After one full week, the strike continues by about one-third of the work force at Hood River Distillers.
Twenty-five workers are taking turns on the picket lines at HRD’s headquarters and main plant, on Riverside Drive, and at the nearby warehouse facility on Portway Avenue.
While the union and company have essentially agreed on a wage package, benefits and retirement language are the main sticking points. Local 670 represents 25 of the 70 people who work for HRD. The strike began at 8 a.m. on May 6.
“We’ll stay out as long as it takes,” union secretary-treasure Michael Beranbaum said.
Chief operating officer Erica Mitchell acknowledged that some trucks left the plant empty the first few days of the strike, but replacement workers will be hired until the contract is settled.
In a statement from Teamsters Local 670, Beranbaum said, “Workers at Hood River Distillers, a producer and bottler of popular brands of alcohol, including Pendleton Whiskey and Aviation Gin and more recently hand sanitizer, were forced to strike as their employer improperly implemented a labor agreement on them with a lesser medical plan than they have enjoyed for decades while at the same time shifting a larger cost of the medical plan onto the employees.
“Throughout the 13 months of negotiations, the company has continued to flout federal labor law with its take it or leave it style of bargaining focused on weakening the longstanding protections and benefits enjoyed by the workers,” said Beranbaum.
Management responded it has been bargaining in good faith and has filed its own unfair practices complaint.
“We reached out first to use a federal mediator in February,” said Mitchell, who is also member of the bargaining team. “They refused, and refused to meet with a mediator, and we had another meeting and after that no progress. They said go with a mediator but only if you use a mediator which is face to face, which is impossible at this time, because of COVID.” She said the company offered to meet via Zoom and offered several dates to do so.
“We believe our offer is fair and we have filed our own unfair complaint for their delay of bargaining,” on April 10, Mitchell said.
Beranbaum said, “This strike was not necessary, the employer refused to agree to the union’s request for a federal mediator, at the first available date, to meet in person with the parties to assist us in reaching a fair settlement.
“We believe we provide family wage across all functions their wages are high among other comparable jobs in the area,” Mitchell said. “It is a very fair contract, we need to be fiscally responsible.” She said the company wants to make the 401K language match that of the package provided to non-union workers at the plant.