Bond Distributing Co. officials and striking beer truck drivers plan to return to the negotiating table, but the two sides differ widely in their expectations.
Workers on the picket line yesterday outside the company in southwest Baltimore said they are optimistic that a settlement will be reached soon. But Norman R. Buchsbaum, a labor attorney for Bond, said the two sides remain apart on eight to 10 issues and that no end is in sight.
The drivers for Bond, a beer distributor, have been on strike since Aug. 11 after working six weeks without a contract. One of the major issues is a new sales plan the company wants to put into effect.
"We all want to go back to work," said one driver who has worked at the company for 13 years.
"You never get back what you lose when you're on strike," said another worker.
None of the workers would identify themselves, citing directions from their union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
Meanwhile, another beer industry strike continues at the G. Heileman Brewing Co. On Aug. 29, 25 members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers walked off their jobs at the brewery in Lansdowne after working four weeks without a contract.
John D. Jefferies, chief negotiator for the Machinists, said members of Local 186 and the company are at odds over a three-year pay increase. Although both sides agree with the amount, the union wants more of the money in the first year.
The Machinists charge that the company is trying to force them to accept a contract similar to one it reached recently with the Teamsters.
The Teamsters at Heileman, who were on strike earlier this summer, honored the Machinists' picket line for two days. But in a rare split of union solidarity, they crossed the line and went back to work last week.
Jefferies, who is with the Machinists' District Council, said he was disappointed the Teamsters did not support the strike, but said the Machinists are adamant about negotiating their own contract.
James Glass, secretary/treasurer of Local 1010 of the Teamsters, said the union's international office ordered members back to work after they were threatened with loss of their jobs.
The same Teamsters local represents the 93 drivers on strike at Bond. The company delivers Coors, Miller, Molson and Rolling Rock beers to liquor stores, restaurants and bars in the city and Baltimore County.
Bond hired permanent replacement workers soon after the strike began. The company says that, even if it reaches an agreement with the Teamsters, union members will not be guaranteed that they can return to work immediately.
Buchsbaum said the replacement drivers are working under the old contract, which has a 45-day probation period. If the new drivers successfully complete probation, they will keep the jobs regardless of the outcome of the strike.
If the strike is settled, union members will be able to apply for any jobs that are open. Union members who cannot be placed will be put on a waiting list and called back to work when vacancies occur.
Buchsbaum said he didn't hold out any hope for a quick resolution. "Negotiations are very, very difficult," he said. "I'm not terribly optimistic."
On the picket line, the striking Teamsters said they were surprised that the company had hired replacement drivers because it had never done so before. Several expressed hope that the company would change its decision and hire them back.
Bond and another Baltimore beer distributor, Winner Distributing in the past have jointly negotiated the truck-driver contracts. The drivers alternated their strikes between Winner and Bond, the employees said.
This year, the distributors proposed to change the jobs of the driver-salesmen. Under the former contract, drivers earned commissions on sales in addition to a salary. The new plan would add sales representatives, and drivers would simply deliver the beer.