New York — The battle between FreshDirect and a local Teamsters office is heating up.
Late last month Teamsters Local 805 here filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board over the firing of two employees by the online grocery retailer, alleging that the company has moved to quash workers' attempts to unionize and that it fired the two workers, Lotero Gomez and Lonnie Powell, for expressing pro-union sentiments. One wore a union T-shirt to work and another appeared in a union flier, according to Sandy Pope, president of the Teamsters local.
Although FreshDirect's truck drivers last year joined United Food and Commercial Workers Local 348, its warehouse workers are as yet unorganized by any labor group.
Pope told SN that the union is also accusing FreshDirect of unfair surveillance of employees. She said supervisors surreptitiously observe FreshDirect workers in the area around the warehouse to see if they are meeting with union representatives. She also alleged that the base pay and benefits at the warehouse are subpar for the area.
“They are claiming that they are not doing any anti-union activities, but they clearly are,” she said.
Jim Moore, senior vice president, business development, FreshDirect, told SN that both workers were actually fired for cause — one for a well-documented history of absenteeism and another for being intoxicated.
“This is not really about FreshDirect, it's not about FreshDirect's workers, it's about the fact that the Teamsters and the [UFCW union] are fighting for the dollars that are represented by our employees, and this was a little bit of an attempt to show some strength by the Teamsters,” he said.
A spokesman for the UFCW local that represents the drivers could not be reached for comment.
“I think what happens in a lot of cases, and what I know happened in this case, is that when workers get fired, the unions say, ‘Come talk to us,’” Moore said.
Pope said she believes workers at other food warehouses the Teamsters represent, such as one operated by White Rose Foods, earn a higher hourly wage and have better benefits.
“We've had a lot of interest from FreshDirect workers,” she said.