Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy met with members yesterday morning to talk about the rollout of a new safety screening process at Safeway.
With the COVID-19 crisis, Teamsters in the grocery industry are putting in long hours with few days off to keep our store shelves stocked with food and supplies.
Like so many others at Local 117, members at the Fred Meyer distribution center in Puyallup and the Safeway warehouse in Auburn understand the magnitude of the crisis and are doing everything they can to help.
"We have to feed America," said Chris Williams, a Shop Steward and 21-year member at Safeway. "Without food coming and going out of here, a lot of people would be at lost ends. People are trying to stock up, whether it's at a food bank or a local grocery store. If we didn't have our guys to supply them, people wouldn't have the disinfectants, toiletries, and food they need."
Shop Steward Chris Williams is part of the essential workforce that is keeping our grocery shelves stocked.
After some prodding, both Safeway and Kroger have stepped up and are paying members like Chris an additional $2/hr in appreciation pay. We've also recommended that the companies implement a new screening process as a way to keep workers safe.
“Union Representatives Lance Asher and Anthony McKinney, working with our outstanding Shop Stewards in this industry, have risen to the occasion,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117. “By working together, we have made meaningful recommendations and proposals with a collective focus on the safety and security of our members.”
Both Scearcy and Asher were on hand early yesterday morning to monitor the rollout of screening for our members at Safeway on their way in to work.
Lining up at a popup tent, members were asked a series of questions about their health before entering the facility. Anyone suspected of possible COVID-19 exposure or infection is sent home and put on paid administrative leave.
"I'm glad to see the company putting in place safety measures for our members," Scearcy said. "This is an important way to help prevent infection in a workforce that is essential to keeping food on our grocery store shelves. We're hopeful employers in other essential industries will follow suit."
"We're hopeful employers in other essential industries will follow suit."
Yesterday the screening line at Safeway moved quickly, and members responded favorably to the new program.
"I wish they had started this a little earlier," Williams said. "But now that they're doing it, I feel relieved and appreciative."
Jarrell Lewis, a 20-year Teamster at Safeway, agreed. "I woke up early and was looking forward to it," he said. "People have families at home, and we've got to make sure they are taken care of. Nowadays, everybody's got to have something in the kitchen. I take pride in what we do."
Our union team gathers on the first day of contract negotiations with SuperValu.
Over the weekend, Teamsters who work in SuperValu’s grocery warehouse in Tacoma voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new three-year contract. The contract provides annual wage increases, excellent health and welfare coverage, and retirement security for over 200 members of Local 117 and their families.
“One of the highlights for me was ensuring full maintenance of our medical benefits,” said Anthony McKinney, a shop steward who served on our union’s negotiations committee. “A lot of my co-workers are on their way to having children. They’ll see the incredible benefit of keeping this medical coverage in our contract.”
"They’ll see the incredible benefit of keeping this medical coverage..."
The agreement maintains industry standards and aligns with other Teamster grocery contracts, including those at Safeway and Fred Meyer. This is a major accomplishment given the dramatic changes and consolidation in the industry.
A little over a year ago, SuperValu purchased Unified Grocers for $390 million. Teamsters who had worked in Unified’s Seattle warehouse moved down to the SuperValu facility in Tacoma.Read more
Our union team gathers on the first day of contract negotiations with the SuperValu.
Teamsters at Supervalu were having none of it. The company had brought in out-of-town temps to operate forklifts at its distribution center in Tacoma. The temps were being prepped to do Teamster work in a Teamster warehouse. It was a classic case of skimming and, if allowed, would set a dangerous precedent just as our group was heading into contract negotiations.
The shop steward on shift, Anthony McKinney, drew a firm line with management. "I talked to the GM, Steve LaBard, and expressed how I felt about having temps in our facility," he said. LaBard promised to send them home.
But the next day the temps were back again. At the start of his shift, McKinney was pulled into the office by the West Regional VP, who told him the company's plans had changed: The temps would no longer be used to operate forklifts; they would train our members on the forklifts instead.
Forklift training, as McKinney knew, is also Local 117 work. The skimming violation would still be in play as long as the temps remained in the warehouse. Clearly, the company had not gotten the message.
That's when McKinney and another shop steward, Greg Wiest, made the call. If the temps stayed, all 80 Teamsters on swing shift were going to walk. The stewards would give the company until 3:25pm to get the temps off of facility property.
Word spread quickly through the warehouse. The crew gathered outside the office, while McKinney, Wiest, and other rank-and-file leaders went in to deliver the message to management. "We told them how we were being disrespected, how we weren't being listened to, and that we were going to walk," Wiest said.
"I don't think they expected the solidarity that our group showed."
The mangers were flummoxed, the deadline passed, and just like that the group shut down one of the largest grocery distribution centers in the Pacific Northwest.
With their entire workforce on the way out, the company had no choice but to capitulate. They agreed to get the temps off the floor. But the stewards weren't taking any chances. "We wanted to see them walk off the property before going back to work," Wiest said. So management rounded up the temps and walked them out.
After the action, there were a lot of high fives and handshaking. Word spread to graveyard and day shift. The story of the workers' resolve will likely ripple across the grocery industry. It is especially remarkable given that they had just finished navigating the impact of a merger with Unified Grocers that added dozens of Local 117 members to the warehouse a few months ago.
For McKinney and Wiest, the group's unity sends a powerful message to the company that Teamsters will fight to maintain standards in the grocery industry as we head into contract negotiations this month. The company had tried to capitalize on the perceived divisions, but had underestimated us. "I don't think they expected the solidarity that our group showed," McKinney said.
Scott Anderson giving the gift of life in the Safeway breakroom in the Auburn warehouse.
Scott Anderson, a Teamster of 43 years in the grocery industry, is soft-spoken, but don’t let his demeanor fool you.
Under the quiet exterior lies a man of great compassion and conviction who exudes a moral authority and a desire to help others through his actions.
Scott has served our Local 117 membership as a trustee on our union's executive board on and off for 20 years.
Since the mid-1980s, he has organized semi-annual blood drives for his co-workers in the Safeway warehouse. Over that time span, thousands of Teamsters have donated their blood to help save lives in our community. Their donations complement our union’s annual blood drive that takes place at the Teamsters hall each November.
"The Teamster blood drives come at a really important time of year for us."
“The Teamster blood drives come at a really important time of year for us,” says Robin Lulich, a donor resource consultant with Cascade Regional Blood Services. “There is usually high blood usage before and after the holidays. The Teamsters help boost the inventory back up.”
That means ensuring that there are ample blood reserves when disaster strikes, like when an Amtrak train derailed in Dupont last month. Cancer survivors, burn victims, surgery patients, sick kids – they all benefit from donated blood.
For Scott, the impetus to enlist his co-workers touches close to home.Read more
Members of the SuperValu union bargaining committee.
Teamsters in the grocery warehouse industry continue to win strong contracts.
This Saturday, our members who work at SuperValu voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new one-year agreement. The contract proposal was fully recommended by our union bargaining committee.
The new contract contains wage and pension increases, health and welfare protections, and for the first time Local 117 members employed at the company will have coverage for domestic partners under their health plan.
The economic benefits and other improvements helped offset the short term of the agreement. “Our company’s going through transition,” said Greg Wiest, a 28-year Teamster and member of the bargaining committee. “There’s a lot of uncertainty right now. But this was a good deal given that it was a one-year deal.”Read more
Fred Meyer Shop Steward, Dwayne Kerrigan, has a message for his co-workers: "Stand together, stick together, and keep up the good fight!"
On July 28, Fred Meyer Teamsters who work at the company's distribution center in Puyallup voted 332-1 to authorize a strike. We will be meeting with the company for negotiations on August 11.
Local 117 Union Rep Ryan Jarman distributes ballots to Teamster Local 117 members who work at Fred Meyer.
The grocery giant Fred Meyer/Kroger has a history of testing our members’ resolve.
In 2011 and 2014, they put substandard proposals on the table that were insufficient to meet the needs and demands of the membership and rejected by the Teamster 117 bargaining committees.
During those contract cycles, Fred Meyer members refused to be intimidated. They passed critical strike votes by wide margins, distributed leaflets in several states, engaged the media, and rallied for a fair contract.
"This shows that our solidarity is strong, that everyone is behind the union..."
Now, history is repeating itself. The company is refusing again to maintain industry standards by insisting on an offer that is inferior to the contract recently ratified by our members at Safeway.
But just like in the past, Local 117 members at Fred Meyer are not backing down. Today, in meetings at the Teamsters 313 hall in Tacoma, the group voted 332-1 to reject the company’s latest offer. In doing so, they overwhelmingly authorized a strike.
“Just like in the past, when we’ve shown unity, we’ve been able to get a better contract,” said Dwayne Kerrigan, a 11-year shop steward. “This mass majority rejecting this offer strengthens our position and should make the company rethink their stance.”Read more
It was a celebratory moment. Rank-and-file member leaders on the Safeway bargaining committee lined up at the front of our union hall while their co-workers greeted and thanked them for a job well done.
The committee had helped produce an outstanding new contract, which was overwhelmingly ratified yesterday by the membership.
“This is one of the best contracts we’ve had in a long time,” said Billy Barnett, a Teamster shop steward, who has worked at the company for 38 years. “I’m feeling really good about it. There are good raises, good pension, and the medical is real huge.”
"This is one of the best contracts we’ve had in a long time."
The Safeway agreement provides wage increases of more than two dollars an hour over four years and pension increases of a dollar an hour. Our committee successfully achieved improvements to sick and bereavement leave, and break-in rates for new hires have been cut in half.
Perhaps the biggest accomplishment in the contract is that it maintains the outstanding health and welfare benefits for members and their families.
Our union’s vice-president, Marcus Williams, took the lead in negotiations, with the support of union representative, Ryan Jarman, and Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer, John Scearcy.
“This contract is testament to all of the Teamsters in the grocery industry,” said Secretary-Treasurer Scearcy. "Our members perform backbreaking work in difficult conditions. They work hard to ensure that our economy remains strong and that food products arrive safely and securely to the dining tables of families across our region. I want to thank and congratulate our bargaining committee for their excellent work.”
Check out photos from the Safeway contract vote here.
James Williams knew he was getting shortchanged. His contract had clear language stating that employees were entitled to overtime pay when they worked in excess of 40 hours during the week.
His company, United Natural Foods, Inc., generally followed that rule. But James detected a glaring exception. “I pay close attention to my paycheck,” he said. “I noticed that the hours worked on a holiday weren't being counted toward my 40 hours for the week.”
That meant that whenever James worked on a holiday and then went on to work more than 40 hours in the week that followed, the company was miscalculating his overtime. James and his-co-workers were getting ripped off.
For James, a driver of 15 and a half years, the error was a big deal. He worked a lot of holidays and tons of overtime. UNFI had been shorting him hundreds of dollars, several times a year.Read more
DOC Teamsters visit our grocery shops with Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy and Business Rep Marcus Williams.
It was solidarity building at its finest.
Three DOC members on our Union team headed out after bargaining on Tuesday to visit other Local 117 Teamsters working in our grocery warehouses.
Together with Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy and Vice President Marcus Williams, the DOC group walked the floor at SuperValu in Tacoma and at our Safeway produce shop in Auburn.
It was a chance for members from different industries to connect, learn about each others' work, and share experiences.
"It gave us a good understanding of where they're coming from and what their work environment is," said Shawn Piliponis, a counselor at the Larch Corrections Center in Yacolt. "Hearing the stories about how their time is always accounted for down to the minute was an eye-opener."
Secretary-Treasurer Scearcy and the DOC team took the opportunity to relay information about the DOC bargaining process. They urged the grocery Teamsters to call the legislature, when the time comes, to support funding the DOC contract.
Our grocery members learned that they have strong allies at the DOC should they run into trouble securing their own contracts.
"This was a great experience," said Jeremy Sheldon of CBCC. "It shows the solidarity as far as public and private sector realizing the struggles that we both have - and that we've got each others' backs."