Syracuse strike affects food deliveries in north country

Published: Sep. 29, 2022 at 5:36 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Workers at Sysco, a major food supplier in Syracuse, are on strike and it’s having ripple effects in the north country.

Some 230 union employees walked off the job Tuesday night. They’re members of Teamsters Local 317 and are drivers and warehouse workers.

On its website, Teamster member Matt Wademan, a 30-year driver for Sysco, said, “We’re striking over unfair labor practices, unsolved grievances, and unfair wages. This is nothing but corporate greed. Sysco simply doesn’t want to pay us what we’re worth.”

Sysco tells 7 News it offered wage increases that would put workers at or above market, plus a $2,500 signing bonus, as well as health insurance and paid time off.

The Teamsters help get food to north country businesses and the strike is having ripple effects.

At Empire Square restaurant in Watertown, there’s one thing on the menu you can’t get because of the strike.

“French fries. Sysco has our favorite French fries,” said owner Vonnette Monteith. “I love the French fries. Our customers love the French fries. I don’t know what it is about those French fries but they are very good French fries.”

For the time being, those beloved fries are replaced with ones from a local grocery store. The same goes for another 16 items.

Due to the strike, Sysco doesn’t have the delivery drivers to make the trip to the north country so those items are stuck in Syracuse.

“You put it in, you trust it’s coming in. You pay your money. Then you get the phone call the day of and you’re not getting anything,” said Monteith.

Without deliveries, the only way for restaurant owners to get their supplies is to make a trip to Syracuse and pick up their orders themselves. Monteith is considering making the trip.

“I might go to Syracuse and pick off coffee. That is 3 hours out of the way,” she said.

Small businesses aren’t the only group affected by the strike, including Watertown’s hospital and nursing homes.

“Our dietary staff and dietitians at Summit Village, the Keep Home and the medical center have all worked as a team so they can provide continuity and minimal disruption to our patients, residents, and staff,” said Samaritan Medical Center spokesperson Leslie DiStefano.

For now, many Sysco customers say they’ll use other food distributors like Watertown’s Renzi Foodservice.