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After 20-Day Strike, Frito-Lay Is Ending 'Suicide Shifts'

Workers at Kansas plant will get one guaranteed day off per week
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 27, 2021 2:52 PM CDT
After 20-Day Strike, Frito-Lay Workers Get One Day Off a Week
Frito-Lay employees, left, hold signs while on strike, July 12, 2021 in Topeka, Kan. as they call for better pay and working conditions.   (Evert Nelson/The Capital-Journal via AP)

(Newser) – When the chips were down, Frito-Lay decided to meet a key demand of striking workers and guarantee them one day off a week. The company and the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers union reached an agreement over the weekend to end a 20-day strike at a Topeka, Kansas, plant, CBS reports. Workers said they had been forced to work seven days a week, including what they called "suicide shifts" and the company called "squeeze shifts"—back-to-back 12-hour shifts with only eight hours off in between. The new two-year contract eliminates those shifts and provides a 4% pay rise, up from the 2% stated in the previous contract offer. The deal will also give the union more of a say in staffing and overtime decisions, reports the Washington Post.

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Around 600 of the plant's 850 workers joined the strike. Union leaders said the company, dealing with a surge in demand for products including Cheetos and Ruffles, had forced employees to work 84-hour weeks, though the company called the claims "grossly exaggerated." A warehouse worker at the plant, who declined to give his name for fear of retaliation, tells the New York Times that there is "more disappointment than happiness" with the contract, but workers couldn't afford to hold out for a better deal. "A lot of people had to vote yes because they were running out of money and didn’t have insurance," he says. In a tweet about the news, Sarah O'Connor at the Financial Times quipped, "US reaches early-19thC stage of capitalism..." (Read more Frito-Lay stories.)

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