The union contract expired at midnight Saturday. Outside contractors are now operating the company's warehouse and transportation departments after talks between the company and the union broke down Friday night.
Associated handed out layoff notices to 1,200 workers two months ago after it decided that in order to compete with large chains like Wal-Mart, it must contract its driving and warehouse jobs to outside, non-union contractors.
The Teamsters are calling for a boycott of Associated member stores. According to a Teamsters local representative in Springfield, more than half of shoppers at a Bolivar, MO, store returned to their cars and refused to shop there after Teamsters urged them to boycott.
Police issued traffic tickets to several drivers following AWG's trucks Sunday. Teamsters members are picketing both Kansas City and Springfield warehouses.
The Teamsters also filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing the company of bargaining in bad faith.
The company, however, sees things differently. "Since 1997, we have worked tirelessly to get the union leadership to understand we need to operate more efficiently in order to cut costs for the family-owned and locally owned grocery stores," the cooperative said in a statement. "Incredibly, the latest proposal from the union actually increased AWG's costs by $30 million" over the six-year contract. By using outside contractors, Associated can save $43 million over five years, it said.