Sweeney, Downey & Houghtaling Rally For Locked Out Workers

Freehold – Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assemblywoman Joann Downey and Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling today joined dozens of workers with Teamsters Local 701 for a rally in Freehold, outside Shore Point Distributing Company, in response to the business locking out more than 100 union workers. They also announced plans to introduce legislation to protect workers’ access to health care during lockouts.

“I am here today to support the hard-working men and women of Shore Point Distributing Company, and to call on management to return to the negotiating table in a constructive manner to reach an agreement on fair compensation,” said Senator Sweeney, himself a union ironworker. “All these drivers and warehouse employees want is a chance to come to work, provide for their families and be a part of their communities.”

The workers were locked out after negotiations between the Teamsters and management at the beer distributor broke down over a new contract, after the previous one expired on March 31st. According to media reports, management wanted the workers to accept a three-year wage freeze; higher health insurance costs and a switch from a pension plan to a 401(k) retirement plan.

“Throwing out your workers is hardly an appropriate way to continue a good faith negotiation on a new contract,” said Assemblyman Houghtaling. “As a proud union electrician, I applaud the workers for standing up for their rights as employees while continuing to work for more than a month without a contract, before management locked them out.”

“The ownership of Shore Point Distributing Company has turned its back on a workforce that is not on strike, hasn’t had a work stoppage in 30 years and is willing to resume negotiating immediately,” added Assemblywoman Downey. “We are here today to encourage management to let their loyal workers back inside and let cooler heads prevail.”

Along with offering support to the locked out employees, the three lawmakers announced plans to introduce new legislation to help workers cover the cost of health care during a lockout. The bill provides funding assistance to pay for COBRA health benefits. Under current law, locked out workers are responsible for paying both their and their employer’s contributions to continue coverage.

“The last thing workers, who are prevented from working through no direct action of their own, should have to put up with – is losing their health benefits,” said Senator Sweeney. “This bill is similar to legislation I sponsored in 2005 that protected unemployment insurance for locked out workers, in that it will help employees protect themselves and their families while their employment circumstances are resolved.”