Why are Frito-Lays workers working suicide shifts on the job?

Since 5 luglio, hundreds of striking workers at a Frito-Lay plant in Topeka, Kansas, have drawn attention to the Dickensian conditions workers have been subjected to in order to produce some of the biggest brand name chips in the United States, including Fritos, Cheetos, Doritos, Lay’s, Ruffles, Funyuns and Tostitos.

Workers have publicly aired a list of grievances ranging from stagnant wages, high turnover rates and a lack of hazard pay during the pandemic to 84-hour workweeks, warehouses in triple-digit heat with no air conditioning, months on end without a day off, and so-called “suicide shifts” where workers are only off the clock for eight hours before having to come back in.

As one Frito-Lay worker ha scritto in an op-ed for the Topeka Capital-Journal, “This storm has been brewing for years.” The worker describes “iron-fisted management” that has forced employees to continue working through the smoke and fumes of a fire, the loss of a father, a “deep freeze” cold front, years of inflation with cost-of-living increases as low as 20 cents, and the on-the-job death of a co-worker.

In an interview with Vice, Mark McCarter, a 59-year-old palletizer and union steward who has been working at the facility since he was 19, described one instance a few years ago where a co-worker died on the line and the company had his body moved to the side without stopping production. “It seems like I go to one funeral a year for someone who’s had a heart attack at work or someone who went home to their barn and shot themselves in the head or hung themselves,” said McCarter.

Workers are now entering their third week on strike without pay as a last resort and have asked consumers to stop buying Frito-Lay products until an agreement with the company is reached. “We would rather nobody buy any Frito-Lay products, Fritos, Doritos, Tostitos, Funyuns, Cheetos, all those, while we’re on strike,” McCarter told Vice. “We make all of those in Topeka, Kansas.”

While these shocking conditions (more fitting for an Upton Sinclair novel than the facility of a Fortune 500 azienda) have been given a human face by the workers organizing against them, they point to an imbalance of power that transcends Frito-Lay.

The movement for an eight-hour workday in the US has been waged by workers since the late 1800s. And wasn’t legally guaranteed until 1938. In the decades that followed, all major federal legislation for workplace health and safety was won through the concerted efforts of organized labor and organized labor alone.

In a country where labor history is all but forgotten, it is all too easy for people to understand the modern workplace as the result of a progressive advancement in thinking over what people consider acceptable terms of employment in a developed nation. But Frito-Lay and the countless other workers that have organized against low wages and poor working conditions under the pandemic have debunked this narrative, revealing a constant tug of war between workers and the boss.

Frito-Lay is a subsidiary of Pepsico, a multinational conglomerate that owns Pepsi, Starbucks, Aquafina, Mountain Dew, Tropicana, Gatorade, Aunt Jemima and a number of other brand-name products we see on supermarket shelves across the country. The company’s tens of billions of dollars in yearly revenue across 23 brands is the outcome of decades of unchecked corporate consolidation hiding behind the appearance of consumer choice through clever marketing tactics and an absence of organized opposition.

If Covid-19 has taught us anything it is that the conditions we work under will be pushed as far as a company can take them while still maximizing its bottom line. That is until workers reach a breaking point.

When bargaining with the ​​Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers Local 218, the union representing Frito-Lay workers, a company negotiator said the quiet part out loud.

“Your negotiator told us that it isn’t that Frito-Lay can’t afford to give us raises, it’s that he is there to protect the stockholder investments,” said Cheri Renfro in an open letter to her employer. “Your threats and bully tactics only fuel our fire. You have pushed us into a corner and we came out swinging. And now you’re ‘shocked’?"

I commenti sono chiusi.