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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Truck drivers who deliver food to hundreds of Louisville restaurants, public schools, nursing homes and hospitals say they are tired of being overworked by Sysco, teeing up a potential strike that would have an extensive impact locally.

A group of about 100 local Sysco drivers, who unionized with Teamsters Local 89 last year, are at odds with the food distribution giant after about four months of negotiations toward a first labor contract.

The drivers rejected Sysco’s final offer by a nearly 9-1 margin on Sunday, according to the union.

While a strike is not imminent, drivers are “absolutely” willing to stop working if needed, said Michael Bonner, a Sysco driver involved in the negotiations. The union says it’s up to Sysco to come back with a better offer.

“The ball is in Sysco’s court now, but we’re going to do whatever we have to do to support our members,” Teamsters Local 89 President Avral Thompson said in a statement. “If that means there’s a strike, that’s on Sysco for not doing the right thing when they had the chance.”

Sysco, a $38 billion multinational firm based in Houston, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The dispute has already had an impact. Sysco is the biggest vendor of food served at Jefferson County Public Schools cafeterias, and the school district is changing its lunch menus to cope with Sysco delivery delays.

JCPS spokeswoman Carolyn Callahan said 60% of the district’s schools did not get deliveries on time last week amid “rolling sickouts at Sysco.”

Trey McCutcheon, a business agent at Teamsters Local 89, said the delays were not because drivers called out sick, but because they were overwhelmed with additional volume after Sysco encouraged its customers to stock up in case of a strike.

Bonner, a Sysco driver since 2008, said the company’s drivers unionized in 2022 because they are seeking relief from frequent 12-hour days in which they’re driving and unloading heavy boxes of fresh and frozen food from tractor trailers.

“We have the hardest job in food service,” he said. “…We don't want to spend a whole day at work, but that's what it is — you're working long hours. So we'd like to see the hours be more manageable.”

McCutcheon said Sysco constantly “pushes the limit” of federal regulations that limit the number of hours commercial vehicle drivers can work daily and weekly.

Bonner said the company needs to invest more in wages to attract enough drivers to spread the work out. The drivers, who require a commercial license or CDL, start at $24.65 an hour, according to the union.

“You don't have the drivers to get the work done. And so you overload the drivers. And then you won't raise the wage to attract the drivers that you need,” he said.

Sysco says in job ads for Louisville drivers that $80,000 a year is possible “with incentives.” Bonner said that wage is realistic, but “you’ll be working long hours to get it.”

Stacy Roof, who runs the Kentucky Restaurant Association, said she hadn’t heard of any issues among her members. While Sysco is big player, it is not the only local distributor, she said. Others include Gordon Food Service and Creation Gardens.

Reach reporter Chris Otts at 502-585-0822,, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2023. WDRB Media. All rights reserved.