The International Brotherhood of Teamsters froze national negotiations with Anheuser-Busch after the employer refused to fix and improve health care benefits for workers and retirees, but the company is claiming that it has a long history of reaching competitive agreements with organized labor.
As the economic bargaining began, the Teamsters submitted a proposal to end two-tier health benefits that force recent hires to pay more money for coverage than more senior workers doing the same jobs.
Under the terms of the current contract, negotiated in 2018, Anheuser-Busch Teamsters hired after March 1, 2019, are forced into a high deductible health plan that requires members to pay a significant portion of their health care costs.
Meanwhile, Anheuser-Busch Teamsters hired prior to that date enjoy plans that require much lower out-of-pocket payments. More than 40 percent of current Anheuser-Busch workers were hired into the more expensive health plan.
“Faced with Anheuser-Busch’s greed and disrespect, the Teamsters Anheuser-Busch National Negotiating Committee walked out of negotiations and will return once the company meets its members’ critical demands,” said a press release issued by the union. The current five-year agreement expires Feb. 29, 2024.
The Teamsters Anheuser-Busch National Negotiating Committee presented a proposal last month for Anheuser-Busch to eliminate an unfair, costly two-tier health benefits system that punishes workers hired after March 1, 2019, and to restore retiree health care coverage.
“We’re currently working through the normal negotiations process, on a timeline mutually agreed upon by Anheuser-Busch and the Teamsters. These negotiations are scheduled to take place over the coming months.”
As negotiations over health care were taking place, Anheuser-Busch InBev announced its $1 billion stock buyback program to reward wealthy investors. This comes after the beer conglomerate paid out $11.62 billion to shareholders in the form of dividends from 2019 to 2022.
On the same day, the company issued a statement that said, “Anheuser-Busch and the Teamsters resumed negotiations this week, talks progressed, and tentative agreements were reached on a range of non-economic items.”
“The parties also continued discussing economic topics, focusing on healthcare and exchanging a number of different proposals,” said the company statement. “We plan to resume negotiations during the week of November 13. We remain confident in our ability to reach an agreement that continues to recognize and reward the talent, commitment, and drive of our brewery employees.”
“The arrogance of this company to shower Wall Street with billions but pinch pennies over lowering health care costs for the blue-collar workers and retirees who created all that wealth in the first place is an appalling affront that we will not tolerate,” said Jeff Padellaro, director of the Teamsters Brewery, Bakery, and Soft Drink Conference. “Anheuser-Busch is wasting time while we’re trying to improve the lives of our members. It’s a bold and disrespectful approach from a company that likes to use its Teamster workforce as props in commercials to fix its image.”
“Anheuser-Busch doesn’t get to drag out these negotiations without consequences,” said Teamsters General President Sean M. O’Brien. “If this company can give a billion dollars to Wall Street, they can give our members the health care they deserve.”
There are 5,000 Teamsters working at Anheuser-Busch across 12 breweries in the U.S. Teamsters brew, package, and ship beer, safeguard the facilities, and drive the world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales.
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.3 million hardworking people in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.
Once an American brewing company headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, Anheuser-Busch was founded by German-born immigrants, Adolphus Busch and his father-in-law Eberhard Anheuser, a prosperous following the American Civil War.
Since 2008, it has been wholly owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV (AB InBev), a Brazilian-Belgian multinational drink and brewing company that is now the world’s largest brewing company, and owner of multiple global brands, notably Budweiser, Michelob, Stella Artois, and Beck’s.
The company employs over 19,000 people, operates 12 breweries in the United States, and until December 2009, was one of the largest theme park operators in the United States, with ten theme parks through the company’s family entertainment division Busch Entertainment Corporation.