CLEVELAND — Congressman Dennis Kucinich has gotten behind embattled truck drivers and warehouse workers fighting to recover jobs from a union-busting beer distributor.
When Superior Beverage took over the delivery contracts in the Cleveland area for Coors, Great Lakes, Iron City, Molson, Fosters and some smaller brands on Jan. 7, it refused to hire all but six of the 42 workers, members of Teamsters Local 293, who had worked for the previous company, many for 30 years or more.
This marked the first time in 75 years that any nonunion beer has been distributed to bars, restaurants and stores in Cuyahoga County. The union called for a boycott of the brands handled by Superior and invited Kucinich to attend its Feb. 21 meeting.
Kucinich, whose father was a truck driver and member of a Teamsters local for 35 years told the workers that he had “Teamster blood flowing” in his heart and understood well from his own life experience the pride that drivers take in their work, the struggle they face and the need for unions to protect the well-being of workers and their families.
“I am proud to stand with you in this fight,” he said. “I have written to Superior about this situation and am ready to do whatever it takes to win back your jobs.”
Kucinich said that he is also the target of an anti-labor corporate campaign seeking to defeat him in the March 4 Democratic primary.
“The seat I hold in Congress is not my seat. I only hold it in trust. This seat belongs to you, to the Teamsters, to the labor movement, to the working men and women of the 10th Congressional District and the whole country.”
Kucinich appealed for the Teamsters’ help to stop the effort to silence his voice on behalf of labor in Congress and received a standing ovation. Afterwards Max Zemla, the local’s principal officer read from the list of corporations that have donated nearly $500,000 to Kucinich’s main opponent, Cleveland Councilman Joseph Cimperman.
In letters and meetings of area unions and the North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor, Zemla has appealed for support for the boycott, especially of the notoriously anti-union Coors and Great Lakes, a popular local brewery.
The list of boycotted products is spreading throughout the county and already 250 bars and restaurants have removed tap handles of the targeted brands, Zemla said. When a beer is not on tap, sales decline sharply.
“These knowledgeable and experienced warehousemen, drivers and salespersons have lost their jobs and had their lives and their families’ lives disrupted, apparently solely because of their union membership,” Zemla stated in a letter to the Cleveland labor movement.
The danger of nonunion deliveries is serious, Zemla said, adding that Superior is searching for a location to build a “mega-warehouse” to provide beer to all of northern Ohio. It is expanding operations as far south as Columbus and has tried to break Teamster Local 377 representing its workers in Youngstown.
Zemla said Kucinich had always stood up for workers and needed to be re-elected to work for repeal of the striker-replacement law allowing companies to issue permanent lay-offs to workers forced on strike and to replace them with scabs. The Teamsters are asking unions to send letters to Joe McHenry, executive vice president of Superior, 425 Victoria Rd., Youngstown, OH 44515.
Rick Nagin is the Ohio correspondent for the People's Weekly World, www.pww.org.