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Striking workers at Kellogg’s just got a new addition to their picket line: Labor Secretary Marty Walsh

He’s one of the first-ever labor secretaries to visit a picket line.

Striking workers at Kellogg’s just got a new addition to their picket line: Labor Secretary Marty Walsh
Picket signs at the Kellogg’s Lancaster, Pennsylvania plant, October 11, 2021. [Photo: Luigi Morris/Shutterstock]

U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh met on Wednesday with union Kellogg’s workers at the cereal company’s Lancaster, Pennsylvania, plant who have been on strike since October 5, in a show of solidarity from the secretary, who himself is a longtime union member.

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The workers are some of the 1,400 union Kellogg’s employees across four cereal plants—in Lancaster as well as Omaha, Nebraska; Battle Creek, Michigan; and Memphis, Tennessee—who have been striking over their loss of quality healthcare, retirement benefits, and holiday and vacation pay, says Anthony Shelton, president of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM).

Walsh is the first union member to lead the Department of Labor in more than four decades, and one of few labor secretaries to visit striking workers. (In 1989, Labor Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole met with striking coal miners, though noted she was not taking sides; she also met with the coal group’s parent company to facilitate face-to-face negotiations.) Ahead of the October 27 meeting, Walsh took to Twitter, saying, “I grew up in a working-class family. I’m the son of immigrants and a proud second-generation Laborer. I have always stood with America’s working people, and will continue to do so as your Secretary of Labor.”

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Walsh met with workers represented by Local 374 of BCTGM, talking to workers on the picket line outside of the cereal plant, and also with Shelton. An estimated 1,400 members of BCTGM, from four plants where they make cereals, including Rice Krispies, Raisin Bran, Froot Loops, Corn Flakes, and Frosted Flakes, are participating in the strike.

Kellogg’s has contested the striking workers’ statements, saying they “are disappointed by the union’s decision to strike” and that Kellogg’s provides compensation and benefits that “are among the industry’s best.” Walsh is not expected to speak with anyone from Kellogg’s on Wednesday.

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The striking Kellogg’s workers are just some of the thousands of laborers either currently striking or who have voted to authorize a strike across the country, including more than 10,000 workers at John Deere, 2,000 hospital workers in Buffalo, and 24,000 Kaiser Permanente workers.

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