Frito-Lay workers in Topeka voted to ratify a 2-year contract, ending their 3-week strike with a contract that guarantees one day off a week and does away with requirement to work so-called “suicide shifts,” which involve 12-hour stretchs with just 8 hours in between.
“BCTGM Local 218 members employed at Frito Lay in Topeka, Kansas have shown the world that union working people can stand up against the largest food companies in the world and claim victory for themselves, their families and their communities,” said Anthony Shelton, International President of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM). “More than 600 BCTGM members hit the streets in a fight for a better quality of life and to have a voice over how many hours in a week they can be forced to work.”
“This fight resonated across country and around the world and the out-pouring of support for our brave union members in Topeka was overwhelming,” said Shelton. “Labor unions, community allies, politicians, concerned citizens and the religious community all played a part in this historic victory.”
“Crazy that Frito-Lay workers had to go on strike nearly 3 weeks just to win the right not to have to work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week,” tweeted Steven Greenhouse, a former New York Times labor reporter—author of Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present & Future of American Labor. “Now they can “only” be forced to work 12 hours a day 6 days a week. Going from 84 hrs a week to 72 hrs sounds like a 19th century labor victory.”
“The outcome of this strike was a testament to the tenacity and grit of the Frito Lay workers in Topeka,” said Shelton. “While this victory will go down in the history books of the BCTGM, similar fights are happening across North America where union workers are standing up to employers and demanding respect on the job and a legitimate say over their working conditions.”
As the exploited Frito-Lay workers picketed in Topeka, Kansas with their demand for fair working conditions, New Jersey progressive champion Lisa McCormick asked consumers to support them by boycotting PepsiCo products, but now she said that is over.
“PepsiCo was forcing their workforce to put in double and triple shifts, which left the employees without enough time to see their family, tend to household chores, run errands, or even get a full night’s sleep,” said McCormick. “This contract is a pretty lousy deal, and it says a lot about the exploitation of workers that has resulted from failed trickle-down economic policies, but if the union is ending the strike then those of us who support them must respect their choices.”
“It still does not seem fair at all,” said McCormick. “While the global conglomerate’s Frito-Lay division was requiring workers to put in 84-hour weeks, seven days per week, PepsiCo’s profits soared by 43% to $2.3 billion. My father was in a union that worked to ensure our family enjoyed a share of America’s prosperity. We need to reinvigorate the union movement to restore liberty, prosperity, security and justice for all in the United States, because we cannot export democracy until we resuscitate it here at home.”
McCormick called on workers, consumers and labor union leaders to .
Frito-Lay said the union accepted a two-year contract that addressed some of its concerns, according to a statement released Saturday. In addition to the day-off guarantee, the deal will give the union more input on staffing and overtime decisions, and raise wages.
“We believe our approach to resolving this strikes demonstrates how we listen to our employees, and when concerns are raised, they are taken seriously and addressed,” according to the statement.
Frito-Lay, which is known for Cheetos, Doritos and other packaged snack foods, is a unit of PepsiCo, the New York-based food and beverage giant worth roughly $217 billion.
About two-thirds of the 850 workers at the Topeka factory joined the walkout that began July 5. They will return to work this week.