Sanders hosts town hall on strikes at Kellogg and beyond ⋆

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) hosted a “Labor strikes back!” livestream Wednesday evening, featuring union workers in Battle Creek and across the country giving updates from the front lines.

The event featured Trevor Bidelman — a fourth-generation Kellogg employee and the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) Local 3-G President — along with Chris Laursen, a union leader at John Deere in Iowa; Melissa Piechowicz, a respiratory nurse in New York; Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO; and Robert Reich, former U.S. Labor secretary and current Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley.

Sanders has been vocal in his support of striking union workers as many of the large-scale “Striketober” labor uprisings continue into November. He recently wrote a letter of support to Kellogg workers and sent along pizza, a donation and supporters to the line.

As Kellogg strike stretches past 3 weeks, workers say they’ve noted lack of GOP lawmaker support

Other Democratic senators, including Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) and Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.), also have issued letters in support of the BCTGM workers and calling on Kellogg to negotiate a fair contract. However, workers have told the Advance they’ve noted the silence of GOP lawmakers.

“I think what the labor movement is about is solidarity. Because people understand that we can’t do it alone,” Sanders said. “The only way we can win what we deserve as human beings is when we come together in unions. And that is the struggle that is taking place right now.”

Kellogg workers in Battle Creek are now coming up on a month of their strike. The 325 BCTGM members began to strike at midnight of Oct. 5 as their master contract with Kellogg expired.

The Kellogg strike has also encompassed plants in Lancaster, Penn., Omaha, Neb., and Memphis, Tenn., with about 1,400 total workers fighting for a new contract.

“When you look at it, this is all about worker exploitation,” Bidelman said, speaking about the two-tier wage system that he and his colleagues are fighting against, in which newer workers are paid far less than their colleagues.

Trevor Bidelman, a Kellogg employee and BCTGM Local 3-G President, speaks on U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) labor issues livestream, Nov. 3, 2021 | Screenshot

Bidelman thanked Sanders for his “powerful” letter to the striking workers.

“Being part of a union really allows you to use your collective voice,” he said.

As for negotiations with Kellogg, Bidelman said the union came back to the table Wednesday but it did not culminate in an agreement.

“The company was not willing to budge on the things that we needed them to budge on,” he said.

Laursen, a John Deere worker in Iowa and former UAW Local 74 president, said the last round of negotiations with his company was more promising.

“We’re getting close,” Laursen said.

But John Deere executives have said they will not return to the bargaining table again with a different deal — although Laursen said he and his colleagues have leverage because the company cannot make farm equipment without a workforce.

Striking Kellogg union workers and their supporters rally across from the Kellogg headquarters in Battle Creek, Oct. 27, 2021 | Laina G. Stebbins

Reich spoke at length about corporate greed, capitalism and the importance of strong labor unions.

“The American form of capitalism, among all rich countries, is the cruelest to average workers,” Reich said. “… The right to strike is critical. And not only the right to strike, but also outcomes that shift the balance of power to working people once again.”

Before closing with the union slogan “solidarity forever,” Sanders said when workers band together, a better future is possible.

“We don’t change this country until tens of millions of people get involved in these economic struggles [and] make it clear to the world that we are human beings, we are entitled to inalienable rights, we have the right to be treated with respect and dignity,” he said.



authored by Laina G. Stebbins
First published at https%3A%2F%2Fmichiganadvance.com%2F2021%2F11%2F04%2Fsolidarity-forever-sanders-hosts-town-hall-on-strikes-at-kellogg-and-beyond%2F

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