We are truck drivers, warehouse and sales employees and we work at General Distributors, Inc., GDI, GDIPDX in Oregon City, Oregon. We distribute and sell beer, wine and other beverage products in the Portland area. General Distributors / GDI / GDIPDX is owned and operated by Charles Fick, Jr. and other members of the Fick family, including his son and President of the company, Charles A. Fick, III; Vice President James Fick; and Directors Susan Fick and Judith Fick.
For over 50 years employees at General Distributors / GDI / GDIPDX were represented by Teamsters Local 162.
Over the last 20 years the relationship between the Teamsters and General has been strained. The Fick family, led by Charles Fick, Jr. and his appointed management team, and revolving door of anti-worker lawyers, have attacked their workers and Union. The Fick family has steered a new course based on an agenda of corporate greed.
In recent years it appeared the relationship was improving, when the Fick family approached the Union in 2013 about bringing all employees into the Teamsters health care plans. The Union offered a superior benefit and at a better cost then the Fick family was able to purchase on the open market. The Union even agreed to allow management in the plan, including the Fick family. It was a win for hourly employees, for management and the Fick family.
In 2015 the Fick family announced a major change and new direction at General Distributors when they appointed a new general manager, Steve “Tiny” Irwin.
Tiny Irwin quickly made his presence known at General Distributors. His heavy handed and aggressive management style had employees, not just Union represented employees, wondering how the Fick family could hire such an individual. Employees began to wonder how the Fick family could claim that Tiny Irwin was positioning the company for future growth and success, while Steve Tiny Irwin went about creating a hostile work environment.
It has become abundantly clear what the Fick family had in mind when they hired Steve Tiny Irwin. For whatever reason, the Fick family has determined that it must attack its distribution workers and get rid of the Union at General. The Fick family has put Steve Tiny Irwin in charge of its anti-worker agenda.
When the 2015 negotiations for a new contract between the Teamsters and General Distributors began, Steve Tiny Irwin as the new general manager came to the bargaining table with a “vision” on behalf of the Fick family with a demand of $1.5 million in annual employee contract concessions.
Steve Tiny Irwin and the Fick family also demanded major changes to job security language in the contract. In particular, they were demanding to diminish the rights of the Union and its members to follow work to a new distribution center near Damascus. The writing was on the wall. General was out to get rid of union jobs by restricting workers from going to the new proposed General facility. This is in addition to demanding unprecedented economic concessions from workers that both Tiny Irwin and the Fick family knew that workers are unable to accept and maintain their current personal economic position. The Fick family went into hiding and Tiny Irwin faced employees at the bargaining table with the unreasonable demands for cuts. There were no proposed cuts for the family or management - only cuts for Teamster represented employees.
After three negotiation sessions the Union held a meeting on November 13th with its members at General to discuss the Fick family demands for concessions. The workers voted to strike. Nobody was willing to take a per employee average annual cut of $19,000. The decision was not taken lightly.
After lifting 165 pound beer kegs and developing sales relationships with our customers, the Fick family has turned its back on its workers.
On the morning of November 17th the picket lines went up and the strike began. Over the course of the sixteen day strike media outlets ran a number of news stories. Management at General lied when it denied the Fick family was demanding concessions from workers. Union members told the media their heart felt stories as they listened to General’s demands for cuts. These workers heard what Tiny Irwin told them on behalf of the Fick family at the bargaining table. The rallying cry of the workers is we want to just keep what we have.
Public support was and remains in favor of the rank and file workers. Customers took sides with striking workers and many refused to serve General’s products. General responded by immediately threatening to permanently replace all striking workers.
In fear for their jobs some workers made the unfortunate decision to cross the picket line and return to work. Letters to employee’s homes from Tiny Irwin that threatened permanent replacement of these workers were too much for some workers and their families to handle.
The strike came to an end on December 2nd. The Union, under the supervision of a Federal Mediator, proposed to end the strike and extend the contract with a three year freeze to wages, hours and working conditions. That means no cost of living increases for three years. Predictably, it took the Fick family lawyer, in consultation with Tiny Irwin, less than five minutes to reject the Union’s proposal and the Fick family reaffirmed its threats to continue to permanently replace striking workers. The Union held a meeting with its striking members and they voted to end the strike and unconditionally return to work and continue to bargain.
When the strike ended on December 2nd there were 59 employees who had refused to cross the picket line. As of December 11th only 21 of the 59 employees were brought back by General Distributors. Many were permanently replaced and some went to work for other companies.
Most impacted by the permanent replacements have been employees in the sales department. The sales employees are the ones who have built the relationships with General’s customers. Single moms and many others who were just trying to keep what they have are now being kept from returning to work by General.
Customers should consider the scope of General’s misconduct that we have chronicled above when making its choice of beverage distributors. General is not the only distributor of beer and wine in Portland. We are urging you to not do business with General Distributors!
In late December 2015 the Union filed unfair labor practice charges against General Distributors with the National Labor Relations Board for violating federal labor laws. A settlement was reached in March 2016 between the NLRB and General Distributors. In part, the rights of General's employees to form, join or assist the Union, were reaffirmed. General agreed, in part, that they would not do anything to prevent their employees from exercising their legal rights and they would not interfere with their employees under federal labor law as provided under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.
Following that settlement, Tiny Irwin and the Charles Fick family immediately campaigned to eliminate the Union via an NLRB decert vote. Armed with misinformation and outright false promises, they took their misleading appeals to the permanent replacements and those who made the unfortunate decision to cross the picket line during the strike. Promises were made and promises have since been broken.
Many Union supporters left General Distributors and have found other employment at good Teamster employers, leaving those Union supporters who remain outnumbered. The hard working and dedicated Teamsters did not want to continue working for Charles Fick and the other greedy owners of General Distributors.
On June 22, 2016, the Charles Fick family and Tiny Irwin participated in their final attack on Union employees at General. Teamster pension and retirement was eliminated and all employees (Union, non bargaining unit and management) were transitioned out of their health care benefits under the Oregon Teamster Employers Trust. General employees will no longer be part of the same industry leading pension and healthcare plans covering other Union represented workers at trucking companies such as UPS, DHL, Sysco Food Services, Safeway, Fred Meyer and others.
Tiny Irwin and the Charles Fick family are now free to implement the concessions they demanded since the Union was narrowly defeated in the decert vote and employees are no longer able to enjoy a signed contract that protects their seniority standing, wages, hours, benefits, retirement plans, working conditions and grievance procedure under the Teamsters contract.
Union supporters who remain working at General Distributors are obviously concerned about our future. We will continue organizing for our future. We are eligible for a vote to return the Union at General Distributors on June 23, 2017.
2017 update! With the Union decert behind him, the Charles Fick family wasted no time immediately cutting our health care benefits and dramatically increased our out of pocket health care costs with significant health care deductions from our paychecks. Employees are already finding themselves in a situation where they have to decide to get treatment when they or their family members are sick and injured or go without health care to make ends meet. We are also being forced to work excessive and unsafe overtime because we are short staffed due to the mismanagement at General Distributors.
Contract News and Employee Views at General Distributors in Oregon City and Portland Teamsters Union Activity Beer and Wine Distributor. Contract News and Employee Views at General Distributors in Oregon City and Portland Teamsters Union Activity in Portland.