Sadly, the big Anheuser Busch (AB) distribution facility in Oakland got sold and suddenly closed in July with minimal notice. Local 853 represented 113 drivers, warehouse workers, draft technicians, merchandisers, and salesmen at that facility. “We only had about two weeks\’ notice, which, besides being terrible for our members, didn’t even meet legal requirements,” says Business Agent Efren Alarcon.
As soon as the union was notified, Alarcon and Secretary-Treasurer Dennis Hart swung into action. They were able to get 27 members new jobs at Matagrano, in South San Francisco, which is a union facility. Another 20 went to Markstein in Antioch, which is currently non-union, but Hart says, “we now have 20 ins to work on organizing over there.” Other business agents and Local Unions also helped identify job openings at similar facilities; a few members were able to get union positions at the Fairfield Budweiser plant and at Coca-Cola in San Leandro.
Most important, Alarcon negotiated a great severance package that includes more than one week of wages for every year of service for most members, six months of medical coverage that will carry them through the end of March 2023, and cashing out not only their vacation time, which is legally required, but also their sick time, which for many was about 30 days. In a very smart move, in order to reduce the tax hit on these large payouts, the union negotiated that the different sources of funds would be paid over a six-week period, instead of in one lump sum. Finally, the company agreed to a $7500 retention/training bonus to help members attain training so they could get Class A License training or other re-training.
“A closure is a closure and it’s never nice,” said Alarcon, recognizing that only about half of the members seamlessly went into new jobs. “But I thank all of our Business Reps and sister Locals for working to help these members, and that effort will continue until we get as many of them jobs as we possibly can.”