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By Michael Rose
June 29 — Delegates to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters convention June 28 approved a pair of resolutions calling for continued organizing of port truck drivers and the warehousing industry, including at Sysco Corp. and US Foods, two of the nation's largest food wholesalers.
The IBT already represents workers at both companies, which sought to merge in 2013 but called off the transaction two years later. The Teamsters union was against the merger, claiming it would have harmed its members and threatened their jobs. The resolution approved at the convention stated that the union “was able to contribute to the blocking of the proposed merger.”
Steve Vairma, warehouse division director at the IBT, told convention delegates June 28 that the union represents some 12,000 workers at both companies but that there were many more Sysco and US Foods workers who don't have representation.
Several speakers also highlighted the fact that the union has successfully organized workers at Sysco in Atlanta and West Palm Beach, Fla., in recent years.
“The Teamsters are committed to continuing to organize at Sysco and US Foods, building our critique of these companies and winning new members,” the warehousing industry resolution said.
At US Foods, a group of about 120 IBT-represented workers at a distribution center in Maryland that is slated to close have been on strike since April. Since then, the union has staged a series of rolling picket lines at various US Foods locations where it represents workers, and it has said that some 3,000 workers have participated in the pickets.
A Sysco spokesman declined to comment June 29 on the Teamsters' organizing efforts at the company.
US Foods spokeswoman Debra Ceffalio told Bloomberg BNA June 29 in an e-mail statement that the company “provides its employees with good wages and benefits that are competitive in the markets we serve.”
“We have a strong record of reaching fair and reasonable contracts for union-represented employees” and have “successfully negotiated nearly 50 contracts across the country in the last 5 years,” Ceffalio said.
The Teamsters also have been organizing port truck drivers in Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., for several years, and a National Labor Relations Board official recently said that alleged misclassification of workers by one company, Intermodal Bridge Transport, constituted an unfair labor practice.
In addition, drivers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have staged some 13 strikes and protests in the past two years. Many of the strikes have focused on issues of worker misclassification, because many of the port trucking companies consider their drivers to be independent contractors rather than employees.
A handful of those companies, however, have converted port truck drivers to employees and bargained contracts with the Teamsters.
“Since our last convention, we have achieved what many people thought was impossible: We have organized port trucking companies, and gotten companies to stop misclassifying their drivers and agree to labor peace,” Fred Potter, director of the Teamsters port division, told the convention.
The resolution on organizing port truck drivers stated that the union is “committed to continuing this fight for the long term, ramping up pressure to attack wage theft and illegal misclassification” in the port trucking industry.
“The Teamsters will continue supporting port drivers, to achieve justice through a two-pronged strategy of strikes and litigation to force every port trucking company to stop breaking the law by stealing drivers’ rights and wages that gets companies to agree to be neutral regarding drivers’ rights to organize and join the Teamsters,” the resolution said.
Late June 28, Rome Aloise, a Teamsters vice president, highlighted the union's success in organizing drivers of shuttle buses for tech company employees in the San Francisco Bay Area.
After drivers at Loop Transportation Inc., which contracts to provide shuttle service for Facebook Inc. employees, gained IBT representation and bargained a contract, tech company shuttle drivers for other companies were able to achieve similar contracts, he said.
“There’s a future in the tech industry for the Teamsters and we’re embracing it with both arms,” Aloise said. “We’re making the tech industry work for the people who make it work.”
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