Kroger Teamsters Fight to Protect Jobs, Contract

December 2, 2006: Kroger Teamsters in Louisville are fighting for their jobs and their future in the wake of the grocery giant’s decision to turn over ownership and operations of its Kentucky Distribution Center to third party logistics companies.


December 6, 2006: Just one year into a six-year contract with Local 89, Kroger announced it would sell the warehouse to Zenith Logistics and the transportation operations to Transervice Logistics.


Zenith immediately threatened Teamsters with drastic pay and benefit cuts. The company admitted this was largely a scare tactic, but a real threat looms: job cuts. When Zenith has acquired other Kroger warehouses, management has eliminated the most desirable Teamster jobs.


Local 89 has threatened to strike as soon as Zenith takes over unless they get a signed agreement from Kroger that workers’ pay, benefits, and jobs will be protected. Local 100 in Cincinnati and Local 135 in Indianapolis agreed to honor picket lines extended to the Zenith (Kroger) warehouses there.


As we go to press, Kroger has delayed the transfer of the facility to Zenith and Transervice while negotiations continue. Progress has reportedly been made on pay and benefit issues, but the protection of jobs remains a sticking point.


Members want Kroger to preserve the routes currently serviced by Louisville Teamsters and to protect salvage, receiving, loading and porter jobs.


“What we’re afraid of is that Zenith is going to contract out these jobs to cut wages and costs,” said Nathan Perrett, a Local 89 Teamster at Kroger.


“These are the jobs that you turn to when you’ve been doing warehouse work for 20 years and we can’t let Zenith take them away,” said Mark “Gator” Horsley, a Kroger Teamster. “If those jobs are eliminated, you put people in an impossible position. Your body can’t do the backbreaking work anymore but you’ve got ten years to go to get your pension.”


Zenith is also reported to be going after changes in the attendance policy and work rules that cap overtime and guarantee Monday-to-Friday scheduling for some employees.


Kroger has admitted that its mismanagement of the facility is what has caused them to go third party.


“Teamster members shouldn’t have to pay the price for Kroger’s decision to go third party,” said Frank Halstead, a Ralphs (Kroger) warehouseman from Los Angeles who temporarily worked in Louisville when Teamsters came from other facilities to try and minimize the forced overtime on Local 89 members. “We may not be able to stop Kroger from going third party, but we’ve got to protect our jobs and industry standards.”


Kroger has gone third party in many cities, including Denver, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Atlanta, and Detroit.


The Teamster Warehouse Division needs to help local unions win successor language that guarantees that third party logistics companies will honor the terms of Kroger’s agreements.


Louisville is in the front line of the fight and all Teamsters need to support this struggle. “We’re in a fight and we’ve got to stick together,” Horsley said. “Our ability to extend picket lines gives us real power and we’ve got to use it if it comes to that. Our future’s at stake.”


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