LANDOVER, Md. (FNS) -- The Teamsters strike against Giant Food here entered its third week, producing spot inventory shortages, but the chain's strategy of using outside suppliers to supply its 174 stores largely appears to be working.
As of late last week, the labor action involving Teamsters Local 639 and Giant remained unresolved. The two have been wrangling over the contract of 320 union drivers who ferry goods to stores from Giant's two distribution centers, and from private-label vendors.
With the warehouses closed, putting about 2,200 workers temporarily out of work, and factory-sourced deliveries curtailed, Giant has relied on wholesalers Supervalu, Reading, Pa.; Richfood, Mechanicsville, Va.; and Burris, Salisbury, Md., for store deliveries.
In instances where Giant's private-label goods have been depleted, wholesalers have made substitutions.
In some stores there have been periodic inventory gaps. For example, at a District of Columbia location, there was no quart-size milk or frozen spinach for several days last week. Giant stores without in-store bakeries have bare displays.
A spokesman for Giant declined to say if there has been any effect on sales by the strike and said it's too early to calculate the cost to the company of substituting deliveries. He said holiday traffic in the stores has been good.
"We're doing fine and all our stores remain open," he said.
The contract for Giant's 320 drivers expired Dec. 14. Teamster officials have said the strike was called because Giant won't raise their hourly wages to $21.05, from $19.07, during the next five years, not counting benefits. Giant's position is that when benefits and a proposed $500 annual bonus are figured in, truckers' wages would increase to $27.14.
Teamsters have posted pickets at about two dozen stores. The union has also sought to widen the walkout by inviting Giant's 13,000 United Food and Commercial Union-member workers to strike in sympathy. As of late last week, UFCW leadership in Washington was weighing the request. Officials from the Teamsters and the UFCW were not available for comment.
The Teamsters local has also asked its brethren driving trucks for the stop-gap wholesale suppliers to strike in sympathy. The outside drivers' unions are mulling the request.
John Steger, president of the Teamsters local, said the dispute centers on Giant's desire to use more direct-store deliveries by wholesalers, starting with produce. He disputes Giant officials' assurances that existing drivers will continue to have job security. "If the produce works, they'll try direct delivery with meat and then frozen foods," he said.