In the end, solidarity won the day. On Saturday, October 24, Teamster drivers and warehouse workers, employed at Sysco, voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new three-year contract.
It was a sweet victory, but it didn’t come easy.
In contract negotiations, Sysco was proposing a two-tier system which would have divided the group and rolled back industry standards with respect to wages, health and welfare and seniority.
But Teamsters at Sysco would not be pushed around. We filed Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing the company of intimidation and bad-faith bargaining. Then, on October 2, in an incredible display of solidarity, the group came together and voted unanimously, 150-0, to authorize a strike.
The unanimous strike vote had an immediate impact:
“It meant unity which equals power which equals strength which equals getting what you deserve,” said Will Buff, a Shop Steward who works in the warehouse. “They shouldn’t have tried to divide us. We weren’t asking for the sun and stars. We were asking to keep up with the industry and to be treated fairly so that we can take care of our families.”
The strike vote led to an outpouring of support, not just locally, but from members across the country. Photos of Teamsters in Denver, Philadelphia, and Ventura, CA began cropping up on the Internet with members holding signs that read, “I’m a Teamster and I support my Brothers and Sisters at Sysco in Seattle!”
Local 117 members did their part to support their brothers and sisters as well. Members from Safeway, FSA, Lineage Logistics, Supervalu, South Sound 911, the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department, and Pierce County sent their solidarity photos to the Local.
The fortitude of the group combined with the broader union rallying behind the workers made the difference. Just two days after bargaining resumed, the union committee achieved a fully recommended agreement with Sysco that contained improvements to wages and benefits with no concessions and no tiers!
Sysco was forced to bargain in good faith, while just a few weeks before they seemed intent on provoking a strike. Workers had demanded – and won – the respect they deserve.
“When Teamsters stand together and are united, there is nothing we can’t achieve,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117. “Teamsters at Sysco showed that they will stand together in solidarity and fight for dignity at work and they won. That is a lesson we all can learn from.”