(WASHINGTON) – Safeway employees, Teamsters, elected officials and community leaders in Maryland rallied today outside the Collingwood distribution center to protest Cerberus Capital Management’s (Safeway’s new owner) plan to shutter the facility in less than 60 days.
Safeway’s warehouse operator C&S Wholesalers abruptly sent a WARN notice to union officials of Teamsters Local 639 and 730 announcing their plan to close the facility, one of the newest grocery distribution centers in the country, during the Christmas holidays.
Hundreds of Safeway workers attended the rally in order to show the company how their decision would affect their lives and those of their families. “Back in 2001 I started working for Safeway, I was told that if I stick around I might have a future here,” said Rob Washington, a warehouse worker who spoke at the rally with his son by his side. “Since then I had a child. Now I have to figure out how I’m going to feed that child, how I’m going to insure that child. At this moment we’re asking for the company – Safeway and C&S – to reevaluate their options.” “We’re willing to do the work, so what’s the problem?,” Washington said. “In my opinion there is another agenda, and the agenda is very simply to destroy what we have built here. I’m asking that we stay open and keep building upon what we’ve created.”
“We’re gathered here in solidarity against what is an incredible injustice. This is about corporate greed. This is about a company thinking that human beings working hard every day are just some bottom line on some balance sheet. In reality these are people who are working every day to make Safeway a more successful company. If Safeway wants the good will of the people of Maryland, then they’ve got to be there for Maryland workers. We’re not going to give up until these 900 workers have the comfort and confidence of knowing they have a secure job, and come Thanksgiving, come Christmas they’re not going to be left out in the cold,” said Congressman Chris Van Hollen.
“To Safeway I want to say that in addition to these 900 workers, there are thousands of us who are consumers. We understand whose name is on the sign outside this facility. We also understand who built this facility. We know that is was the workers – the members of the unions – who sacrificed in their contracts so that this facility could come online. And we also know that it’s the profit line that’s at stake here. They are not worried about jobs, your futures, or your families. It’s about someone worrying about a profit line,” said Congresswoman Donna Edwards.
“I am outraged that a long-standing employer such as Safeway would even consider closing this facility,” said Ferline Buie, Teamsters International Vice President. “Safeway is the 2nd-largest retailer in the greater DC metro area, and for decades we’ve felt like Safeway is part of our community. Safeway is so important to our communities and to our economy, that our Teamster members who work there were willing to have their wages frozen or even cut for years, so that Safeway could keep hundreds of warehouse jobs here in Prince George’s County. “The state of Maryland even gave them millions of dollars in tax money to build new facilities here. In fact, what we are standing in front of is their newest facility – state of the art. Yet, they are willing to close up shop and put over 700 people out of work. So that’s why it makes me ill – physically ill – to think about Safeway just throwing our members’ decades of loyalty and hard work out the window,” Buie said.
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit www.teamster.org for more information. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teamsters.