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Sysco Worker Strike Ends Giving Restaurants a Labor Day Weekend Present

Workers should return to their jobs on Friday

A truck with a colorful cab.
A four-day strike is over.
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

The Sysco warehouse strike that affected food deliveries to restaurants in the Chicago area is over. The 125 unionized workers employed at the food distributor’s suburban Des Plaines’ facility reached a tentative agreement with Sysco late on Thursday night, according to a news release from Teamsters Local No. 703. The action ends a four-day strike that began Monday.

Workers should return to their jobs on Friday, Teamsters Local No. 703 Vice President Pat Bruno said in a statement. Sysco is North America’s largest food distributor providing meats, produce, and other supplies for restaurants, schools, and hospitals around the country. The strike threatened to snarl the operations of Chicago restaurants with deliveries canceled and delay. About 200 Sysco truck drivers also walked off their jobs in support of the warehouse workers and that further complicated the matters. Restaurants were scrambling this week trying to connect with Sysco’s competitors and find alternative means of stocking up in case the strike was prolonged. Sysco also distributes food to hospitals and schools, and company reps told restaurants those vital venues would get priority in terms of delivery during the strike.

This is Bruno’s statement from the news release:

We are pleased Sysco has decided to finally come to the table and give our members the workplace protections and respect they deserve. We tried to avoid a strike at all costs, but it proved a necessary action to inspire dialogue. Our members are excited to get back to performing the essential work with the same heart and soul that made them heroes during the darkest days of the pandemic.

The warehouse workers have been without a contract February 2020. Bargaining started in January of this year, but talks broke down leading to Monday’s strike. Neither Sysco nor the union have specified on what caused the strike. The Sun-Times reported it centered on wages. One restaurant owner tells Eater Chicago that Sysco reps told him that wasn’t the case. It involved Sysco’s acquisition of Greco & Sons, an independent food distributor. The deal was announced in May, but there was a question whether Greco’s former workers would be allowed to join the Teamsters. New members would give the union additional leverage in talks going forward.

Sysco wasn’t immediately reached for comment.

Restaurant owners, who have struggled during the pandemic, were frustrated by the worker stoppage and said it was yet another challenge they needed to contend with during a turbulent several months.