WHAT IT MEANS: The Teamsters believe the beer distributor is making replacements permanent to dump older workers and break the union.Here's to a peaceful settlement.
WHAT'S NEXT: No talks between the union and the company are scheduled and Lohr did not respond to calls for comment.
A labor dispute at St. Louis city beer wholesaler Lohr Distributing Co. has turned uglier after Lohr told strikers that they've lost their jobs to permanent replacement workers.
The move complicates any settlement with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents the drivers. They've been on strike for nearly five months.[...]
Though Lohr told the union it wants to continue negotiations, the Teamsters union believes the company is using the strike to get rid of older employers and to break the union.
The privately held wholesaler's president, Ronald Lohr, "has finally shown his true colors," McKay said.
No talks are set. Both sides last met last month.
Two dozen drivers and a dozen part-time workers struck Lohr on May 22 after six months of negotiations failed to resolve differences over health care costs and pay.
Because Lohr is the exclusive distributor of Anheuser-Busch Cos. products within the city of St. Louis, the Teamsters have asked city bars, restaurants and retailers to boycott A-B products distributed within the city limits. However, the Teamsters' strike doesn't affect A-B wholesalers operating in St. Louis County or other counties surrounding the city.
In May, Lohr hired temporary replacement workers to deliver beer. Late Friday afternoon, it informed the union via fax that it had made the replacements permanent, McKay said. Letters also were sent to members.
Friday also marked the birthday of Ronald Lohr, who turned 59. Lohr's switch to permanent replacement workers on his birthday angered the strikers.
The employment of permanent replacement workers means the union now has the added task of negotiating with Lohr to get its members' jobs back.
If Lohr doesn't agree to give back the jobs and the strike ends, the company is required only to hire Teamsters to fill open positions or vacancies created by departing workers.
A key reason for the strike was Lohr's insistence on a new commission structure that would pay drivers less. The new rate would pay drivers only half of their commission on certain deliveries, although the company hasn't told the union which accounts would get the lower rate. The Teamsters are worried the distributor will broadly impose the lower rate, which could greatly reduce their income.
In the past, local businesses have used the threat of permanent replacement workers to end strikes. St. Louis auto dealers took this step in last year's strike by mechanics and other service-department employees.
However, the tactic isn't used often. "I can't recall the last time this has happened" in the St. Louis area, Soutier said.
In other news, US Senator Judd Gregg may have matched 5 numbers in the powerball last night. The amount is worth around $853,000.