A strike by Wegmans workers in Rochester does not seem imminent, and officials from the supermarket chain said they are taking steps to make sure a work stoppage wouldn’t affect its Buffalo stores if one did occur.
The more than 900 Wegmans workers affected by the contract dispute are truck drivers, warehouse workers and mechanics who do everything from maintaining the fleet of trucks to keeping the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems in order.
Teamster warehouse workers at Wegmans’ Rochester distribution center select and load products onto trucks that supply Buffalo-area stores. Teamsters union members drive those trucks to Wegmans’ 10 stores here. It’s not clear who would perform those tasks if unionized workers did not.
“In the event of a strike, we have a comprehensive plan in place to ensure that our stores remain open for business without interruption,” said Jo Natale, a Wegmans spokeswoman. “We are prepared to mobilize that plan immediately, if necessary, and would do whatever it takes so that we can continue to offer incredible service to our customers.”
A Teamsters spokesman declined to speculate on how a strike might affect Buffalo stores.
“I don’t want to give the impression that we’re going on strike, because that’s not the case yet,” said Kevin McIntosh, a business agent for the Teamsters Local 118 in Rochester. “If we have to, we will. That’s what workers voted for. But no one takes a strike lightly.”
Members of the Teamsters Local 118 voted unanimously Monday to reject what Wegmans said was its “final” contract offer. That “no” vote gave the union authority to call a strike at any time, but Teamsters showed up for work as scheduled Tuesday.
McIntosh said the Teamsters’ next step is to “get into our strategy room and see what our next move is going to be.”
Wegmans and the Teamsters have been in negotiations since March. The latest point of dispute involves a change in health care coverage, compensation and retirement options. Both sides have accused each other of coercing employees.
The dispute moved into the public spotlight Sunday, when Teamsters officials hired a plane to fly over Ralph Wilson Stadium, trailing an anti-Wegmans message during the Buffalo Bills game.