Hundreds of Frito-Lay workers on strike in Topeka, citing forced overtime and 84-hour workweeks

Workers at the Topeka plant have been pushed to the brink as the factory revved up operations during the pandemic according to the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Local 218.

Many of the factory’s more than 800 workers are working seven days a week and up to 12 hours per shift, with just eight hours between clocking in and clocking out, according to the union’s international president, Anthony Shelton.

“They are forcing the current workforce to work double and triple shifts,” Shelton said. “Workers do not have enough time to see their family, do chores around the house, run errands, or even get a healthy night’s sleep.”

In an email to The Washington Post, Frito-Lay said it is “committed to providing a safe and fair workplace” and that the offer it made Local 218 on July 1 “addresses the concerns” that have been raised about the Topeka facility. Under the proposed contract, workers would receive a 4 percent wage increase over the next two years and the workweek would be capped at 60 hours.

“We believe the strike unnecessarily puts our employees at risk of economic hardship, and we are focused on resolving this matter as expeditiously and fairly as possible,” the emailed statement said. “While we work to resolve the strike, we remain focused on continuing to run the operations of the plant in Topeka and set a contingency plan to ensure employee safety.”

It also said 300 of the plant’s 850 employees are still reporting for work.

The maker of Cheetos, Doritos and Tostitos is a division of New York-based PepsiCo, the food and beverage giant with a market cap north of $211 billion. PepsiCo did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but earlier this week, the company said revenue is up 14 percent year to date, fueled in part by the success of Frito-Lay, which recorded more than $4.2 billion in sales last year as pandemic-bound Americans loaded up on snack foods.

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