As the Frito-Lay strike continues, more workers are speaking up to reveal what it’s like to work at the company, especially on the topic of “suicide shifts.”
“Hundreds of Frito-Lay workers in Topeka, Kan., are in their third week of a strike, citing so-called ‘suicide shifts’ and poor working conditions at the manufacturing and distribution plant at a time when the company’s net revenue growth has exceeded all of its targets.
Employees say sweltering 90-degree temperatures on the picket line are preferable to the 100-degree-plus heat that awaits them inside the manufacturing warehouse on any given summer day. They’re demanding an end to mandatory overtime and 84-hour weeks that they argue leaves little room for a meaningful quality of life. They’re also seeking raises that match cost-of-living increases.
The company, which is owned by PepsiCo, disputes their claims, calling them ‘grossly exaggerated’ and says a recent contract offer delivered earlier this month more than met the terms put forward by the workers’ union, Local 218 of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union.
Meanwhile, workers say they want more concessions before heading back into the factory . . .
One of the most contentious issues throughout the bargaining process, according to union leaders, has been the regular use of forced overtime at the plant that results in so-called ‘suicide shifts’ where ‘many of the more than 800 workers at the plant are only getting an eight-hour break between shifts.’
NPR was unable to reach union officials, but Local 218 Chief Steward Paul Klemme on Monday described how it worked in a podcast interview on Monday. He said workers who clock in for a 7 a.m to 3 p.m. shift are often forced to work four hours of overtime, ‘then [the company will] turn you right around and bring you in at 3 o’clock in the morning. So you only have 8 hours off to get home, shower, see your family, get some sleep and get back to work.’
It’s an unsustainable schedule that has been instituted, he says, as a way to put off addressing a larger staffing shortage of about 100 employees.
In a statement earlier this week the union’s international president, Anthony Shelton, wrote, ‘The union has repeatedly asked the company to hire more workers and yet despite record profits, Frito Lay management has refused this request.'”
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