Talks to continue in beer walkout Work-rules changes at beer distributor main issue in strike.

August 13, 1991|By Michelle Singletary and Ross Hetrick | Michelle Singletary and Ross Hetrick,Evening Sun Staff

Negotiations will resume tomorrow in an effort to end a strike by beer truck drivers and warehouse workers who walked off their jobs Sunday night at a southwest Baltimore distributor, an attorney for the company says.

Norman R. Buchsbaum, a labor attorney for Bond Distributing Co. says the company and representatives of Brewery Workers Local 1010, a Teamsters affiliate, have agreed to meet at Cross Keys Inn tomorrow . Bond distributes beer to customers in Baltimore and Baltimore County.

Buchsbaum says he will be meeting with the union and representatives of Bond and Winner Distributing Co., another major beer distributor in town.

The union represents about 100 truck drivers and warehouse workers who began picketing the company Sunday night.

Buchsbaum represents both Winner and Bond in the negotiations with Local 1010 and they have been negotiating jointly. The union represents about 150 workers at Winner.

"I'm not terribly optimistic," Buchsbaum said, noting the unsuccessful efforts to reach a settlement since the old contract for both distributors expired at midnight on June 30.

Marvin P. Sklar, the attorney for Local 1010, said the major issue now on the table is the right of workers at Bond to strike.

"The right of workers to strike has become the overriding issue," Sklar said, adding that he believes the company is trying to break the union.

Although Bond has said it may never give striking workers back their jobs, Buchsbaum said yesterday there may be a possibility workers could return.

Yesterday, police on the scene said strikers marched peacefully without incident. Customers were still picking up orders and some trucks were making deliveries.

Buchsbaum said the dispute with workers is over work rules such as route changes.

Buchsbaum said truck drivers at Bond earn about $50,000 a year, including the commissions they receive acting as sales representative for the company. He also said they get up to eight weeks of vacation.

Sklar said truck drivers would have to work a tremendous amount of overtime to earn $50,000 a year.

Sklar said other issues concerning workers are longer work hours and a change that would reduce the number of routes for truck drivers and ultimately the number of workers needed. The company wants to lengthen the work day from eight to 10 hours.

"We are not striking over economic issues," said Michael Miller, who is part of the union's negotiating team and a shop steward at Bond. "The company wants to sell more products with less people. They want one man to cover more territory."

Workers are also upset about the company's proposed changes to the duties of truck drivers.

Under the former contract, drivers earn commission on sales in addition to a flat salary.

However, a new proposal would change that system to a "pre-sales" arrangement that would widen the use of other sales representatives, thus eventually reducing the drivers' commissions.

As part of the strike, the union plans to ask beer drinkers to boycott certain brands in reaction to the proposed permanent replacement of the strikers.

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.

"All we are going to do is give out flyers," said Miller, who works in Bond's warehouse. He's worked for the company 13 years.

A spokesman for Miller Brewery Co. said the company would not comment on the proposed boycott of its beer.

"Miller distributors are independent businessmen and therefore Miller does not involve itself in, nor comment on local labor disputes."

Don Shook, a spokesman for Coors Brewery Co., said Coors doesn't comment on such matters.

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