Teamsters Local 688 members on strike at Graybar

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By SHERI GASSAWAY
Assistant Editor

ON STRIKE – Teamsters Local 688 members at Graybar at 6202 Aviator Drive in Hazelwood went on strike Feb. 26 after rejecting the company’s final, best offer after months of negotiations. Pay disparity and outrageous health care costs are at the core of the dispute. – Labor Tribune photo

Hazelwood – Teamsters Local 688 members initiated a strike at Graybar last week after rejecting the company’s final, best offer after months of negotiations. The company responded by locking out the employees.

Local 688 Principal Officer Chris Tongay said the 42 hardworking individuals have been integral to Graybar’s success, contributing significantly to the company’s $10.5 billion in revenue. Yet, he said, despite their crucial role in Graybar’s achievements, the Teamsters are excluded from the company’s profit-sharing program – a privilege granted to approximately 9,400 employees nationwide.

‘COLLECTIVE DISSATISFACTION’
“This exclusion raises questions about the fairness of the company’s compensation practices,” said Tongay. “Plus, the current starting pay for these Teamsters is significantly below industry standards in the area. After six months of negotiations, the rejection of Graybar’s final offer signals a collective dissatisfaction among the workforce with the current compensation structure.”

In addition to the pay disparity, employees are mandated to participate in Graybar’s health care plan, resulting in substantial bi-weekly deductions of $500. For someone earning $17.50-an-hour, this amounts to nearly 50 percent of their take-home pay.

UNREASONABLE BURDEN
“The financial burden on these workers is both unreasonable and unsustainable,” said Tongay.The company appears unwilling to provide a living wage to its employees. This refusal to prioritize fair compensation for its workforce, particularly considering the dedication and sacrifices of long-term employees, is a point of contention that has led to the current strike.”

Teamsters Local 688 member David Oliver, who has worked at Graybar for eight years, said it seems as if the company doesn’t want to pay the employees what they are worth.

‘DOESN’T SEEM FAIR’
“It’s tough because we know everyone in this industry is making more than us, and it doesn’t seem fair that we’re working for this company that makes billions of dollars a year,” Oliver said. “We’re not asking for anything out of range or over the moon.”

Local 688 went on strike on Monday, Feb. 26, and since then, members have received support from other unions and Labor allies including IBEW Locals 1 and 1439, Steelworkers Local 1899 and Decorators and Displaymen Local 39.

U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE LUCAS KUNCE, endorsed by the Missouri AFL-CIO, stopped by the Teamsters strike line March 1 to stand in solidarity with striking Teamsters Local 688 members at Graybar. – Labor Tribune photo

On Friday, March 1, Lucas Kunce, who is running to unseat U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, stopped by the strike line to bring doughnuts and Gatorade and to stand with the striking workers. Kunce is endorsed by the Missouri AFL-CIO.

‘FRONT LINE FOR THE MIDDLE CLASS’
“You all are out here on the front line for the Middle Class,” Kunce told workers. “Be proud of yourselves. We have to fight for ourselves and take care of each other, and I want you to know I appreciate what you’re doing and want you to fight and win.”

Local 688 is committed to advocating for the rights and fair treatment of its members, ensuring that they receive compensation commensurate with their contributions to Graybar’s success, Tongay stressed. The strike represents a collective call for equitable wages, inclusion in profit-sharing programs, and acknowledgment of the sacrifices made by long-term employees.

 


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