Teamsters Local 174 says it’s at a standstill in contract talks with one of the state’s big beer and wine distributors, just ahead of a major beer-consuming holiday.
Less than a week before one of America’s top beer-consuming holidays, St. Patrick’s Day, drivers and warehouse workers for one of the state’s main beer distributors are threatening to go on strike.
Contract negotiations between Columbia Distributing, which distributes beer and wine throughout Washington, Oregon and California, and Teamsters Local 174, which represents about 360 workers at the company’s facility in Kent, are at a standstill.
The company distributes more than 1,800 beverages including top beer brands such as Coors, Miller, Mac & Jack’s, Georgetown, Deschutes, Lagunitas, and Fremont Brewing.
According to the union, the company abruptly walked away from the negotiating table after making what it called its “best and final offer.”
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Michael Gonzales, a Teamsters spokesperson, said the company wants to shift more health-care costs onto workers and put provisions in the offer the union believes are illegal, such as asking workers to waive locally mandated sick leave policies.
Columbia Distributing, in a statement, said its proposal “keeps our warehouse and delivery wages among the highest in the state amongst our competitors and ensures competitive healthcare coverage for our full-time employees.” It adds that Columbia “will continue to work to come to a resolution with the union.”
Drivers make an average wage of about $24.50 and warehouse workers make an average of $22 per hour.
The union says it wants the employer to come back to the negotiating table to finalize a contract, but has not heard anything from Columbia Distributing.
“We’ve done everything in our power to avoid a strike, while Columbia has done everything in its power to provoke one,” said Rick Hicks, the union’s secretary-treasurer in a statement. “At this point it looks like the next time we’ll see them is on the picket line.”
Columbia Distributing’s statement says it has “processes in place to maintain business as usual and will continue to provide outstanding customer service.”
Perhaps this year’s supply of green beer may be just fine next Thursday. Stay tuned.