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Bellingham Cold Storage workers are staging a 30-hour strike. Here’s why

UPDATED: Fri., June 18, 2021

By Dave Gallagher Bellingham Herald

BELLINGHAM – Union workers at Bellingham Cold Storage began a 30-hour unfair labor practice strike on Friday to try and bring the company back to the negotiating table.

About 110 workers began the strike at 11 a.m. at the Roeder Avenue and Orchard Street facilities. The strike will last until 5 p.m. Saturday, said Rich Ewing, secretary-treasurer of the Teamsters Local 231. Ewing said workers plan on having a picket line around the clock at the Bellingham facilities until the action ends and they return to work.

The union and the company have been working on a new contract since November, but Ewing said the company has recently refused to negotiate further after presenting what was being characterized as the company’s final offer. Ewing said the offer is unacceptable and there’s still work to be done in several areas, particularly health care benefits, wages and pension benefits.

“Our hope is that they will come back to the table,” Ewing said . “These workers are very skilled and they should be treated fairly.”

Doug Thomas, president of Bellingham Cold Storage, said in an email that in the interest of maintaining professionalism throughout this process, he wasn’t going to comment other than to say that Bellingham Cold Storage respects the right of the employees to strike.

When pressed on what would happen after the strike action ended as planned on Saturday, Thomas said the company would not lock the workers out.

Ewing said many of workers involved in the strike are forklift operators and other skilled workers who are employed by Bellingham Cold Storage. No workers from any of Bellingham Cold Storage’s tenants are involved in the strike.

On June 9, union members voted unanimously to authorize a strike against Bellingham Cold Storage but did not set a date. At the time of the strike authorization, union officials noted these workers are a critical part of the supply chain for perishables and if they were to strike it would have a severe impact on the food supply chain.

Bellingham Cold Storage was established in 1946 by A.W. (Arch) Talbot and has three facilities, the third recently opening in Stanwood, Washington.

Bellingham Cold Storage was purchased by a Seattle investment group called The Joshua Green Corp. in 2018 and the Talbot family members remain shareholders.

The company is well-known for storing and processing a variety of food, including fish and local agriculture.

Founded in 1909, Teamsters Local 231 represents 2,200 members across a wide variety of industries.

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