The Sysco Food Strike and How Winsor’s Been Dealing With It

By Audrey Wang

Throughout late September and early October, hundreds of Sysco workers in New York and Boston protested against unfair labor practices and low wages in their workplaces. Sysco, a prominent wholesale food distributor, has branches across the country and is New England’s largest food supplier. On October 1, 2022, over 300 workers for Sysco Boston went on strike, just when their contracts expired. The protestors are members of the labor union, Teamsters, and they claim that Sysco’s workers deserve better wages, pensions, and healthcare. According to an article by Seafoodsource—a leading news center for information on the food industry—published on October 4, Teamsters Local 653 claimed: ​​“[Sysco’s] management offered a ‘last, best, final’ offer that would strip their essential workers of union health insurance and deny Local 653 members their pensions.” However, a Sysco spokesperson told NBC Boston that the company “offered wage increases of 25% over the life of the contract and 7% in Year 1.” The spokesperson also told Seafoodsource: “The Teamsters made no wage demands during bargaining. We also offered more healthcare options at lower costs compared to associates’ current plan. The company is not taking a pension away.” On October 17, the Plympton police arrested 13 people during a blockade by the Teamsters. In response, Sysco proposed a resolution and as of October 20, the workers on strike approved a five-year contract agreement with Sysco that entails an $11/hour raise over those five years, keeps drivers on their health insurance plan, and improves their retirement benefits. Thus, the nearly three-week-long strike came to an end. 

Though the strike is technically over, Winsor’s kitchen staff has been working to resolve a moral dilemma. Here’s what Chef Heather says: “Our FLIK [the dining company Winsor employs] corporate offices have kept busy trying to help us source items however possible; this includes encouraging us to keep a heavy inventory and ordering a week or two in advance at all times… The first few weeks we would order through our other [small] vendors… When that wasn’t enough I was running to BJ’s, Costco, and Restaurant Depot.” While the kitchen staff tried their best to provide meals with limited resources, Chef Heather admits, “Towards the end I had to cross the picket line twice because it is just not feasible to feed 600 [people] snack, lunch, and special events this way. Like Spirit Week or Under the Lights, there is no way I could have sourced all that food for 1500(ish) people without ordering through a major vendor like Sysco; it just could not have been done… When it’s your job to feed people sometimes you don’t have an option, and you have to make the hard decision that doesn’t always align with your personal values.” 

We are so grateful to Chef Heather and the kitchen staff for providing our students with nutritious meals while also trying their best to consider ethics and morality. 

Sources: ​​