Monday, December 20, 2021

Leggo my (union-made) Eggo, for now

    “Eggo waffles are out,” my wife said. 
     “They are?” I replied, thickly. “I thought we still had some in the freezer.”
     I had just been contemplating pairing some waffles with turkey sausage links, as a change of pace from my traditional grapefruit and English muffin.
     She gave me the “Am-I-really-going-to-have-to-explain-this-to-you?” look. Pity, wedded to exhaustion, lightly sprinkled with disgust.
     “No,” she said, evenly. “We can’t buy them anymore.”
     Ah. Now I got it. Solidarity. The Kellogg’s Co., makers of Eggo Homestyle Frozen Waffles, is threatening to fire its 1,400 workers on strike at four plants since October.
     The issue, a “two tier” compensation system where employees hired after 2015 are paid less. The company has advertised for replacement workers, aka, scabs. A couple days ago, Kellogg’s claimed they’ve reached an agreement, but the union still has yet to approve it. A previous supposed deal fell through.
     “We’ll make our own waffles,” I said, getting with the program, after quickly doing a mental inventory of whether the breakfast cereals I actually eat are made by Kellogg’s. Nope: Wheat Chex are from General Mills, and Shredded Wheat from Post. So we’re good to go with the Steinberg household union action against Kellogg’s.
     My quick check, to gauge whether shunning Kellogg’s would actually affect me, personally, is a reminder that, as a rule, boycotts don’t work.
     At least not by materially affecting the target of the boycott, cutting sales and such. That’s because when you take the waffle-buying public and sift it three times, winnowing down A) those who know what’s going on regarding a specific situation, say a strike of Kellogg’s workers; B) those among the knowledgable who care enough to actually do something; and C) those who are willing to do that something for a protracted period of time, well, you end up with a small number of people.
     Boycotts do have other functions. They can work well as threats. A tool that is only effective if never used. Just ask Jesse Jackson.

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  1. Some years ago, the woman in my life made a habit of boycotting businesses whose policies she disagreed with. It was strongly implied that I should follow her lead.

    A day came when we could no longer go to a business that was conveniently close to our house. I went there often. The nearest replacement was a half hour drive away.

    I had no problem bearing witness to injustice. But I found myself driving long distances to maintain a purity of thought and deed, constantly wondering if the new business I was forced to use was also run by scoundrels, albeit more quietly.

    I necessarily developed a dictum to deal with this frustration. I no longer drive long distances for businesses that have passed the purity test. Feel free to embrace this rule of thought:

    “Never punish yourself because someone else is an ass.”

    Problem solved.

  2. Let’s not be this uncaring when it comes time to vote. One vote probably won’t make a difference but why take the chance.
    I’ll keep boycotting because I’d rather not be part of the problem.

  3. What makes this whole situation crushingly stupid is that there was, and is, no good reason for Kellogg to be playing hardball with the union like this. Kellogg has been making out like a bandit during the pandemic, with double-digit percentage increases in sales and profit. Everyone had to eat breakfast at home; many still do so. Besides, familiar consumer brands in general did great during the pandemic, and Kellogg has some of the most familiar in the world.

    They're flush with cash and could have given the union most of what it was asking for with no trouble at all. Instead, they chose to flex. Well, let's see if their latest proposal flies with the union rank and file -- they're voting on it today. Kellogg should be praying it passes.

  4. I thought I was effortlessly participating in the boycott via your Chick-fil-A, Popeyes route -- just not being a purchaser of Kellogg's products. But I see that they own Kashi cereals, and have since 2000. (Sheesh, they have a lot of brands.) We've bought some of those in the past, and it's not unlikely that the reason I started seeing them on "regular" supermarket shelves is because of Kellogg's' cash and muscle.

    Independent of that, I fear I must judge you harshly. "I just don’t like fried chicken." And yet you call yourself an American. ; )

    1. There are always the generics to try to avoid taking a side in the labor battle, although I understand that many if not most of the generics are manufactured by the brand name companies with a store label slapped on before they hit the shelves, so they get you coming and going.


  5. Don't like fried chicken? Must be doing something wrong. Put that fried chicken on top of yer eggo, drown it in maple syrup, bust open a Coke-Cola, crank up "Sweet Home Alabama". Closest thing to Heaven on Earth. God made anything finer he'd a kept it for hisself!

  6. Maybe some boycotts don't work much but thank goodness the Montcomery bus boycott did, on a very different matter.

  7. I remember a national boycott of Kohler kitchen and plumbing fixtures during a very bitter and violent strike by the UAW, at the company's huge factory complex in Sheboygan, WI. The strike lasted for six years (1954-60).

    I'm an Early Boomer, so I went to mostly new schools-- four years at a brand-new suburban grammar school, followed by two years at a brand-new junior high, and then four more years at a high school with a newly-built addition. The original high school building, built before WWII, had Kohler bathroom fixtures. But I never saw a single Kohler product (made by non-union scabs) aanywhere else. Not even in the brand-new public library. Apparently, the union boycott was successful in at least one town...the town where I grew up.


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