By MALLORY GRUBEN
Teamsters Local 162 members are losing patience with a Portland beer distributor’s suggestion to back out of the union’s fully funded pension plan.
Union leaders say Maletis Beverage wants to eliminate retirement benefits, and two sessions with a federal mediator couldn’t get the company to budge.
“It’s fully funded, so it’s not a funding issue,’ said Local 162 president Mark Davison. “This is just straight up trying to break the union.”
On March 6, Local 162 members at Maletis Beverage in Portland voted 69-9 to authorize a strike protesting the company’s refusal to bargain in good faith. While there are no plans to walk out now, the vote allows the members to call a strike without notice.
Operating in Portland and Vancouver, Maletis is one of the largest beer and wine distributors in the Pacific Northwest. Local 162 represents about 140 drivers, warehouse and sales employees at the Portland location. Workers there have been under a union contract for more than 75 years.
Vancouver workers are represented under a separate contract by Teamsters Local 58 that covers the period between Feb. 1, 2022, and Jan, 31, 2025. Maletis tried to withdraw from the Teamsters pension in negotiations for that contract, but the unit’s 35 members strongly rejected any proposed contract without the pension, said Local 58 Principal Officer Walter LaChapelle.
This isn’t the first time Maletis has tried to weaken union benefits. In 2004, the company tried to impose a monthly premium for healthcare coverage that increased over time even as benefit levels dropped. In response, Local 162 got the Northwest Oregon Labor Council to add Maletis to its Unfair List, asking union members not to drink beers distributed by the drivers.
A new contract was forged a week after the boycott was approved.