Workers ‘Proud Beecher’s Cheese Will Be Union Cheese’ After Voting To Join Teamsters Local 553

Workers at the artisanal shop in the Flatiron District of New York City voted last week to join Teamsters Local 553 — joining some 4,000 other Teamster members in an array of industries from trucking to dairy production.
Ginger Adams Otis
November 25, 2017

The inflatable union rat used by labor groups to shame bad employers will get no cheese at Beecher’s.

Workers at the artisanal shop in the Flatiron District voted last week to join Teamsters Local 553 — joining some 4,000 other Teamster members in an array of industries from trucking to dairy production.

The Seattle-based cheese company employs 24 people in its shop at Broadway and 20th St.

The election was overseen by the National Labor Relations Board and included cheesemakers and equipment maintenance employees.

Local 553 said the next step will be to negotiate a union contract with Beecher’s, and hope to raise wages and improve health coverage.

“We love the work we do, but need this to be a good job too,” Riley Peters, a Beecher’s worker, said after the union vote.

“When you gain experience and take on new responsibilities, your wage should reflect that. That is one of the things we want to address in our union contract. We are proud that Beecher’s cheese will be union cheese going forward,” the 28-year-old said.

Beecher’s workers began their campaign for a union in September with the Teamsters.

After distributing flyers and organizing with their coworkers, they signed union authorization cards and petitioned for a government supervised election.

The vote was 14-6.

“This is a moment when workers across the country know they have to band together to protect themselves,” Teamsters organizer Michael Gatto said.

“We look forward to productive negotiations with the company to reach a fair agreement,” he added.

It opened its New York location in 2011 — and sources its hormone-and-additive free milk from Holstein and Jersey cow dairies just south of Albany.

Peters said the company didn’t try and prevent the workers from becoming Teamsters once it became clear the union was trying to organize store employees.

“The company understood we were serious and didn’t interfere with a fair vote about whether to form a union,” said Peters. “With our new union, we will work with Beecher’s to create family-supporting jobs.”

Representatives from Beecher’s couldn’t be reached for comment by deadline.

Riley said the main issue that brought Beecher’s New York employees to the Teamsters was concern about paid time off.

“A raise in wages would be nice, we just want a fair shake, really. The biggest thing for us would be paid vacation, holiday and sick time,” he said.

The New York production facility operates 22 hours a day. The first worker is on site at 2 a.m. to unload the tanker delivering a fresh supply of upstate milk.

The last production facility worker leaves about midnight, Riley said. It’s a tremendously physical job, he said.

“Guys work in 10-hour shifts and are constantly lifting cheese blocks that weigh up to 65 pounds,” Riley explained.

Just before the workers voted to join the Teamsters, the company decided to give employees three paid holidays, he added.

“They gave us Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day, so if you are off you still get paid and if you work you get holiday pay and a comp day, which is a great start,” Riley said.

Currently Beecher’s offers its workers one hour of paid time off for every 30 hours worked. It’s the minimum allowed by state law.
After workers organized, the company announced that as of Jan. 1, it will change the policy to one hour of paid time off for every 26 hours worked, Riley said.

“We are proud that Beecher’s cheese will be union cheese going forward,” the 28-year-old said.

Beecher’s workers began their campaign for a union in September with the Teamsters.

After distributing fliers and organizing with their coworkers, they signed union authorization cards and petitioned for a government supervised election.

The vote was 14-6.

“This is a moment when workers across the country know they have to band together to protect themselves,” Teamsters organizer Michael Gatto said.

“We look forward to productive negotiations with the company to reach a fair agreement,” he added.

Beecher’s Handmade Cheese first launched in Seattle’s famous Pike Market in 2003.

It opened its New York location in 2011 — and sources its hormone-and-additive free milk from Holstein and Jersey cow dairies just south of Albany.

Peters said the company didn’t try and prevent the workers from becoming Teamsters once it became clear the union was trying to organize store employees.

“The company understood we were serious and didn’t interfere with a fair vote about whether to form a union,” said Peters. “With our new union, we will work with Beecher’s to create family-supporting jobs.”

Representatives from Beecher’s couldn’t be reached for comment by deadline.

Riley said the main issue that brought Beecher’s New York employees to the Teamsters was concern about paid time off.

“A raise in wages would be nice, we just want a fair shake, really. The biggest thing for us would be paid vacation, holiday and sick time,” he said.

The New York production facility operates 22 hours a day. The first worker is on site at 2 a.m. to unload the tanker delivering a fresh supply of upstate milk.

The last production facility worker leaves about midnight, Riley said. It’s a tremendously physical job, he said.

“Guys work in 10-hour shifts and are constantly lifting cheese blocks that weigh up to 65 pounds,” Riley explained.

Just before the workers voted to join the Teamsters, the company decided to give employees three paid holidays, he added.

“They gave us Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day, so if you are off you still get paid and if you work you get holiday pay and a comp day, which is a great start,” Riley said.

Currently Beecher’s offers its workers one hour of paid time off for every 30 hours worked. It’s the minimum allowed by state law

After workers organized, the company announced that as of Jan. 1, it will change the policy to one hour of paid time off for every 26 hours worked, Riley said.

November 29, 2017