Saturday, February 16, 2013

Woo-hoo! Another Teamster organizing victory in Ohio

Please give a warm welcome to our 102 new brothers and sisters who voted on Feb. 7 to join Teamsters Local 284 in Columbus. They are drivers and warehouse workers at Heidelberg Distributing Co., one of the fastest growing beer and wine companies in the country.

They are now the fifth Teamster bargaining unit at Heidelberg in Ohio. The other four are in Toledo, Cincinnati, Dayton and Cleveland.

Matt Stewart, a driver at Heidelberg, posted on Local 284's Facebook page:
I want to thank you guys from the bottom of heart, you never lied, never wavered and were there for us the whole time! I am damn PROUD to call myself Teamster! Thank you!
Rick Kepler, organizer for Joint Council 41, said the workers decided to organize because they were tired of the way they were treated and paid. At first, just the drivers came to Local 284 and asked for help. Said Kepler,
Local 284 officers handbilling at Heidelberg.
We held some meetings and finally convinced the night warehouse guys to join. We built a committee, and in the end we got 70 percent of the warehouse guys.
Varney Richmond, president of Local 957 in Dayton, helped the campaign by bringing Teamsters under contract with Heidelberg to meet the Columbus workers. The Dayton Teamsters showed the Columbus workers the advantages of a strong contract: They earn $18-$22 an hour, they receive company contributions to their pension plans and pay $20 a month for a family health care plan. The Columbus workers are paid less, get no company contribution to their pension plans and pay $200-$300 a month for health insurance.

It wasn't easy to organize. Heidelberg hired a notorious union-buster who employed the usual illegal tactics: fired activists, held captive audience meetings, intimidated and harassed workers in one-on-one meetings and did everything possible to delay the election.

Paul Suffoletto, secretary-treasurer of Local 284, praised the workers on Facebook:
...the Victory was yours if you wanted it bad enough. You stood tall against against lies, job threatening, union buster, and never wavered. It will be proud day to swear all of you in as Teamsters. 
Said Kepler:
They did a top-shelf anti-union campaign, and they lost. Those are always the sweetest. 
Now they look forward to negotiating a strong first contract.