Frito Lay Workers Ratify Contract, End Strike That Focused On ‘Suicide Shifts’

A strike that captured the attention of the world for 20 days is over.

The New York Times reports:

“Hundreds of Frito-Lay employees ratified a contract on Saturday, ending a nearly three-week strike over forced overtime and long hours that many workers said had pushed them past the point of exhaustion, union officials said.

The agreement, which was ratified in a vote that one union official described as close, puts an end to what workers at the Frito-Lay plant in Topeka, Kan., call ‘suicide shifts’ — back-to-back 12-hour shifts with only an eight-hour break in between.

“The outcome of this strike was a testament to the tenacity and grit of the Frito-Lay workers in Topeka,” Anthony Shelton, international president of the Bakery, Confectionry, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, which represents the employees who are members of Local 218, said in a statement.

The workers in Local 218 said they went on strike because the company had refused to address their concerns about the shifts, which they said took away time with their families and did not even allow enough time to get a full night’s sleep.

Workers had said Frito-Lay could easily address the grueling shifts without hurting the company’s bottom line. Frito-Lay is a division of PepsiCo, which recently reported a huge jump in revenue in its drinks and snacks businesses.

Paul Klemme, a chief shop steward who has worked at the Topeka plant for nine years, said he had once worked three months straight without a day off.

‘I missed a lot of time with my children when they were in high school because of the shift that I worked and the hours that I worked,’ he said. ‘It’s physically draining.’

Mr. Klemme said the new contract guarantees one day off a week for workers, does away with forcing workers to take the ‘suicide shifts’ and increases wages. He declined to provide precise numbers because he said he was not authorized to give that information. Corrina Christensen, a spokeswoman for the international union, declined to provide additional details of the agreement or say how the membership voted.

In a statement, Frito-Lay said the new two-year contract includes a 4 percent wage increase for all job classifications and ‘additional opportunities for the union to have input into staffing and overtime.'”

For the rest of the story, visit The New York Times here.

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