(SANTA FE SPRINGS, Calif.) – Following a year-long effort to join Teamsters Local 630 in Los Angeles, warehouse workers, drivers and other employees at Wismettac Asian Foods voted on February 6 in favor of Teamster representation. Once certified, there will be about 185 workers in the new bargaining unit.
The representation election this week followed a prior vote held in September 2017 in which the workers also voted in favor of joining the Teamsters, but those results were nullified due to irregularities in the NLRB’s supervision of the election.
“After the NLRB set aside the Teamster election victory at Wismettac last year over a technical error by the labor board, we pushed for a re-run election and filed up to nine unfair labor practice charges. Local 630 is staying on the offense as Wismettac continues to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on union busters to prevent workers from having a voice,” said Lou Villalvazo, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 630.
Villalvazo said that “the company has capitalized on anti-worker NLRB appointments made by the Trump administration and on overturned labor board decisions to undermine the unionization effort of these brave workers and flood the eligibility voter list.”
Workers at Wismettac have been attempting to organize for nearly 20 years in pursuit of respect from management, better wages and benefits and fair work rules. Two previous efforts to win union representation failed and workers were frustrated when the company did not deliver on promised improvements.
“I have always worked hard for this company, but in the last few years there has been a feeling of discontent among all workers,” said Luis Lopez, an 11-year Wismettac driver. “This time, with Local 630 by our side, we are strong, well-educated and organized, and we have proven twice to Wismettac that we will not fall for false promises. We will demand justice, respect and dignity until we win a Teamster contract for our families.”
Wismettac, a Japanese-owned importer, wholesaler and distributor of Asian food products, hired anti-union consultants to intimidate the workers during the campaign. In August 2017, the workers held a march on Wismettac management to demand union recognition and a fair contract. After the company refused, Local 630 filed for a representation election.
Although Local 630 initially set out to organize the roughly 82 warehouse workers and drivers at Wismettac, in both elections the company pushed to include more office staff and temp agency employees. But the union pressed forward and organized among clerks and temp staff, many of whom have worked at Wismettac for years for minimum wage and no benefits.
“I’m proud of the warrior spirit of these workers for taking a stand without fear of union busters, anti-union lawyers and anti-union management. Our union will stand firm with these workers until justice is served. Local 630 will continue to strategically execute a comprehensive plan to organize the competition of our union companies and provide a level playing field,” Villalvazo said.
Wismettac is a leading competitor of two other Asian foodservice distributors in Southern California—JFC International, Inc. and Mutual Trading Co.—which also have employees represented by Local 630.