President Joe Biden said Friday that he was "deeply troubled" by reports of Kellogg's plan to permanently replace striking plant workers as the union haggles for a new contract involving 1,400 employees.
"I am deeply troubled by reports of Kellogg’s plans to permanently replace striking workers from the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International during their ongoing collective bargaining negotiations," Biden said in a statement. "Collective bargaining is an essential tool to protect the rights of workers that should be free from threats and intimidation from employers."
"Permanently replacing striking workers is an existential attack on the union and its members’ jobs and livelihoods," he added. "And such action undermines the critical role collective bargaining plays in providing workers a voice and the opportunity to improve their lives while contributing fully to their employer’s success."
A wave of workers across the country have taken to picket lines this year in various industries to argue for better pay, safer working conditions and paid time off. Biden has supported workers' right to unionize and strike but also said it is up to the companies and workers to negotiate a deal.
Workers with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International union have been on strike since Oct. 5 at Kellogg's factories in Battle Creek, Michigan; Omaha, Nebraska; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Memphis, Tennessee.
Earlier this week, workers rejected a five-year contract offer that would have provided 3 percent raises, among other benefits. The union argued that the company’s two-tiered system of wages pays newer workers at the plants less and provides them with fewer benefits as well as little opportunity to move up.
“The members have spoken. The strike continues,” the union said on Tuesday. “The International Union will continue to provide full support to our striking Kellogg’s members.” NBC has contacted a representative of the union for comment.
Kellogg's responded in a statement earlier this week, saying it will move forward with its plan to replace striking workers to keep plants operating. A spokesperson for the company told NBC News on Friday that the company is still willing to negotiate.
"We are ready, willing and able to negotiate with the union; we have been from the start and we continue to be. We agree that this needs to be solved at the bargaining table. Our objective has been — and continues to be — to reach a fair agreement for our people," Kellogg's spokesperson Kris Bahner said in an email.