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, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, which represents the employees who are members of Local 218, said in a statement.
After 37 years, I still get forced to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Seven years ago, my wife passed away and I spent a lot of time in grief counseling, and I told the company, I don’t want to work 12 hours a day seven days a week. I ended up getting FMLA [Family Medical Leave Act unpaid leave], but they’re still having me do it sometimes. You come in at 7 a.m. and not only do you work eight hours, but when you get off at 3 p.m., they suicide (force you to work a double shift) you and have you come back at 3am. There’s 850 employees and it’s true for half or three quarters of them.
This job wears you down, it tires you, and makes you mentally exhausted. It plays with your mind. Some of these guys who work 12 hours a day everyday are destroying their marriages. They’re destroying their families. My wife passed away and I don’t have a wife to go home to to say, ‘Hey babe I’m only working eight hours tomorrow,” but a lot of these guys come in with the understanding that they’ll be here for eight hours but then they got to call their wives and kids and say, “Guess what? It’s not eight hours. It’s 12 hours and then I have to go back to work at 3am.”
Frito-Lay has been told they need to fix this but unfortunately, when they bring in new people, they force the same schedule on them and they quit. Frito-Lay has waited so long to replace workers, and now Frito Lay has a horrible reputation in town so a lot of people won’t work here.
We would rather nobody buy any Frito-Lay products, Fritos, Doritos, Tostitos, Funyuns, Cheetos, all those, while we’re on strike. We make all of those in Topeka, Kansas. We also would rather nobody buys PepsiCo products while we’re on the line. PepsiCo is the owner of Frito-Lay.
They treated Mr. Karger’s boycott not as a stratagem but as a breach of decorum. Many instinctively responded (much like those who today cry “cancel culture”) by celebrating their victimhood. Mr. Manchester said it was a “free-speech, First Amendment issue.” Brian Brown — the executive director for California of the National Organization for Marriage, the leading single-issue anti-gay-marriage group, led by people with close ties to leaders in the Catholic Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — boasted after the Grand Hyatt protest that Mr. Karger’s “bullying” had backfired. The “stunt they pulled against Doug Manchester ended up raising $100,000 for the amendment in 24 hours,” Mr. Brown said in a message to supporters, “and prompted at least 2,000 new marriage supporters to join our ranks.”
But Mr. Manchester did not remain sanguine for long. The next year, he dispatched an aide to an International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association conference with an offer: $25,000 in cash and $100,000 in hotel credits for dropping the boycott. No one appeared to accept the deal, and Mr. Karger kept up the pressure on the hotels, persuading business groups to yank conferences. In late 2010, Mr. Manchester was forced to sell the property.