Union workers head to the picket line on first day of strike at Frito-Lay

Published: Jul. 5, 2021 at 4:12 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Members of Frito-Lay’s chapter of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) Local 218 union headed to the picket line Monday for day one of their strike.

Cheri Renfro joined the line after working 73 hours during a “push week”, a term used to describe the time before a major holiday when the company sells a lot of products.

She said those are times when her safety is most at risk.

“During push week our entryways are blocked because there’s so much product we’re sending out and we’ve tried to address it by asking them to clear the way we’re just told ‘oh, it’s push week’,” she described.

“It’s just frustrating because it’s our safety it’s my life on the line there’s a fire in that place it’s going to go because of all the cardboard and chips we have in there.”

Renfro said the pay used to make the job worthwhile even inspiring her daughter to work at the company but they say that’s no longer the case.

“It balanced out the stress of the unpredictable hours we have the long hours it kind of balanced out compensated a little bit but as years go on no raises lump sums instead which are nothing,” Cheri, who has worked at the company nine years, recalled.

“The attitude towards us is very, like we’re not worth anything and people start to think that it’s hard to stay in that mentality,” said her daughter, Caitlin, who has worked at Frito-Lay for seven years.

Over the weekend, union members rejected the latest tentative agreement. The two-year deal included a two percent wage increase at the end of each year and negotiators felt it addressed forced overtime.

Frito-Lay reiterated its statement from Sunday which read in part “It was Frito-Lay, not the union, that proposed overtime limitations. That the union membership rejected this fully recommended agreement suggests union leadership is out of touch with the sentiments of Frito-Lay employees.” They added that they are focused on continuing operations.

Mark Benaka, BCTGM’s Business Manager, felt otherwise.

“They’ve been out of touch with these employees for the last 10 to 12 years if they want to try to insinuate that the union’s out of touch with them they need to take a look at themselves in the mirror,” he said.

“Frito-Lay the money is there if I want this place to run smoothly and get started back up and produce the worlds number one quality snack then they’ll come to the table was more money.”

Neither party has indicated they’ll return to the negotiating table in the foreseeable future.

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