Drivers, Mechanics Strike at Long Island Distributor Clare Rose

More than 100 union delivery drivers and warehouse workers for Clare Rose Inc., a New York beer distributor, went on strike Sunday afternoon after months of unsuccessful wage negotiations.

Clare Rose announced that it would be replacing the striking workers, according to a press release Monday afternoon from Teamsters Local 812.

Additionally, Clare Rose’s mechanics — member of Machinists Local 447 — walked out Monday in support of the striking workers, according to the Teamsters’ press release.

The workers’ five year contract with Clare Rose — which sells Anheuser-Busch InBev, Heineken, Pabst Brewing and various craft beer products throughout Long Island — expired on March 31. An extension was previously granted but expired Friday, when union members voted 107-9 to reject management’s “final offer.”

“We haven’t had a strike in this union for over 20 years,” Joe Vitta, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 812, which represents the workers, told Brewbound. “We’ve always been able to negotiate.”

The distributor’s proposal would have cut union worker wages by 30 percent, ended driver pensions and eliminated a salary continuation benefit for union employees who were injured on the job, according to Vitta.

“This is union-busting 101,” Vitta told Brewbound.

Union members officially went on strike Sunday at 5 p.m. Sunday. Workers formed a picket line today at Clare Rose’s distribution facility in Melville, and they say they’ll continue protesting until the distributor relents on its demands.

“When there is no Bud, Heineken, or other beer brands at the supermarket or bar, Long Islanders will know who to blame: Clare Rose executives,” Teamsters Local 812 president Ed Weber said via a press release.

Meanwhile, Clare Rose supervisors began delivering products to the company’s top accounts in New York’s Nassau and Suffolk counties, Vitta said. He counted 13 delivery trucks leaving the company’s facility today.

Union members are asking Clare Rose’s bar, restaurant and retail partners not to accept the company’s products, Vitta said. Teamsters Local 812 is also boycotting Clare Rose’s portfolio of brands, which include Budweiser, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Harpoon, Blue Point, Heineken, Goose Island, Greenport and Great South Bay, among others.

Calls placed to Clare Rose officials were not returned as of press time.

In an interview with the New York Daily News, Clare Rose CEO and president Sean Rose said his company’s offers “were made in good faith and designed to eliminate outdated work practices that are virtually nonexistent in our industry today.”

“While we respect our employees and their rights under federal labor laws we are disappointed that the union decided to reject our contract proposals and instead appears ready to go on strike,” Rose told the outlet.

Vitta countered that it was Clare Rose’s leadership who declared an impasse.

“I don’t believe we’re at an impasse,” Vitta said. “The federal mediator doesn’t believe we’re at an impasse.

“We weren’t overly far away with what we think we could get an agreement on,” he continued.

Teamsters Local 812 has already filed three cases of unfair labor practices against Clare Rose, Vitta said.

Clare Rose is a 75-year-old family-owned distributorship with locations in Melville and East Yaphank, New York. The company is now under management by the third generation of the Rose family.

Vitta told Brewbound that he wouldn’t have anticipated a strike under Clare Rose’s previous ownership. However, he said, the union’s 40-year relationship with the company changed when the third generation took over and the family’s philosophy “changed drastically.”

A 2011 Beverage Executive article ranking the top 20 wholesalers pegged Clare Rose as the nineteenth largest distributorship by case volume, with 10.9 million cases and dollar sales of $202 million.

“While this company is making millions, they are trying to cut the wages and retirement benefits that our families depend on,” Mark Pooler, a veteran Clare Rose delivery driver of 26 years, said via a press release. “We have bills to pay and mortgages to pay. Make no mistake, we will strike as long as it takes to protect our livelihoods.”

Striking workers will receive a strike benefit from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Vitta said, adding, “As of right now, there isn’t a job for them to go back to.”

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