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Teamsters strike at US Foods facility in Severn

Workers represented by the Teamsters union went on strike Wednesday at the US Foods distribution warehouse in Severn, which the company announced earlier in April is closing.
Workers represented by the Teamsters union went on strike Wednesday at the US Foods distribution warehouse in Severn, which the company announced earlier in April is closing. (Courtesy of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters)

Workers at a US Foods distribution center in Anne Arundel County went on strike Wednesday, three weeks after the company confirmed plans to close the facility.

The Teamsters union, which represents about 190 people at the Severn plant through two locals, said in a statement that members walked off the job at 2 p.m. The statement said US Foods failed to bargain in good faith and used outside employees to perform members' jobs.

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US Foods called the strike "unfortunate." The Illinois-based company has started moving products from Severn to other facilities in the region to serve customers.

"It is unfortunate that Baltimore Teamsters have chosen to strike," company spokeswoman Debra Ceffalio said in a statement. "Right now, our focus is on continuing to serve our customers without delay."

US Foods announced tentative plans to close the Severn facility last June, when about 350 people worked there. The company made a final decision this month, citing declining sales and an inability to strike a deal with union workers over cost-cutting that would keep the facility open.

Union officials said at the time that US Foods wanted $8 million in concessions, including wage cuts and switching from pensions to a 401(k) plan.

"It is outrageous that a formerly Maryland-based company is threatening to outsource hundreds of good, family supporting jobs in Maryland to a low-road, nonunion facility in Virginia," said Denis Taylor, president of Teamsters Local 355. "We are calling on US Foods to postpone the decision and sit down with workers, customers and public officials to find a way to keep good Maryland jobs in Maryland."

The company said it plans to shift operations to Pennsylvania and Virginia, resulting in 304 layoffs, according to a notice filed April 6 with the state of Maryland.

US Foods has made an offer regarding severance benefits and "remains hopeful that an agreement can be reached to lessen the impact of the closure on those employees," Ceffalio said.

The firm could incur $50 million in charges for withdrawing from a pension plan with the Baltimore closure, according to a company filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

US Foods, the second-largest food-service distributor in the United States, is the successor to the former Columbia-based US Foodservice, one of the Baltimore region's largest companies in the 1990s. It is owned by private equity firms Clayton, Dubilier & Rice and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.

US Foods, which has $4.7 billion in debt and has filed plans to go public, has clashed with unions in other locations.

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