Some 900 union truck drivers and warehouse workers are slated to vote on a contract with Wegmans Food Markets Inc. on Monday.
The vote comes five months after the previous contract’s expiration in May. It follows contentious talks between the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 118
and the supermarket chain.
As the vote loomed closer, the union and Wegmans have put their disagreements into the public arena.
In heated public statements released over the past eight days, Wegmans said it would step in to help union members avoid the consequences of the Teamsters’ tapped out retirement fund, which has only 46 cents in assets to cover every dollar of promised benefits.
In a Sept. 25 statement describing the supermarket chain’s “last and best” final offer, Mike Cullen, Wegmans vice president of distribution, said the company would give Local 118 members lump-sum payments of $1,000 for full-time workers and $500 for part-timers plus an 18 percent pay raise over the life of the six-year contract, and “depending on age and years of service, a generous package of retirement assistance options valued at over $10 million.”
Not true, countered Local 118 business agent Kevin McIntosh in a statement on Friday calling Cullen’s portrayal of Wegmans’ position as “disingenuous at best.”
“The company plans to take away our $4.82 pension contribution—money we set aside from our wages to go into the pension fund—and tell us it’s giving us a $1.74 wage increase. No matter how you look at it, that’s a loss, not a pay increase. And it puts our members’ retirement security in serious jeopardy,” McIntosh said.
The contract vote comes amid internal strife that has riven Local 118 for some two years and at times involved Wegmans.
As previously reported by the Rochester Business Journal, International Brotherhood of Teamster’s president James Hoffa, citing strife between warring Local 118 factions for control of the local, suspended the 5,000-member local’s leadership elections and in April 2012 put Local 118 under a trusteeship from which it has yet to emerge.
The factional warfare had been ongoing since mid-2011 and showed no signs of abating, Hoffa told Local 118 members in a September 2012 letter indefinitely extending the trusteeship.
In a lawsuit targeting Wegmans and the union’s national leadership filed in the U.S. District Court last January, a Local 118 steward claiming to be one of some 25 like-minded stewards, accused a rival in the union’s internal dispute of surreptitiously feeding sensitive union information to Wegmans in advance of the then upcoming contract talks.
Wegmans countered the accusation with a motion to dismiss. The case is ongoing.
In the contract flap, Wegmans decided to start publicly airing the dispute to counter the union’s leafleting of shoppers at Wegmans stores, said Wegmans spokeswoman Jo Natale in a statement. The supermarket chain issued its latest statement Sunday after Local 118 hired a skywriter to post messages over Ralph Wilson Stadium during a Buffalo Bills home game.
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