Union Members Boycott Safeway

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Approximately six truck drivers that deliver produce to Safeway grocery stores carried posters and distributed flyers yesterday in an attempt to garner public support for a labor dispute that has 1,500 drivers protesting allegedly unfair pay practices.

The boycott, which began Wednesday, was being publicized at the Safeway on the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Rose Street. Union members claim the boycott has driven over 50 percent of Safeway's customers to other grocery stores. More than 40 Safeway stores across the Bay Area have been targeted.

"We want working conditions to improve," said Sam Rosas, vice-president of Teamsters Local 439, the union that represents the workers. "The driving conditions on the highway are unsafe, and drivers are continually pushed to go, go, go. They don't get lunch and they don't get breaks. They get paid a rate of pay based on the load, and not by the hour."

But the president of the company that employs the truck drivers said the drivers' demands are unrealistic, and that recent violent attacks on temporary employees that have taken over the drivers' routes are not getting them any closer to a solution.

Since last Wednesday, 22 people were injured, said Martin Street, president of Summit Logistics, Safeway's distribution company. He said many truck window shields and side windows were also smashed.

He added that one man has been charged in Pinole for allegedly cutting brake lines to a tractor-trailer in a Safeway parking lot. That man

was cited and released, according to Pinole police Sgt. Peter Jankey.

Street said his company will continue to deliver produce to Safeway despite the boycott.

"It's absolutely not feasible to pay by the hour," he said. "We would have to employ 50 more employees, and that would cost us millions."

He said Summit Logistics' truck drivers receive a salary of $75,000 per year with benefits and that the company's warehouse employees are currently some of the top paid employees in the state.

But Rosas said that drivers often spend hours in traffic jams that prevent them from delivering more stock, and that so much time on the road is unsafe for both the truck drivers and other drivers.

"We want public support," said one eight-year employee of Summit Logistics who declined to give his name. He said he was planning on spending the whole day at the Safeway on Shattuck. "If Safeway sales go down, then we hope Safeway will put pressure on Summit to pay us by the hour."

Nevertheless, Safeway spokesperson David Bowlby said the boycott has had a relatively minor impact on customers, despite union claims.

Bowlby disputed figures from Rosas, saying that for the Teamsters to know its success, they would have to know how many customers visited

Safeway before the boycott began.

"My question back to the union (is), 'How are they coming up with these numbers?'" Bowlby asked. "That's very curious to me."

He added that Safeway has added security at several locations that are

being picketed only as a precautionary measure, and that he has heard

of only one incident where there was vandalism in a parking lot.

"Our customers can feel very comfortable," he said.

Summit Logistics and the Teamsters Local 439 have had between 23 and 27 meetings to create a new contract, representatives from both parties said.

But Street admitted that he feels the conflict is at an impasse, and that the only solution may be to bring in a federal mediator.

Summit Logistics, a British company, has its warehouse in Tracy, Calif. and delivers to Northern California, Nevada and Hawaii.


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