N.J. Teamsters anger members here Super Fresh warehouse is picketed here, though local union was opposed

November 26, 1998|By Kristine Henry | Kristine Henry,SUN STAFF

About two dozen Teamsters hopped on a blue bus in Philadelphia yesterday and headed to Baltimore to picket the Super Fresh distribution center on Hollins Ferry Road. They were protesting the closure of a Super Fresh center in New Jersey earlier this month that resulted in 100 layoffs.

They were unwelcome guests.

Maryland's Joint Council 62, which represents 19,000 Teamsters, went on record earlier this month saying it didn't want the pickets to come to Baltimore. Their decision was appealed, a hearing was held at headquarters in Washington on Nov. 18, and on Tuesday the Baltimoreans found out they'd been overruled.

Four shop stewards who belong to Local 570, which represents 209 Super Fresh warehouse employees in Baltimore, resigned in protest yesterday.

"They felt abandoned by the position people were put in," said Charles Stansburge, the head of the local union.

The pickets seemed to have little impact on warehouse operations. They arrived at 11: 20 a.m. then left at 2: 25 p.m., just minutes before the arrival of a new shift at 2: 30. No warehouse workers were forced to decide to cross the picket line, although Stansburge said they probably would have.

"Our people have expressed anger at being put in a position where the international could overturn our position," he said. "They have been very loud. I think zero percent [of our members] would have been affected by those pickets."

Some trucking services were disrupted, said Denis Taylor, president of Local 355, which represents 5,000 truck drivers, including 86 at Penske Logistics who are contracted to drive for Super Fresh.

Taylor said his members wouldn't cross the picket line, although they continued work at Penske, which is just across the street from the Super Fresh warehouse.

"My men would like to work, but they will honor the picket line," he said. "[The pickets] were heckling everybody who came by. They were saying things you are not able to print."

Thirty-five Baltimore County police officers -- outnumbering the pickets -- were on hand.

"They were boisterous when they arrived, but when we got on the same page with them and told them what we expected, it was a peaceful protest," said Cpl. Mark Parry.

No one was available for comment at Teamsters headquarters or at Local 169, which represents the workers in New Jersey. It is unclear whether they plan to return to the Baltimore warehouse.

A spokesman for Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. Inc., which owns Super Fresh, said the picketers caused "minimal disruption."

"As far as I know it hasn't affected warehouse operations," said Andrew Carrano, the spokesman.

Stansburge, who has headed the local for 27 years, said that although he must technically support the pickets, he thinks their "reason for striking is the most irresponsible I've ever seen."

The closure was justified, he said, and if the union disrupts business too much, Super Fresh will likely allow itself to be acquired or it will hire an outside firm to handle its distribution.

"If we thought [Super Fresh was] playing games, we would have been the first ones out there," he said.

Pub Date: 11/26/98

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