BOSTON (AP) — More than 300 truck drivers at New England’s largest wholesale food distributor have gone on strike, raising concerns about disrupted food deliveries to schools, hospitals and nursing homes.
The drivers represented by the Teamsters Local 653 took to the picket line at Sysco Boston early Saturday seeking better pay and benefits.
“Management took their abhorrent anti-worker treatment to new lows, giving a take-it-or-leave-it final offer that strips their essential workers of high-quality union health insurance, denies members of a secure retirement with a union pension, and offers meager wage increases amid drastically rising inflation,” the union said in a Facebook post.
Last week, about 230 drivers at a Sysco facility near Syracuse, New York, also went on strike alleging unfair labor practices.
Sysco said in a statement that the Massachusetts drivers make about $110,000 annually on average, and that it has offered a wage increase of 25% over the life of the contract. The Houston-based company also said it is offering more health care options at lower costs compared to the current plan.
“The work stoppage is unnecessary and union leaders have taken this action with little regard for the damage it will cause to our associates and our customers,” the company said.
In New York, the union did not allow drivers to vote on the company’s offer, which included wage increases and a $2,500 signing bonus, Sysco said.
Tara Gregorio, president of the Massachusetts Senior Care Association, an industry group representing about 400 nursing homes and assisted living residences, said Tuesday that the truckers’ strike has raised concerns among some members but that she has not heard of any missed deliveries.
Nursing homes are also prepared to adapt, seeking alternate sources for food as they did during the coronavirus pandemic and recent supply chain slowdowns, she added.
“We’re hoping that the two sides can come to some type of an agreement very quickly,” she said.
The Sysco warehouse in Plympton, south of Boston, is still operating 24/7 with third-party drivers and hopes to be up to 50% of normal capacity by Wednesday, the company said. The facility stocks about 13,000 products, according to the company’s website.
Sysco, which also services restaurants and sports venues, has distribution facilities across the country.