Kellogg’s threat to replace strikers triggers criticism from Biden, consumers for undermining union

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Getty/ FilippoBacci
Source: Getty/ FilippoBacci

Related tags Kellogg strike

The backlash against Kellogg for threatening to replace striking union members at four of its US cereal plants has reached a fever-pitch with President Joe Biden chastising the company, social media users flooding the company’s job portal with fake applications and consumers boycotting its brands.

Late last week, Biden criticized as “deeply troubling”​ Kellogg’s plan​ to permanently replace striking workers from the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International after the union “overwhelmingly” rejected its most recent contract proposal.

“Permanently replacing striking workers is an existential attack on the union and its members’ jobs and livelihoods … and such action undermines the critical role collective bargaining plays in providing workers a voice and the opportunity to improve their lives while contributing fully to their employer’s success,”​ Biden said in a statement​ released by The White House Dec. 10.

He went on to proclaim his support for unions and collective bargaining, claiming “unions built the middle class of this country.”

Biden’s call for “employers and unions to commit fully to the challenging task of working out their differences at the bargaining table in a manner that fairly advances both parties’ interests,”​ served as a hat tip to the many companies and unions that have fallen out of sync since the pandemic began, including between 1,000 BCTGM union members and Mondelez International, which was resolved​ a month before the Kellogg strike.

Biden is far from the only one who disapproves of Kellogg’s threat – which the company defended as legal and necessary to maintain production of much-needed products.

Social media users also are expressing their dissent by flooding the Kellogg Company’s job portal with fake applications. A Reddit post by BloominFunions​ that has been upvoted more than 65,000 times shared links to the job posts and called on others to “drown [Kellogg’s] union busting”​ and “clog their toilet of an application pipeline.” 

Other social media users quickly amplified the message and shared strategies to “breeze by the filter bots.”

So far, investors seem unshaken with stock price steadily gaining after an initial 4.2% dip to $61.69 on Oct. 12 – one week after the strike began. As of Dec. 12, the stock price had climbed 2.9% to $63.48. A potentially bigger immediate impact, of the ongoing strike, could be an inability to meet retailers’ demand or a consumer boycott gaining traction and potentially tarnishing Kellogg’s reputation more long-term – the risk of which could be heightened by the increased visibility Biden’s critique brought to the strike.

As of November, though, Kellogg seemed nonplussed when it shared its most recent quarterly earnings and raised its sales outlook for the full year. At the time it said it expected organic net sales will rise 2-3% for the full year – up from its previous guidance of 1%.

While Kellogg has said that replacing strikers may be necessary to maintain supply, it also says that it continues to negotiate with union representatives. However, as of Dec. 7, there were no specific negotiation meeting plans.

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