labor Judge Orders Kellogg to End Lockout, Reinstate Workers
A federal judge granted an injunction Wednesday ordering the Kellogg Company to end its lockout of 226 workers--members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) Local 252G--at its Memphis cereal plant and reinstate them to their jobs within five days. The lockout began Oct. 22.
Judge Samuel H. Mays Jr., of the Western District of Tennessee, also ordered Kellogg to bargain with the union in good faith; offer reinstatement to every worker to their former or equivalent positions; re-establish the same terms and conditions of employment prior to the company's last/best offer; and submit to the court details of its compliance with the order within 20 days.
BCTGM President David B. Durkee said, "A federal judge agreed entirely and unequivocally with the union and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Judge Mays rejected each and every argument Kellogg has made since this dispute began." He added:
"This decision validates what the BCTGM has contended all along in this lockout. Our members and their families have been subjected to more than 280 days of unnecessary pain and suffering at the hands of Kellogg. We applaud Judge Mays for beginning the process of righting this senseless tactic that was brutally imposed on these workers and their families. We look forward to our members returning to do what they do best, producing a quality product."
In the decision, Mays said that imposing a lockout over nonmandatory terms is unlawfully coercive and "discriminate[s] against the employees for their participation in protected collective bargaining activity."
The BCTGM has contended that Kellogg's proposals in local bargaining would have changed already agreed upon wage rates and benefits for regular employees, thus modifying the terms and conditions contained in the Master Contract that governs such terms and is in effect until October 2015. BCTGM said Mays validated the union's position in his ruling, stating:
"Kellogg's proposals were not to change the casual employee program, as it insists it had the right to demand. Rather, Kellogg effectively demanded changes to the wage rates of new or rehired regular employees. Those rates are set in the Master Agreement. The good-faith bargaining required by the act does not allow Kellogg to use creative semantics to force midterm changes in the wages of new or rehired regular employees in violation of the Master Agreement."
Mays concluded that it was "just and proper" to end the lockout.
The lockout, which has deprived the employees of their pay and health insurance, has been ongoing for nine months. The administrative process may continue for many months and even years to come. To allow the lockout to continue through that period would place significant hardship on employees in furtherance of Kellogg's bargaining position, which [the NLRB] has reasonable cause to believe is unlawful. That would undermine the remedial powers of the board.