Industry News: OR: General Distributors Incorporated and Teamsters Union 162 publicly comments on their labor dispute

Yesterday, General Distributors Incorporated sent us a Press Release, associated with a labor dispute between them and Teamsters Union 162. Although it would've been easy to copy-paste GDI's statement, we felt having Teamsters Union 162's argument present was beneficial. Therefore we've posted both below and reserve our comments and look forward to yours. 

Press Release from General Distributors Incorporated

OREGON CITY, OR – Local, family-owned General Distributors, Inc. (GDI) announced today that effective November 17, 2015 they are in a labor dispute with Teamsters Local 162.  “This labor dispute comes as a surprise and disappointment to the Company as we have conducted just three negotiation sessions with Teamsters representatives. During these sessions we have only discussed language proposals. No economic (wages, Healthcare or pension) issues have been discussed from the company stance” states Steve “Tiny” Irwin, General Manager of GDI.  “The Fick family has made tremendous efforts to take care of their employees over the years and maintain a good working relationship between the Teamsters. The average hourly rate of the GDI union employee’s total compensation package is $32.79 vs. $27.21 at their Teamster counterparts at our competition. This does not include the company owned van and free gas/maintenance that each sales rep uses to drive to and from work.  As you can imagine, we are very disappointed in this employee response.” 
“The family is shocked and dismayed by this recent turn of events” says Charles Fick III, President of GDI. “When you compare GDI compensation levels to the competition within the beer industry here in the Portland market, not only do we provide our union employees with a higher hourly wage, we contribute more per hour ($2.87 vs. $2.17) to their pension and pay for 100% of their $1,221 monthly health care premiums. The GDI total compensation package is almost 20% higher than our competitor within Teamsters 162. To be told by picketers that they want “fair” wages is disappointing”.
According to an email sent to Mr. Fick from Chris Tomasco, a GDI Sales Representative, Teamsters Shop Steward and member of the union negotiating committee, the employees understand the process followed when negotiating a collective bargaining agreement: first negotiate language then progress to the economic aspects. However, the employees don’t agree with the process and voted to go on strike. “We hope that there's a chance to see the pension, health and welfare, and economic proposals that you guys have prepared” writes Tomasco in his letter to Mr. Fick. “I’ve never heard of a union taking its members out on strike before they have heard what the economic proposal is” says Mr. Fick “Especially during the holidays. I feel for their families”.
Despite this labor dispute, GDI will continue to run sales and operations. Almost 20% of the striking employees have resigned from the union and returned to work. Additionally, GDI has started hiring permanent replacement workers to expeditiously develop full operations.  Within a short period of time GDI expects to return sales and delivery operations to normal service levels. 
About General Distributors, Inc.:
GDI is a premier beverage distributor in the Portland Metro market that services 11 counties from Salem to Hood River. The company was founded as “Fick Cigar Co” by Charles A. Fick, Sr. and his brother George Fick, Sr. in 1933. During Prohibition they distributed candy, cigarettes and cigars. After Prohibition’s repeal they began selling the Olympia beer brand and expanded their portfolio exponentially as the years progressed.  The current warehouse and headquarters are located in Oregon City, OR where they employ over 150 people. Their current portfolio includes MillerCoors, Constellation, Mike’s Hard Lemonade in addition to a great variety of national and local craft breweries, cideries, wineries and non-alcoholic beverages.
Press Release from Teamsters Local 162
Notice on Labor Dispute at General Distributors

November 19, 2015

Teamsters Local 162 has represented the truck driver’s, warehouse and sales employees of General Distributors in Oregon City for over fifty years.  We have had a good working relationship which has enabled General Distributors to grow and prosper in the beer, wine and beverage industry.  At the same time Teamster members and their families have been able to live their lives as part of the middle class.  That middle class existence is under attack!

Unfortunately during the current contract negotiations General Distributors insisted that its employees take outrageous concessions in excess of $1.5 million annually.  The concessions amount to a per employee average reduction of $19,000 per year.  This attack on our hardworking members is difficult to understand given the history and even harder to understand since the company is as strong and as profitable as they have ever been.

The employees of General Distributors have decided that these cuts are unacceptable and on November 17, 2015, these employees went on strike.  Teamsters Local 162 never goes into negotiations with the intent to strike.  However, the actions taken by General Distributors left the employees with no other options.  The strike remains in effect and is ongoing. 

General Distributors is now threatening to terminate and permanently replace striking employees.  This is totally unacceptable to the hard working Teamster members at General Distributors.

 Any continued disruption of service is unfortunate but the responsibility lies solely with the owners and management of General Distributors.  Your Teamster represented driver’s, warehouse and sales employees hope to be back working with you very soon, but only time will tell if the owners and management have a change of heart.

Your continued support of our members is greatly appreciated.  Please express your opinions to the owners and management of General Distributors who can be reached at (800) 351-2366.
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