BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — Sen. Bernie Sanders, an outspoken advocate in Congress for workers' rights, joined striking Kellogg’s employees on Friday, holding a rally in the shadow of the company’s headquarters in downtown Battle Creek.
“If you love America, you love the workers,” said Senator Sanders, who ran his 2020 presidential campaign on a message of anti-corporate greed. “Corporate greed is about CEOs who makes $12 million a year, then have a two-tier system, which lowers wages for incoming workers.”
Sanders's message was one of unity among workers fighting the company’s two-tier system that offers lessened pay and benefits to incoming employees. Members of the local Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union are also fighting for raises across the board for all Kellogg’s employees.
“You fed America through this pandemic,” he said. “Corporate greed is about telling workers here at Kellogg’s who’ve worked incredible hours, whose dads and moms and grandparents worked for this country, they’re saying when you go out on strike we’re prepared to bring in permanent replacement.”
Sanders also took time to read a letter from President Joe Biden, expressing his support for the Kellogg’s employees.
“Let me take this opportunity to read you a letter from the president of the United States,” said Sanders, reading from a piece of paper he unfolded from the podium. “You have persevered through this pandemic, and challenging economic times. Through it all you have continued to fight for the dignity and respect you and workers across this nation deserve. My message to you is keep the faith. In solidarity, Joe Biden.”
On Thursday, Kellogg’s announced a new tentative deal, their second in just days — the first was voted down by union workers last week. The new deal includes a modest pay increase for legacy workers and increased starting pay for new employees. Workers are striking over the company’s two-tier system that offers different benefits and pay to new workers, and longtime workers known as legacy employees.
“They work right next to us; that’s all we’re asking,” said one legacy employee who talked to FOX 17 Friday. “I’m not asking for a raise, or anything else. It’s plain and simple. Let’s pay them what they’re owed.”
“The most important part is the way they treat people,” said another. “I’d just as soon lose everything I got…to make sure people got what I got.”
Another worker had driven through the night from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where Kellogg’s workers there are also striking, to hear Sanders speak.
“We all face the same battles; we’re all trying to put food on the tables, send our kids to college, put some money away for retirement,” he said. “When you provide them billions of dollars in profits, can you give us a little of it?”
Kellogg’s workers in Battle Creek will vote on the new tentative agreement on Monday. The results should be announced a few days later.