Beer Boycotts And More: The Teamsters Diversify Their 2024 Strike Portfolio

by | Jan 29, 2024 | Bargaining/Negotiations, IBT, Labor Relations Ink, Labor Relations Insight, Leadership, Politics, Sean O'Brien, Shawn Fain, Strikes, Union Leaders, Union Leaders, Unionized Company, Unions

Remember when the Teamsters took aim at ice cream supply lines a few years ago? They were hinting about coming for the beer back in 2022, too. Now, it’s early 2024, and the union has made it their mission to circle back to an American guilty pleasure by threatening to turn off those taps.

Of course, this union has threatened prior walkouts on beer distributors, but this time, a national strike is on the table. Teamsters president Sean O’Brien feels ready to rumble and peacock-ish after negotiating a new UPS contract under strike threat, even if the results were actually not as great as advertised and are likely the cause of planned layoffs

Still, O’Brien is sounding the alarm – after union members authorized a strike in December – and promising that Anheuser-Busch will experience a “full-scale” walkout and a “nationwide boycott,” absent a full turnaround in talks with parent company AB InBev. The union wants “substantial” raises, better retirement benefits, and more job protections. And to stress that he means business, O’Brien walked out of negotiations on January 25. 

The current contract expires on February 29, which could cause a beer draught sometime in March for lovers of Budweiser, Bud Light, Busch, Michelob Ultra, and Stella Artois. What will come of these contentious talks? Take a guess and pull up a spectator seat for the largest contract battle of the season so far.  

The Teamsters are currently active on the threatened strike front in other contexts, too:

  • U.S. Foods drivers serving the Detroit Public School District have voted unanimously to authorize a strike, which could eventually extend to other Michigan and Indiana school districts that rely on the company as their sole food distributor.  Update: This was settled yesterday with a tentative 3-year agreement
  • California State University narrowly averted a five-day strike by 1,100 Teamsters-represented trade workers at 22 campuses after reaching a tentative agreement on a 3-year contract. This saved the semester’s first week of classes, but the university is still staring down the possibility of a strike from nearly 30,000 professors, librarians, and coaches of the California Faculty Association.
  • Sun County Airlines flight attendants, who are members of Teamsters Local 120, are making noises about a potential strike while demanding higher wages as contract talks heat up. During the last round of negotiations, the union rejected the May 2023 contractual offer from the company. 

As if that wasn’t enough to grab the public’s attention, O’Brien might be playing with fire on the political front, too. He has reportedly “embarrassed” some union members by repeatedly meeting with Donald Trump and flirting with the idea that the Teamsters could formally endorse the ex-president. 

It’s an unexpected stance, given that most unions, including the UAW, have opted to endorse Biden while praising his commitment to Big Labor.

Did you have the Teamsters president threatening mega-strikes and jumping into the deep end of the political swimming pool alongside Shawn Fain on your bingo card? Welcome to 2024. It could be a bumpy ride.

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