Brewery union urging boycott Struck company already hiring replacements.

August 12, 1991|By Norris P. West and Ross Hetrick | Norris P. West and Ross Hetrick,Evening Sun Staff

A union striking a southwest Baltimore beer distributor plans to ask beer drinkers in the Baltimore area to boycott certain brands in reaction to the proposed permanent replacement of 90 truck drivers and warehouse workers.

Members of Brewery Workers Local 1010, a Teamsters affiliate, struck the Bond Distributing Co. at 11 o'clock last night, saying that negotiations had not progressed since their contract expired June 30. They said the company's plan to use replacement workers is an attempt to break their union.

"The question is whether a union has the right to strike in America," said Marvin P. Sklar, the attorney for Local 1010. "It's the old Reagan philosophy, replace them and get rid of them," he said.

Sklar said the union has already started sending letters to retailers telling them to soon expect informational pickets outside their establishments that will ask customers not to buy Coors, Miller, Molson and Rolling Rock beers, which are distributed by Bond. The letter said the pickets will not interfere with deliveries or discourage customers from patronizing the stores. Sklar did not know when or where the informational picketers will appear.

The company distributes beer to customers in the city and in Baltimore County. This is the second time area Teamsters have struck a beer operation this summer. Employees of the G. Heileman Brewing Co. in Halethorpe ended a month-long strike July 27.

Norman R. Buchsbaum, the labor attorney for Bond, said the union's decision to strike was "premature," and that the company was hiring people with good driving records yesterday and today. He said the striking workers may never get their jobs back.

Bond has already hired "new permanent" workers for its warehouse operation and beer products should be delivered to retailers in the next few days, Buchsbaum said. "We intend to operate and run this business," he said.

The new warehouse workers had been interviewed back in June when the possibility of a strike first materialized, Buchsbaum said. Last night the company contacted them and asked them to report to work this morning, he said.

Workers picketing outside the Bond building on Bernard Drive early today declined to say how they would react when replacement workers are brought on the job. Police officers watched from across the street as about 75 strikers marched.

Pete Bush, 40, who has driven trucks for Bond for 12 years, said the company had prepared a list of 25 potential replacement workers July 1, but that the union decided to work without a contract while negotiations continued. He said the company's resolve to hire replacement workers was an attempt to weaken the union.

"We're fighting for the right to strike without the company using these tactics," said Bush, a member of the union's negotiating team.

One of the key issues is the duty of truck drivers. Under the former contract, the "route sales" system allowed them to act as sales representatives as well as drivers. They earned a flat salary and would get commissions after reaching a certain volume.

The union says the company's proposed "pre-sales" arrangement would widen the use of other sales representatives, thus eventually reducing the drivers' commissions. The company, however, says drivers would be guaranteed the same pay.

John Bourckel, 46, a 20-year employee, said the plan also would result in a reduced work force.

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