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Clare Rose hires temporary drivers as beer strike continues

At beer distributor Clare Rose, 130 delivery drivers and warehouse workers on Friday, April 28, 2017, continued a strike that began April 23. Temporary drivers from as far away as Florida have been hired to work at East Yaphank company. The striking workers, represented by Teamsters Local 812, said they walked out after months of unsuccessful contract negotiations.  (Credit: Ed Betz)

Temporary drivers from as far away as Florida have been hired to work at East Yaphank beer distributor Clare Rose, where 130 delivery drivers and warehouse workers have been on strike since Sunday.

The striking workers, represented by Teamsters Local 812, said they walked out after months of unsuccessful contract negotiations. On Monday, the union said it received a letter from an attorney for Clare Rose saying that the strikers would be permanently replaced starting Tuesday.

But in a statement released late Friday, Clare Rose said the temporary drivers “are not replacement workers; they are temporary hires that we need to help us meet our obligations to our customers.” The company added that “No one has been fired.”

Management, non-union employees and a “significant number of temporary drivers” are working to complete deliveries, the statement said. “After a brief start-up period, we expect to be able to fill a substantial portion of the more than 700 daily orders we receive.”

Clare Rose distributes roughly 10 million cases of beer annually to 5,000 bars, restaurants and convenience stores throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

The union has said a new three-year contract proposal by the company eliminates a sales function drivers provide, resulting in a 30-percent wage cut. Union members said the company also proposed converting from a pension to a 401(k) retirement plan.

Clare Rose, in its Friday statement, said only a quarter of striking employees would have seen lower wages under its latest contract offer, while more than half would receive a raise. The average driver makes about $70,000 a year, the statement said.

“Clare Rose operates in a very competitive industry: our contract proposals were intended to protect all of our employees — union and non-union alike — by putting us in the best position to succeed over the long term,” it said.

Some Long Island business owners said the strike has had an impact.

“Today I ordered beer from other beer distributors” in Nassau County, Sultan Qurashi, manager of Sultan’s Lucky Corner convenience store in Massapequa, said Friday. Qurashi, who’s been a Clare Rose customer since 1994, said he hadn’t received his weekly Wednesday order yet and had no luck reaching sales representatives.

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