TRACY, Calif. — Striking workers at a warehouse stocking Safeway goods plan to step up their action today by picketing outside the grocery chain's stores, rather than encouraging shoppers to boycott the grocer.
Many of the 1,600 Teamsters have not formally picketed Safeway because they have no problem with the Pleasanton-based grocery store chain. They are striking against Summit Logistics, the company that runs the warehouse where they work.
All sides had said it would be illegal for union members to picket outside Safeway stores. But Teamsters Local 439 Vice President Sam Rosas approved the action Wednesday, saying that Summit and Safeway are linked closely enough to allow workers to picket outside stores.
Rosas said the decision was made after meetings with legal counsel and members of the Teamsters international organization.
"They've tried that argument before," said Martin Street, president of Summit Logistics.
Safeway officials said the union has no right to picket, and the grocer may ask the courts to block the picketing.
"Safeway views this as a rather desperate ploy here to revive what really is a failed strike against Summit and a failed boycott against Safeway," said David Faustmas, senior vice president of Safeway's labor relations.
Picketing could not only deter more shoppers from buying from Safeway, but it also could keep unionized suppliers from delivering goods and unionized store employees from going to work.
However, the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 1179 has not sanctioned the strike. Union members were told Wednesday not to honor the picket line, said Phil Tucker, union press secretary.
Summit's 400 drivers and 1,200 warehouse workers went on strike Oct. 18, alleging unsafe working conditions, unrealistic productivity standards and a problematic pay system governing drivers.