The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (Teamsters Union) scored a victory for workers’ rights on Friday, October 21st when it formally ratified a national contract with wholesale giant Costco.
Considered the first-ever nationwide employees’ benefits agreement with a union, the agreement will provide incremental wage increases for Costco employees over the next three years. The agreement also includes an increase in pension contributions on the wholesaler’s part.
Other benefits stipulated in the agreement are higher semi-annual bonuses, as well as a more flexible attendance policy.
A Victory for the Working Man
This master agreement is set to protect over 18,000 individuals currently employed at numerous Costco facilities throughout the United States, but it took a great deal of time and effort to achieve it.
In May of this year, the Teamsters Costco National Negotiating Committee unanimously rejected the company’s initial contract offer. A second vote held on June 21st resulted in 93% of Costco Teamsters rejecting a revised offer and paving the way for the union’s recent victory.
The final contract was voted in by around 72% of union members.
Power to the People
According to Teamster Local 986 shop steward Henry Chavez, the ratified agreement could not have been possible if Costco employees throughout the country shirked from the initiative. Chavez remarked that workers were united from the get-go and were vocal about how they deserved more than their current wages and benefits.
Rather than relying on top brass to speak to company executives, rank-and-file union members were the ones who carried the process through, attending collective bargaining talks while giving their feedback to the national negotiating committee.
Teamsters Warehouse Division director Tom Erickson recalls that the pushback against Costco’s initial offer gave the bargaining committee the much-needed impetus and leverage to ask for what they really wanted. This candor was instrumental in solidifying the final draft of the agreement.
For his part, Mike Bergen, chairperson of the national negotiating committee, expressed admiration for Costco employees’ perseverance throughout the bargaining process. Bergen said that Costco workers did not hesitate to strike whenever the company tried to call their bluff and that this was a victory for the workers, by the workers.
Sean M. O’Brien, general president of the Teamsters Union, hopes that the Costco workers’ victory could pave the way for the unionization of other major corporations, citing the likes of Amazon, Sysco, and UPS among those who need to pay better attention to workers’ welfare.