Teamsters on Wednesday announced a strike at a Fargo-based food distribution company to begin 1 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 19, due to COVID-19 concerns. But a picket line formed Wednesday in Fargo.
Union officials said it could affect restaurants and schools in South Dakota.
However, local managers of Dairy Queen and Subway restaurants in Pierre said they don’t expect any problems getting supplies of food.
Warehouse workers and delivery drivers for Cash-Wa Distributors, a Fargo-based company that distributes food across the Dakotas and Minnesota, went on strike after more than 10% of Cash-Wa’s workforce tested positive for COVID-19, a Teamsters official told the Capital Journal.
The workers say Cash-Wa has refused “to comply with the CDC’s COVID-19 guidelines and keep workers and their families safe during the pandemic,” according to a news release from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents “75 essential workers at Cash-Wa’s Fargo distribution center,” the union official said in a news release.
“Workers are concerned that their distribution center, located in Fargo, will become a virus hotspot and put the surrounding areas at risk for further spread,” it states.
The union warned restaurants and schools serviced by Cash-Wa in South Dakota, Minnesota and North Dakota “to prepare for possible food disruptions.”
Cash-Wa provides food for Sioux Falls schools as well as Dairy Queens, Subways, Taco John’s and Pizza Ranches in the three states.
“Cash-Wa’s total customer base includes more than 10,000 restaurants, hospitals, convenience stores and educational facilities across 10 Great Plains states,” the Teamster spokeswoman said.
Jen Uecker, manager of the Dairy Queen in Pierre, said she is not concerned.
“As of right now, we have been assured by our direct contact — our Cash-Wa representative — that it will not affect us,” Uecker told the Capital Journal on Wednesday.
Sandi Stutesman, general manager of the Subway restaurants in Pierre — downtown on Sioux Avenue and inside Walmart — said she expects no problems from the strike.
“Our distribution center would have notified us,” she told the Capital Journal. This district of Subway stores uses as a distribution center U..S Foods in Omaha, Stutesman said.
The announced strike set to begin Thursday is part of several months of contract negotiations stalling, according to news reports.
Teamsters were walking a picket line at the Cash-Wa site in Fargo on Wednesday and Cash-Wa officials were declining to make any comments, according to KFGO Radio in Fargo.
In October, Tom Erickson, president of Teamsters Local 120, which represents the workers, said: “It is outrageous that Cash-Wa is not recognizing the hard work these employees are doing day in and day out to keep our communities fed during the worst pandemic in a century.”