Just after 9 p.m. Monday:
"The members at Wegmans overwhelmingly rejected the companies final offer," said Teamsters' Local 118 business agent Dave Weilert.
Employees say the companies most recent offer made it difficult for them to take care of their families.
"It's frightening to know that I had to sit down with my wife and discuss things and she stays home with my child, both my children, taking care of them. One of my daughters, she requires special care and I know that with the ability she has to take care of her, I have to be the one to support her and be able to support the children that I have," said Wegmans employee Joshua Charles Graupman.
The union wants to remain a part of the state Teamsters' Conference Pension and retirement fund. Wegmans would like to shift to another company because it says the plan is underfunded by nearly $2 billion. The company also offered each full-time employee an immediate $1,000 lump sum and an 18 percent pay increase over six years.
Wegmans CEO Danny Wegman responded to the vote stating:
“It is extremely frustrating that the Teamsters’ desire to keep Wegmans from leaving its troubled pension fund put our employees in the position it did. We made an offer to provide a more secure future for our people, and the union responded with misinformation and pressure on its own members - our employees - to reject that offer. We are very concerned.”
Wegmans said in the 11th hour, the union asked that no changes be made in health care coverage. In response, the company said it would keep the current language in the contract that allows changes when they are made for the rest of the company. Wegmans says it will continue to cover spouses and doesn't know why the union is creating "false fear" in the minds of employees.
"A lot of things were misconstrued in the past weeks that people don't quite understand; that we are actually going to be paying for that unfunded liability," said Gaupman.
In the past week, the union has scheduled what they called a practice picket and according to Wegmans, hired a plane to fly over a Bills game displaying the words "Wegmans wants Buffalo to lose."
Wegmans vice president of distribution Mike Cullen commented on these actions, stating:
“I am surprised that the union would do things to disparage our company and try to drive away our customers.”
“That doesn’t seem to benefit anyone in the long run, including the union’s own members.”
Members of the union say they are unsure what their next step will be.
Wegmans says if employees decide to strike it has a plan in place to ensure the stores remain open.
Teamsters Balk at Wegmans Pension Proposal, Reject Final Offer, and Authorize Strike
Rochester, NY - Wegmans announced that its Rochester-based distribution and transportation employees, represented by Teamsters Local 118, have rejected the company’s “last, best and final” offer.
“It is extremely frustrating that the Teamsters’ desire to keep Wegmans from leaving its troubled pension fund put our employees in the position it did,” says CEO Danny Wegman. “We made an offer to provide a more secure future for our people, and the union responded with misinformation and pressure on its own members – our employees – to reject that offer. We are very concerned.”
In a time of continued economic uncertainty, when so many companies are cutting jobs and slashing pay increases, Wegmans’ offer included an immediate $1,000 lump sum payment for full-time employees ($500 for part-time); an 18% pay increase over the life of the six-year contract; a move to Wegmans fully-funded Retirement Plan, and a generous package of retirement assistance options valued at over $10 million. Wegmans would also pay the New York State Teamsters Conference Pension and Retirement Fund (the Fund) millions of dollars in withdrawal liability to help preserve the benefits already due its employees from the Fund.
“The union requested a final offer, and we gave it to them. Now that our final offer has been rejected, we’re uncertain of their intentions. It is our understanding that a ‘no’ vote was also a strike authorization vote giving the Teamsters Union authority to call a strike at any time without further input from our people,” says Mike Cullen, vice president of distribution.
Wegmans confirmed that, in the event of a strike, they are prepared to mobilize a comprehensive plan to ensure that stores remain open without interruption. “We welcome all of the employees in this bargaining unit to come to work every day, even during a labor dispute. But, we are also prepared to do whatever it takes, in the event of a strike, to offer the same incredible service our customers have come to expect from Wegmans and its employees,” added Cullen.
Wegmans also called to task the Teamsters Union for the tactics it has employed to try to embarrass the company and influence members to vote against the Wegmans proposal, including hiring a plane to fly over the Buffalo Bills game at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday and handbilling customers at many Rochester and Buffalo stores.
“I am surprised that the union would do things to disparage our company and try to drive away our customers,” says Cullen. “That doesn’t seem to benefit anyone in the long run, including the union’s own members.”
Cullen also shared that many employees in the bargaining unit, who collectively pay over $600,000 annually in dues to Local 118, have expressed serious concerns about the environment that surrounded the voting process, the accuracy of the results, and the status of the Local, which was placed in trusteeship in April 2012 after the union president was removed for attempted embezzlement and multiple charges were filed against other union officials.
“I simply will not sign a contract that doesn’t give our employees an adequate pay increase and doesn’t give them the secure retirement they and their families deserve,” added Danny Wegman. “It’s unconscionable that the Teamsters Union would deprive its members of those things in order to serve its interests elsewhere.”