Sysco strike comes to an end, Dining talks effects

Pizza+bar+at+the+Samia+Dining+Hall.+

Leo Woods

Pizza bar at the Samia Dining Hall.

Sysco Teamsters reached an agreement with Sysco Corporation on Oct. 20, ending a nearly three-week long strike. Many area businesses and cafeterias, including Suffolk University Dining, felt the impact of the company’s decreased distribution capacity. 

The strike began on Oct. 1, when, according to the Associated Press, 300 Sysco drivers took to the picket line in response to a reported lack of benefits and pay in the most recently proposed contract. On Oct. 17, Plympton police made 13 arrests when Teamsters blocked the exits from the Plympton distribution facility, leading to charges of disorderly conduct and assault and battery, according to The Boston Globe

Sysco serves numerous local businesses and venues, including Fenway Park, TD Garden, Gillette Stadium, Cumberland Farms, Wahlburgers and Jersey Mike’s Subs, as reported by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Suffolk Dining also receives shipments from the company. 

Throughout the course of the strike, Suffolk Dining faced minor distribution disturbances. 

“Though deliveries were made, there were some small delays. Trucks would arrive late in the evenings and deliveries would be pushed to a weekend day versus a Thursday or Friday. Some items would be cut or substituted. This caused us to pivot and change menus according to items we had on hand rather than what was planned. These menu changes occurred daily,” said General Manager of Suffolk Dining Bob Cirame in a written statement to The Suffolk Journal. 

According to Cirame, the whole Suffolk Dining team banded together to best offset any impact reduced shipments had on supply in the university’s dining halls. 

“The team on site had daily calls and exchanged multiple text messages requesting items from each other. Happily, they usually found something to fill the request. I applaud our associates who did a tremendous job carting product from unit to unit to meet the need and the management team for coordinating it all,” Cirame said. 

As soon as the university was informed of the strike, the dining team responded quickly to find alternate methods to ensure that dining halls would remain fully functional. 

“We were notified a week before the strike occurred. The Suffolk Dining team immediately increased our purchases to stock up on high volume items. At one point, there were 60 cases of chicken fingers and 40 cases of fries stored in a freezer in Miller [Residence Hall],” Cirame said. “Chartwells corporate also found alternate vendors and procured products from current providers. For example, our produce company, in addition to delivering fresh fruits and vegetables daily, also provided eggs, cheeses and even French fries.”

Despite any changes that the community may have noticed in the dining halls over the course of the strike, many students still feel confident in Suffolk Dining’s ability to consistently stock dining halls.

“It’s honestly not often that I’d see Suffolk (specifically Smith dining hall) lacking. I think there was one point in the beginning of the semester that there were no drinks at all, and very recently there were shortages in fries and condiments. I think all in all I’m confident in Suffolk’s ability to provide, mainly because it’s not often that I see these shortages,” said Suffolk freshman Selma Fuseni in a written statement to The Suffolk Journal. 

As Teamsters returned to the roads, Cirame said deliveries are arriving with the same consistency as before the strike and product shortages are decreasing as well. 

Teamsters Local 653 Secretary and Treasurer Michael Clark told The Boston Globe that the 25% wage increase offered by the company’s most recent contract only includes Class A drivers but not Class B, shuttle and van drivers. According to Clark, Sysco also proposed that drivers leave the union’s health insurance for the company’s plan. 

According to the company, workers did not vote on the contract before the strike was declared. 

Sysco Boston workers voted 215-2 in favor of a five-year agreement which includes an $11 per hour raise over the next five years and improved benefits, the company said in a press release. This agreement officially ended the strike, returning Sysco to full capacity.