Women workers at Vistar Foodservice in Ontario, Calif. know all-too-well the struggles women face in the workplace, especially when it comes to being paid the same as their male colleagues. So while some this week were acknowledging “Equal Pay Day,” Tuesday was just another unfair day on the job for them.
The 85 drivers and warehouse workers at the Vistar facility organized with Teamsters Local 630 in 2015, but have yet to ratify a collective bargaining agreement. Because of Vistar’s unfair treatment, employees there went on strike three times in 2017.
Workers have shared their stories in letters sent to top officials at Performance Food Group (PFG), Vistar’s parent company. And many are heartbreaking, like that of Becky Hernandez, 50, a nine-year Vistar employee.
“I came to this country from Mexico in 1982 in search of a better life, for myself and my husband but mostly for my children,” Hernandez wrote to PFG Directors Meredith Adler and Kimberly Grant. “I make $12.29 an hour as a selector at Vistar. I make less than many selectors who have less experience and as much as $9 an hour less than my male counterparts. I have received only three raises in the past nine years.”
Maria Ramos, 46, who has also worked at Vistar for nine years, said discrimination is rampant at the plant. “I make less money than the men,” she told Adler and Grant. “When any of the women ask for vacation time, a raise, or anything, they often don’t even give us an answer. They just walk away.”
Workers have also taken the fight directly to PFG. Last November, several women Vistar workers who are members of Local 630 attended the company’s annual shareholders meeting in Richmond, Va. to ask corporate directors to stop discriminating against women employees.
And in February, several Local 630 Vistar workers filed a legal claim with the California Labor and Work Force Development Agency asking it to investigate and penalize their employer for pay discrimination against its women workers at the Ontario location.
Of course, none of this would be necessary if federal legislation was enacted to mandate equal pay on the job, regardless of gender. But that effort is going nowhere right now, and hardworking women at Vistar and elsewhere are paying the price.
Unions like the Teamsters fight like hell to make sure their members get fair contracts. In union contracts, employers have to pay men and women equally for doing the same job. But that doesn’t help when companies like Vistar are allowed to drag their feet and try to prevent workers from ever getting a contract.