These are my impressions from a few hours on yesterday’s picket line.
As I drove toward the Kellogg works, a comparison came to mind for this gigantic physical plant. It’s like the vision up Miller Road from Michigan Avenue as my huge old workplace, the Ford Rouge Plant in Dearborn, Michigan heaves into view. If grain milling isn’t your notion of “heavy industry,” take a look at Kellogg from the Porter Road picket line in Battle Creek and then look to the right at the enormous warehouse.
Most inspiring to me was a striker describing the demand to bring up the second tier of BCTGM-Kellogg workers. Some 70%–higher-seniority workers–demand no change in the contract for themselves. Rather, workers united to reject a tentative agreement for the sake of bringing up the 30%, younger workers. This striker put the demand for equality as “A clear path, set in stone.” Working-class poet.
Picket lines rotate 24/7 in a windy Michigan December that had me in double long underwear and coats. The pickets are small, if one takes out the members of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and Washtenaw General Defense Committee pickets while I was there. Fortunately, railroad workers, I think most truckers and even a non-union set of contract workers are honoring the picket lines. The big threat is the scabs for which Kellogg is scouring the countryside. But as some vans went by, the pickets I was with commented that they have few people in them.
The other big threat voiced was that Kellogg would move operations to Mexico. I don’t know whether this is production-plausible or just “Buy American” rhetoric.
DSA members from across Michigan and other cities including Akron, Ohio were out in force. DSAers announced themselves as DSA when they arrived at my picket line; it was clear from strikers’ response that they were already familiar with the organization. A DSAer gave comrades red vests in the union local hall (1006 N. Raymond, Battle Creek MI). In the local, there was real food, a real bathroom, and an overflowing supporters’ sign-in sheet.
DSA is mobilizing for a 3:00 p.m. picket line visit from Bernie Sanders on Friday, December 17, at Battle Creek Farmers Market, 25 McCamly Street, Battle Creek, MI. Please consider joining the picket line.
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Ron Lare is a retired member of UAW Local 600 where he served a term on the elected local-wide executive board. He is a member of the Tempest Collective, Solidarity-US, and DSA.