Sysco workers strike in US Northeast, alleging unfair labor practices
Hundreds of Sysco employees have gone on strike in the U.S. states of New York and Massachusetts, claiming unfair labor practices and protesting low wages.
About 230 warehouse workers and drivers walked off the job in Syracuse, New York, on 28 September, and around 300 workers walked off the job in Boston, Massachusetts, on 1 October.
Teamsters Local 317 members at Sysco Syracuse are striking “after weeks of contentious contract negotiations with the company,” the union said in a press release.
“We’re striking over unfair labor practices, unsolved grievances, and unfair wages,” striking Sysco Syracuse worker Matt Wademan said. “This is nothing but corporate greed. Sysco simply doesn’t want to pay us what we’re worth.”
Nationally, Sysco faces federal investigations for violating U.S. labor laws, Teamsters 317 said.
“We aren’t going to allow corporations like Sysco to bully and disrespect workers any longer,” Teamsters Warehouse Division Director Tom Erickson said. “Sysco Teamsters are more unified than ever. Members know how important their Teamster contract is, and they are united in this fight.”
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents more than 10,000 Sysco workers nationwide.
Sysco Boston workers are striking because “management offered a 'last, best, final' offer that would strip their essential workers of union health insurance and deny Local 653 members their pensions,” Teamsters Local 653 said in a press release.
The impact of the Boston strike on Sysco’s customer deliveries are unclear so far. Only a few dozen of deliveries had been made by replacement drivers at midday on 3 October, according to union officials, The Boston Globe reported. Typically, 140 trucks go out per day, each carrying between 19,000 and 40,000 pounds of food.
“Some customers were coming to the warehouse in Plympton [Massachusetts] to pick up orders themselves,” the newspaper said.
Sysco Boston serves Fenway Park, TD Garden, Gillette Stadium, Cumberland Farms, Wahlburgers, Jersey Mike's Subs, and numerous other New England customers.
“The work stoppages at these companies is unnecessary and union leaders have taken this action with little regard for the damage it will cause to our associates and our customers,” Sysco said in a statement sent to the Globe. “We respect and care about our associates and truly value the critical role they play every day.”
A Sysco spokesperson replied to SeafoodSource’s request for comment with a list about its Boston workers.
“Currently, based on year-to-date calendar 2022 data, our drivers are on track to earn an average of nearly USD 110,000 [EUR 110,000] this year. Our offer to Local 653 included substantial wage increases of 25 percent over the life of the contract and 7 percent in year one. The Teamsters made no wage demands during bargaining. We also offered more healthcare options at lower costs compared to associates’ current plan,” the spokesperson said. “The company is not taking a pension away. Sysco Boston associates currently participate in a strong company-sponsored 401(k) retirement plan. They received automatic annual contributions from Sysco Boston and a match. The Teamsters’ declared a strike without allowing our associates to vote on this offer. The Sysco Boston site negotiations team has advised Local 653 that they are available to bargain.”
The Sysco spokesperson said the Teamsters in Syracuse also did not allow the company’s drivers to vote on the company’s offer, “which included wage increases that would place our associates at- or above-market, along with a USD 2,500 (EUR 2,500) signing bonus, comprehensive health and welfare benefits and paid time off.”
The Sysco spokesperson said the company is seeking to ramp up its operations back to 100 percent coverage using independent contractors during the strike.
“Sysco Boston is operating. They’ve been bringing in support from third-parties to increase operations and are serving customers through a 24-7 will call operation. Service in Boston has increased every day since the strike began. We expect to be able to serve 50 percent of normal capacity tomorrow and are ramping up to serve 100 percent of the business. Sysco Boston is working hard to service our customers, despite the Teamsters’ efforts to keep food from getting to them, many of whom are healthcare and schools. The work stoppage is unnecessary and union leaders have taken this action with little regard for the damage it will cause to our associates and our customers,” the spokesperson said. “We respect and care about our associates and truly value the critical role they play every day.”
Photo courtesy of Teamsters Local 317