Bueno Beverage workers unionize, cite unfair wages

Visalia Bueno Beverage employees vote in favor of joining the Teamster Local 948 union over unfair wages, state they were met with “anti-union propaganda” and intimidation from employer

VISALIA – After ride-alongs with anti-union representatives and the alleged termination of three pro-union employees, Bueno Beverage workers joined forces with Teamster Local 948.

Workers at Bueno Beverage in Visalia have voted to join the Teamster Local 948 union after what they claimed were extensive anti-union efforts pushed by the company. Drivers, salesmen and merchandisers of Bueno Beverage voted to unionize to receive better pay, according to union organizer Bobby Aguilar.

According to the Teamsters press release, when the interest in unionizing was made known to Bueno Beverage, the company hired “anti-union buster consultants” who pushed anti-union propaganda.  

“The workers voted in favor of unionization in spite of a nasty union-busting effort that the company undertook,” Teamster spokesperson Matt McQuaid said. “This included hiring an anti-union law firm, holding captive-audience meetings, forcing staff to listen to anti-union propaganda during pick-ups and deliveries, and even the unlawful termination of three pro-union workers.”

Shortly after workers voted on joining the union, Teamsters filed three charges against Bueno for unlawful employment terminations of pro-union workers to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The charge documents advocated for the employees who were terminated in “retaliation for section 7 protected activity,” which would be supporting a union organizing cause. Aguilar said that these cases are still waiting to be resolved. 

Another basis of the charges sent to NLRB was for Bueno’s forceful practice of captive-audience speeches, where employees had to listen to anti-union speech, which violated their section seven rights, according to the charge documents. Additionally, the charge documents stated that the employer required drivers to have a “ride-along” with employers’ representatives, where the “representative spoke about the union in a one-on-one and intimidating manner.” Teamsters Local 948 represents over 4,000 workers in brewing, manufacturing and a wide variety of other industries.

“The company did everything they could to coerce the workers,” Aguilar said. “[Workers] didn’t run and hide, though. They fought back and stood up for their right to form a union, and they are willing to do what it takes to fight for a fair contract that meets their needs and that of their families.”

Bueno Beverage refused to comment for this story. 

The company was already deep in employment unrest in February, after President Randy Bueno said his company will have no choice but to lay off 43 people, one-third of its workforce after their beer supplier increased its sales on Mexican beers. Bueno Beverage will lose 40% of its case volume in Tulare and Kings counties by not selling the Mexican beer brands.

In February, Bueno said his company is the Tulare-Kings wholesaler for Anheuser-Busch, the parent company for domestic beer brands Budweiser and Michelob, and Constellations, known for Mexican beer brands such as Corona and Modelo. He said Constellations, which Bueno Beverage has sold for more than 20 years and has increased its sales of by 6.8% in 2020 and 7.8% in 2021, forcing Bueno to sell its brand distribution rights to companies that affiliate with Miller/Coors houses and not Anheuser-Busch houses. 

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