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Frito-Lay workers back on the job with one guaranteed day off a week

Frito-Lay strike issues include 84-hour work weeks
Frito-Lay workers picket in Kansas, demanding end to 84-hour work weeks 01:18

Hundreds of Frito-Lay employees are back on the job this week after ratifying a new union contract that guarantees them one day off a week.

Roughly 600 of 850 workers walked picket lines for 20 days in Topeka, Kansas, before the snack maker and the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union reached agreement on a revised labor accord, which was then approved by workers, both sides announced over the weekend.

The first strike ever at the facility centered on workers seeking "a voice over how many hours in a week they can be forced to work," Anthony Shelton, the union's international president, said in a statement

"We are pleased the BCTGM Local 218 members from Frito-Lay's Topeka site ratified the revised contract offer and we look forward to welcoming all of our employees back to work next week," the company said Saturday in an emailed statement. "The new offer from Frito-Lay provides a guaranteed day off during each work week [and] eliminates 'squeeze shifts'," Frito-Lay said, referencing back-to-back 12-hour shifts with just eight-hours off in between. 

The two-year contract provides a 4% wage hike to workers, who currently earn hourly wages that range from $18.35 to $36.91, Frito-Lay said.

A strike was called after workers at the plant voted against the company's previous contract offer, which included a 2% wage hike this year and a 60-hour limit as to how many hours an employee could be made to work. 

Many workers at the plant have been toiling seven days a week and up to 12 hours a shift, faced with mandatory overtime and 84-hour work weeks in trying to keep up with demand for chips and other comfort food during the pandemic. "They are forcing the current workforce to work double and triple shifts. Workers do not have enough time to see their family, do chores around the house, run errands or even get a healthy night's sleep," union chief Shelton relayed.

Frito-Lay, the convenience-foods business unit of PepsiCo, dismissed allegations about work conditions at the plant as "grossly exaggerated." Frito-Lay's records "indicate 19 employees worked 84 hours in a given work week in 2021, and 16 of those as a result of employees volunteering for overtime and only 3 being required to work," it said.

The maker of Lays and Ruffles potato chips, Cheetos snacks and Fritos corn chips generated more than $4.2 billion in sales last year. The company employs about 60,000 people in North America and operates 30-plus manufacturing plants across the U.S. and Canada and more than 200 distribution centers. 

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