The five-member panel of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, D.C. has reaffirmed that the Kellogg Company illegally locked out more than 220 members of BCTGM Local 252G at the company’s Memphis, Tenn. cereal plant from October 22, 2013 to August 11, 2014. The May 7th NLRB decision directed the company to make all employees whole for any loss of earnings and benefits they suffered as a result of the unlawful lockout.
The ruling overturns an August 7, 2014 decision by Administrative Law Judge Ira Sandron which stated that Kellogg was within its rights to impose the lockout in Memphis over the issue of a casual workforce.
“This decision by the highest level of the NLRB once again confirms our continual belief and legally proven premise regarding the lockout of our members and their families in Memphis,” states BCTGM International President David B. Durkee.
The BCTGM immediately filed exceptions to the Administrative Law Judge decision, asking that the ruling be reviewed by the NLRB in Washington D.C.; the same Board that unanimously voted to seek a federal court order to end the lockout and return the workers to their jobs at the Kellogg cereal plant on August 11. The order of Federal Judge Samuel H. Mays, rendered on July 30th, ordered an end to the lockout “pending the final disposition of the matters involved herein by the Board.”
At issue was Kellogg’s proposals that used “creative semantics”, the term used by Federal Judge Mays, to redefine regular employees and in so doing placed proposals at the supplemental bargaining table that were only appropriate for negotiations on the Master Contract level. Kellogg tried to redefine the regular employee as one with reduced wages and benefits and sought to negotiate the terms and conditions of this employee on the local level. The NLRB body ruled that Kellogg violated Federal labor law by, “insisting to the point of impasse on these proposals” and locking out workers. The Board ruled that by relabeling new full-time permanent employees “casuals,” Kellogg sought to circumvent the economic terms of the Master Agreement.
The NLRB panel agreed with the Union, that Kellogg’s proposals would constitute midterm modifications of the wage and benefit provisions of the existing Master Agreement pertaining to regular employees, and that they are therefore non-mandatory subjects of bargaining over which Kellogg cannot lawfully insist to impasse or lock out the employees.
The NLRB ordered Kellogg, within 14 days from the date of the order, to offer workers who were locked out who had not yet been reinstated, immediate and full reinstatement to their former jobs or equivalent positions; make whole all employees in the bargaining unit for any loss of earnings and other benefits they suffered because they were unlawfully locked out; compensate employees for the adverse tax consequences, if any, of receiving a lump-sum back pay award.
“We would hope that Kellogg follows this award and refrains from its past path of deferring each of our legal victories to the next level of appeal. The sooner our members and their families in Memphis are made financially whole for this injustice, the sooner we can approach a more constructive and productive relationship with Kellogg,” concludes Durkee.