Warehouse Workers, Drivers and Clerks Organize for Respect at Major Food Importer
Oscar RuizEmail: [email protected] Phone: (213) 590-7119
(SANTA FE SPRINGS, Calif.) – Following a six-month organizing effort, 140 warehouse workers, drivers and other employees at Wismettac Asian Foods voted on September 19 to join Teamsters Local 630 in Los Angeles. The vote count was 75-22 in favor of union representation.
“I joined this fight because I want a voice at work with respect and dignity,” said Tim Ho, a warehouse worker who has been working at Wismettac for 26 years.
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. The latest campaign was launched when workers began organizing with Local 630 in April.
“My co-workers and I decided to organize because we have been invisible for many years – we didn’t count for this corporation,” said Yader Alvarado, a 13-year driver at Wismettac. “All we want is a middle-class job with a future for our families, and we will continue to demand respect and dignity until we get a union contract in writing.”
Wismettac, a Japanese-owned importer, wholesaler and distributor of Asian food products, hired three anti-union consultants to intimidate the workers. On August 21, the workers held a march on Wismettac management to demand union recognition and a fair contract. After the company refused those demands, Local 630 filed for a representation election with the National Labor Relations Board.
Local 630 initially set out to organize the roughly 78 warehouse workers and drivers but, in an effort to defeat the union, the company included all clerks as well as temp agency employees on the list of eligible voters.
The union pressed forward with the election and organized support among the clerks and temp staff, many of whom have worked at Wismettac for years for minimum wage and no benefits with the hope of eventually becoming full employees.
“The workers have had enough of management’s lies, retracted bonuses and the level of disrespect from the company, which spent half a million dollars to defeat the workers’ organizing campaign,” said Oscar Ruiz, an organizer and division representative with Local 630. “We have a very strong worker committee. These guys are dedicated and fearless in the face of intimidation by management.”
Ruiz added that the union has filed two Unfair Labor Practice charges against Wismettac over its union-busting tactics.
“I would like to welcome our brothers and sisters from Wismettac to Teamsters Local Union 630,” said Lou Villalvazo, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 630. “After a hard-fought campaign against three union busters, the workers achieved victory in a decisive election. We want to let these brothers and sisters know that Local 630 will fight on their behalf to achieve a fair and just contract.”
“Local 630 will continue to strategically organize in the core industries we represent. We will continue to organize direct competitors to help create a level playing field at the companies we have under contract,” Villalvazo added.
Wismettac is a leading competitor of two other foodservice distributors – JFC International, Inc. and Mutual Trading Co. – which also have employees represented by Teamsters Local 630.