About 30 Local 853 members who make Eggo Waffles at Kellogg’s in San Jose walked out at lunchtime on July 14 to let management know that safety matters. Local 853 had sent a cease and desist letter to the company demanding that they stop having workers and management run equipment that they are not certified to run, and that they stop forcing workers to work unreasonable shifts. “The company says they need more time, but there is more time,” Business Rep Ray Torres told the lunchtime gathering.
“The company claims ‘business needs’ require them to keep lines open even without trained workers, but we say that safety has to be the priority,” Torres said. “It is not our fault they can’t hire and train enough people.”
Shop Steward Eric Calderon addressed the group. “They need to stop this. Today’s lunchtime walkout is a good showing of unity.”
“The unit is you guys,” added Torres. “They’re not scared of me; they’re scared of you—especially when you’re united. This will be critical when our contract opens up in the next several months.”
As the walkout was winding down, a management rep came out to speak with Torres to find out what the workers’ demands were. Torres reminded him that the workers’ demands were in the letter he had recently sent the company but hadn’t yet received a response. “It’s all there, bro. Now, it’s time for you guys to act.”
In the days since the walkout, Torres reports that the company heard the message loud and clear. “They put together a training program to ensure that everybody is fully trained on all of the equipment and that their training has been documented. They also set up a Safety Committee, run by the members, that will meet monthly. There’s more to be done, but these are important steps forward. It shows that they’re listening to our members’ concerns,” Torres said.