The Washington area's biggest Teamster local has launched a strike against Washington outlets for three of the nation's largest moving and storage companies, raising propects of considerable disruption in moving service here.
Members of Teamster Local 639 set up picket lines yesterday at four outlets affiliated with Allied Van Lines, the nation's biggest mover, and at the Washington offices for Aero May-flower Transit Co., the third largest. The Union local began a strike Thursday against Bekins Moving and Storage Co. here, union officials said. Bekins is the fifth largest mover nationally, according to moving industry spokesmen.
How severely the strike would disrupt moving serivce for Washington's widely transient population appeared uncertain yesterday. Officials familiar with the moving industry said the strike's immediate impact would be felt mainly by families trying to retrieve their belongings may be stuck until the strike ends, they said.
The strike took place against a backdrop of recent turmoil within Teamster Local 639 and what was eventually held to have been an illegal lockout by some of the same moving companies against Local 639 three years ago
In a Local 639 election last june, Daniel George, an outspoken critic of the local's previous leaders, led a 13-member slate that ran under a reform banner to an upset victory for all major offices in the local. George largely declined to comment on the strike yesterday4, saying the local would "not negotiate contracts in the newspaper."
Three years ago 10 Washington moving companies, including many of those embroiled in the current dispute, enaged in a 28-day lockout against the same Teamsters local, disrupting moving service for numerous Washington households. The National Labor Relations Board later ruled that the lockout was illegal - a finding that was sustained after a court appeal - and ordered that Teamster members idled during the lockout be given back pay.
H. Quinn Anderson, a compliance officer for the NLRB, said yesterday that the board-ordered back-pay awards had not yet been computed, although they would probably amount to between $300,000 and $500.000. Some union officials said yesterday that the delayed back-pay awards were a further irritant in the current dispute.
A spokesman for most of the moving companies affected by the Teamsters local strike said he would have no comment while negotiations are continuing. A negotiating session took place yesterday afternoon, but prospects for a settlement appeared uncertain.
Although key officials for the union and the companies refused yesterday to discuss major facets of the dispute, the strike was reported by some knowledgeable officials to be aimed at an industry bargaining group, known as the Movers' and Warehousemen's Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C., Inc.
The association's current members were reported to include four agents for Allied Van Lines - Colonial Storage Co., Lion Transfer & Storage Co., Security Storage Co. of Washington and United States Moving & Storage Co. INnc. The Washington outlets for Aero Mayflower, known as Smith's Moving & Storage Co. Inc. are also in the bargaining group. One other association member was reported to be District Moving & Storage Inc.
Phillip Feater, a business agent for Local 639, said that the local had also gone on strike against two other firms not affiliated with the nargaining association, Nekins, a former association member, and Kane Warehouse Co. Inc. About 500 Local 639 members - drivers, packers, ware-housemen and other workers - are taking part in the strike, Feaster said.
The central issues in the dispute appear to be wages and other pay provisions. Feaster said the local's members had voted Wednesday night to go on strike after rejecting company offers of hourly wage increases, varying from about 30 to 40 cents in the first year of a three-year contract. The local had initially sought yearly increases of $1 an hour, but later modifired its demands. Current wage rates for moving company employes taking part in the strike, Feaster said, vary from $5.45 to $5.80 an hour.