HOUSTON (PRNewswire) — Teamsters employed at Sysco and US Foods protested outside Sysco's shareholders meeting Wednesday to demand answers to tough questions from the company's Board of Directors about its proposed purchase of US Foods and the impact on thousands of jobs.
"Thousands of workers at Sysco and US Foods are concerned about their livelihoods, but all Sysco will say is that employees will become Sysco associates Day One if the merger is approved by the federal government," said Ken Hall, International Brotherhood of Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer. "These men and women deserve to know what that means. Will Sysco honor its existing collective bargaining agreements at both companies? How does it intend to save $600 million over the next four years, and will its loyal, long-term employees pay that price?"
Shareholders entered the 2014 Sysco Annual Meeting with uncertainty about Sysco's future. Sysco's planned merger with its only national competitor, US Foods, is still far from inevitable, despite management's portrayal that everything is going as planned to workers, customers, analysts and investors throughout the year. Sysco has twice announced delays in closing the deal since it was announced in December 2013.
"Why?" asked Steve Vairma, Teamsters Warehouse Division Director, which represents 120,000 warehouse workers throughout the country and nearly 12,000 in total at Sysco and US Foods. "All Sysco stakeholders, including investors, loyal customers and its workers are left in the dark by management."
The transaction, structured by executives without a vote of the shareholders, is now the subject of intense scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Workers and customers of each company, as well as anti-monopoly groups, warn that the merger could significantly harm competition in markets across the U.S.
Management is poised to gain financially from the merger through incentives/bonuses embedded in the merger agreement. Forty-six executives stand to pocket cash bonuses on completion of the merger. Chief Financial Officer Robert Kreidler has already cashed in $429,000 and will earn another $715,000 if the transaction closes. Three other executives will split nearly $1.5 million if the deal is approved.
"Executives are poised to line their pockets from this merger, but we could lose our jobs and the company won't even tell us if it plans to sell our warehouse or close it altogether," said Scott Laughlin, a Sysco employee.
In addition to the rally outside, several Teamsters raised merger-related concerns to Sysco's senior executives and Board members inside the annual shareholders meeting.
"Investors don't know what the composition of a newly combined company would look like. A possible anti-trust remedy from the FTC could call for divestitures from certain markets," said Shelly Allsup, a Teamsters representative from San Diego, Calif.
"It's time Sysco clears the air," Vairma said. "We are here to show the company that we will do whatever it takes to protect Teamsters employed at Sysco and US Foods."