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EXCLUSIVE: Patch Talks to VP of Dichello Distributors

On Friday, April 15, Dichello Vice President Peter Deane reached out to Patch to offer the long-awaited company side of the lock out.

Peter Deane, vice president of sales and general manager of Dichello Distributors, called Patch on Friday to offer the company’s side of the story regarding the ongoing lock out and contract dispute with its delivery drivers and warehouse workers — who are members of Teamsters Local 443.

History:

Dichello and the union had 18 meetings between December and February with a goal of getting a contract with the Teamsters. But on March 10, the company locked the workers out when the talks became stagnant.

On April 10, Dichello put a “Help Wanted” ad in the newspapers to find permanent replacement workers for both drivers and warehouse personnel.

This action caused even more tension on the line as the job seekers had to cross the line with police escorts, go into the building and then walk through the line again to get to their cars.

One of the locked out workers tossed a cup of noodle soup at the applicants and was arrested. The applicants did not want to press charges against the man.

On Tuesday, the Teamsters received word that they had been approved for unemployment since their situation was deemed a “Lock Out” and not a “Strike” (as the company’s COO Ed Crowley had stated in a press release.)

On Thursday, the employees began seeing unemployment deposits in their bank accounts.

Following is our conversation with Mr. Deane.

“We negotiated and negotiated and put a very competitive offer out there with pay raises, medical benefits and a pension program,” Deane said. “There’s been a lot of talk about how we didn’t negotiate, but that’s not true. In 18 meetings we’re the only ones that moved some of our original offers. We moved substantial items, but they decided to walk away from an extremely competitive offer.”

Deane said the goal of the negotiating team was to get a contract with the Teamsters. “There’s value in it, and we know that,” he said.

PATCH: Is there any extra cost to the company to retain the old contract per the Teamsters request?

DEANE: The two major issues that the Teamsters refused to negotiate in any way, shape or form, were the pension and the health and welfare. They refused to have their members pay a portion of the healthcare which is fair in this day and age, and again, under-funded. But, and this is very important; Dichello needed to remain competitive in an industry dominated by non-union houses. That was the other goal we had to reach, and their pension is drastically under-funded. Our portion alone of the pension liability is $21 million. The pension, in their words is drastically under-funded, and is in critical condition, it’s unsustainable, and we’re just not willing to pay into a pension that very likely won’t be there for the men. Unfortunately, they seem to vehemently disagree with us on that point.

PATCH: We know that a couple of men have crossed the line and have gone back to work. Do you see more of that happening? Do you hope to get some of them back in?

DEANE: We’re hoping to get all of them back, quite honestly, I’m not that young, but I can only take out so many more trucks. We’d like them all to come back; tomorrow. They can come back today if they’d like.

PATCH: How are the deliveries going? How are the temporary workers working out?

DEANE: We’re so proud of them. Our plan included taking some of our non-union force, using them on trucks as helpers and delivery guys. Many of them have CDLs. We also brought in some replacement drivers and warehouse workers and we’re right up to snuff. We’re caught up; any one of our 3,200 customers that was looking for beer after the first week, has gotten everything that they wanted.

PATCH: So, the sticking point with the Teamsters is the pension and the healthcare?

DEANE: With the Teamster negotiating team, yes.

PATCH: What is the difference between the two (Dichello’s offer and Teamster’s request)?

DEANE: Their pension fund, in their words is in critical condition. It’s less than 50% funded. It’s a multi-employer pension and it’s drastically under-funded. Dichello’s obligation into the pension has all been met. We’ve paid into that pension, exactly what we bargained for, for more than 30 years — for 35 years we’ve paid what we agreed to pay in, and at the end of the last contract we still have to pay $21 million because of the promises that the Teamsters made and the investments that they made. We cannot stay with their pension in all good faith.

PATCH: There’s one guy on the line who said when he retires at age 64, he will get something like $350 a month instead of $1,300. [I failed to clarify that this reflected $350 month with the company-offered 401k]

DEANE: Any of that stuff comes from the Teamsters. Again, our obligation for more than 30 years is to pay a certain amount per hour, per guy, that was our obligation. The Teamsters obligation was to invest it wisely and make sure it’s there when the men retire. At this point, they have not done very well with that, and it’s unsustainable; We’re not going to continue to put money into a black hole.

PATCH: But you’re not behind on payments at all?

DEANE: With the pension? No, we’ve fulfilled our obligation. You do understand that it’s under-funded by no fault of our own, but the company is still on the hook for that $21 million: it has nothing to do with any of our promises, or any of our investments.

PATCH: What’s the difference between the healthcare they have now, and what Dichello is offering?

DEANE: The only difference is that is unpalatable to the Teamsters, is that they refuse to have their members pay a portion of their medical benefits. That’s the major difference between the two — Ours requires that they pay 10% and they simply would not agree with that.

PATCH: Only 10%?

DEANE: That’s less than I pay.

PATCH: We’ve been covering this since March 10, is there anything that you would like to clarify or correct from what we’ve reported online?

DEANE: Those were the big issues that you’ve spoken about online and I’ve clarified that with you. We always wanted to contract with them, we did put a competitive offer on the table. Our goal was to get a contract with them that was competitive: what that means is competitive with the rest of the beer wholesalers in our territory, and a vast majority of those are totally non-union.**  That’s been our goal, and it’s still our goal.

PATCH: How long do you see this going on?

DEANE: It’s up to them, they can come back today.

PATCH: Are you willing to sit down with them again?

DEANE: That’s not for me to say.

PATCH: But you have sat down with them, you said, 18 times.

DEANE: Yes, we had 18 meetings and I was at every one of them.

PATCH: And in what period of time was that?

DEANE: The meetings started in December and carried through into February. We actually gave the Teamsters opportunities for many more meetings but, their schedules didn’t permit it, so we ended up having 18. At the 18th meeting they gave us the same proposal that they handed us at meeting one, as far as the pension and health and welfare was still there at meeting 18 with no movement whatsoever and that’s when we decided that we had reached an impasse.

** See attached PDF file for Edward Crowley's letter to retailers regarding non-union wholesale competition.

Editor's note: We will keep the article open for comments under the expectation that readers will remain civil in expressing their opinions. Personal attacks will not be tolerated and comments should stick to the topic at hand. If anyone resorts to name calling and derogatory statements, we will remove the comment and, if it persists, close comments for this article.

Robin April 16, 2011 at 03:40 PM
Its 443, not 344.
Joe April 16, 2011 at 07:37 PM
Great coverage on this from Patch since day 1. Not sure if Mr. Deane can answer my question, or maybe you can present it to him the next time they wish to speak. Dichello's company line of "Dichello needed to remain competitive in an industry dominated by non-union houses." What exactly is Dichello's competition? If I buy a bottle of Bud in New Haven, Fairfield and Middlesex counties the only place that bottle came from, was from Dichello. They control every Bud product within these counties. I am confused as to where they see non union houses as competition. I am not aware of cross products Dichello's share with other houses? Are they not making enough money becuase people choose to buy Star products??
Yooper April 16, 2011 at 09:00 PM
I do not understand (and it is not clarified in this interview) why Dichello says it has to pay an additional $21 million if they have made all their contractually agreed payments to date. If that is required by contract it appears that Dichello should have objected to that before they ever signed up for it. That would be like me taking out a mortgage that required me to cover the bank's losses from some other loans or investments.
Mary April 16, 2011 at 10:14 PM
Mr Deane was asked the difference between the two pensions. Dichello's offer for the 401K is 3% of the gross pay per year. Lets say you make $40,000 per year Dichello would contribute $1,200 per year so after 40 years you would have $48,000 plus interest to retire on. How can you compare that to the union pension that was stated at $3,000 per month. I really don't think Dichello's is concerned with the status of the employes pension. Dichello's must need to cut the employes benefits to fund the 71 Million dollar train station that is not needed. Mr Crowley will be paying the $71 Million dollars him self to build the train station and then charge the state to use it. As a tax payer I don't think we need any more debit when West Haven has already been approved for the train station less then 2 miles away. Mr Crowley is living a life of Luxury. His 2 year old $ 2 MILLION dollar Yacht is now for sale. He is not selling this because of hard times. The only reason is because it is not large enough so he's having a larger custom yacht built. We know Mr Crowley can not relate to the dedicated driver's and warehouse people. The employes have always been proud to be an employe's of Dichello's. It is very sad that Mr Crowley does not value them. I believe at a company meeting Mr Crowley said "any monkey can do this job." That's exactly how he feels about his employes. Greed ! Greed! Greed!
One Of The Monkeys April 16, 2011 at 11:15 PM
I enjoyed Mr Deane's comment how proud he was the non union workers are working to get the beer out. He forgot to mention they were told they had to. They were made to get aCDL to drive trucks They were told they must do our jobs they even put a women that does inventory on a forklifts They were hired as salesman and management not drivers and warehouse workers Ask Mr Deane if Mr Crowley gave them a choice next time you talk. If Mr Deane can't say it's up to him to sit down again ask Mr Crowley its his company The union has already made a move. Crowleys next move will show everyone his real intentions
One Of The Monkeys April 16, 2011 at 11:25 PM
I think Dichello is trying to trick you by saying the word competitive over and over Just use the word greed instead it fits the company's intent better When you have a monopoly there is no competition But greed pure and simple
Yooper April 17, 2011 at 12:32 AM
Thanks Aaron. I understand how everything went south in 2008 (including my IRA). If Dichello is responsible to keep the plan fully funded why do they make it sound like the Teamsters are responsible for the losses in investments? If it is a defined benefit plan then I would expect Dichello to have control of the funds and the investment decisions. Then it would be up to Dichello to make sure there was enough in the fund to pay the benefits. I believe there are regulatory requirements to make sure that is done. I think Dichello would have to file Chapter 11 before PBGC would take over.
Mark April 17, 2011 at 02:56 PM
competition? what Star and G&G Dichello's made more then Star and G&G put together last year! there is no competition Dichello is the biggest distributor in the State! the next is Hartford distributors they are teamsters Fair and competitive offer? then why did the State find it substantially less then what they were working under and awarded them unemployment! Peter was there at 18 Meetings? Chris Thomas (Union Busting firm ) did all the negotiating and came up with the final and last proposal. Witch was substantially less then what they were working under! The Teamsters obligation was to invest it wisely? after 9-11 a lot of 401k's and pensions took a big hit they will rebound in time!We’re not going to continue to put money into a black hole?what money dose Dichello put in your 401k Peter? They wanted to negotiate a fair contract with the Teamsters? then Why did they hirer a contract consulting firm ( Union Busting) train the salesman to drive the trucks, put up a new gate,cover the Budweiser sign,paint the line's that the men have to stand behind at the gate, have the warehouseman teach the girls from the front offices to drive the to-motors and how to unload trailers! long before the contract was over! The Plan was simply put out a contract that they knew the Union will reject and bust the Union walks like a duck quacks like a duck they will tell you its a bird
Yooper April 19, 2011 at 01:04 PM
BB You are brilliant. Mr. Crowley just has to get rid of his union and have the remaining people do two jobs. Voila. What a remarkable gain in profitability. Mr. Crowley is smarter than even Donald Trump.
B Brown April 19, 2011 at 01:17 PM
The meaning I was trying to get across is there is no special training for the union workers jobs that ooffice personal and new hires can walk right in and do the same job. Also the union workers should really pay attention to what is happening here. There out and new hires in now they can thank their union for putting them out of work.
Terri Miles April 19, 2011 at 03:53 PM
B Brown, you are bringing negativity back into the comment thread. Per the note at the end of the story one of your comments has been deleted. I allowed the second (above) but the mean spirited comments are not allowed.
Mary April 20, 2011 at 01:27 AM
I heard a couple of the new hired employes already quit. It seems the 500 applications most of these guy's don't qualify for this unskilled job with no training. Also, it is the employes who vote on the contract not the Union. Anyone with half a brain knows this crappy contract was only offered to break the Union. The State of CT called it a Lock Out and gave them all unemployment. Looking at this whole situation it was poorly thought out. Dichello's must be loosing a lot of money at this point. I know Aneheser Bush is not pleased with how this situation has been handled.
Aaron April 22, 2011 at 03:48 AM
The company has stated that they want us to pay 10% of our health care cost. We already pay 100% of our health and wealth fare it comes out of our checks before taxes it is about seven dollars an hour up to 40hrs a week. The company wants us to give up our earned health-care. The company wants us to sign on to a health insurance plan that is less than what we have now. Why should we give up what we have earned. I could see a point in taking less if Dichellos was in a bad financial situation.The company is not in anyway on financially unstable ground. The company plans to build a train station and parking garage. The Connecticut state legislature will soon be taking a bill under consideration that would allow private business entities to build this train station then lease the station and garage to the state. Dichellos and a private land developer will have this income plus the income from the largest beer distributor in Connecticut. I believe that Dichello Dist. cannot get the financial backing it needs to build this station if there is a union at dichellos. No one is going to invest with Dichello if there is the chance of a future labor dispute. Therefore Dichello worked with a union busting firm in an attempt to rid Dichello of the union. The company offered the union a contract that they knew the union would vote down. This is union busting 101. first force the union into a strike then attempt to undermine the union.
chris April 26, 2011 at 02:11 AM
I think its greed on the teamsters part, I work for non union competitor and we have excellent healthcare package. In this economy and with the cost of healthcare rising of course the workers have to absorb some of the cost. Those greedy dichello drivers make the best money in the industry,screw em bust the union, and hire people who want to work. All the union does is protect the guy who dosent want to work.
Terri Miles April 26, 2011 at 10:05 AM
Chris, did you see the ENTIRE company proposal before you made your comment?
One Of The Monkeys April 26, 2011 at 02:57 PM
Chris The Healthcare package that Dichello's is offering is a crappy plan, Mcdonald's offer's a better Medical plan. How could you comment on something you have no idea what your talking about. The only Greed I see is from Dichello's. All you have to do is look at Mr Crowley's life style. When most people are down sizing their boats. Mr Crowley is selling his 1 Million dollar boat to buy a 2 million dollar boat? Most people are struggling to pay for gas for there car. Also Mr Crowley wants to build a 71 million dollar train station at the Dichello property and charge the CT tax payer's to use it???. The state has all ready approved a plan in West Haven a 2 miles away. We do not need need another train station. CT Tax Payer's should fight this plan!!!.
One Of The Monkeys April 26, 2011 at 11:57 PM
chris you must work for Star Dist the non-union dist in our area You rag on our union put get the benefit of it your wages and benefits are a reflection of contracts the teamster negotiated with your so called competiton You get what we fight for You have some guys over there that lost the union years ago I bet they wish they had what they lost
Jon April 27, 2011 at 07:44 PM
The Union stinks, do some research on the Teamsters Pension and see it's all smoke and mirrors. I feel really sorry for you guys but honestly don't believe the lies coming out of Teamster Hdq

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