Monday, November 7, 2011

Teamsters to US Foods: An injury to two is an injury to all

(UPDATES to clarify picket extensions and sympathy pickets.)

The Teamsters' show of solidarity for two of their brothers in Streator, Ill., should inspire us all as the rolling national strike of US Foods enters its second week.

Mike "Scrapper" Vagasky, a 49-year-old native of Streator, is one of two US Foods maintenance workers who went on strike Sunday, October 30th. This small strike escalated into a nationwide battle after Teamsters Local 722 extended pickets -- or Teamsters set up sympathy pickets -- to facilities in Indianapolis, St. Louis, Buffalo, Seattle, Minnesota, New Jersey and Denver. Sympathy pickets and picket line extensions have lasted for about 12 hours.

At nearly all US Foods warehouses, not one Teamster crossed the line. In Colorado, Teamsters shut down the US Foods facility all weekend.

Memo to KKR and CD&R, the fast-buck artists who've been plundering US Foods and attacking its workers for the past four years:
When we say 'An injury to one is an injury to all,' we mean it.
Here's a recap of what's happened so far.

Local 722 struck the Streator facility on Sunday, October 30, at 4 pm, because the company disciplined Scrapper, a member of the bargaining committee, for being absent while he was in contract negotiations. The line stayed up until Monday afternoon. Not one Teamster driver or warehouse worker crossed the line.

Local 722 extended the picket in St. Louis at 3 a.m. on Tuesday. Teamsters from 610 and 688 honored the line.

Half an hour later, Local 375 put up a sympathy picket in Buffalo. The line was honored by 100 percent of drivers and warehouse workers who are members of Local 264, crippling US Food’s delivery schedule Wednesday in upstate New York.

That evening, Local 722 extended the picket line in Fishers, Ind., and Teamsters from Local 135 refused to cross it. The line came down the next morning. Late that night, Local 638 established a sympathy picket in Plymouth, Minn., and members of Local 120 honored it. They shut down the warehouse until late Wednesday afternoon.

From Thursday evening through some or all of Friday, Teamsters set up pickets at three New Jersey warehouses. Props to Locals 202 and 282, who crippled the Friday delivery schedule for US Foods' Perth Amboy facility. One hundred percent of warehouse workers honored the line put up in sympathy by Local 111.

Swedesboro Solidarity.
Hours after the line went up in Perth Amboy, Locals 107 and 169 honored the picket line at the Bridgeport warehouse, which was put up by Local 676. Every single Teamster driver, warehouse worker and office worker honored the line for 12 hours, shutting off deliveries.

The Swedesboro line went up simultaneously with Bridgeport. Deliveries in Philadelphia were shut down for seven hours due to the solidarity of 100 percent of Teamster drivers and warehouse workers from Local 628. Local 1414 put up the sympathy picket.

Out west, Local 174 held the line at the Fife, Wash., warehouse for 72 hours to meet contractual requirements for notice. Local 117's drivers and warehouse workers -- without exception -- honored the line for 12 hours on Friday.

Outside of Denver, Teamster retirees and family members held the line for 72 hours to meet the same contractual requirement. Two Teamsters stood outside overnight in blizzard conditions, allowing Local 455 members to honor the line for three days straight. The sympathy strike culminated in a Sunday shutdown of the night shift that forced US Foods to cancel deliveries outside of the Denver metro area for Monday.

Scrapper is the only striker from Streator traveling across the country without pay because the other maintenance worker is out on disability. He started working at the Streator distribution center at 19, and 28 years later, he's still only making $12 an hour. Scrapper and works two other jobs just to make ends meet.

This strike has taken its toll on the Scrapper, as he can’t work his other jobs while on the road. The Teamsters have set up a way to donate money to Scrapper online. Clock on this link to be taken to the fundraising page. This money will go directly to Mike and will help him keep going until this strike is settled. Please help out a Teamster in need.