Strike at Frito-Lay factory in Kansas continues

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 1:53 PM EDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (Gray News) - Hundreds of workers in the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Local 218 union have been on strike at the Frito-Lay factory since July 5.

Workers at the Kansas factory allege overwork, including mandatory overtime, and low pay.

Local 218 Business Manager Mark Benaka told WIBW that workers at the factory aren’t paid on par with other companies in the area.

“That’s all we’re trying to do. We’ve constantly been pushed to the bottom of the rung on the ladder for the last eight or nine years with wages,” he said. “Virtually every industry around here with similar jobs has surpassed us on wages, and employees out there are to the point where they’re not going to take it anymore.”

A Frito-Lay employee alleged that the production line didn’t stop moving even when an employee died while working, according to an editorial written in the Topeka Capitol-Journal.

That employee, Cheri Renfro, joined the picket 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.

Frito-Lay has described the union leadership as out of touch with the needs of its employees, who it said agreed to the negotiated contract initially before it was voted down.

The two-year contract that was rejected by union members limited the amount of forced overtime per week, limits the amount employees will work to no more than 12 hours in a 24-hour period and solidifies a cap on a total number of hours per week along with a 2% raise each of the two years.

“We believe the strike unnecessarily puts our employees at risk of economic hardship, and we are focused on resolving this matter as expeditiously and fairly as possible,” the company said.

Frito-Lay also said it eliminated squeeze shifts, which have also been referred to as “suicide shifts,” where an employee only has eight hours off between two 12-hour shifts.

Employee Ester Manning told WIBW that she thinks the company doesn’t value families.

“I have a set of twins, and I’m sure there are plenty of us that have children, and one statement that my son once said is ‘Momma, do your bosses know you have kids?’ And I said, ‘Bubba, I’m sure they do know but they don’t care,’ and it was so heartbreaking telling my 9-year-old that my bosses don’t care,” she said.

Copyright 2021 Gray Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved. WIBW contributed to this report.