Local Teamsters take labor dispute public in F-M

FARGO -- Workers at a Fargo liquor distributor are taking a very public approach to airing their unhappiness regarding what they see as an unfair contract offer from their employer.
A photo posted on the Teamster Local 120 Facebook page protesting a contract offer by Johnson Brothers Liquor of North Dakota. Special to The Forum

FARGO - Workers at a Fargo liquor distributor are taking a very public approach to airing their unhappiness regarding what they see as an unfair contract offer from their employer.

Last spring, about the time an employment contract expired, Johnson Brothers Liquor of North Dakota, a subsidiary of a national liquor, beer and wine distributor, made a "best and final" offer to employees, according to Bill Wedebrand, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 120.

The proposed contract included a pay increase, but it was a fraction of the pay increases Johnson Brothers workers were being offered in other parts of the country, according to Wedebrand.

Other workers were offered "two times as much" when it came to the proposed wage increase, said Wedebrand, who added that the 26 local warehouse workers and drivers who work for Johnson Brothers found the contract offer extremely insulting.

"That is not anything we're going to go by," Wedebrand said.

Now, Local 120 members continue to work under the terms of the expired contract while they take their displeasure with the last contract offer to the public.

They are doing that by handing out leaflets in front of businesses that are customers of the distributor, including liquor stores and restaurants.

The literature urges people to contact Johnson Brothers, as well as large brands that do business with the company.

In addition to the proposed pay increase, Wedebrand said workers are unhappy with another part of the last contract offer, which he said would establish a two-tier pay system under which new workers would not enjoy the same rewards established workers receive.

A message left with the Fargo offices of Johnson Brothers Liquor was not returned by the time this story went to print Friday, Aug. 31.

Wedebrand said the corporate tax cuts passed by Congress were sold in part on the premise they would result in better pay for workers.

"Employees will tell you they (company officials) brag about the profitability and success they have in Fargo," Wedebrand said.