Unionized workers fight for better pay and benefits in post-pandemic economy
Omaha, Nebraska — Part of America's Great Resignation is a Great Repudiation — workers are rising up and demanding better, as businesses struggle to find enough people to fill open positions.
A strike by more than 1,000 Kellogg's plant workers is in its seventh week. There are ongoing walkouts by coal miners in Alabama. Health care workers in Northern California are also on strike. John Deere recently settled with 10,000 striking workers, as did Mercy Hospital in Buffalo, New York.
"Workers definitely have more labor market leverage because employers need to hire," said Johnnie Kallas, a project director at Cornell University's Labor Action Tracker. "They're understaffed and therefore workers have more bargaining power."
At Kellogg's four plants in the U.S., workers are demanding an end to a two-tier pay structure the union conceded to in 2015 that pays new hires lower wages indefinitely.
"We're professional cereal makers," said mechanic Dan Osborn, who is among 1,400 Kellogg's workers on strike. "We've been doing it our whole lives. And they're not going to get anybody better than that."
"I feel we have the upper hand right now," added James Jackson, a mine operator on strike.
Maintenance mechanic Robert Jensen pointed to Nebraska's unemployment rate —1.9%, the lowest for any state in recorded history.
"There just aren't enough skilled craftsmen to fill all these openings," Jensen said.
Kellogg's said the strike has forced it to begin replacing workers.
"The prolonged work stoppage has left us no choice but to begin to hire some permanent employees to replace those currently on strike," Kellogg's said in a statement to CBS News.
Even as the weather gets colder and picketing gets old, Osborn said the employees won't give up their fight.
"We'll stay out here one day longer than they are willing to," he said.
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