Officials said layoffs would be minimal - by attrition - to get County financial help; turns out to be a lie
By ED FINKELSTEIN
Schnucks Markets will destroy the lives 190 Teamster families currently working at its Bridgeton warehouse when the company opens a new 915,000-square-foot distribution center at the North Park Industrial Park in Kinloch later this year.
The company recently informed Teamsters Local 688 that it would layoff 190 of the some 300 Teamsters now working at the Bridgeton facility. The company said it will bring in a notoriously non-union international logistics firm – XPO Logistics, apparently a brokerage company that, according to its website, uses “thousands of independent fleet owners, solo drivers and teams” to carry out its delivery services.
This despite the fact that company representatives in discussions with St. Louis County over the past two years to obtain financial aid for the $100 million expansion said that there would be some, but very few layoffs, the Labor Tribune learned. Schnucks had threatened to move its entire warehousing operation to Illinois and was using that as a subtle threat to obtain County financial help.
Schnucks will continue with its Bridgeton warehouse operations for now. Local 688 has a contract that runs through next year. Local 688 currently has some 300 members working at the facility. Additionally, Teamsters Local 618 and 610 also have members working there as mechanics and drivers, respectively.
After the company's announcement, Local 688 began informational handbilling at Schnucks stores to inform the public about the firings. The handbills provide the facts about what they are calling the “greediest store in town,” a play on their advertising slogan, “the friendliest stores in town.”
“Since the first indications about the new facility, we’ve had four meetings with CEO Todd Schnuck to determine how we could help with the expansion, and not once was the issue of layoffs brought up,” said Teamsters Local 688 Secretary-Treasurer Mike Goebel.
“Given our efforts, along with other unions, to support this company from unfair competition over the years, especially from Walmart, this is a stab-in-the-back,” Goebel said.
When Schnucks first announced the need for a new warehousing facility in 2014 (its 570,000-square-foot Bridgeton warehouse was built in 1971), it made known that it was considering an Illinois site. That launched a series of meetings with St. Louis County officials determined to keep the warehousing operations in the County.
‘WE WERE MISLED’
County Councilmen Mike O’Mara and Pat Dolan met with Schnucks officials several times. Both noted that nothing was said about laying off huge numbers of workers but there were comments made about the possibility of moving to Illinois.
“We wanted to help in order to save those jobs,” O’Mara said. “They said they might have to phase out some jobs, but nothing in the magnitude of what they announced last week,” adding, “we were assured they would keep jobs here. It’s obvious we were misled.”
“They said there would be some jobs cut because of more automation, but those would go by attrition. Noting was said about mass layoffs,” Dolan said.
That assertion was backed up by a report on KMOV radio on Aug. 4, 2015 announcing the new construction: “Schnucks is investing almost $100 million into a new distribution warehouse in NorthPark, which will retain 400 jobs.”