Almost 70 delivery drivers for Safeway.com have voted to join Teamsters Local 174, the first group of the ecommerce retailer’s drivers to organize with a union. Local 174 represents 7,200 working men and women in the Seattle area.
The organizing drive took place over several months and was spearheaded by Local 174 Organizer Meaza Ogbe and Safeway.com delivery driver Dan Oliver. It concluded today as votes were counted at the National Labor Relations Board.
The organizing victory comes at a critical moment in the home grocery delivery industry, as Seattle-based ecommerce behemoth Amazon.com has recently purchased Austin, Texas-based natural and organic grocer Whole Foods Market.
"This is not just a big win for these Safeway.com drivers, but this is a foot in the door for other organizing opportunities in this same industry in the future," said Local 174 Secretary-Treasurer Rick Hicks. "Home grocery delivery is a growing industry, and from this day forward, it is going to be an industry that includes the Teamsters Union."
Teamsters Local 174 already represents Safeway distribution-center drivers who operate out of facilities in Auburn and Bellevue, Wash., delivering groceries to stores across the state, along with dispatchers and employees at the recycling center in Auburn.
"Safeway drivers and warehousemen in our Local just ratified the richest contract in their history, while these Safeway.com drivers are struggling just to get enough hours to qualify to buy company health insurance," said Local 174 Senior Business Agent Carl Gasca, who is the business agent for the Safeway distribution center drivers and will be the business agent for the newly organized group as well. "Now that we are all standing together, I know that we can get a better deal and a better life for these home-delivery drivers."
Now that the group has officially voted to join the Teamsters, the next step is for the union and the company to negotiate a first contract for the drivers, who deliver customers' grocery orders from Safeway stores directly to their homes on a strict timeline to preserve the groceries' freshness.