New Topeka Frito-Lay Contract Offer Ends "Suicide Shifts"—But Keeps Forced Overtime

Language in the contract only guarantees one day off a week while mandatory overtime remains

A Frito-Lay company amendment to its contract with union workers at a Topeka plant would end so-called “suicide shifts” while still leaving the door open to forcing overtime six days a week.

One staffer, who is on strike, told me that the new language means the company can still force employees into mandatory overtime six days a week at 12 hours a day.

“This one is only six days a week but they can still force you 12s the six days,” the staffer told me.

By ending “suicide shifts,” the company is only committing to not having those shifts go back to back in “stay over” and “in early.” That grueling schedule, which left employees only eight hours between 12-hour stints, earned it the name suicide shift.

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“They can force you for your weekend”

According to the amendment, a copy of which was leaked to me by current and former staffers at the plant, “all employees will be guaranteed off either their 6th or 7th day of the work week unless the employee has already taken any form of time off (whether scheduled or unscheduled) in the work week.”

The company then lists off what time off in this proposal includes: “call off, refusing mandatory overtime (emphasis added), vacation of less than a full week, sick day, floating or regular holiday, unpaid funeral leave,” and more. "

“They can and will punish you for taking a vacation day, funeral day, or floating holiday by saying that that is a day off in which they can force you for your weekend,” the staffer told me.

The staffer added that because the language of the contract means that refusing forced overtime counts as a day off, the company can still force workers to come in seven days a week if they reject the mandatory overtime.

A previous offer from the company, on July 1, capped the number of weekly hours at 60, but that was not included in the new language—meaning workers could, under the amended contract, face 72 hour workweeks.


Good enough?

Workers at the Topeka Frito-Lay plant have alleged mistreatment, poor conditions, and forced overtime at the facility.

In an interview with me over the weekend, worker Samuel Huntsman told me that the plant’s management “treat us horribly."

"The treatment and overtime has always been this way," Huntsman said.

Workers have been on strike for weeks and will vote tomorrow on a new contract. The company’s amendment to end the suicide shifts is welcomed but the fine print leaves a lot to be desired.

Whether or not it’s a deal breaker remains to be seen.

“Our members are the ones who vote in the process,” Jason Davis, an International Representative for the Midwest region of the Bread, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers Union, told local NBC affiliate KSNT.

“Everything we do is for our members and on behalf of our members,” Davis added, “so at the end of the day it’s the member’s decision as to what is good enough for them.”

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