent two weeks negotiating with the company, but the company was unwilling to abandon its proposals. We took a strike vote in four factories and it was passed unanimously.

In October, Kelloggs proposed expanding a system that would allow new hires to be paid less than others for the same work, along with increases in the cost of living for employees. That, combined with the understaffing and long working hours during the pandemic, has brought workers to a breaking point.

It’s really stretched on the line

[Ive been at the picket line] everyday. It’s hard everyone has a family to support, we all have bills to pay. They cut our medical insurance, so people are struggling to support their families who need to go to the doctor.

Here in Omaha we have to cover six doors [to the Kellogg factory], 24 hours a day with picketers. There is a truck driveway where they bring in other workers they hire from across the country to come and take our jobs and get production going. These buses go through our lines every day, we had three people run over by buses. They don’t even stop, they run over people. So it’s really tight on the line.

“We are ready, willing and able to meet and have communicated this to the union on several occasions,” Kellogg spokesperson Kris Bahner told Nebraska Public Media. “In the meantime, we are implementing contingency plans to mitigate supply disruptions, including using salaried employees and third-party resources to produce food.”

Meanwhile, the union says Kellogg threatened to move jobs to Mexico and spend $ 10 million a day so as not to give in to union demands, which the company has denied.

Bikers blocking the back entrance to the Omaha Kellogg factory

– Mel Buer (@coldbrewedtool) October 15, 2021 Members of the local Omaha community have shown support for the strikers in various ways, such as those bikers who drove by and then helped block the doors of the Kelloggs factory on October 14. what were we doing, our fight and our fight

Osborn continued:

It’s an emotional cocktail. There was pride in what we were doing, our struggle and our fight, but we were all afraid of the result. But people are optimistic that Kelloggs is going to do the right thing and get back to the table and come to a deal.

The easiest way to show your support is to not purchase any Kelloggs products right now. But we also had tremendous support from the community dropping in pizza, donuts, cookies and water every day. We have had state senators, lawmakers who have stopped and picketed with us to show their support. That’s what really keeps us going, so we know we weren’t alone.




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