Minnesota Beer Distributor Workers Continue Strike Over Safety Concerns

Delivery drivers and warehouse workers stand outside the J.J. Taylor Distribution Company of Minnesota (Photo: Teamsters Local 792 / @Teamsters792)Delivery drivers and warehouse workers strike outside the J.J. Taylor Distribution Company of Minnesota on May 10, 2018. (Photo: @Teamsters792)

The largest beer distributor in Minnesota, J.J. Taylor, has recently tried to save money by incorporating two-person keg delivery routes into one-person packaged beer deliveries. Drivers and warehouse workers responded to the changes with a strike that began with a picket line on April 9.

Under the proposed new route system, Teamsters Local 792 union spokesperson Edward Reynoso said the company’s 93 drivers would have to deliver 50 to 60 kegs a day, weighing 170 pounds each. Currently, several delivery routes are exclusive to kegs and are staffed with a driver and a helper. Those routes would be phased out, merging keg deliveries with all other individual driver routes. Many of the delivery locations are in downtown areas with narrow and sometimes slippery steps, as drivers are often required to deliver kegs into basements of restaurants, bars and liquor stores.

“We believe this puts our workers in peril of obvious injuries,” Reynoso told Truthout. He noted the drivers receive well-paid wages and benefits, but those are not worth the expense of workers’ health. “We would like to sit down and find common ground to work together on this new delivery system and for the company to allow us to provide input on what we feel is safe and unsafe.”

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) advises “if kegs must be lifted manually, use two employees whenever possible,” on its website of guidelines for beverage delivery ergonomics.

The union and J.J. Taylor have disputed the reason for the strikes, with the beer distributor claiming the strike is over worker seniority, and that safety concerns weren’t brought up in recent contract negotiations.

“The company was quite surprised,” said J.J. Taylor’s Vice President of Human Resources David Miller. “We are sincerely disappointed and continue to be in dialogue,…

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