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    Western Beverage Co. Strike Threatens Budweiser Supply

    Retailers worry about beer stock ahead of the July 4th holiday, as all employees at a Budweiser distribution company join Oregon strike.

    MEDFORD, Ore. -- With every union member of Western Beverage Co.'s 50-man driving fleet on a statewide strike since Tuesday morning, retailers are concerned there will not be enough Budweiser to go around on the upcoming Fourth of July holiday.

    The Budweiser distributor's drivers are upset about a new 401(k) retirement plan proposed by Western Beverage and a change in health benefits, Dan Ratty, secretary/treasurer of the Medford Teamsters chapter, told the Mail Tribune. "This is a multi-million-dollar company and they're trying to shortchange people and it's not right," he said.

    Drivers were picketing in front of a distribution site here and were seen at other local Budweiser retailers, including a 7-Eleven. Union drivers in Eugene and Salem, Ore., are also taking part in the strike.

    Western Beverage Co. has been negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the union since December, in hopes of avoiding a work stoppage. Last Monday, the union turned down the latest proposal and went on strike later that night.

    Jack Willis, Western Beverage's executive VP, said the drivers chose one of the busiest times of the year to go on strike. Willis, 62, started loading trucks for the company in 1974 and helped out again on Tuesday for the first time in more than a decade.

    "It's a tough time," he told the paper. "I anticipate working all weekend so that we can make all of our deliveries."

    Ratty said the timing of the strike was a calculated move -- the Teamsters wanted to go out during the peak of business. "We're going out at the peak of their busiest season," he told the paper. "And we plan to stay out until they do the right thing."

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