Kellogg Co. legally locked out over 200 union employees for nine months because a bona fide impasse had been reached after the union refused to negotiate proposals over mandatory subjects of bargaining. Specifically, Kellogg declared impasse, timely notified the Union of its demands so that the Union could evaluate whether to accept them and prevent a lockout, notified employees of a pending lockout if no agreement was reached, and then locked them out. All of this because the union refused to bargain over Kellogg’s desire to use an alternative crewing schedule and increase its use of “casual” workers who would receive lower wages than their union-represented counterparts and no benefits.
The Union argued in vain that Kellogg’s proposals violated the National Labor Relations Act because they constituted midterm modifications to the wage and benefit provisions of the parties’ master collective bargaining agreement that covers the company’s Ready To Eat Cereal facilities throughout the country. Each plant, however, is covered by supplemental agreements, and negotiations over alternative crewing and casual workers fell within the supplemental agreement’s jurisdiction, and thus a mandatory subject of bargaining.
Locking out employees is an extremely fact-sensitive endeavor that is littered with legal requirements. Many unsuspecting employers get tripped up over the nuances of the law and accidentally thwart the very bargaining strength that comes from lawfully locking out employees. Therefore, competent legal counsel should be sought before locking out employees.