Members of Local 722, Hundreds More Honor Striking Maryland Workers’ Picket Lines
Over the last week, Teamsters who work at US Foods [NYSE: USFD] distribution facilities in Buffalo, N.Y., and Streator, Ill., refused to cross picket lines extended by Teamsters from Severn, Md., who began an unfair labor practice strike against the company in April.
Teamsters from the US Foods Severn location extended picket lines to Buffalo early this morning, after extending lines to Streator late last week. Drivers and warehouse workers represented by Local 264 in Buffalo, and drivers and warehouse workers represented by Local 722 in Streator honored the pickets in solidarity with their Severn brothers and sisters. In all, more than 200 workers refused to cross.
This was the second time that US Foods workers in Streator and Buffalo honored Severn workers’ picket lines.
These were just the latest groups of US Foods workers to honor picket lines in support of the striking Maryland workers. They joined US Foods workers in New Jersey, Indiana, Colorado, Michigan, Washington, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Minnesota who took similar action over the last two months. The Maryland workers are on strike to protest US Foods’ violations of federal law that protects workers’ rights.
US Foods workers also distributed handbills to attendees of Major League Baseball’s All-Star game in San Diego on Tuesday. Outside Petco Park, Teamster members educated fans that US Foods’ worker abuses are hurting many veterans who work at the company, even though the company profits from billions in federal contracts. US Foods supplies food to some of the vendors at Petco Park.
US Foods Teamsters also went on strike and extended picket lines across Southern California and in Phoenix in May. In all, more than 3,500 Teamsters employed by US Foods have either gone out on strike or honored workers’ picket lines at some point since late April.
US Foods is the nation’s second-largest foodservice provider. It is owned by Wall Street private equity behemoths KKR and CD&R, which added nearly $5 billion of debt to US Foods’ books when they bought it in 2007. In an IPO on May 25, US Foods raised $1.02 billion from investors, announcing it will use the funds to pay off some of its debt.
In January 2016, KKR and CD&R took nearly $670 million in cash out of the company to distribute to its two owners – half of it borrowed – even though it is already operating under a mountain of debt. Since its purchase by the two private equity firms nine years ago, US Foods has engaged in a systematic campaign of harassment and intimidation against its workers, both union and non-union.
“US Foods has established a pattern of anti-union and anti-worker behavior,” said Steve Vairma, Teamsters International Vice President and Director of the Teamsters’ Warehouse Division. “US Foods management signs off on wage and hiring freezes across the company while extracting hundreds of millions of dollars out of the coffers for ownership. We will not let the company’s private equity vultures get rich on the backs of Teamster employees and families. Our members at US Foods across the country will continue to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters from the Severn facility in their fight for justice.”
The current labor disputes are not new to US Foods. In February, more than 200 Teamsters at the Phoenix facility went on a four-day unfair labor practice strike. In 2011, an unfair labor practice strike by maintenance employees in Streator, Ill., was extended to more than 10 US Foods facilities across America. More than 2,000 Teamsters honored extended picket lines during the 2011 strike.
US Foods provides 350,000 products and services to 200,000 customers including restaurants, hospitals, schools, military bases and hotels. US Foods has 25,000 employees and 75 distribution facilities. The Teamsters represent 4,300 US Foods employees, with 44 contracts at 29 facilities.
Teamsters Local 722 is an affiliate of Teamsters Joint Council 25, America’s premier labor union for Chicago, Illinois and northwest Indiana.