2/5/08

Labor-state Teamsters to take dues hit

A grocery distribution warehouse in Central Islip (NY) that services Waldbaum's and A&P stores throughout lower New York state will close March 28, according to a union official negotiating severance terms for workers.

The facility, which initially operated decades ago as a Waldbaum's warehouse, employs approximately 400 people, said Kevin McCaffrey, president of Teamsters Local 707, which represents 220 warehouse workers. Another 90 unionized workers, including truck drivers, and about 80 non-union management and support staff also will be affected, he said.

The facility is operated by C&S Wholesale Grocers, a Keene, N.H.-based company that in 2005 took over warehousing and distribution functions for the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., the Montvale, N.J. company that owns Waldbaum's and A&P stores. A&P closed warehouses in Edison, N.J. and the Bronx when C&S took over distribution in 2005. At the time, A&P said it planned to focus on retail operations, primarily in the Northeast, and it divested its Midwest presence.

Spokespersons for A&P and C&S did not return numerous calls seeking comment.

McCaffrey said C&S officials notified workers and the union last week of the plan to shutter the Central Islip warehouse, saying it would save the company some $7 million annually. The unions and C&S had been negotiating a new contract at last year's end.

One long-time employee said workers took the news hard. "We were in shock," said Joe Mullady of Holtsville, who worked at the facility for 27 years, most recently as an inventory checker. Mullady said he will retire, but most co-workers "are scrambling to find jobs in a dying industry."

McCaffrey said the company will service New York stores from warehouses in Pennsylvania and Connecticut. He said the replacement distribution facilities use non-union workers.

McCaffrey said given economic conditions and the job market he doesn't expect displaced workers will easily find new jobs. "I don't see them going anywhere," he said. "It's not like there's 200 jobs out there."

Great Atlantic & Pacific, with annual sales of $9.4 billion, operates 456 stores under the A&P, Waldbaum's, A&P Super Foodmart, The Food Emporium, Super Fresh, Pathmark and Food Basics banners. In addition to New York, the stores are located in Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

(newsday.com)

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