TOPEKA (KSNT) – Frito-Lay in Topeka is looking for more workers after labor union employees went on strike Monday.

“They just want to give us coins. They don’t want to give us enough to pay our bills, feed our children, pay our mortgages, and our rent,” Box drop technician Monk Drapeaux-Stewart said.

Drapeaux-Stewart has worked for Frito-Lay for 16 years and said when he started nearly two decades ago, that was the last contract he received from the company with fair raises.

Employees made 25 cents extra per hour the first year, 50 cents extra the second year and then 25 cents on the third year. Now, those raises are less.

“The first year you get a lump sum, which is a pittance, and then they put a 40% gift tax on top of that so you’re only getting 60% of a pittance. The second year, same thing, third year 1% raise which was about 19 cents an hour,” Drapeaux-Stewart said.

Aside from better pay, many on the picket line are fighting for a safer working environment.

Employees like Caitlin Renfro are frustrated and on strike. She’s worked for the company for the last seven years and said her goal in striking is for owners to listen to their employees and come to an agreement that’s fair for everyone.

“For the most part, we like working here,” Renfro said. We just, we want to be treated better and we want to be shown that they do appreciate us and that’s by giving us a decent raise which they haven’t done for over a decade.”

Employees are signed up to strike through the next two weeks at least.

KSNT received the below response from Frito-Lay:

“Frito-Lay and BCTGM Union Local 218 met last week and reached a fully recommended two-year agreement that included across-the-board wage increases both years of the contract and improved work rules that would have reduced overtime and hours worked. 

Though each member of the union negotiating committee, including the union president, individually committed to supporting the agreement and encouraging Frito-Lay employees to vote in favor of ratifying it and Frito-Lay urged all associates to vote in favor of the fully recommended agreement (after nine months of negotiations), the agreement was voted down Saturday, July 3. While the union has suggested that Frito-Lay didn’t meet its terms, Frito-Lay had agreed to the union’s proposed economic terms. In addition, it was Frito-Lay, not the union, that proposed overtime limitations.  

That the union membership rejected this fully recommended agreement suggests union leadership is out of touch with the sentiments of Frito-Lay employees. Because the union had fully recommended our tentative agreement, we do not anticipate any further negotiations with the union for the foreseeable future.  

Therefore, Frito-Lay employees have been on strike since Monday, July 5. The strike unnecessarily puts our employees at risk of economic hardship and will inevitably divide the workforce. Frito-Lay will be focused on continuing to run the operations of our plant in Topeka and has a contingency plan in place to ensure employee safety. We will continue to be attentive to the situation and welcome any employees who wish to continue to work as they are legally entitled to do so.” – Frito-Lay