Hundreds of workers completed Week 3 of their strike against snack food company Frito-Lay, with the workers protesting against long workweeks described as “suicide shifts.” 

Striking outside of the Frito-Lay factory in Topeka, Kansas, the employees are demonstrating against 84-hour work weeks and mandatory overtime.

“They are forcing the current workforce to work double and triple shifts. Workers do not have enough time to see their family, do chores around the house, or get a healthy night’s sleep,” Anthony Shelton, International President of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) said in a statement in June.

“The union has repeatedly asked the company to hire more workers and yet despite record profits, Frito-Lay management has refused this request," the statement read.

Along with protesting the long workweek, employees are also striking against low wages. A box-drop technician at the Topeka plant reportedly said his hourly pay had only been raised 77 cents in 12 years. 

Frito-Lay is a subsidiary of food and beverage giant PepsiCo (PEP). The North Carolina-based company has a market capitalization of nearly $215 billion.

According to Frito-Lay, 550 workers have participated in the first walkout at any Frito-Lay facility in three decades, with another 300 opting to keep working. The company also maintains hourly wages have ranged from $18.35 to $36.91 an hour.

PepsiCo has denied the labor allegations and said they “have been grossly exaggerated.” Frito-Lay’s records “indicate 19 employees have worked 84 hours in a given work week in 2021 with 16 of those as a result of employees volunteering for overtime and only 3 being required to work.” 

Cherie Renfro wrote in a letter to the Topeka Capital-Journal that detailed how an assembly-line worker had a medical emergency, then collapsed and died. Management had directed the workers to “move the body” and replace them with another co-worker to keep the line moving. 

Renfro also described how factory workers had to work during the COVID-19 quarantine while office personnel worked from home. Factory workers did not receive hazard pay, bonuses, rewards, or recognition, according to Renfro.

The company said it is aware of just two instances in the past five years where an employee had a medical emergency and later died.

“In both cases, medical attention was initially provided at the plant, and worked ceased until the associates were safely on the way to the hospital,” read a company statement.

BCTGM members voted 353-30 to strike the first weekend of July after they rejected the most recent contract negotiation between the company and union leaders. The two-year contract limited union members to working no more than 12 hours in a 24 hour period and solidified a cap on how many hours an employee could work per week. The rejected contract included a 2% pay raise for each of the two years.