Beverage warehouse

Oakland Beer Distributor workers ratify new 4-year contract

 The 122 drivers, warehouse workers, draft technicians, order pickers, merchandisers and sales workers at AB (formerly Horizon Beverage) in Oakland ratified their four-year contract by a 72% margin in June.

“The biggest issue to overcome was that the structure of pay for drivers was changed from hourly to base-plus-commission,” explained Business Rep Efren Alarcon. “They’ll no longer get overtime, which is a big change. But our experience is that good drivers will make a lot more money this way.”

While the drivers were unhappy with that part of the proposal, Alarcon says he knew that the company was never going to lift it. “The Southern California local went on strike for six weeks over the same issue and the company didn’t budge.” Alarcon adds that the negotiating committee included four rank and file members who “pushed strong and hard to make as many improvements as possible to the driver compensation package, including safety nets.”

That change aside, the committee was successful in racking up big gains to the pension and medical plans. “We went from a company medical plan to Teamsters National Trust, which is huge. We also got significant raises for the sales group, bringing them up to where they should be. By ratifying the contract, all members received a $1,500 signing bonus.”

The AB contract was set to expire on April 1. Alarcon says that he and the committee began bargaining in February and that they met with the company 14 times via Zoom. “That was a challenge as we had to learn to exercise patience,” Alarcon adds. “The process was lengthy but cordial and professional throughout.”

Alarcon had a lot of thanks to spread around. First was to the bargaining committee:  Patrick Christy and Sujit Singh, both drivers; Rich Weinberger, Sales; and Tim Griego, Warehouse. He also wanted to acknowledge the help and advice he got from Local 853 President Dennis Hart, Secretary-Treasurer Rome Aloise, and IBT Beverage Conference Chair Greg Nowak, who used his relationship with AB nationally and lent the support of the Conference to help finalize the contract.