Associated gave about 1,200 union workers in Kansas City and Springfield, MO, a 60-day layoff notice on Feb. 1, saying it would be using private companies to perform transportation operations as of April 2 unless a new contract could be reached.
The food cooperative says it needs work-rule changes to compete with the likes of Wal-Mart and other national chains. Teamsters officials say they have made proposals to increase efficiency, but those proposals have been rejected. The local unions in Kansas City and Springfield have voted to strike if an agreement is not reached.
"How can [they] negotiate in good faith when they have already given the workers a 60-day notice?" said Beverly Welling, whose husband has worked in the garage of Associated's transportation department for 30 years.
Replacement workers were flown in from around the nation this week to Springfield by Elite Logistics, the company that would take over Associated's warehouse operations if negotiations fail. Union members this week have been picketing two hotels and a warehouse in Springfield where they believe replacement workers are staying and being trained.
Perryman Refrigerated Lines, which uses owner-operator truckers, has a tentative agreement to operate Associated's transportation department in Kansas City, KS.