Almost 70 delivery drivers at Safeway.com voted recently to join Local 174 in Tukwila, Wash., a historic victory with potentially wide-ranging effects as these are the first Safeway.com delivery drivers in the nation to vote to join a union.
The organizing drive took place over several months and was spearheaded by Safeway.com delivery driver Dan Oliver and Local 174 Organizer Meaza Ogbe.
“This is huge for us. Everyone at this company was a union member except for us,” said Oliver, lead organizing committee member. “It was clear from our compensation, benefits and the way we were treated at work that not being union was hurting us. All of that is going to change now.”
“I am so proud of these guys for standing up for their rights,” Ogbe said. “It takes courage to stand up to your employer and demand respect, and these guys had courage to spare.”
The organizing victory comes at a critical moment in the home grocery delivery industry, as Seattle-based product delivery juggernaut Amazon has recently purchased the upscale grocery chain Whole Foods.
“This is not just a big win for these Safeway.com drivers, but this is a foot in the door for other organizing opportunities in this same industry in the future,” said Joint Council 28 President and Local 174 Secretary-Treasurer Rick Hicks. “Home grocery delivery is a growing industry, and from this day forward, it is going to be an industry that includes the Teamsters Union.”
Local 174 already represents Safeway distribution center drivers who operate out of facilities in Auburn and Bellevue delivering groceries to stores across the state, along with dispatch clerks and employees at the Recycle Center in Auburn. These members are glad to welcome their new brothers and sisters into the Teamsters Union.
“Safeway drivers and warehousemen in our Local just ratified the richest contract in their history, while these Safeway.com drivers are struggling just to get enough hours to qualify to buy company health insurance,” said Local 174 Senior Business Agent Carl Gasca, who is the business agent for the Safeway distribution center drivers and will be the business agent for the newly organized group as well. “Now that we are all standing together, I know that we can get a better deal and a better life for these home delivery drivers.”
“I am so excited for what the future holds for us,” said new Safeway.com Teamster Candice Herrera. “There’s nowhere for us to go but up.”
“This is just the beginning,” Hicks said. “Other home delivery drivers are watching, and they are going to see how much benefit these Safeway.com drivers will get from being members of Local 174. We hope that they will also find the courage to stand up and say ‘I demand respect’ at their workplaces. And if they do, we will be ready to help them.”