Anti-union retaliation at one of the country’s largest food distributors, US Foods, sparked a worker strike in Illinois last Sunday (Oct. 30). In the following week, sympathy picket lines spread to warehouses in Missouri, New York, Indiana, Minnesota, Washington, New Jersey, and Colorado.
According to GAP coalition partner International Brotherhood of Teamsters, more than 2100 Teamsters who work at these facilities have honored the picket lines, disrupting shipments that feed many restaurants and other customers nationwide.
From the Teamsters website:
The initial strike began when maintenance workers in Streator [Illinois] struck US Foods in response to the company’s unfair labor practices, which included retaliating against employees for engaging in union activity. US Foods disciplined a Streator employee for being absent while he was in contract negotiations with the company as a member of the bargaining committee for Teamsters Local 722.
As FIC Director Amanda Hitt explained in a recent op-ed, workers at food distribution centers play a vital role in food safety. “They serve as the first line of defense if any sign of food contamination arises during shipment,” Hitt said.
US Foods’ intimidation of workers – who are merely trying to secure their livelihoods – is a threat to food integrity. Teamster union contracts provide for whistleblower protections, where workers have a voice, including the ability to raise food safety concerns, without fear of retaliation. Union workers – by striking – are expressing the right to tell about unfair labor conditions.
For more updates on the strikes, you can follow @USFoodsWorkers on Twitter.
Sarah Damian is Communications Manager for the Food Integrity Campaign.