Local news roundups

Energizer Battery Plans to Close Plants in Fennimore & Portage

Energizer Rayovac has two production plants represented by Teamsters 695. Energizer is planning on “consolidating”, closing the Wisconsin plants and moving production to non-union plants in North Carolina. “Once they’re closed, then Rayovac Wisconsin is done,” says worker John Jerome.


PORTAGE, Wis. — Union representatives set up outside the Energizer plant in Portage Thursday, a week after the International Brotherhood of Teamsters claimed the battery manufacturer plans to close the facility and another in Fennimore.

As uncertainty swirls within both communities, John Jerome, a longtime employee at the Portage plant, is concerned about what might happen to him and hundreds of his coworkers.

Energizer has not confirmed plans for the two plants, but Jerome said he and other workers got a message from the company that it wants to consolidate plants. The Teamsters union has said Energizer wants to close both plants, moving some operations to a non-union plant in North Carolina and other jobs overseas in the process.

Portage and Fennimore mark the Wisconsin-born company’s last two footholds in the state, and, “Once they’re closed,” Jerome said, “then Rayovac Wisconsin’s done.”

River of Melted Butter at Associated Milk, Portage

On January 2, 2023, a fire at the Associated Milk Producers Inc. in Portage, Wisconsin, created another river of melted butter. Luckily, NBC15 reports that there were no injuries due to the fire, and firefighters managed to extinguish the blaze by the night of January 3.

However, the Wisconsin State Farmer reports that this time, firefighters were unable to keep the melted butter out of the urban waterways, and the river of butter spilled into the Portage Canal. Although 99% of the melted butter was contained, a patch of melted butter roughly 30 by 20 feet wide ended up in the Portage Canal. And spills involving animal fats have detrimental effects on the environment similar to those of petroleum oil spills, which is why it’s imperative for the butter spill to be cleaned up as quickly and as thoroughly as possible.

Read More: https://www.grunge.com/1179852/the-butter-river-fire-wisconsins-dairy-disaster/

Portage officials continue working to control the fallout from the Associated Milk Producers Inc. fire that released butter into the city sewer system.

Public Works director Phil Livingston said the city is working with a number of consultants and cleaning companies to clean up the product that entered the sewer system as a melted liquid but solidified in the city sewers. It now needs to be physically broken up and removed.

The structure fire required an additional eight fire departments to help the Portage Fire Department Jan. 2 around 9:15 p.m. The fire started in a storage area in the AMPI building, 301 Brooks St., where there was butter being stored. It melted and began to run through the building and into the Portage Canal and sewers.


City Brewing Expansion

City Brewery Co. is expanding its warehouse space at the former Sony Corp. plant outside New Stanton and will add more than 20 jobs at the site, the Regional Industrial Development Corp. of Southwestern Pennsylvania said Wednesday.

The La Crosse, Wis.-based company brews beer at the former Latrobe Brewing Co. in Latrobe.

It is adding 111,500 square feet to its existing 255,587 square feet and extending its lease by 10 years to 2033 for the current and expanded space, RIDC said in a statement.

The expansion is scheduled to begin next month, with the RIDC improving the lighting, dock areas and electrical power. The RIDC did not release details of the lease agreement on the space at the 350-acre property, which is owned by Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority.

City Brewery had been using space at the 2.8 million-square-foot Westmoreland Innovation Center in East Huntingdon and Hempfield for about a year. It is now expanding its operation by more than 40% and doubling its lease, said Jason Rigone, Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp. executive director.

Anita Hernandez, a spokeswoman for City Brewery, could not be reached for comment.

“City Brewery has made such significant strides in the growth of their business since they became a RIDC Westmoreland tenant,” RIDC President Donald F. Smith Jr. said.


City Brewing is also opening a site in Pennsylvania: https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2023/01/25/city-brewery-ridc-westmoreland-beer-warehousing.html


The election’s over, but we’re going to keep publishing, sharing information, organizing with 695 members. Here we have some news roundups about Teamster-represented shops in our local.

Energizer Battery (Portage)


PORTAGE, Wis. (WMTV) – City officials are confident the Energizer battery manufacturing plant in Portage will stay open, despite closing rumors.

NBC15 News looked into an anonymous tip from an employee that manufacturers at Energizer plants in Fennimore and Portage were told the future of their jobs wasn’t certain.

City of Portage Mayor Mitchel Craig and Director of Business Development Steven Sobiek heard speculation the plants could be closing from current employees, so they decided to look into the concerns.

Craig and Sobiek reached out to Energizer’s corporate office in St. Louis, Missouri, and asked if there was validity to the rumors. According to Craig and Sobiek, the battery manufacturer’s legal counsel told them the company is experiencing financial loss due to supply shortages, but there are not plans to close the Portage plant…

Moody’s Investor Services downgrades City Brewery rating


New York, December 15, 2022 — Moody’s Investors Service (“Moody’s”) today downgraded City Brewing Company, LLC’s (“City”, “City Brewing” or “the company”) corporate family rating (CFR) to Caa2 from B3, Probability of Default Rating to Caa2-PD from B3-PD, and the rating on the company’s senior secured bank credit facilities to Caa2 from B3. The rating outlook remains negative.

The downgrade to Caa2 was prompted by a weaker than expected third quarter ended September 2022 which failed to show anticipated recovery sequentially or year over year over an already weak 2nd half of 2021.  Operating results had already deviated materially from original growth and cash flow expectations in 2021 as expansion in the hard seltzer market slowed, leaving excess inventory in trade channels for City’s largest customers. Key customers pulled back on orders until the inventory overhang could be cleared, which in turn made City less efficient because it did not downscale its cost structure immediately due to concerns about worker shortages. City Brewing also expected the pull back to be temporary. Although the company said that the inventory overhang was cleared by mid 2022, persistent supply chain and labor availability challenges have slashed efficiency and made it difficult for the company to meet demand. Furthermore, the hard seltzer market has continued to see lower demand than anticipated this year and the category will experience a seasonal low over the next quarter or so which will make Q4 challenging. Exacerbating these issues, equipment delivery delays for new lines at the Irwindale brewery meant that the company missed the ability to fulfill orders for the key summer selling season and may not regain some of those customers until the new calendar year when contracts reset. The company has been challenged with labor issues including a one-week strike at its Latrobe facility, higher labor costs, and a high turnover rate and difficulty recruiting at its Memphis facility, normally one of its most productive…

Saputo Cheese closes one plant, opens another


Canadian dairy major Saputo is to close a cheese plant in the US, impacting 200 employees.

The Toronto-listed firm plans to shutter the goat’s cheese manufacturing facility in Belmont, Wisconsin, but will invest CAD45m (US$34.7m) to convert its mozzarella plant in Reedsburg, in the same state, to goat cheese.

Saputo said the moves are intended to “further streamline its manufacturing footprint in its US”.

It added: “This announcement marks the continuation of the company’s network optimisation programme that plays an integral role in its global strategic plan designed to enhance operations and accelerate organic growth across its platforms.”

Saputo said converting the Reedsburg facility into a goat’s cheese manufacturing plant will “increase capacity, expand our position in growing speciality cheese categories, and improve productivity”.

It said mozzarella production will be transferred to other existing Saputo facilities in the US, “increasing capacity utilisation, improving operational efficiencies and reducing costs”.

With regard to the 200 employees affected by the Belmont facility closure, Saputo said they will be provided with financial support, including severance…”

Madison Metro Transit Breaks Ground on Bus Rapid Transit

Election Results 2022

The count is now over and the results are in: Wedan-Rademacher 497 to Rebuild695 330 (average). 89 ballots were set aside as automatic challenges because the employer did not pay their dues in full, so they were held off and not counted. According to 695, Certco and B&G Foods were the employers who have this issue. We’re confident that those votes would have favored us.

The breakdown by office is as follows:

Secretary-TreasurerAndy Sernatinger (Rebuild)332
Secretary-TreasurerLarry Wedan500
PresidentCalvin Schmidt (Rebuild)326
PresidentDavid Brugger501
Vice PresidentLarry Bratz (Rebuild)328
Vice PresidentWilliam Roeth499
Recording SecretaryNimber Abdul-Jalil (Rebuild)327
Recording SecretaryBryan Rademacher499
TrusteeBob Sargent (Rebuild)333
TrusteeGary Gilbertson (Rebuild)340
TrusteeCarlo Camacho (Rebuild)324
TrusteeTom Hoffman497
TrusteeCraig Hrubes487
TrusteeShaun Mullikan496

We did not prevail this election. Between 40-45% of members voted for us (can’t know for certain given the unopened ballots).

Its not the result we wanted, but one we can still be proud of. Its a long road, just another bump on the way. Solidarity.

Guest post: Will there be a national strike at UPS?

Joe Allen, former Teamster and author of The Package King: A Rank and File History of UPS, wrote a piece about what’s going on at UPS. UPS is all over the news these days and the Teamsters are positioning the union to strike during next year’s contract. Joe goes over what’s happening, the history of the 1997 strike, and whether or not there might be a strike next year.

Talk of a national strike at United Parcel Service (UPS) is a welcome change from the two decades of retreat under the Teamsters’ former General President James P. Hoffa. There has only been one national strike in UPS’s history, in 1997, under the leadership of the union’s first democratically elected leader, Ron Carey.

A national strike is long overdue. Rank-and-file UPS Teamsters have paid a catastrophic price for a compliant leadership–Teamsters leader James Hoffa’s ratification in October in 2018 of a contract that members voted down.

Strike talk has been in the air for nearly two years, so few will be ill-prepared if a strike appears imminent. The Teamsters will be holding strike authorization votes across the country next year. We should expect members to vote overwhelmingly in favor. All of the parties interested in preventing a national strike are in the initial stages of mobilizing their forces, including UPS, the Biden administration, and major retail giants reliant on UPS’s delivery network.

The close political relationship between the Teamsters—along with the major trade union federation, the AFL-CIO—and the Biden administration is likely to weaken, if not outright undermine, any move toward a national strike at UPS, despite the bluster coming from union officials. Fred Zuckerman, General Secretary-Treasurer of the Teamsters, recently said, “We want to go to UPS and kick the shit out of them.” Yet, Teamsters officials welcomed the intervention of the Biden administration in the rail negotiations that produced a weak and unpopular tentative agreement.

Part-Time America won’t work

The 1997 UPS strike was enormously popular. Its slogan “Part-Time America Won’t Work” captured the frustration of workers with declining living standards. The hands down victory of the union produced, at least for a moment, a sense that maybe the labor movement had finally reached a turning point. Historian Nelson Lichtenstein wrote at the time that the strike ended “the PATCO syndrome. A 16-year period in which a strike was synonymous with defeat and demoralization.”

UPS’s customers were angered and frustrated at company executives for not warning of the possibility of a strike and had to scramble to find alternative distributors. FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service were overwhelmed by millions of packages that their logistics systems couldn’t handle. More than 80 percent of UPS’s packages sat in its warehouses or trailers across the country. UPS lost nearly $780 million during the course of the strike and suffered a huge black eye as the dirty laundry of working conditions were aired in public.

However, in the weeks and months that followed the strike, the combination of a witch-hunt atmosphere created by the Republican-controlled Congress and criminal investigations by President Bill Clinton’s Department of Justice successfully ousted Ron Carey from the leadership of the Teamsters, and eventually expelled him from the union. This government-sponsored counter-reform coup was the key factor in bringing Hoffa to power for two decades.

UPS, of course, had its dirty fingers in all of this. Its chief negotiator Dave Murray told Carey, “You’re dead, Carey, and you will pay for this, you s.o.b.” The Teamster “old guard” (reactionary, mob-connected officials) also did everything possible to undermine Carey. UPS took full advantage of the chaos produced by the federal government’s intervention and declared it would not honor the centerpiece victory of the strike: the creation of full-time jobs from existing part-time positions.

While UPS would later lose in arbitration and was ordered to honor the full-time jobs provisions of the contract, many Teamsters felt that the strike victory was stolen. UPS won on the political battlefield what it couldn’t win on the picket line. The wider potential of the UPS strike, such as organizing FedEx—a virtual twin of UPS and the natural next step in organizing the burgeoning non-union logistics industry in the 1990s—was thwarted.

That Carey was later found not guilty of the same charges that were used to expel him from the Teamsters had no impact on his standing in the union. While it is a positive development that the 1997 strike has been fully embraced by the new Teamster leadership, this part of the memory of the militant strike has been largely forgotten (or avoided) by reformers, old and new, in the union.

Big Brown today

UPS was a giant in the logistics industry in the 1990s. It is even much larger today. Its distinctive chocolate brown trucks can be seen on the streets of world capitals daily. Based in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs, it employs more than 534,000 people around the globe and flies to 220 countries and territories daily. UPS’s air operations are based out of the “Worldport” air hub in Louisville, Kentucky. It delivers more than 25 million packages a day.

The recent purchase by UPS of Italy’s Bomi Group and the launch of a joint venture with InterGlobe Enterprises, one of India’s largest travel and aviation conglomerates, should remind us that any upcoming contract battle will be a global struggle. Yet the heart of UPS’s operations remain in the United States, where 350,000 drivers and warehouse workers are members of the Teamsters. On a daily basis, UPS transports roughly 6 percent of Gross Domestic Product for the U.S. economy alone, as well as 3 percent of the global economy.

UPS is a politically powerful corporation with a huge influence over trade, transportation, and labor policies in Washington, D.C. and many state capitals. It donates heavily to the Republican Party but also gives money to leading Democrats, such as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock. The two top House committees that receive its political donations are, not surprisingly, Ways and Means (which oversees central aspects of tax law) and Transportation. Eighty-four percent of its donations go to incumbents.The company spent more than eight million dollars on lobbying alone in 2021.

The Trump years were good ones for UPS’s corporate leaders. While the company was cool toward former President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, it moved quickly to reconcile with him after his election. UPS contributed heavily to Trump’s 2016 inauguration fund. UPS Executive Chairman David Abney was treated to a state dinner at the Trump White House, while CEO Carol Tomé later hosted Trump at UPS’s facility at Atlanta’s International Airport. UPS was central to Trump administration initiatives in the early months of the pandemic, including Project Airbridge and Operation Warp Speed.

However, relations became strained with Trump following the 2020 presidential election. Tomé denounced the attack on the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, 2021. “We are appalled by the lawlessness and violence that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol and strongly condemn the actions of those individuals who participated in the illegal activities that destroyed property and cost lives,” she wrote. Tomé, however, failed to mention Trump by name.

Along with other major corporations, UPS threatened to suspend campaign contributions to U.S. House and Senate Republicans, who voted against the certification of the election of Joe Biden as president, known as the Sedition caucus. Within a few months UPS and other major corporations and corporate lobbying groups changed their minds. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) reported:

Corporate and industry group political action committees have donated more than $44 million directly to the campaigns and leadership PACs of the 147 members of the Sedition Caucus. Companies and trade associations that pledged to suspend donations have given more than $12 million to the campaign and leadership PACs of the Sedition Caucus.

Koch Industries ($626,500), American Crystal Sugar ($530,000), Home Depot ($525,000), Boeing ($488,000), and UPS ($479,500) have contributed the most money to members of the Sedition Caucus through their corporate PACs.

Tomé’s reconciliation with representatives who legitimized Trump’s attempted presidential coup—and who may control Congress after the November midterm elections— shouldn’t surprise us. Trump lavished huge gifts on UPS and Corporate America that have made them richer.

Meanwhile, Tomé has pursued a “Better not Bigger” restructuring program that appears to have successfully moved it out of the more traditional freight business to focus on its core business of package delivery, given the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the ongoing shift to online shopping. She has also continued a policy of liberalizing dress and hair styles. For years, UPS banned beards and tattoos for its drivers. These and African-American hair styles are accepted now.

Despite the restructuring and liberalization, UPS remains what it has always been—a brutal, totalitarian workplace. This past summer’s heat crisis—leading to the death and illness of UPS package drivers—garnered widespread media attention and left the company with a serious public relations problem. Heat-related illness is also a crucial issue for UPS’s vast army of part-time inside warehouse workers, which hasn’t received the same media coverage.

The Teamsters

When Ron Carey called a strike on August 3, 1997, 185,000 UPS workers across the United States hit the picket lines. Potentially 350,000 workers could be on the picket lines if the Teamsters strike next summer. Fortune magazine reported recently, “Since mid-2018, UPS has hired over 72,000 Teamsters, making them a core segment of the company’s operations.” UPS is the largest Teamster employer and the largest private-sector employer in the United States. Since the 1980s, UPS has been a “union within a union” in the Teamsters.

A crowd of picketers during the 1997 UPS strike holds signs reading "Part-time America won't work!"
1997 UPS strike picket. Photo by Labor Notes.

The explosive growth and wealth of UPS has largely kept the Teamsters alive as a viable, functioning union. If UPS didn’t exist, the Teamsters would be a ramshackle collection of old freight companies and local employers with little national clout. The catastrophic decline of the Teamsters in the freight industry, once their stronghold, since the deregulation of the trucking industry in the late 1970s and early 1980s has been softened by the growth of UPS. Many Teamster locals wouldn’t exist without UPS.

Yet, UPS Teamsters have been underrepresented in the leadership of Teamsters. Only one general president, Ron Carey, was a UPS driver. Neither of the top two officers of the Teamsters, Sean O’Brien and Fred Zuckerman, come out of UPS, even though their home locals are dependent on UPS membership. The Teamsters have maintained their position at UPS not by creative organizing or militant strikes but through agreements made decades ago with UPS that the Teamsters would grow with the company.

The deal worked well for UPS and produced a compliant Teamster leadership that benefited from dues, ad initiation fees, and health and welfare contributions from an expanding workforce without having to lift a finger. The bargaining position of the Teamsters, apart from the Carey years in the 1990s, was one of following the lead of the company and making concession after concession to “protect” it from non-union competitors such as FedEx, which has been particularly devastating to part-timers and package car drivers.

This has left the Teamsters, however, much weakened and very exposed. In 2019, the last year of economic boom before the pandemic, the Teamsters lost 65,000 members. It’s possible that the Teamsters have lost as many as 300,000 members or more across the country during the last decade. At the time of last year’s Teamster election, Hoffa claimed the Teamsters had 1.4 million members. The current General President Sean O’Brien estimates membership is closer to 1.2 million.

Teamster activist Andy Sernatinger wrote in Tempest that the union lost nearly one quarter of a million members between the 2016 and 2021 Teamster elections. He further argued,

Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic affected the Teamsters, as it did all labor unions, with the temporary closure of non-essential industry and the slowdown of the economy generally. Most of this loss, however, appears to be after the re-opening of the economy. The total number of workers represented went up between 2020 and 2021, but what appears to have happened is that a staggering number of workers have moved from union membership to paying agency fees only. On average, the proportion of agency fee payers to members in the IBT [International Brotherhood of Teamsters] has been three percent—in 2021, it jumped to 20 percent.

The Teamsters initiated a membership recruitment led by John Palmer, the deputy director of organizing, who was specifically assigned to internal organizing targeting right-to-work states. Whatever disagreements there are about the nature and size of the membership, which highlights even more how dependent the Teamsters are on UPS, it is clearly experiencing an institutional crisis that could have a conservatizing impact on its bargaining position with UPS next year.

Missed opportunities

Hoffa declared Amazon an existential threat to the Teamsters—and touted a much-hyped Amazon organizing project. From the grocery industry through the package delivery business, Amazon presents a challenge to old bastions of Teamster strength. But it is not at all clear if the Teamsters can provide a viable option for Amazon workers, given its long list of failed organizing campaigns and decades of unnecessary concessions at UPS.

This past summer, O’Brien and Zuckerman were handed a prime opportunity to take on UPS but failed to do so. The long heat waves that baked major parts of the United States once again highlighted how climate change is becoming more deadly each passing year. Widespread media coverage provided enormous public sympathy for delivery drivers by exposing the fact that UPS delivery trucks don’t have air conditioning.

Teamster General President Sean O’Brien declared, “UPS is on notice. The Teamsters will confront the company aggressively on this issue as the heat rages now, and as we head into the bargaining for the 2023 contract.” Yet, the union did nothing to turn these words into action. Compare this response to the nationwide moment of silence after UPS package driver Frank Ordoñez was murdered in a hail of gunfire by various law enforcement agencies in December 2019 in Miami following a botched robbery. Why wasn’t a nationwide moment of silence organized by the Teamsters for Esteban Chavez, the UPS driver who died from heat stroke?

While Teamsters did launch a national contract campaign at UPS during the first week of August to coincide with the anniversary of the 1997 strike, which was welcomed by Teamsters across the country, we should be clear that the rallies were quite tame and low stakes. I don’t know of any locals where the union organized anything that looked like a picket line. The union has a long way to go for the rhetoric of the leadership to catch up with the reality of what it takes to carry out a national strike.

Is a strike inevitable?

One of the most important things to understand about the success of the 1997 UPS strike was that Big Brown didn’t expect a strike and didn’t prepare for one. Neither did the federal government. Many rank-and-file UPS Teamsters were surprised that the picket lines held on the first of the strike—and for another fourteen days. It was the first national strike in the company’s 90-year history.

A black-and-white photo of eight workers leaning over the hood of a car signing a strike petition. The photo has a brown and yellow frame with text reading, "United for a Strong Contract! Kicking off August 1, 2022. UPS Teamsters Call to Action."
Photo by Joe Allen, via Facebook.

A clash is again coming between the company and the union, but the form it will take is still to be seen. The Teamsters want an end to the two-tier, lower paid package car drivers, the use of part timers driving personal vehicles, and greater protections against overtime. UPS wants more “flexibility.” These positions can’t be reconciled without a strike in which one side wins and other loses.

If there is one thing we’ve learned from the strike wave in the U.S. (and the changes in leadership of the Teamsters) during the last two years, it is that the rank-and-file is fed up with the status quo and wants fundamental change. Whether or not there is a national strike at UPS in 2023 will ultimately be up to rank-and-file Teamsters who will have to push it toward victory against their many enemies.

You cannot threaten members

Earlier this week, we registered a pre-election protest and then a complaint with Teamsters Joint Council 39. Why? Because the Wedan-Rademacher slate threatened on their website that if members vote against them, the IBT will retaliate and may dissolve our local union. They write,

Mr. Sernatinger has publicly criticized our International Leadership online, and they are well aware of this fact.  Every decision from how our paperwork is filed to whether or not this Local exists is decided by the International, which is why strong ties and good relationships with the International are important to keep the Members First.”

As we wrote to Secretary-Treasurer Larry Wedan, this is both false and desperate.

You cannot threaten members. It is prohibited conduct and explicitly named out as the basis for charges in the Teamsters union.

The IBT Constitution Article XIX Section 7 subsection B-10 plainly states:

“The basis for charges against members, officers, elected Business Agents, Local Unions, Joint Councils, or other subordinate bodies for which he or it shall stand trial shall consist of, but not be limited to, the following:

10). Retaliating or threatening to retaliate against any member for exercising rights under this Constitution or applicable law including the right to speak, vote, seek election to office, support the candidate of one’s choice, or participate in the affairs of the Union.”

Allowing this kind of behavior has a chilling effect on union democracy.

Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien spoke out against retaliation for his criticism of outgoing President Hoffa in last year’s televised debates with Steve Vairma. His point was that criticism was necessary to create a stronger union. We agree.

Last week to vote!

This is the last week to mark and turn in your ballot to make sure it is counted on 10/26. If for any reason you haven’t filled out your ballot, make sure you get it in the mail by Saturday 10/22 to be sure it is counted!

Quick updates

Ballots have gone out – they were mailed Friday, September 30th and by now every eligible member of 695 should have received mail from the Merriman-River group with your ballot.

The election has two slates, though you are able to vote for individual candidates if you would like. Its important that you do not write on your ballot, just fill it in. We are encouraging a slate vote for Rebuild695 — just fill in the oval next to “Rebuild695” at the top and it will cast your vote for every candidate on our slate.

Ballots will be counted the morning of Wednesday, October 26th at the Teamsters 695 union hall. To make sure your ballot is counted, it has to be received by that morning – to be safe, be sure your ballot is mailed by Friday, 10/21.

If you have not received a ballot or lost yours, you can request a replacement ballot by calling Merriman-River Group at 877-324-7655.

Talk to your folks, make sure they’re turning in those ballots!