This column is by the communications director of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ International Union, an AFL-CIO affiliate representing 1,400 Kellogg employees on strike since Oct. 5 in Battle Creek and three other cities.
The writer describes herself as a "third-generation union gal." Her post is adapted slightly from the union's website.
By Corrina Christensen
This week, I spent three days visiting Local 3G members on strike outside the Kellogg cereal plant in Battle Creek. "Cereal City," as it was once known, is a shell of its former self when thousands of union workers occupied the Kellogg's plant on Porter Street. It has employed generations of Local 3G members.
Talk to anyone on the five picket lines surrounding the mammoth factory and you will hear many proud, angry, sad stories of what led these proud folks to strike.
The picket lines surrounding the plant resemble what the workers tell me the company used to be: a family. Spirits are strong and the lines are held 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
But this is nothing new for these hardworking men and women. Sharing shifts is what they do. Hard work is what defines them and they tell me the hours on the line aren't much different than the shifts they held inside the plant when making cereal, except now they have time to spend together [and] support each other in this united fight for fairness.
Their strength and resolve remain steadfast and strong nearly a month into the strike – so much that it permeates the icy air of late October in Michigan.
I met mothers, daughters, sons and fathers. Generations of union workers have made Kellogg what it is today. From the picket lines and the union hall, union members volunteer to help with one another's kids, share updates on youth sports and report cards, ask for help with ailing grandparents and spend time remembering friends who passed away before they were able join to the fight against Kellogg.
The Kellogg workers in Battle Creek, and in the other striking cities, will tell you it was just time to stand up and fight to silence the corporate Kellogg bullies. A company so out-of-touch with who is making their products, making decisions on behalf of people they don't know, haven't seen and have no desire to understand.
On the picket lines, I was told story after story that demonstrates how this company relates to workers in only corporate, dehumanized terms.
In the end, this is mostly a story about solidarity -- the older workers fighting for the younger workers and a workforce that still believes in equality. There is an unyielding support and love for one another that is something special to witness.
I drove away from the Battle Creek plant with tears of pride in my eyes and a better understanding of the working people I fight for in words and photographs. This fight will conclude eventually, but really, these workers have already won.