Tolleson — Labor disputes involving food companies are clearly starting to affect the food business.
Sysco Foods, which is owned by US Foods, had its labor contract expire on July 3. A representative for Local Teamsters 104 said negotiations were progressing slowly.
About 275 employees at Sysco Arizona’s Tolleson
Since then, the facility and several other locations have been out of contract.
Local Teamsters 104 business director Ryan Proctor said Sysco employees were off work on Friday but returned to work on Saturday. Due to the expiry of the seven-year contract, 275 employees worked without a contract from July to August.
A negotiating session is set for August 25th. Proctor said he hopes Teamsters will be able to speak directly to decision makers at US Foods, unlike an intermediary he said he was talking to recently.
“It was frustrating,” said Proctor. “Not only were there a lot of short conversations, but everything was like, ‘I’ll get back to you.’ I don’t think their whole team is on the same page.”
On July 8, more than 250 members of Teamsters Local 104 voted to approve a strike at the Tolleson facility, Proctor said. The vote to strike was almost unanimous, with 228 participating members voting in favor of the strike.
US Foods has several major deals in Arizona. In addition to many restaurants, we have contracts with Banner Health and Brookdale Assisted Living facilities.
“We are disgusted with the company’s attitude towards essential workers,” said Curtis Barney, a five-year driver and Local 104 steward, in a news release. “We know what we deserve and we are not going to back down. We give our lives to keep feeding our communities.
The company wants to remind us that we are essential, but we know we are! We can’t stand this treatment anymore. “
The Daily Independent was unable to reach US Foods for comment at the time of this writing, and was unable to find a news release from the company about the strike.
Proctor said there are some core issues that make it difficult for Sysco workers in Arizona. One, like many labor disputes, is hourly wages. Warehouse workers make $22 to $24 an hour, and drivers $25 an hour, according to Proctor, near the bottom of the food delivery point-of-use industry.
The list also includes working hours expected of employees. Some workers say that not only does he work six days a week, but his 40-hour workday, which each worker is guaranteed by law, leaves Sysco with some gray areas. He says Proctor.
“Management is trying to reduce the wording of the 40-hour warranty,” Proctor said.
Another issue is whether the company uses drivers who have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). CDLs have historically been mandated by many businesses, with drivers earning significantly higher wages than non-owners. According to Proctor, US Foods has begun to advertise its “non-CDL” driver positions externally, allowing inexperienced and unqualified drivers to fill positions for less pay, and the company’s CDL position. There is no opportunity or incentive for drivers to turn to such jobs. .
The contracts, which expired on July 3, cover fleet drivers, warehouse workers, facility maintenance mechanics and fleet mechanics, Proctor said.
Sysco and its employees serve restaurants like Rusconi’s American Kitchen in Northern Phoenix. The owner, Michael Rusconi, said he had to order from Shamrock Foods because deliveries from Sysco were getting difficult.
Talking about Sysco’s capabilities over the past two months, Rusconi said, “I’m finishing up with them. ‘I don’t know exactly what they’re doing. All I know is that at one point they told me they couldn’t serve our restaurant. I’m one of your customers and they don’t want to serve accounts like mine.”
Rusconi said he usually orders beef tenderloin from Sysco. However, many of his orders end up only around $1,500.
He noticed that the annual Arizona Restaurant Association Food List Awards, the June 2nd event that won one of two Food Pioneer Awards, was catered by Shamrock Foods.
Proctor said he believed US Foods workers in Arizona went on strike for four days in 2015, but he wasn’t familiar with how the deal was ultimately worked out. Workers threatened to go on strike in August 2020 amid COVID-19 working conditions and other controversies.
Teamster warns Arizona strike could have nationwide repercussions.
Tom Erickson, vice president of Teamsters International and director of the Teamsters Warehouse division, said in a statement, “If the company fails to offer local 104 members a fair and reasonable deal, the country will be “We are gearing up for battle and coordinating with locals across the country to give our members what they deserve.”