Bond drivers OK contract, ending strike

September 14, 1991|By Michael K. Burns

With no guarantee that they still have jobs, beer truck drivers for Bond Distributing Co. have voted 64-10 to ratify a new three-year contract that ends their five-week strike.

The new Teamsters union contract, covering 93 drivers and warehouse workers at the Southwest Baltimore firm, goes into effect Monday. It permits the company to eliminate sales functions of drivers, using salesmen to take orders while paying drivers a partial commission.

But the crucial issue was how many of the striking union members would be permanently replaced by workers hired during the strike.

"We have few, if any, vacancies," said Norman R. Buchsbaum, a lawyer for Bond. Returning strikers will go on a preferential hiring list, but replacements cannot be fired as long as their work is satisfactory and they pass a 45-day probationary period. Bond's decision to quickly hire replacements for strikers shocked the union and hardened the strikers' bargaining position.

Bond officials said they were equally surprised by the union's sudden decision to strike while contract negotiations were progressing.

Because Winner Distributing Co., its major beer competitor, was not struck by the Teamsters union, Bond had to hire replacements or face the loss of its market, Mr. Buchsbaum said.

"This isn't the way we wanted to end it, but members felt they had to do something to get their jobs back," said James Glass, secretary-treasurer of Local 1010, of Thursday's vote.

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