Hundreds of employees rallied outside of Sysco Boston's headquarters in Plympton, Massachusetts, Saturday morning as they officially went on strike amid ongoing contract disputes with the company, which is the largest food distributor in New England.
Workers arrived at the food distribution company's building at midnight holding signs, jeering at management and fill-in staff and blocking trucks from leaving the facility.
Workers said negotiations with their employers failed over a new contract. The proposal workers rejected gutted their health care benefits, took away their pensions and didn't raise their wages to a level they felt suitable, they said.
“I can’t make a living with what they’re offering me for a contract, they’re not even close to fair," said Dennis LaPierre, a shuttle driver for Sysco Boston. "For us, the shuttle drivers, we’re going backward. They’re actually taking $3 an hour away from us. And that’s just ridiculous. Nobody goes backward in their contract, everybody goes forward.”
Get Boston local news, weather forecasts, lifestyle and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Boston’s newsletters.
"They’re taking away everything we worked our entire lives for," LaPierre continued. "I’ve got 14 years in this company, I’ve got a family to support, mortgage to pay and they’re basically just taking the food out of my pocket," LaPierre said while getting emotional.
“I’m a single father," said Trevor Ashley, chief steward of Sysco Boston's workers union. "I have a daughter in college. I have a son that’s 19 years old that eats like a freaking horse and they’re taking money away from me. Day after day after day, and then we go to the bargaining table and they try to take more away? It’s not fair.”
Workers said they'll be at the Sysco Boston headquarters 24/7 until they can come to an agreement on their new contract.
In-depth news coverage of the Greater Boston Area.
Sysco Boston sent a statement to NBC10 Boston when asked to respond to the strike at their headquarters on Saturday, saying:
Sysco Boston respects and cares about our associates and deeply appreciate their contributions to our success. That’s why we're standing firm in support of a strong contract that works for our associates. Sysco Boston offered wage increases of 25% over the life of the contract and 7% in Year 1 as well as affordable healthcare options that would save our associates money compared to their current plan. In addition, we believe our associates want to protect their participation in the strong Sysco-sponsored 401(k) plan. While we are disappointed, our goal remains to reach a ratified agreement.
Local police said they were monitoring the strike, saying in a release, "The individuals walking the picket line have been boisterous at times, but respectful of boundaries." Traffic is heavier on Spring Street near Route 44 but no one has been injured.