Topeka Frito-Lay workers’ strike demanding better wages, less overtime
Workers at the Frito-Lay factory in Topeka did not go on strike until 12:01 am Monday, but Anita Schwartz arrived an hour before that at their picket site just west of that factory.
An employee of the factory for 26 years, Schwartz told the Topeka Capital-Journal Monday morning that she has long been unhappy with the way she treats her employees.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a quarter of a century,” she said. “They have to change their ways.”
Schwartz is one of more than 600 workers at the plant, 4236 SW Kirklawn Ave., who are now on strike.
These workers are represented in collective bargaining by Local 218 of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Millers Workers Union.
Frito-Lay, one of the largest snack companies in the United States, is one of seven divisions of PepsiCo, based in Harrison, NY.
PepsiCo pointed out in a statement sent to Capital-Journal Monday that Local 218 had encouraged Frito-Lay employees to approve the contract.
âThe fact that union members rejected this fully recommended deal suggests that union leadership is out of touch with the feelings of Frito-Lay employees,â PepsiCo said. “Because the union had fully recommended our tentative agreement, we do not anticipate further negotiations with the union in the foreseeable future.”
PepsiCo added that it was continuing to operate its Topeka plant and had a contingency plan in place to ensure employee safety. The company said it would welcome all employees who wish to continue working, which they are legally entitled to do.
“The strike unnecessarily exposes our employees to economic hardship and will inevitably divide the workforce,” said PepsiCo.
Frito-Lay workers rejected two offers
At the end of last month, workers at the Topeka factory voted in favor of the strike. In the vote that took place Friday and Saturday, they then rejected a proposed two-year deal developed by representatives from PepsiCo and Local 218.
Union members say the main sticking points in the negotiations have been wages and the amount of forced overtime the factory requires employees to work.
Frito-Lay and Local 218 of the BCTGM union met last week and reached a fully recommended two-year deal that included general pay increases for both years of the contract and improved work rules that would have reduced hours. overtime and hours worked.
The picket line began Monday morning, almost as soon as the strike began, east of the Frito-Lay factory on the southeast corner of SW 42nd and Topeka Boulevard, Schwartz said.
She was one of dozens of Frito-Lay workers who stood up or sat in chairs there later Monday morning.
Among those in attendance was Rodney North, who said the wages of some factory workers over the past decade had increased by only 20 cents to 40 cents an hour.
The workers at Frito-Lay deserve better than this, especially since PepsiCo is a huge company making billions of dollars every year, he said.
âWhen I started 25 years ago, it was a great place to work,â said North. “I was proud to say I worked at Frito-Lay. Now I’m ashamed.”
North said it was unfair that the factory “worked its workers to death” by forced overtime.
âPeople have families,â he said. “They want to live at home, not here.”
On Monday, picketers encouraged passing motorists to honk their horns, and many did.
Drivers also slowed down to read the picket signs.
Chester Cheetah appears on picket signs
These signs carried messages such as âUnited we stand. Divided, we beg “,” The cost of living goes up while our wages stay the same “and” A strike shouldn’t be the only reason we take vacations! ” “
Some of the signs parodyed Chester Cheetah, the fictional snack mascot of Frito-Lay’s Cheetos, known for the phrases “It’s not easy to be cheesy” and “dangerously cheesy.”
One of those signs said “Dangerously greedy”.
Another carried the phrase “It’s not easy to be greedy,” along with a picture of Chester running around carrying bags of money.
This sign was held by Mark McCarter, a 37-year-old worker at the Topeka Frito-Lay factory, who said the factory often required its employees to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
McCarter drew cheers from his fellow picketers when he called into a megaphone a member of the Frito-Lay management who they saw talking to Topeka police stationed west across Topeka Boulevard on Monday. in relation to the picketers.
McCarter suggested that this person talk to the union rather than the police.