Decline in Union Grocery Warehousing a Growing Problem in the Northeast

April 22, 2006: The closing of a Maryland distribution center by C&S Wholesalers will result in the loss of 370 Teamster jobs in the coming months. And in February, Stop and Shop in New Haven, Conn. announced the closing of its distribution center, putting over 500 Teamsters out of work. Where did most of these jobs go? You guessed right: to a non-union facility run by C&S Wholesalers in Massachusetts.

These two recent events are part of a larger and more disturbing trend in a part of the country that was once a union stronghold for grocery warehouse workers.

Shutdowns have hit other area Teamsters, including Local 445 members at Wakefern, N.Y. (400 jobs lost, shifted to a non-union facility in Pennsylvania) and Local 730 and Local 639 members at Giant in the Washington, D.C. area.

Closings are not the only threat. Teamster employers shift part of their work to nonunion facilities or lose accounts to nonunion operators. Local 118 Teamsters at Wegmans in Rochester, N.Y. learned this first hand. Their local cut a deal with the company to let them shift work to a new nonunion facility in Pennsylvania. While they lost some work, the blow was eased somewhat by attrition and work gained elsewhere.

Teamsters at Topps in Buffalo, N.Y. lost fifty jobs when Ahold sold its Wilson Farms convenience store chain and the new owners switched to non-union McLane Foodservice Distribution. “Organizing these nonunion operators has got to be a priority,” Local 264 steward Darrin Ziemba said. “There was talk at the time about going after McLane, but nothing has come of it. We need a consistent, long-term commitment to bring non-union outfits under contract. “

You would think that the loss in recent years of nearly 2,000 good Teamster jobs in the northeast would get the attention of the Hoffa administration. Not so. The IBT has no plan of action, no organizing drives, no coordinated activity aimed at protecting these jobs or expanding the union’s presence in the jurisdiction. In terms of C&S, in the late 1990s Tom Leedham secured a neutrality agreement from C&S. Rather than build on that gain, Hoffa has let it expire and has failed to organize in this all-important jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, C&S is growing by leaps and bounds. It operates in 14 states now, including areas in the south and southeast, and has projected revenue of $18 billion for 2006.
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