Hartford Distributors protest expected to continue on Thursday - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Hartford Distributors protest expected to continue on Thursday

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Teamsters protesting outside HDI in Manchester on Wednesday morning. (WFSB) Teamsters protesting outside HDI in Manchester on Wednesday morning. (WFSB)

Dozens of workers protested outside of Hartford Distributors in Manchester on Thursday after failed contract negotiations.

The doors at Chapel Road location were locked when more than 100 union workers showed up to work on Wednesday morning. 

"We went into work ready to take the trucks out do everything and they told us they weren't allowing us to do our work today," Chris Roos with Local 1035 said. 

The locked doors caused about 120 union workers to miss a day of work.  

According to employees, the Teamsters Local 1035 have been in negotiations over their contract, which expired on April 30. At 7 a.m. on Wednesday, they were locked out of the negotiations.

"Almost six years ago, we had a tragedy that everyone remembers and these guys basically did everything they could to keep this business going," Roos said. "Some guys gave their lives for this business and all of a sudden he turns his back and just locks us out, it's unacceptable."

In 2010, a former employee shot and killed eight workers before turning the gun on himself.

 Around 10 a.m., about 40 to 50 people started picketing outside of Hartford Distributors. 

"They weren't going to allow us to work unless they have a signed agreement," Roos said. "To me that's turning your back on all your employees." 

Temporary workers were brought in to help with the deliveries. 

"I can't understand it. We wanted to work. We continued talking,we continued to sit at the table," Roos said. "We wanted to get it done."  

Since Wednesday morning, there was some progress. Proposals were exchanged by both sides. The job means a lot to these workers. Some have been there for 40 years. 

Eyewitness News reached out to HDI on Wednesday morning, who referred calls to their lawyer, who is in negotiations with another client.

A Manchester police officer was on the scene to direct traffic. Eyewitness News was told police were called when protesting workers blocked trucks from coming in and out. 

If the workers aren't allowed back on Thursday, they plan to file for unemployment. 

David Cadden, professor emeritus of the Quinnipiac University School of Business, said the lockout at HDI "may be a sign of a more contentious labor market in the United States." 

“Hartford Distributors’ issuance of a letter demanding a signed union agreement by a given date, along with the threat of locking out workers and replacing them, is indicative of what might become a far more contentious labor market in the United States. Unions are recognizing that with and economic recovery, more of corporate profits could be distributed in the form of wages and benefits. Companies are resisting this notion and becoming more aggressive in terms of their willingness to battle unions. Unions in turn have expressed a greater willingness to go on strike. It is particularly troublesome given the past history of Hartford Distributors, where several employees were killed at work," Cadden said in a statement on Wednesday. 

Experts said the union and company had problems in the past. 

"A lock out means management is really deciding to play hard ball on this," Cadden said.

Cadden said this could happen more often now that the recession of 2008 is over.

"They're beginning to see the profits big companies are making and unions are beginning to be proactive in terms of inquiring things they've given up... Maintaining their healthcare benefits, having premiums or deductions enlarged," Cadden said.

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