Sudden pending layoff of 190 at Schnucks warehouse gets strong public reaction, support for the union
By ED FINKELSTEIN
“The human toll on the lives of 190 Teamsters families is completely overlooked by Todd Schnuck in his drive to make even more money, ignoring the human impact on real people, the very same people that not only have helped the company grow and prosper, but are also their customers,” said Mike Goebel, secretary-treasurer and chief executive officer of Teamsters Local 688 that represents the Schnucks warehousemen who stand to lose their jobs this summer when a modernized warehouse opens.
The union is in its third week of a massive community education campaign, not a call for a boycott, designed to bring the plight of its members to Schnucks customers.
And is it working. Social media lit up immediately on Saturday, April 9, when the union began handbilling at four Schnucks stores, a program that continues weekends throughout the metro area.
One Teamster at the warehouse responded to the Facebook posts:
“Thanks everyone for your support. I'm one off those 200 people and because of u I have hope,” said Khyle Walters.
WORKERS SPEAK OUT
The reactions of the men and women being laid off were more direct, seeing this move by Schnucks as a heartless move, something the company’s founders – Ed and Don Schnuck – would never condone.
FOUNDERS LAMENT: “If their Mom and Pop were here, they wouldn’t even consider this,” said Tave Eaton, the wife of 23-year Teamster Paul Eaton. “These men put their blood, sweat and tears into their jobs, worked their asses off; most of them are too old to get retrained. What are they going to do?”
GREED: “Pure greed, there’s no other way to put it,” said Jerry Orr, 54, a 26-year Schnucks veteran with a 14-year old at home. “I gave them all I had, every day. My body is hurting; many of the guys are broken down from years of lifting. I’ve worked through injury, sickness, snow storms and this is your reward for those years of service?”
SLAP IN THE FACE: Jared Patrick, 49, a 17-year employee with three grown children and supporting a five-year old granddaughter, said he’s “shocked, angry and disappointed. I put my heart into this job. It’s frustrating to be put into this situation. It’s a real slap in the face.”
TO LOSE HIS HOME? Jordan Ruger, 24 with a seven-year-old, a seven-month-old and is the guardian of his 16-year-old sister, expressed his real fear of now losing his home purchased just last month. “I have a family to support. Where am I going to find a 40-hour job so that we can survive?” he asked. He drives 80 miles a day just to get to and from work.
SCARED: “No one is happy about this, I’m scared about the future,” said Tim Earle, 26, at eight years with Schnucks one of the younger men expressing their concern. “It’s heavy work. I lift about 30,000 pounds a night. And as a “casual worker” I have to show up but if they don’t have work for me, I get sent home with only two hours pay.
DISGUSTING: “We’re all surprised, still in disbelief. Darren’s worked there for more than 25 years and then this is thrown in his face! It’s disgusting,” said Susann Adkins, wife of Chief Shop Steward Darren Adkins. “I hope they can get this settled so the guys can keep their jobs.”
BETRAYED: “Our members feel betrayed,” added Steward Jim Barrett. “The company made a lot of profit off us, enough to build their new warehouse. We’re good enough to make money for them for the past 45 years, not good enough to be paid by keeping our jobs.”
YEARS IN PLANNING, NO WARNING
Local 688 members’ jobs are being outsourced to a non-union, out-of-state warehouse vendor hired to operate the new Schnucks warehouse being built in north St. Louis. The current plant was built in 1971.
Local 688’s Business Representative Mike Schlueter said the company had to know what they were going to do years in advance but provided no advance warning about the massive layoffs.
“They didn’t have the guts to tell us directly. They sent a letter to the management guys and suddenly copies of that letter showed up on the tables in the break room.”
Over the past two years Local 688 has tried to talk with Schnucks management about their intentions. But the company only agreed to four meetings: two in 2014, one in 2015 and then the final meeting April 4 when it announced the massive layoffs.
Members of the St. Louis County Council, when in discussions with Schnucks about their threat to move the warehouse to Illinois unless they received financial help, were told there would be some layoffs, but by attrition, nothing about this mass layoff and bringing in an out-of-state, non-union company, the Labor Tribune was told, as reported last week.
‘PURE UNION BUSTING’
“This is pure union-busting,” said Goebel, reiterating his earlier point made previously in the Labor Tribune that for the past dozen years Local 688 and the other unions at Schnucks have worked together with Schnucks, Dierbergs and Shop ‘N Save to fight the non-union food invasion of our area, including massive lobbying in Jefferson City.
“Now Todd Schnuck is engaging in the same tactics we were all fighting,” Goebel stressed.
“This is a greedy company wanting to reduce the standard of living for their loyal, hard working employees. It’s a betrayal of the humane concepts their father and uncle brought to Schnucks, concepts that helped the company grow and prosper. Ed and Don Schnuck have to be spinning in their graves.”