Beer truck drivers picket, strike in protest of unsafe working conditions

Beer truck drivers have gone on strike in Minnesota this week as a protest against unsafe working conditions.

The 93 J.J. Taylor Distributing employees, represented by the Teamsters Local 792, took to picketing the J.J. Taylor Distributing parking lot in Minneapolis, Minnesota this week, citing safety concerns brought about by the company’s recent restructuring of its delivery routes.

According to Minnesota CBS Local, the route restructuring, which J.J. Taylor refers to as “streamlining,” combines keg and package deliveries and, J.J. Distributing employees say, forces drivers to deadlift 175 pound kegs on their own, posing a safety hazard.

“They are expected to pick up a 175 pound keg by themselves,” explained Edward Reynoso, Teamsters representative.

“Historically they’ve [the company] provided helpers, but they’ve decided to change their whole delivery system to where these guys wouldn’t have these helpers,” he continued.

“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.”

J.J. Taylor Distributing has countered their employees complaints by providing “mechanical devices” to assist drivers in moving the product from the truck to the customer, but the drivers and other local business owners in support of the truck drivers, say it’s still not enough.

“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 supported me all these years I’ve been here — 38 years — and when they go on strike I have never taken a delivery,” Koppen continued, explaining how he hopes to get other local businesses to follow his lead by refusing to order the beers delivered by J.J. Taylor Distributing until the company meets its driver’s demands.

The company says the reason for the recent route restructuring is due to increasing competition from wine and liquor sales, putting pressure on beer sales and forcing the company to find a way to be more efficient. However, the truck drivers say that employee safety should not have to be compromised just to combat a competitive market.

Since the start of the protest, J.J. Taylor has hired an out of state company to handle its delivery routes in order to keep their product moving. The protesting truck drivers say that they will continue to picket the J.J. Taylor parking lot until the company agrees to continue negotiations.