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Michigan truck drivers, warehouse workers rally for union at Sysco

By Tom Burke

Michigan Teamsters Union Local 406 rallies outside Sysco Corporation.

Grand Rapids, MI—Around 50 workers and drivers joined a Teamsters Union Local 406 rally outside the food distribution giant Sysco Corporation on April 29. A huge black and gold Teamster truck was parked just outside the Sysco warehouse, bordering the Gerald R. Ford airport in Grand Rapids.

The workers held up Teamster signs reading, “Stop the war on workers,” as they lined both sides of the street. Passing truck drivers honked loudly in support of the union. The biggest issue for workers is seeing their paychecks shrink.

Warehouse worker Dave Lenhard was out on the picket line with his pro-union friends and said, “I used to be a ‘no’ vote when the union came around in 1997, but all I have seen since then is us going backwards.”

Lenhard explains, “We used to get $7500 in bonuses for safety, safe driving and attendance, but they cancelled that. They let us work the entire year towards the bonus and then suddenly cancelled it. They also took away our Christmas bonus with just a few days to go.”

Workers at Sysco called Teamsters 406 in November asking for help organizing. Sysco quickly hired a union busting firm to combat the workers having their own voice.

Workers and drivers also say they need a union to combat the “WIP and DIP” program imposed on them by management. Warehouse Incentive Program (WIP) and Drivers Incentive Program (DIP) are ways to target and fire workers for minor infractions. It is being used to target workers organizing for their union.

A young truck driver, George Brewster, found out what it is to be a target of the bosses. Surrounded by his fellow drivers, Brewster said, “You know the funny thing is they never told me why I was fired. We all know why: for organizing!”

Brewster continued, “The main problem for us is bad management. Less and less money, more and more work, while Sysco is making more and more money.”

Over 160 drivers and warehouse workers are demanding Sysco recognize their union affiliation with Teamsters 406. They load and deliver food to hospitals, colleges like Michigan State University, restaurants, hotels and other large institutions. The so-called ‘Right To Work’ laws in Michigan are making union organizing harder, but determined workers are banding together to win.

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