Sanders heading to Battle Creek to rally with striking Kellogg workers

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Washington — Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is returning to Michigan on Friday to rally with striking Kellogg workers in Battle Creek, his campaign said. 

The senator's trip is scheduled to come after Kellogg's said last week it would permanently replace striking workers after they rejected a proposed contract that included 3% pay raises and provisions to allow some workers who make lower wages and benefits to move up to the rates of longer-term employees.

Striking workers have complained that they are often forced to work last minute overtime shifts without a chance to reject the long hours. They also have argued their time sacrifices are being ignored and the pensions and fully paid health insurance they've received in exchange are under siege. 

"Kellogg's workers made the company BILLIONS during a pandemic by working 12-hour shifts, some for more than 100 days in a row," Sanders tweeted Friday. "But Kellogg's is now choosing corporate greed over the workers they once called 'heroes.' On Friday, I’m going to Michigan to stand with the workers."

His tweet included a mockup of a Frosted Flakes cereal box, but instead of Tony the Tiger saying "They're grrreat," it's an image of Sanders saying, "Let's end Kellogg's gr-r-eed!" 

President Joe Biden also has spoken out Kellogg, saying last week he is "deeply troubled" by the company's plans to hire permanent replacements for workers.

“While certainly not the result we had hoped for, we must take the necessary steps to ensure business continuity,” Chris Hood, president of Kellogg North America, said last week, according to the Associated Press. “We have an obligation to our customers and consumers to continue to provide the cereals that they know and love.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., questions former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, D-Mich., as she testifies before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee during a hearing to examine her nomination to be Secretary of Energy, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP)

About 1,400 workers at plants in Battle Creek; Omaha, Nebraska; Memphis, Tennessee, and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, have been on strike since Oct. 5. They are represented by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union. 

The rally where Sanders will speak is planned for 3 p.m. Friday at the Battle Creek Farmers Market at Festival Market Square, 25 McCamly St S. in Battle Creek. 

Sanders was in Detroit in late August to talk up Biden's Build Back Better social spending and climate package. 

mburke@detroitnews.com