Workers Receive Important Legal Victory After Long Battle
In early March, workers at Sysco in Grand Rapids, Mich. received some relief from a judge after the company’s vicious anti-union, anti-worker campaign, and workers in Idaho fought off similar company tactics to win their organizing campaign.
An administrative law judge with the National Labor Relations Board ordered Sysco to begin bargaining with Local 406 in Grand Rapids after he found that the company threatened, intimidated and unlawfully punished workers during an organizing campaign in 2015.
The workers lost an election held May 7, 2015, by 11 votes. The administrative law judge found the evidence established that a majority of Sysco’s Grand Rapids employees supported Local 406 prior to the election but Sysco’s extensive unfair labor practices “were sufficiently severe so as to erode the majority support that the union had acquired.” As a result, the judge issued an order directing Sysco to begin negotiating a contract for the 160 workers with Local 406.
“This is great news for the Sysco workers who had to endure an unbelievable onslaught of threats and intimidation for exercising their federally protected right to organize,” said Ellis Wood, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 406. “I look forward to finally being able to negotiate a contract for the Sysco workers so that they can address the issues that are important to them.”
The administrative law judge upheld the 79 unfair labor practice charges filed by Local 406, which included the company’s threats to close the plant down if they organized, threats to impose more stringent work rules, threats of loss of seniority and the company reducing the hours of those who supported the union drive.
“The judge also ruled that it must reinstate a worker who was fired two years ago with full back pay and benefits, which will be in excess of $200,000,” said Terry Hoogerhyde, Local 406 Recording Secretary and Business Agent.
“We are pleased that the administrative law judge recognized that Sysco went to great lengths to bully its workers in Grand Rapids,” said Steve Vairma, Director of the Teamsters Warehouse Division. “It’s time for Sysco to now bargain fairly and treat its workers with respect and dignity.”
At press time, the company was weighing an appeal. In the wake of the order, the company fired an employee with 29 years of service, and Local 406 has filed a charge with the NLRB.
Victory in Idaho
Also in early March, warehouse workers at Sysco in Post Falls, Idaho voted 19-8 to join Local 690 in Spokane, Wash.
The victory comes on the heels of two victories last year at Sysco in West Palm Beach and a third at Sysco subsidiary Fresh-Point in Pompano Beach, all in Florida.
“We’re elated,” said Dan Hopkins, a 12-year employee. “One of my main issues is the company taking the pension away. We went to a 401(k) plan but at my age there’s not enough time to catch up. I also have a $4,000-a-year health care deductible and I had to pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket last year. Also, while Sysco increased the starting pay, we’ve only had a 55-cent per hour raise over the past four years.”
“It was a great win and we had to face a tremendous antiunion push from the company,” said Val Holstrom, Local 690 Secretary-Treasurer.