(GREAT NECK, N.Y.) – As Long Island approaches the second biggest beer-buying weekend of the year – Memorial Day – a shortage of Budweiser, Bud Light, Heineken, Blue Point and other popular beers is expected. Teamster drivers and warehouse workers at beer distributor Clare Rose have been on strike for one month, choking off deliveries of Anheuser-Busch products to Long Island and leaving many store shelves empty.
Members of Teamsters Local 812 went on strike on April 23 when the company illegally cut drivers’ wages by 30 percent and ended the workers’ pension. Clare Rose has since begun permanently replacing its Long Island workforce with out-of-state workers. Still, scab drivers and warehouse workers have been unable to complete deliveries and many stores and bars will be out of Budweiser and other Clare Rose products come Memorial Day. Clare Rose CEO Sean Rose told Bloomberg in 2013 that the week before Memorial Day was the company’s second biggest sales week, behind the July 4 week.
“I am losing business,” said Sultan Qurashi of Sultan’s Lucky Corner in Massapequa. “Clare Rose never answers my calls anymore and when the driver finally shows up, it is not the product that I ordered. If I have no Bud, customers will go somewhere else. I have to buy other products instead. I’ve also complained directly to Anheuser-Busch.”
“If Clare Rose cares about its customers, it will restore our wages and pensions and bring us back to work,” said Mark Pooler, a driver with 26 years at Clare Rose. “Loyal Budweiser customers are going to have to do the unthinkable on Memorial Day: drink Miller. Clare Rose and Anheuser-Busch better hope they don’t learn to like it.”
While many stores and bars are not getting deliveries, others are refusing them. More than three dozen Clare Rose customers announced a boycott of the company last week, citing the company’s abuse of workers.
“Our business is boycotting Clare Rose until the strike ends,” said Jon Cusano of Brownstone Brewing Company in Ronkonkoma. “We need to support these middle-class families so they can have fair wages and decent pensions.”
“As business owners, we all have a moral obligation to take care of the people who take care of us,” said Frank Girgenti, owner of My Butcher and Deli in Wading River. “In the pursuit of wealth, Clare Rose has lost sight of what’s truly important. You really can’t put a price on
hardworking, loyal employees. This is evident when you see the utter disaster caused by hiring these temporary workers. The men and women of Local 812 have my full support and I hope they win the battle against corporate greed!”
Other local businesses boycotting Clare Rose include Handy Pantry in Manorville and Mastic Beach, Farrell’s Pub in West Islip, Tara Inn in Port Jefferson, JW’s Pub in Ronkonkoma, and North Shore Beverage in Miller Place.
The union negotiated with Clare Rose for months without progress before the highly-profitable company imposed the huge wage and benefits cuts. The union said the strike against the company’s illegal actions will last until Clare Rose ceases its illegal conduct by restoring wages and benefits and bargaining in good faith.
Last week, the Brookhaven IDA confirmed that it is opening an audit of Clare Rose. The company has received over a million dollars in tax breaks from the IDA, but is required to maintain employment levels in exchange. Clare Rose’s decision to fire its union work force likely puts the company in violation and the IDA can revoke future subsidies and even demand repayment of past subsidies.
Teamsters Local 812 represents more than 3,500 Teamster families working in the beverage industry. Its members produce, haul, deliver, merchandise, and sell soda, water, beer and sports drinks throughout the New York metropolitan area.