Local 174 members who work for Columbia Distributing in Kent, Wash., have ratified a five-year collective bargaining agreement, securing key job protections and health insurance benefits.
The Teamsters and Columbia were able to avoid a strike and reach an agreement that guarantees labor peace for five years. The members ratified the agreement on May 30.
“Columbia returned to the bargaining table and we were able to reach a fair settlement that provides long-term stability for the industry and for our members without the disruption of a labor dispute,” said Rick Hicks, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 174 in Tukwila, Wash. “I commend Columbia for fulfilling its legal obligation to negotiate in good faith.”
In contract negotiations with its employees, Columbia Distributing, the Pacific Northwest’s largest distributor of beer, wine and liquor products, abruptly walked away from the bargaining table in March after insisting that workers pay more for their health insurance and accept dozens of concessions that would destroy workers’ job protections. After a strike threat by the Teamster bargaining unit, Columbia came back to the bargaining table.
Once negotiations resumed, the Teamsters and Columbia were able to settle differences over health care costs and contractual language that protects workers from unfair discipline.
“Nothing is more important than the health of our families so we were willing to fight however long we needed in order to protect our health care benefits,” said Chris Martin, a 16-year employee and member of the union bargaining committee. “Once we took care of that and maintained our job protection language, we had a deal that ended up being ratified comfortably.”
Since the previous collective bargaining agreement expired at the end of February, the Teamsters had reached out to key customers and investors to provide them an opportunity to express their concerns about a possible labor dispute.
“I want to thank the suppliers, retailers, investors and all others affected who communicated their support for good-faith negotiations and coming to an agreement without a labor dispute,” Hicks said. “Their support allowed us to avoid striking while still protecting our members’ interests.”
Columbia Distributing distributes Coors, Miller, Heineken, Mac & Jack’s, Georgetown, Pabst, Corona, Modelo, Pacifico, Victoria, New Belgium, Deschutes, Sierra Nevada, Lagunitas, Fremont, Full Sail / Session, and more than 1,800 other alcoholic products throughout the greater Puget Sound area.