November 4, 2004: Local 386 has signed a first contract for workers at Winco Foods, a growing wholesale distributor in Ceres, Cal. The contract undercuts Teamster grocery standards by keeping members out of Teamster pension and health and welfare plans.
The contract was negotiated by Local 386 Secretary-Treasurer John Souza, who just happens to be a trustee of the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Trust!
Instead of Teamster benefits, Winco workers will be in a company health plan and a company-run Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP). Winco will offer a 401(k), but will not match employees’ contributions. Under the company health insurance plan, the company will pay 85% of covered medical costs.
The union leadership’s initial bargaining position was that members get Teamster pensions and health and welfare. But they dropped this demand when management offered the ESOP and company health insurance.
With about 230 members eligible to vote, the six-year contract was ratified by 70 to 58.
This has come as a shock to Teamster members at the Ceres facility (just outside Modesto) who transferred there from the Winco facility in Salem, Oregon.
As described in the new Teamster magazine, they were leaders in the organizing drive at Ceres. They gathered signatures on union authorization cards and talked to workers about how the union worked for them in Oregon. There they had full Teamster pension and health and welfare benefits as members of Local 324.
They’re glad to be union again, but think the new agreement could have been a lot better. “The plus is that we got a contract,” says Winco driver Rick Denton. “The big negatives are that we did not get a Teamster pension or health insurance. And wages are way too low for new hires.”
New hires will actually make $1.28 an hour less under the new contract than they did before the contract was signed. Under the new agreement, newly hired drivers will be paid $11.72. Management sold members this concession by crediting current drivers with 3120 extra hours on the wage progression schedule.
These concessions came just months after Local 324 in Oregon won major improvements for Winco Teamsters there.
Where is the IBT?
Allowing Winco to operate without Teamster benefits will undercut grocery members throughout California. Major grocery contracts are coming up, and other locals are already being undercut, including nearby Stockton Local 439, which has Safeway, Unified Western Grocers and Ralphs to contend with.
So why was this contract approved by the IBT? All grocery distribution contracts are supposed to be approved by the Regional Warehouse Division Director (Steve Vairma of Denver Local 435), to preserve area standards. The contract also had to be approved by Joint Council 38. This contract should have been sent back to the bargaining table to protect the pension rights of the Winco workers and the standards of thousands of Western grocery Teamsters.