The Kellogg Co. announced Tuesday that 1,400 striking cereal workers have rejected the company’s tentative agreement for a new five-year contract.
The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) said its members "overwhelmingly voted to reject the tentative agreement" Sunday, more than three months after employees went on strike.
The vote came after the two sides held more than a dozen failed negotiation sessions this year to try and resolve an assortment of pay and benefits issues — such as holiday and vacation pay, loss of premium health care and reduced retirement benefits.
"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.
Kellogg’s argued in a statement Tuesday that the contract "would have provided an accelerated, defined path to legacy wages and benefits for transitional employees, and wage increases and enhanced benefits" to the employees working at plants in Omaha, Nebraska; Battle Creek, Michigan; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Memphis, Tennessee.
Employees have been on strike since Oct. 5, putting further strain on the company's plants that manufacture iconic cereal brands including Frosted Flakes and Apple Jacks.
The cereal maker says it’s made "every effort to reach a fair agreement" with the union. This includes making six offers that Kellogg’s says would have increased wages and benefits for "every employee."
Meanwhile, BCTGM International President Anthony Shelton confirmed that the strike will continue with "full support" from the union.
However, Shelton didn’t specify why members rejected the offer.
"The members have spoken. The strike continues," Shelton said.
He added that the union is "grateful for the outpouring of fraternal support" they have received from across the labor movement and that "solidarity is critical to this fight."
However, Kellogg’s, which is running affected plants with hourly and salaried employees, third-party resources, and temporary replacements, says it’s been left with "no choice but to hire permanent replacement employees."
"While certainly not the result we had hoped for, we must take the necessary steps to ensure business continuity," Kellogg’s said.
The company previously said its first choice was to have its striking employees return and even reassured them amid negotiations that they have "a right to work during a strike, and this right is protected by federal and state laws."
However, the company has continually stressed that it has an obligation has "to our business, customers and consumers to produce cereal."