Beer delivery drivers will head back to work on Tuesday after the Teamsters Local 792 union agreed a new contract with distributor J.J. Taylor.
Drivers had been on strike for the past seven weeks over plans by J.J. Taylor to switch up its delivery system by making many of the journeys manned by a single employee.
Striking workers argued it would require workers to carry heavy beers kegs on their own, putting their safety at risk.
The strike included a call from J.J. Taylor customers – including liquor stores and Minnesota bars – to boycott the beers it delivers, which includes domestic brand MillerCoors as well as Minnesota craft brands like Summit and Schell's.
On Thursday, Local 792 announced that they'd "overwhelmingly" agreed to a new contract offer that will bring an end to the strike.
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What's the new deal?
Under the terms of the contract, "combo" routes that require the delivery of beer kegs and cases can only be carried out by 2-person teams.
Teamsters objected to J.J. Taylor's plans for one-person teams over the health implications of hauling heavy kegs particularly to downtown customers, who often require them to be carried down to basements or upstairs to rooftop bars.
In exchange for the 2-person team concession by J.J. Taylor, delivery workers will take a small reduction in the amount they earn per case on deliveries, which Teamsters spokesman Edward Reynoso said was a "barely significant" amount.
Nonetheless, Reynoso called it a "bitter victory" given that workers have been on the picket line for so long, with J.J. Taylor drafting in temporary contractors to replace them.
"On behalf of our entire membership we’d like to thank you ALL for your support during our strike at J.J. Taylor Minnesota," Teamsters 792 tweeted. "ll along it was about our right to a safe work environment and that is exactly what we won! We couldn’t had done it without you! THANK YOU SO MUCH!"
The boycott worked, union says
Reynoso, who is the political director for Teamsters Joint Council 32, the umbrella organization for Teamsters 792, said that the boycott by restaurants, liquor stores and customers is what made the difference.
He claims that J.J. Taylor was delivering 20 percent of its usual stock on its deliveries as companies and consumers shunned brands in solidarity with the striking workers.
"What was absolutely incredibly for us was the public support we had, whether it was a bar or restaurant, or just a person buying a beer at a ball game.
"We believe the boycott is what drove them back to the table."
It has informed customers who had shown solidarity with striking workers that they can buy whatever beer they like again, adding: "We couldn’t had done it without all of our support from both businesses and the general public that understood and recognized an employer that was crossing the line on safety!"
BMTN has reached out to J.J. Taylor for comment and more details on the contract.