Don’t fear: Wegmans remains pro-Bills amid controversy
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • September 30, 2013 @ 9:28am
Perusing Twitter on Sunday morning before the Bills vs. Ravens game, we marveled at a series of Twitter photos of a plane flying over Ralph Wilson Stadium with a trailing flag that read “Wegmans wants Buffalo to lose.”
We were obviously perplexed by the message, particularly because of Wegmans history in WNY. The supermarket chain has a proud local history, originating in Rochester, NY, in 1916 before eventually expanding to Buffalo in the 1970s. Awarded previously for excellent customer service and well-compensated employees, Wegmans has flourished as a staple of the local grocery scene.
The grocers’ director of media relations, Jo Natale, issued a statement via a Twitter link eight minutes before kickoff, explaining that the flyover sign wasn’t an official Wegmans message and instead represented a ploy by Teamsters Union, whose members will vote on a Wegmans contact today.
Wegmans releases statement about Teamsters Union leafleting at stores and skywriting over Buffalo Bills game: http://t.co/zUGVmxkFUW— Wegmans Food Markets (@Wegmans) September 29, 2013
According to a staff report from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Wegmans and Teamsters Union are negotiating over the supermarket’s wish to move its 885 transportation and distribution employees from the union’s “underfunded” retirement plan to the company’s plan.
The second paragraph of Natale’s message expounded on Wegmans’ stance toward the union, refuting that the business will not destroy Rochester jobs or eliminate pensions.
On the other side, Teamsters’ business agent presented the following argument from the union’s side, again courtesy of the Democrat and Chronicle:
In a prepared statement, Local 118 business agent Kevin McIntosh called Wegmans’ public statements “disingenuous, at best. In fact, the company plans to take away our $4.82 pension contribution — money we set aside from our wages to go into the pension fund — and tell us it’s giving us a $1.74 wage increase. No matter how you look at it, that’s a loss, not a pay increase. And it puts our members’ retirement security in serious jeopardy.”
Regardless of today’s decision, Wegmans handled the negative publicity smoothly, responding individually with a prepared response to over 20 Twitter users perplexed by the sign:
@Karen_BillsFan Teamsters Union hired plane to embarrass us. Wegmans says 'Go Bills'!— Wegmans Food Markets (@Wegmans) September 29, 2013
We’ll see how the debate unfolds today, especially in lieu of the Sept. 23 accusations—presented to the National Labor Relations Board—of changing terms and conditions of employment, interrogation and coercive action against the Wegmans on Delaware Avenue.