On the Picket Line

Chicago-area drivers fight for safety at Breakthru Beverage

By Naomi Craine
July 18, 2022

CICERO, Ill. — More than 100 delivery drivers for alcohol wholesaler Breakthru Beverage, members of Teamsters Local 710, walked out June 13. The central issues were “safety on the job, increasing load sizes, the inability of members to use their earned personal time, and retirement benefits,” the union says. On July 1 the union announced workers had ratified a new contract.

“They’re loading more onto the trucks and pushing us to stay out longer,” shop steward Brian Hill told the Militant on the picket line June 28. “We’ve been working a lot of 12- to 14-hour days. If they’d hire more guys and the load size went down, we could enjoy life outside of Breakthru Beverage.”

Workers are supposed to have a number of personal days they can take off, but “they say they don’t have the people and so we can’t use them,” Hill explained.

“This is a physical job, it wears and tears on your body, but they don’t appreciate us,” Jay Davis told the Militant. “I’d also like a raise that keeps up with inflation.” Davis was hired full time two years ago after working three years as a temporary driver. It’s his first time in a union, and on strike.  

Several strikers said they also worry about safety. “We’ve had four drivers in the last year robbed, two at gunpoint,” shop steward Jimmy Drews told the Chicago Tribune. “Even afterwards, they did not have one meeting or make one move to do anything to secure our workplace environment.”

The drivers’ contract expired in March, but they continued working under an extension. They overwhelmingly rejected a tentative agreement April 29, and carried out the three-week strike after negotiations broke down.