Teamster warehouse workers fight boss union busting

By Bernie Senter
November 27, 2023

COMMERCE, Calif. — Six hundred warehouse workers at Smart & Final grocery chain in the distribution center here and in Riverside went on strike Nov. 1.

After Teamsters Local 630 overwhelmingly won union elections there last spring, the company announced it was closing the warehouses down at the end of the year, going to fire all the workers and reopens a new, nonunion facility in nearby Rancho Cucamonga.

Workers, many who have worked there for decades, were told they could reapply for a job.

“They underestimated our solidarity,” Joe Lagano told the Militant. Lagano is on the union negotiating committee and has worked at the distribution center for 32 years. “The company is getting weaker and weaker, and we are getting stronger and stronger.”

Workers have been fighting for their first contract. For months they’ve leafleted grocery stores to win support from customers. “First, we tried five stores. The customers were all for us,” he said. “Then we expanded to 15 and 25 stores. With the help of other Teamsters union locals we’ve hit 100 stores in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Nevada.”

Lagano has worked here long enough to remember when the union was decertified in 1992. “We were younger and we didn’t see the union doing much for us. The company president promised us everything if we voted out the union.” Since then the company has chiseled away “at Sunday premium, bonuses and working conditions. They nickeled and dimed us and here we are 30 years later.”