For more than 25 years, Abel has worked in the warehouse at US Foods’ facility in Phoenix. In recent months he and his coworkers have walked picket lines for their own contract and in solidarity with other US Foods workers in California.
Abel, who is a member of Teamsters Local 104 and on the negotiating committee, is also a veteran who served for four years in the Marine Corps. But he’s had to do a lot more fighting at US Foods than he ever did in the US military:
We’ve been fighting for almost a year for a new contract. I sat at the table while the company engaged in regressive bargaining. So we went on strike for four days in February. But in a right-to-work state like Arizona, even our right to organize and stay unified is challenged.
The struggle began in the wake of US Foods’ failed merger with Sysco in early 2015. Since then, Abel and his coworkers have been working in a state of uncertainty, holding off major purchases for their families while the company demands concessions from the employees who have made it a highly-profitable leader in the foodservice industry.
For veterans like Abel, US Foods’ corporate greed is especially offensive:
I went to the Marines right after high school and after four years I went to US Foods where I have been working ever since. But what US Foods doesn’t seem to understand is that in peacetime and in wartime, we serve our country so that companies like US Foods can operate, to keep America safe for business. The company’s greed is a disservice to workers and veterans like me who have worked so hard to serve US Foods.
While US Foods worries about its contracts with military bases, Abel said the company ignores its own veteran employees:
If they put as much effort into respecting their employees as they do when it comes to delivering to military bases, we would have had a contract a long time ago. Keeping service members fed is important, but you can’t call your company pro-military when you attack the rights of people after they leave the service. US Foods has abandoned its values to service to its customers and to the veterans it employs.
In recent weeks Abel and his coworkers have honored extension picket lines in solidarity with US Foods workers in California who are also fighting the company’s attack on workers. As Abel explains:
It’s not just here in Phoenix – it’s a nationwide problem with this company. And a big part of the problem is that US Foods has the wrong owners. KKR is not interested in the foodservice business or its workers.