Let Them Drink Beer: Teamsters End Strike on Long Island

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By Jacquie Lee

Teamsters members ended a 12-week strike against Clare Rose—the Anheuser-Busch distributor for Long Island—late on the eve of Bastille Day, which means area residents won’t have to go far to wet their whistles with some of beer’s largest brands.

More than 130 drivers and warehouse workers have been on strike since April 23. It started after Clare Rose proposed to cut workers’ pensions and slash wages by 30 percent, Alex Moore from Teamsters Local 812 told Bloomberg BNA.

Clare Rose did not reply to requests for comment.

Jobs Will Change, Wages Won’t (Too Much)

The tentative three-year agreement reached June 13 preserves workers’ pensions and maintains most workers’ wages, Moore said. However, some workers will be paid less because their job responsibilities will change.

Clare Rose announced earlier this year a change to its sales strategy. Drivers used to act as all-purpose selling machines: They would drive the truck, negotiate the beer sale with the retailer, then unload the beer from the truck. Now, drivers aren’t in charge of making the sale, and orders are pre-packaged for each individual retail outlet.

“It was never something we objected to, but we wanted to ensure that our members didn’t have to take an unfair pay cut as part of the change,” Moore said.

Moore couldn’t get into wage specifics because the new sales system makes comparing old and new wages difficult. Any wages that go down won’t drop significantly, he said.

Workers are scheduled to vote on the proposal July 15. If it’s ratified, which is expected, members will return to work the next day.

It Takes a Village

Some of the strike’s biggest participants came from outside the union, Moore said. Dozens of bars, stores, and restaurants boycotted Clare Rose products as a sign of solidarity. The Tara Inn in Port Jefferson, Long Island, is one of them. The bar bought about $1,000 in Clare Rose products a week, Kathleen Higgins said. Her dad owns the bar, and he has an affinity for “the little guy” and wanted to show support for union members, she said.

During the 12-week strike, the Tara Inn didn’t stock Budweiser, Heineken, Stella Artois, or any of the other fan favorites that Clare Rose distributes.

Sales didn’t drop, though. In fact, a lot of new customers from the union came in because they saw the Teamsters Local 812 posters on the wall. Higgins doesn’t intend to return as a Clare Rose customer until the Teamsters officially ratify their contract, she said.

Government officials also chimed in. “Union labor is the backbone of our economy, and we will continue to do everything in our power to strengthen New York’s middle class families,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said in a July 14 statement. U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) and state Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-N.Y.) also released statements during the strike lending their support to the union.

Clare Rose is the largest beer distributor in the area, according to the company’s website.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jacquie Lee at jlee1@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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