Frito Lay Workers Strike in Kansas
After rejecting the company's offer, workers began their strike on Monday
Union workers at the Topeka Kansas Frito Lay's plant walked out on strike on Monday after spending the Fourth of July weekend voting to reject the company’s latest contract offer.
The plant has about 500 union employees who are represented by Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers Local 218. The union says that this is unchartered territory for the company as they have always been able to work out an agreement in the past and the union has never had to strike against Frito-Lay. The union began representing workers at the plant in 1973.
“Frito Lay has never seen a strike. From my understanding, the whole time Frito Lay has been in Topeka, there’s never been a strike here,” Chief Union Steward Dan Negrete said. “The membership, the body at the plant, the environment at the plant has never been this toxic.”
According to a statement from the company, the two sides have been negotiating for nine months, but have failed to reach an agreement that the employees can live with. They have been working without a contract since September 12, 2020, and were working on temporary extensions of the old contract. Those extensions ran out on Sunday.
According to the union around 400 workers took part in the contract vote and overwhelmingly voted to reject the deal and walk. They said that while the contract included 2% raises and limits on mandatory overtime, it wasn’t enough to convince the workers to take the deal.
"It was very decisive” Mark Benaka, Business Manager for Local 218 said. "It is obvious we're far apart on the discretions forced on employees over the last ten years. Basically, they're not going to take it anymore."
Workers told The Topeka Capitol Journal that they want better working conditions and a higher raise before they will agree to a new contract. In the meantime, pickets lines will be set up around the plant until a new agreement can be reached.