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Bakery drivers that are members of Teamsters Local 734 were joined by community activists at five Jewel-Osco grocery stores in the Chicagoland earlier this week to hand out leaflets to customers in an effort to urge the grocery chain to discontinue a recently enacted policy requiring bakery suppliers' drivers to work several hours on Sundays. The union says the policy would affect about 400 bakery route sales representatives employed by Sara Lee, Interstate Baking Corp. (IBC), George Westin Baking, and Chicago Baking.
"We're out here to send a message to Jewel that Sunday is a day when Americans should be able to go to worship or spend time with their families," said Brian Meidel, president of Teamsters Local 734, which has represented the bakery route sales reps since 1940.
Meidel said Jewel has only recently began demanding that the bakeries provide full driver services on Sundays, in contrast with the previous system, under which drivers volunteered to make the early-morning Sunday runs to area bakeries in exchange for overtime pay.
The Teamsters allege Jewel is demanding the Sunday hours from bakery drivers to cut costs on the chain's own staff time for restocking bakery shelves throughout the day on Sundays. "To save a few dollars, Jewel wants to keep these drivers away from their families and their religious observances on their day of rest," said Meidel. "That's just not right."
The Melrose Park, Ill.-based Supervalu subsidiary told Progressive Grocer: "Jewel-Osco continuously explores new methods to improve the shopping experience for all our customers. However, it is our policy not to discuss internal business operations."
Religious and community activists are also decrying the measure. "Forcing bakery drivers to work on Sundays hurts workers, their families, and our community," said James Thindwa, Chicago Jobs with Justice executive director. "I urge Jewel executives to think about how they value their own Sunday time with their family or at worship, and give the same respect to these hard-working drivers."
The leafleting took place at five Jewel stores, including the stores in Elk Grove and Algonquin. Meidel says the drivers will continue to ask Jewel to keep Sunday a volunteer workday. "We'll be out here on another Sundays until Jewel agrees to respect our Sundays," he said.
With a market-leading position in Chicago, Jewel-Osco operates 183 stores in Illinois, Iowa, and Indiana.