U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday joined the growing chorus of labor rights advocates and workers who have condemned an attempt by Kellogg Company to hire permanent replacements for unionized workers who remain on strike after rejecting a proposed contract earlier this week.
“Collective bargaining is an essential tool to protect the rights of workers that should be free from threats and intimidation from employers,” Biden said in a statement. “That’s why I am deeply troubled by reports of Kellogg’s plans to permanently replace striking workers.”
Kellogg’s workers who belong to the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) have been on strike since early October, when they walked out of cereal factories in Battle Creek, Michigan; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Omaha, Nebraska; and Memphis, Tennessee.
“After 19 negotiation sessions in 2021, and still no deal reached, we will continue to focus on moving forward to operate our business,” Kellogg North America president Chris Hood said in a Tuesday statement announcing the plan to replace about 1,400 hourly employees.
The president said Friday that “permanently replacing striking workers is an existential attack on the union and its members’ jobs and livelihoods. I have long opposed permanent striker replacements and I strongly support legislation that would ban that practice.”
Biden, who famously pledged last year to “be the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen,” continued:
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.
Unions built the middle class of this country. My unyielding support for unions includes support for collective bargaining, and I will aggressively defend both.
I urge 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.
Both BCTGM and the progressive media organization More Perfect Union welcomed the president’s interjection, with the latter saying that “Biden is right to wade into an ongoing labor dispute and use the power of the presidency to stand up for working people, as we have been urging him to do.”
BREAKING: President Biden condemns Kellogg's plans to permanently replace striking workers, calling it an "an existential attack on the union and its members’ jobs and livelihoods." pic.twitter.com/yCqqQ5bD0Z
— More Perfect Union (@MorePerfectUS) December 10, 2021
Though Biden did not mention by name the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, he has endorsed the House-approved legislation — a sweeping pro-union measure that would prohibit companies like Kellogg’s from permanently replacing workers who are on strike.
The PRO Act is among the bills that have prompted progressives within and beyond Congress to call for abolishing the filibuster so Democrats can get their agenda through the evenly split Senate.
In the absence of federal legislative action, some supporters of Kellogg’s workers have taken matters into their own hands — flooding the company with fake applications.
Despite the grassroots advocacy against the hiring of so-called “scabs,” Kris Bahner, a spokesperson for the company, told Insider on Friday that the online hiring process was “fully operational” and new hires were expected to start “very soon.”