(WASHINGTON) — Today, hundreds of grocery and warehouse workers, elected officials, food safety activists and community leaders protested outside of the Food Marketing Institute’s (FMI) annual public policy meeting at the Hyatt Regency hotel.
Two of FMI’s highest-profile corporate members, C&S Wholesale Grocers and Dutch-owned Royal Ahold, have been destroying middle class jobs in states up and down the East Coast by closing facilities and shipping jobs to low-wage warehouses in other states.
In Washington, D.C., Royal Ahold-owned Giant Food brought in C&S to operate a warehouse in Jessup, Md. That warehouse is now being shuttered and as many as 500 jobs are being shipped out of state. Giant is based in Maryland with 97 percent of its stores are located in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. In New Jersey, C&S Grocers put over 1,300 people out of work when it closed warehouses earlier this year. In the Netherlands, Royal Ahold has turned over 30 to 60 percent of its warehouse distribution work to temp agencies to get around strong Dutch labor laws.
“These multi-billion dollar grocery giants are meeting with their highly-paid lobbyists in the hotel behind you because they want to rig the system,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. “They want to siphon as much money out of workers, shoppers and the American economy as they can, by destroying good, middle class jobs.”
Marcel Nuyten, the negotiator for FNV Bondgenoten, the trade union federation that represents Royal Ahold workers in Europe, sent a statement to be read at the rally.
“In the Netherlands, we too are fighting against outsourcing,” Nuyten said in the statement. “Royal Ahold is hiring temps who work for lower wages and poorer working conditions than permanent staff. So we fight for the same things – to keep good jobs and fair working conditions. Your struggle is our struggle!”
“Giant and Royal Ahold are planning to send family-supporting jobs to an out-of-state supplier, C&S Grocers,” said Ritchie Brooks, President of Teamsters Local Union 730, which represents Giant warehouse workers in Jessup, Md. “They’re bringing in C&S to do their dirty work.”
“The lack of respect for local workers, shoppers, and our local community is shocking,” said Reverend Raymond Bell, Chair of the D.C. Workers’ Rights Board. “Giant is making millions off of Washington, D.C.-area customers, and these jobs are needed to support families, schools, and other local businesses in our community.”
As part of the FMI, C&S and Royal Ahold have been lobbying Congress against legislation that would provide workers with paid sick leave, that would require country of origin labeling on food, and that would extend protections of workers’ rights.
“Safe food depends on safe and healthy workers, whose rights in the workplace are secure, and who can take paid sick leave,” said Amanda Hitt, Director of the Food Integrity Campaign at the Government Accountability Project. “Through the Food Marketing Institute, these grocery giants have actively lobbied to repeal mandatory country of origin labeling even though more and more of our food comes from abroad, and have opposed paid sick leave for all food industry employees. What they want is self-regulation, which has failed miserably in the past.”
"We stand with General President Hoffa, our fellow members and the Food Integrity Campaign because these multinational corporations must be held accountable. And we will not stop until our members receive justice," said Al Rispoli, President of Teamsters Local 863 in Woodbridge, N.J.
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. For more information, please visit www.Teamster.org.