Photo of Local 853 members picketing at DBI

Teamsters Get Contract at DBI

It took lots of street heat...

What did it take for 154 Teamsters to renew their contract at DBI San Francisco? Here’s an obvious answer — solidarity....and a 14-hour strike. On May 4, the drivers, merchandisers, salesmen, and warehousemen at this Miller-Coors beer distributor ratified a five-year contract that gave them gains on economics and language, and did not include any of the nasty takeaways the employer had proposed.

Members fought take-aways

“The company had proposed weakening our union security language,” says Business Rep Efren Alarcon, “and that was a non-starter. That would mean undermining the union.”

Alarcon notes that DBI had an agreement with a different Local five years ago. “Unfortunately, the members accepted some takeaways during those last talks and the company figured they could take it even further this time.” In fact, DBI proposed reductions in sick and vacation days, lowering 401K contributions, and eliminating the Kaiser option— the chosen provider for 70% of the members at DBI.

But this time around, the company miscalculated. The members stood together and fought to protect their rights.

DBI forgets history

The company should have known better. In 2012, when contracts were open at DBI facilities in San Jose, Stockton and Sacramento, the Teamsters mobilized actions at Giants games at AT&T Park and elsewhere, gaining public support for the union.

“We held back in 2013, giving the company a chance to do the right thing,” says Alarcon. “But, after eight bargaining sessions were going nowhere, the members started feeling frustrated and disrespected by the company. On April 23, at 2:30 a.m., they went out on strike.”

In response, after the members were on the street for less than nine hours, DBI’s CEO showed up and spoke with IBT International Rep Dennis Hart. “He gave his commitment to withdraw certain proposals that the union wanted off the table. We ended the strike, and he kept his word,” says Alarcon. It took another five bargaining sessions, but the committee finally got an offer they could all recommend. On May 4, the members ratified it.

Alarcon wanted to recognize and thank the bargaining committee for their hard work—Salesman Jaime Arias, Driver Matt Strachen and Warehouseman Oscar Preciado. He also gives special thanks to Dennis Hart, who brings to the table years of bargaining experience in the beverage industry. Hart and Alarcon also recognized Local 856 for their solidarity and support.

When asked about lessons learned during the DBI negotiations, Alarcon was quick to answer. “Never underestimate the employer. And, make sure that the members know and trust the union team beforehand. That’s the key!”