Renegade Teamsters members prevailed last week, causing injuries and spurring their hesitant local union leaders to resort to a strike instead of continuing contract negotiations with a distributor serving 245 Safeway supermarkets in three western states.

But Summit Logistics, Safeway's warehouse-trucking vendor based at Tracy, Calif., used replacement workers to continue some deliveries through the strike's peak violence in its first two days and is now operating at about 70 percent of its delivery performance to stores in northern California as well as Nevada and Hawaii, Summit president and chief executive Martin Street told StoreAlliance.com in a telephone interview on Monday.

That effort was first set back as many replacements quit after strikers threw bricks, rocks and bottles to smash windows on the buses, vans, cars and trucks crossing picket lines last Wednesday and Thursday, he said.

Street said 22 people, mostly replacement workers, were injured seriously enough to require treatment during the two-day period, and one replacement required surgery after sustaining eye damage and a hearing loss.

Teamsters Local 439 officials did not respond Monday to repeated requests for comment. Many members had deployed to protest and hand out leaflets in a boycott effort at about 40 Safeway stores in the region. Picket lines also continued at the warehouse, Street said.

The Associated Press quoted union members as saying they would rather lose their jobs than continue their chores under the current contract's wages and working conditions.

Summit executives claim they have substantially improved safety conditions and offered reasonable pay raises and continued benefits in a 5-year contract proposal. They also say they're willing to review the disputed productivity standards of the old contract.

"A strike is definitely taking place," Street said Monday, adding that Summit hired about 1,200 replacement workers for the warehouse and 250 replacement truck drivers from out of state.

But that's the result of some determined and speedy re-enlistment and recruiting after the initial violence prompted many replacements to quit, he said, adding that Summit still needs about 150 more warehouse workers.

"There are some (merchandise) shortages beginning to crop up at the stores, but nothing drastic," Street said, noting that Summit delivers both perishable and dry groceries to the Safeway stores.

"All the stores are getting deliveries" although some loads are limited or late, he said. "By Wednesday we ought to be back to full schedule."

Last Wednesday's strike began in confusion as mixed signals were coming from Local 439's leaders, first saying the strike was on for 11 a.m.

Then it was delayed for more negotiations and then reversing again by early afternoon to concede to hundreds of picketing workers already smashing vehicle windows, Street said.

Even a union official's car was attacked trying to cross the picket lines, he said.

More than 50 vehicle windshields have been smashed, other windows were broken, and side windows on six buses for replacement workers were broken, he said.

Since Thursday, one worker has been injured by flying glass from a broken window, and five vehicles used by the replacements have had brake lines cut, Street said.

By WORTH WREN JR.
StoreAlliance.com Staff Writer