Local 284 Kept Workers United During Anti-Union Campaign
When workers at a nonunion Heidelberg Distributor in Columbus, Ohio saw the difference in their pay and benefits their Teamster brothers and sisters were making, it made the disrespect they had to put up with that much harder. So they sought out the Teamsters Union.
“We decided to seek out the Teamsters to represent us due to the lack of competitive pay for what we do and a lack of structure with such things as discipline and bonuses,” said Matt Stewart, head steward and driver with Heidelberg.
“We decided to stand up for ourselves and not just let the company continue to break our backs and treat us like crap,” Stewart said. “Also, once we saw how the other company locations were run and that they were already union, we had it in print the disparity between us and others. This made a big difference as these were people not only doing the same job as us, but also for the exact same company.”
More than 100 beer truck drivers and warehouse workers with Heidelberg Distributors in Columbus, Ohio recently joined Local 284. The 49-35 vote to join the union was driven by a lack of respect for workers at the company.
Favoritism was also a big problem and whenever workers would voice their concerns, they would be labeled as troublemakers or instigators.
“We’ve dealt with Heidelberg before. They’re one of the largest labor law violators in Ohio and they ran a really nasty anti-union campaign,” said Dan Kirk, President of Local 284.
During the campaign, Heidelberg fired union supporters, withheld wage increases and hired a union-busting firm. They held weekly mandatory meetings, rode with the drivers on their routes, had one-on-one meetings with workers and told people they’d lose everything they have if they tried to bring in a union. But the workers stayed united.
“During the company’s union-busting meetings with ownership and the union buster himself, leaders such as myself made it a key point to ask questions and make comments to challenge what the company was trying to say to create doubt and fear,” Stewart said.
One thing that helped keep the workers united in the face of the antiunion campaign by the company was the knowledge that Teamsters represented four other Heidelberg companies and their contracts showed how much better it was to work in a union shop.