Teamsters 1-for-2 in new contract talks

The 210 Teamsters at Sysco Food Services of Albany narrowly averted a strike late Wednesday, but lab

The 210 Teamsters at Sysco Food Services of Albany narrowly averted a strike late Wednesday, but labor tensions are escalating at Adirondack Beverage, where another 170 Teamsters have also authorized a walkout.

With about an hour to spare before a planned walkout at Sysco’s Halfmoon warehouse at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 294 ratified a three-year contract. The union’s old pact expired at midnight.

“We got it done at the last minute,” said Local 294 Business Agent Rocco Losavio.

The Teamsters passed the pact by a ratio of three-to-one. Losavio said the proposal passed the third vote because Sysco agreed to let union members continue participating in the Teamsters’ Supreme Plan for health benefits. The company had wanted to switch workers to another plan.

Gail Allen, the president of Sysco’s Halfmoon operation, did not return calls seeking comment Thursday.

Since April 26, union membership had shot down two Sysco proposals, mostly over health benefits. Local 294 members had authorized a strike when they rejected a proposed pact again last Saturday.

By Thursday morning, delivery trucks were pulling in and out of Sysco’s warehouse. Sysco, one of the Capital Region’s largest food and beverage distributors, had been bracing for the anticipated warehouse worker and truck driver strike by soliciting replacement workers. The Halfmoon operation employs over 500 people.

The strike would have threatened to disrupt the delivery of food and beverages to area restaurants and institutions. Many Sysco customers, such as Chez Sophie and Brindisi’s Restaurant in Saratoga Springs and Good Times Restaurant in Ballston Lake, did not expect the strike to cripple their operations. Their owners said they could rely on other distributors for goods.

In Glenville, members of Teamsters Local 669 at Adirondack Beverage have rejected two contract proposals. A third vote is expected soon. Local 669 President Ozzie Martucci said a strike is likely if the third proposal does not pass.

“I have my marching orders, and if we don’t get it then we’re going to take to the streets,” Martucci said.

Adirondack Beverage runs a bottling, warehousing and distribution center at the Scotia-Glenville industrial park, where it makes carbonated and non-carbonated beverages. Management on Thursday sent Local 669 a new contract proposal but Martucci said it is “not to my satisfaction.”

Martucci said management has agreed to some health benefit and wage enhancements. But many members have been turned off by disproportionate pay increases and higher health insurance payments.

The union chief said he wants to see wage increases be more evenly spread among workers. Martucci also wants Adirondack Beverage to pick up a greater share of workers’ health insurance bill.

Since November, Teamster officials have been negotiating for a contract to replace the one that expired Nov. 30. Local 669 members include fork lift drivers, mechanics, labelers, filler operators and lab workers. About 40 Adirondack Beverage employees at the Glenville plant are not represented by a union.

Under early drafts of the pact, most members would receive 50-cent increases to their hourly wages while lab technicians and other syrup room workers would receive 60-cent hikes. He said the contract’s lowest scheduled increase was 3.7 percent.

“We’re going to have a revolt here. We’re getting to the point where they can’t make their ends meet,” Martucci said.

Adirondack Beverage Chief Operating Officer Doug Martin said management has “negotiated in very good faith” and “we think this is going to be resolved.” But he would not say whether the company has solicited replacement workers.

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