(WASHINGTON) – This week, Teamsters that work at the US Foods [NYSE: USFD] distribution facilities outside Philadelphia and Minneapolis refused to cross extended picket lines of 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 the Philadelphia area Monday afternoon in Swedesboro, N.J. and Bridgeport, N.J., Monday morning and Tuesday afternoon. Warehouse workers represented by Local 628 in Swedesboro and drivers and warehouse workers represented by Locals 107 and 169 in Bridgeport, honored the picket and stood in solidarity with the Severn members. In all, more than 300 workers refused to cross.
Today, 325 US Foods drivers, warehouse, yard and maintenance workers and office staff represented by Local 120 in Minneapolis, Minn., joined their Philadelphia brothers and sisters by honoring an extended picket line from the Severn workers. This was the second time in the last three weeks that the Local 120 US Foods workers honored a Severn picket line.
These were just the latest group of US Foods workers to honor a picket line in support of the striking Maryland workers. They join US Foods workers in New Jersey, Indiana, Colorado, Michigan, Washington, Illinois, New York, Ohio and Minnesota who took similar action over the last month. The Maryland workers are on strike to protest allegations that US Foods violated federal law that protects workers’ rights.
Other actions also took place across Southern California and in Phoenix in May. In all, more than 3,300 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.
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 “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teamsters.