From Amazon to Starbucks, United States companies are seeing a revival in the power of worker unions and collective bargaining.
Several hundred workers at a Kellogg’s plant that makes Cheez-Its won a new contract that delivers more than 15 percent wage increases over three years after 1,400 workers at the company’s cereal plants went on strike for nearly three months in late 2021.
The wage and benefits improvements that 570 workers at the Kellogg’s plant secured this week are the largest that have been seen by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), it said Wednesday.
United States companies are struggling to fill the more than 11 million job openings across the country that represent nearly two openings for everyone unemployed, and workers are demanding more after keeping plants operating throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Job openings hovered at a near-record high for the second consecutive month in February, the US Department of Labor reported this week.
“This contract is further evidence of the power of a union voice and collective bargaining,” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum.
Kellogg’s, which is based in Battle Creek, Michigan in the US, didn’t immediately comment Wednesday on the contract it offered its workers in Kansas City, Kansas.
Besides the strike at Kellogg’s plants in Nebraska, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Tennessee last fall, workers also walked out last year at a Frito-Lay plant in Topeka, Kansas, and at five Nabisco plants nationwide. And meatpacking workers have been winning significant raises when their contracts come up at plants across the country.
Unions in other industries, including one that represents more than 10,000 John Deere workers, also went on strike last year. The John Deere workers received 10 percent raises and improved benefits after going on strike for a month.
Workers have also voted to unionize at more than a half dozen Starbucks stores across the country and unions are trying to organize at roughly 140 other stores nationwide. And Amazon is trying to stave off unions at two of its warehouses in New York and Alabama, where ballots are in the process of being counted now.
Experts say the ongoing labor shortages have given unions more leverage than they have had in decades during contract talks.
A spokeswoman for the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union that represents the Kellogg’s cereal plant workers said that strike and the others across the industry in the past year have helped it secure significant gains for workers at other companies.
The Cheez-Its workers will receive 6 percent raises in the first year of their new contract, 5 percent raises the following year and 4.5 percent raises and a $500 bonus in the third year. The workers will also see improved health and pension benefits with no increase in their health insurance premiums. And new hires will move up to higher pay rates more quickly.
“These wage increases will help us better provide for our families and improve the quality of our lives,” said Larry Smith, who leads the local union at the Kellogg’s plant.