PHOENIX (KVOA) – Teamster drivers and warehouse workers at a critical Albertsons grocery distribution center have voted by 98 percent to authorize a strike to protest the company for what the Union calls a “failure” to address workers’ COVID-19 safety concerns and to demand that the company “stop violating federal labor laws,” it announced in a news release Thursday.
The roughly 900,000 square foot distribution center, just outside of Phoenix, services approximately 175 Albertsons, Safeway and Vons grocery stores throughout Arizona, New Mexico, Southern Utah, Las Vegas, Nevada, and El Paso, Texas, according to the release. Teamsters Local 104 said it represents over 700 drivers and warehouse workers at the Phoenix facility. They report that Albertsons is not complying with important COVID-19 safety guidelines, including failing to provide drivers with personal protective equipment, including face masks and hand sanitizer, and refusing to address warehouse workers’ concerns regarding social distancing in the distribution center.
“Albertsons is raking in record profits during the pandemic, while its front-line workers are putting themselves and their families at risk,” said Russell Medigovich, a business agent at Teamsters Local 104. “It’s outrageous that these workers are being forced to supply their own personal protective equipment and being crowded in on top of each other in Albertsons’ warehouse.”
The Union said Albertsons’ distribution workers’ collective bargaining agreement with the company is set to expire at midnight on February 27th, releasing drivers and warehouse workers to engage in concerted protected activity including strikes and work stoppages.
“Striking is a last resort, but we have a responsibility to hold Albertsons accountable for refusing to honor the contributions of its front line employees and exposing its workers to unnecessary COVID-19 safety risks,” said Karla Schumann, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 104.
The release said the escalating labor dispute in Albertsons’ Southwest Division may be a sign of larger labor troubles across Albertsons’ national distribution system. Drivers represented by Teamsters Local 745 at an Albertsons Distribution Center near Dallas, Texas engaged in a public protest last month to demand that Albertsons provide information to union representatives about the company’s efforts to comply with CDC COVID-19 safety guidelines and the recommendations of public health experts.
It said in Chicago, 900 distribution workers and drivers represented by Teamsters Local 710 are in contract negotiations with Albertsons’ Jewel-Osco subsidiary. Their contract expires on March 6, 2021.
“We are in touch with Albertsons Teamsters in both Phoenix and Dallas,” said Mike Cales, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 710.
“While our members have been putting their lives at risk during the pandemic, Albertsons’ revenue increased by almost $7 billion in 2020,” said Steve Vairma, Teamsters Warehouse Division Director and International Vice President. “If Albertsons doesn’t stop putting our members at risk and violating federal labor laws in the process, we have over 11,000 Teamsters across the country that are ready to take on that fight.”
It's unclear what impact this may have on local grocery supplies.