Shop Steward Adam Connolly and his co-workers at the Sumner facility have helped make Fleischmann's the world's largest producer of commercial vinegar.
Teamsters at Fleischmann’s Vinegar are fed up. The company has been dragging its feet in negotiations and has shown little respect for its employees.
“We’re in our ninth negotiations session and they haven’t even given us complete proposals on health and welfare or wages,” reports Adam Connolly, a maintenance mechanic and shop steward on our Union Negotiations Committee.
Unlike the company, Connolly and the team have been straight up about their demands: Back in October, they presented Fleischmann’s with a comprehensive proposal, which included economics. Nine sessions later, the company still hasn't put all of their proposals on the table.
Connolly believes a recent corporate buyout may be to blame. In 2018, the Kerry Group, a massive food service conglomerate, gobbled up Fleischmann’s, a company that’s been in the vinegar business for nearly a century.
“Kerry came in promising good things, but so far it seems like they want to take everything from us. We’re especially concerned about our pension and health care,” Connolly said.
With the company’s stall tactics souring negotiations, our members at Fleischmann’s are gearing up to take action. On Tuesday, the group voted unanimously to authorize a strike after an update meeting at Fleischmann’s production facility in Sumner.
"Our Union provides us with safer jobs, decent pay, and a pension."
“Nobody wants a strike,” Connolly insists. “But our Union provides us with safer jobs, decent pay, and a pension. And we’re prepared to defend it.”
“This group is ready,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117. “They’re sick and tired of this company trying to push them around. They’re standing up for fair wages, decent health care, and retirement security – all of the elements of a strong Teamsters contract.”
Teamsters Local 117 stands in solidarity with nearly 8,000 Swedish Medical Center workers who began a three-day unfair labor practices strike Tuesday morning. The workers are members of SEIU Local 1199NW.
Healthcare workers at seven Swedish Medical Center campuses in King and Snohomish Counties are fighting for quality patient care and good, family-sustaining jobs. These nurses and caregivers report that they face understaffing which impacts patient safety, along with disrespect and discrimination from management.
According to their union, instead of bargaining in good faith for a contract with reasonable wages, management has spent $11 million on an agency to temporarily replace workers during the strike.
“The Teamsters Union represents over 50 thousand healthcare workers, including hundreds who are members of Teamsters 117. Our members work long hours, often with limited resources, in stressful environments to provide critical, ethical care. We stand with our labor partners at SEIU 1199NW to ensure that workers in the profession are treated with dignity and respect,” said Michelle Woodrow, President of Local 117 and Western Region Representative for the Teamsters Health Care Division.
"We are committed to standing with the striking workers until their demands are met."
“In Washington State and nationally, we want Swedish Medical Center workers to know that we have their backs. We stand by them as they fight for what’s right—fair treatment and quality care for patients,” said Nina Bugbee, Director of the Teamsters Health Care Division.
“Nurses and caregivers touch every life and every community,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117. “As a community, we need to come together and support them in their fight for fair working conditions, racial equity, and patient safety. We are committed to standing with the striking workers until their demands are met.”
Shop Steward Andy Peterson and his co-workers at the Safeway Dairy plant are ready to strike.
It's unanimous. Teamsters 117 members who work at the Safeway Dairy plant in Bellevue have voted to authorize a strike. Members took the strike authorization vote after a contract update meeting at our Teamsters Union hall in Tukwila on Sunday.
The vote comes after the employer made a number of substandard proposals in negotiations failing to recognize the hard work and sacrifices of their employees. Teamsters at the plant have worked hundreds of hours of overtime over the last year to help keep the facility operating and profitable.
"A lot of people are really pissed off," said Matt Lewis, a 28-year employee and member of our union negotiations team. "We've all given so much to this company. We're here almost every weekend. A lot of us have doubled the number of hours we've worked. We're giving everything we can to make sure this place is successful. And for management not to recognize that has been really hard on everybody."
"We're giving everything we can to make sure this place is successful."
One of the major sticking points in negotiations has been health care for retirees. Our members want to make sure retirees have access to affordable health care, while the company has been unwilling to provide it.
In the last negotiations session, the company admitted the reason for skimping on medical coverage for retirees: They don't want to provide decent benefits because they don't want to see their senior employees retire. This infuriated the union committee.
"It's a slap in the face," said Shop Steward Andy Petersen, who also serves on the Union negotiations committee. "A lot of guys are eligible to retire, but medical's a big part, and they can't afford it. If the company truly values their employees like they say they do, health care should be a top priority."
With negotiations scheduled for the end of the month, members are gearing up for a strike, if necessary.
"If the company isn't prepared to bargain an equitable contract, our members are ready to strike," said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117. "These employees have made tremendous sacrifices to make sure the plant is profitable. The company needs to recognize that."
Praxair Teamsters in Tacoma are ready to fight to defend their livelihoods.
The streets of Tacoma were a little louder early this morning. Starting at 3 a.m., a few dozen Teamsters, drivers and production workers employed at Praxair, took their fight for a fair contract to their employer's front door.
"Praxair, Praxair you can't hide - we can see your greedy side!" the group chanted as they circled outside the two entrances of the company's gated distribution facility. With Just Practicing signs slung across their shoulders, members are gearing up for a possible strike at the company. Many expressed frustration at their employer's substandard proposals in negotiations.
"We're ready to strike if necessary."
"The company is stalling and trying to take things away from us that they should be paying for - good medical, holiday pay, and a secure retirement," said Ric Shuttleworth, a 29-year production filler and shop steward on our union negotiations committee. "We're ready to strike if necessary."
Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy gathers up signs after "Just Practicing" picketing action.
Shuttleworth's counterpart on our union team is Brian Bruton. Bruton spends his day hauling heavy containers of industrial gasses to Seattle-area hospitals. For Bruton, one of the company's most insulting proposals is their attempt to use Washington State's new sick leave law as an excuse to strip away his co-workers' holiday pay.
"I think it's completely unfair," he says. "We're not asking for the moon - we just want fair wages, good union medical, and we're not going to give up our holiday."
After several rounds of negotiations and a unanimous strike authorization vote, the group will be heading into federal mediation tomorrow looking to secure just that.
UNFI TEAMSTERS STAND IN SOLIDARITY
Joining in solidarity with the Praxair picketers were several Local 117 members from UNFI's Supervalu warehouse just a stone's throw away. With UNFI implementing layoffs and relocating its Tacoma and Auburn facilities, members there know firsthand the challenges of working for an employer that puts shareholder profits above their workforce.
"We're coming out here to support our brothers and sisters," said UNFI steward Darren Sorrell. Fellow steward Greg Wiest added, "We're going through a labor dispute too, so we know what they're feeling like."
The two pledged to bring reinforcements if mediation fails. "Our members - both at Praxair and UNFI - know what it takes to win back respect from an employer intent on maximizing profits at all costs," said Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy, who led the group in chants this morning. "We're prepared to fight, and the great thing about our union is that we have each others' backs."
UNFI stewards Greg Wiest and Darren Sorrell rise early to support their fellow Teamsters.
Teamsters at ICS have participated in multiple solidarity actions over the last few months to force the company to treat them fairly.
Community support has been overwhelming for Teamsters at Industrial Container Services (ICS) who are fighting for a fair contract.
Today Javier Cruz, a representative of OneAmerica, delivered a letter supporting the workers to company management. OneAmerica is the largest immigrant advocacy organization in Washington State.
The photo below shows Cruz flanked by ICS workers as he prepares to deliver the letter:
The OneAmerica letter calls on ICS to restore the previous level of health benefits for ICS workers, cease any labor violations, and immediately resolve its differences with members of Teamsters 117.
"We're supporting workers here because they are immigrants and deserve good wages and the right to negotiate with the company," Cruz said.
"We want better benefits, affordable health insurance for our families, and decent wages so we can survive and pay the rent," said Pedro Ruelas, a four-year employee at the company.
"These workers have shown time and time again that they will fight to protect their livelihoods, but their patience is wearing thin," said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117. "Now it's up to ICS to show them the respect they deserve or suffer the consequences of a drawn-out labor dispute."
Our union's bargaining committee will be back in mediation with ICS on May 23 and 24.
Teamsters Rod Boettger (r) and Todd Reis (l) meet with Union Representative Cara Mattson to discuss a looming labor dispute at Veritiv.
With a labor dispute looming at Veritiv, 38-year Teamster Roderick Boettger recalls a two-day strike at the company decades ago.
It was a debacle not unlike the current one, with the company dragging its feet in negotiations and clinging to substandard proposals. “They weren’t giving us what we wanted, so we went on strike,” Boettger said.
The strike was short-lived, but the impact on the company was profound. Boetteger remembers the chaos in the shop when his crew returned to work.
“The warehouse was really messed up,” he said. “Forklifts were stuck in the air and stuff was scattered all over the place. It was complete disorder.”
Evidently, the company has not learned its lesson. This time around, they've slow-walked negotiations for eight months and appear to be trying to provoke a strike yet again.
Todd Reis, a Shop Steward on our union’s negotiations committee, called out Veritiv for its hypocrisy. “They tell us how much they care, but then turn around and try to take everything away that we’ve worked hard to keep,” he said.
Reis, Boettger and their co-workers are fed up. The group of warehouse workers and drivers represented by Teamsters 117 and 174 respectively voted unanimously to authorize a strike back in December.
Earlier this month, our two Locals issued a 10-day notice that we would be terminating our contracts with the company.
"We’ll get an idea of how seriously they’re going to take us soon."
Shop Steward Robert Morrison, also on our union’s negotiations team, says the group is disgusted. “We’re ready to go right now. We’ll get an idea of how seriously they’re going to take us soon.”
John Scearcy, Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer, reiterated this point. “Our members are amped up and ready to strike,” he said. “Veritiv needs to return to negotiations and bargain a fair contract in good faith that respects our members and their families.”
The next negotiations session on April 30 will be telling: Will Veritiv come with reasonable proposals or will they continue to balk at decent treatment of their employees? If it's the latter, they'd better be ready for a fight.
Faith-based and community leaders join with workers at ICS who are struggling for justice and respect.
Community pressure on Industrial Container Services (ICS) continues to intensify.
An interfaith delegation of religious leaders and representatives from community groups joined with workers to deliver a letter yesterday calling on the company to respect the rights of ICS employees and bargain a contract in good faith.
Members of the delegation took turns offering prayer and a message of solidarity with the workers as the group waited in the ICS lobby for management to receive the delegation and "open the doors of justice."
"I wanted to be here with my voice and my presence today to stand behind these workers and their courage because what they need and what they want for their families is important," said Tana Powell of the Valley and Mountain United Methodist Church.
"Our community is standing in unity with Teamsters at ICS."
Workers at ICS have been struggling over the last several months for a contract that honors their work and respects their right to a clean, healthy working environment.
During negotiations, ICS unilaterally changed its employees' health care plan and allegedly engaged in unlawful surveillance of workers during a peaceful protest on February 22.
On March 7, Seattle City Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez met with workers and delivered a letter to ICS management urging the company to negotiate a living wage, affordable health care, and retirement security for members of Teamsters 117.
"Our community is standing in unity with Teamsters at ICS," said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117. "This company needs to understand that we are stronger when all workers can afford to put food on the table for their families, take their kids to the doctor, and not have to worry about exposure to toxic chemicals in the workplace."
Seattle City Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez joins Teamsters 117 members at ICS to fight for a safe, healthy workplace.
Seattle City Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez led a delegation of our members yesterday to confront management at Industrial Container Services (ICS) over alleged violations of federal law and proposals to slash health care.
Councilmember Gonzalez delivered a letter to the company calling on ICS to return to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair contract in good faith that includes "a living wage, affordable health care, and retirement security" for the Local 117 members.
"I am the daughter of immigrants - my parents are from Michoacan, Mexico," Councilmember Gonzalez said as she addressed the mostly immigrant workers after the action.
"I grew up as a migrant farmworker in central Washington State. I understand what it's like to work in a dirty environment where we don't have all of the rights we deserve and to worry about our safety and health. I'm here to support you and your ability to fight for a fair contract and to ensure that you have a safe workplace."
"Thank you to Councilmember Gonzalez for standing together with our members at ICS," said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117. "The community will not tolerate an employer that compromises the health and safety of its workforce and pushes its employees to the brink of a labor dispute. We will continue to fight for fairness, equity, and safety until our members at ICS are treated with respect."
Teamsters at ICS are sick of company bullying. They're united and ready to take strike action to defend their livelihoods.
The message was loud and clear, scrawled on the dust masks our members at Industrial Container Services (ICS) wore today as they sanitized and refurbished steel barrels for reuse: Don't make me sick, ICS.
The company wants its Teamster employees to take a major hit on their health and welfare coverage with significant increases to their out-of-pocket medical expenses. In negotiations, ICS is trying to impose an inferior medical plan and they are providing little notice about enrollment.
Members are sick of the company's bullying tactics. Before this morning's safety meeting, the workers gathered in the breakroom, put on the masks and attached stickers to their hardhats that read, "Ready to strike!"
Last Friday, the group voted unanimously to authorize a strike and is prepared to disrupt production unless the company changes its approach at the bargaining table.
"ICS needs to do the right thing and return to negotiations prepared to bargain in good faith," said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117. "This is difficult, dangerous work where our members are exposed to toxic fumes and the risk of injury is high. The last thing this company should be doing is degrading our members' health care coverage."
UPDATE - FEB. 22, 2019:
On Wednesday, our members at ICS raised Just Practicing pickets in front of the company during their lunch break. Check out a few photos from the action below:
Power, unity and resolve: Teamsters at ICS gather outside our Union Hall after a unanimous strike vote.
Teamsters at Industrial Container Services (ICS) are not backing down. After months of being bullied by their employer in contract negotiations, the group is fighting back. Today after an update from their union committee on the company’s substandard proposals, members voted unanimously to authorize a strike.
With the vote, the group sends an unequivocal message to their employer that they are united and won’t be jerked around. “All of us are united in demanding that they negotiate fairly,” said Abel Flores, a nine-year employee at the company. “We need them to respect our rights, and we need to see improvements in their proposals.”
ICS has refused to engage in meaningful negotiations and made unilateral changes to working conditions, laying the groundwork for a possible ULP strike.
What's more, ICS wants members to take a major step backwards on their health and welfare coverage while at the same time they want to hitch members' wages to the minimum required under the law. They’ve even tried to divert previously agreed to retirement contributions from the existing contract into their new wage proposals.
The group is not having any of it. “It’s not fair that they’re treating us like this, under these conditions,” said Iduviges Castro Sanchez, an eight-year employee. “If they won’t come to a fair agreement with our Union, we’re ready to strike.”
"If they won’t come to a fair agreement with our Union, we’re ready to strike."
Teamsters at ICS are no stranger to a fight. In 2014, they showed tremendous courage in standing up to their employer to get organized.
Before joining Teamsters 117, the workers’ only water source was a rusty pipe. Their break room was a filthy wreck of battered lockers, and they had no sanitary place to wash their hands. These abhorrent conditions were worsened by a workplace rife with toxic chemicals workers are exposed to as they sanitize and refurbish barrels containing industrial waste.
With a Union, workers had a voice over their wages and working conditions. Joining Teamsters also led to extraordinary changes including a new break room, new lockers, and a new, clean water dispensary. Now the company is provoking the workers once again, and like before, the workers are prepared to stand up and fight.