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Twin Cities Beer Truck Drivers Strike Over Safety Conditions

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A strike by beer truck drivers in Minneapolis may make it hard for you to find your favorite beer.

Ninety-three drivers represented by Teamsters Local 792 are on strike.

They accuse J.J. Taylor Distributing of Minnesota of ignoring the safety concerns of workers.

"These are the guys that deliver their beer on a regular basis and they're not asking for money, they're not asking for big wages...what they are asking for is safety on the job," said Teamsters' Edward Reynoso.

He says J.J. Taylor Distributing wants to redo all its routes, combining keg and package deliveries.

He says the company calls it streamlining, the union considers it a safety issue.

"They are expected to pick up a 175 pound keg by themselves, and historically they've provided helpers and they've decided to change their whole delivery system to where these guys wouldn't have these helpers," Reynoso said.

The company says it provides mechanical devices for moving product from truck to customers that reduce strain and stress.

It says none of the drivers are asked to dead lift a keg.

It hired an out of state company to handle its routes and security.

"No Minnesota workers in these trucks whatsoever," Reynoso said.

Union workers block their path when they can. They are also getting support from business owners they deliver to.

"I built my business with working people," said Marv Koppen, the owner of Party Time Liquors in St. Paul. "It's working people who have sworn to me all these years I've been here -- 38 years -- and when they go on strike I have never taken a delivery."

Koppen is trying to convince others to follow his lead by supporting the union, by not drinking the beers J.J. Taylor distributes.

Members of Teamsters Local 792 say it will continue to man the picket lines until J.J. Taylor Distributing decides to go back to the negotiating table to discuss safety issues with the membership.

J.J. Taylor says competition from wines and spirits has put pressure on beer sales, forcing them to be more productive and deliver products to customers more efficiently.

The union says the company's need to streamline should not be at the expense of employee safety.

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