I know this news may cause you some anxiety," Leonard M. Amoroso Jr., president of his family's century-old Lansdowne-based baking company, said in a letter last month to dozens of route drivers who truck his bread six days a week to markets and sandwich shops across the Philadelphia region.
Instead of employing drivers, "Amoroso's Baking Co. intends to restructure its distribution system and to sell distributorships to full-equity independent owners."
Two days later, Amoroso sent layoff notices. Their jobs, he told drivers, "will be eliminated effective June 19."
To replace his 77 Teamsters Union-member drivers, Amoroso wants to hire independent contractors, making them fellow businessmen, though not exactly partners.
He's offering to sell drivers their routes, for prices drivers say start around $100,000, which Amoroso called a "substantial discount from our estimate of market value." In case they can't borrow enough from the bank, he offered "financing of up to 100% of the purchase price." He promised "buy back" agreements that would allow drivers to sell the routes back to Amoroso's for "a full refund," and "for any reason."
Drivers were to have confirmed interest in buying routes as of Monday. How'd that go? No immediate comment from Amoroso or Teamsters Local 463 president Bob Ryder, who has opposed the move and filed grievances that could delay or modify the terms of the change.
Since I wrote about the proposal last month, I've been hearing from drivers and their wives. If their words are any guide, Amoroso is right about at least one thing: The proposal has caused some anxiety.
"Here's a typical Sunday-through-Friday-night week at Amoroso's, holidays included: Out of the house by 11 p.m. Pick up the truck. Load the truck at two different warehouses. Hopefully the rolls are done. Usually not . . . Travel over 150 miles to deliver rolls to 30 customers. . . . Pick up their empty trays [and] payments. Then back to the warehouse by noon the next day. Home by 1 p.m., lunch, and bed until the clock strikes 10 p.m."
"Most of the drivers agree the company has the right to run its business how it wishes." But, the same person added, the sudden announcement by Amoroso's, after some workers had scheduled and prepaid family vacations and budgeted other expenses, has caused hard feelings and left some to wonder whether they can trust the company in what looks like a gamble.
"There are people here who have just a few years for retirement, who now lose everything unless they're willing to go hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt, lease a truck, buy their own health care, lose their vacation time. They ought to give the [older] people a [retirement] package like other employers would have done."
"There are drivers who are battling cancer, drivers with pregnant wives. Where will these people go for health insurance?"
"There is no guarantee that the customers will stay with the drivers."
The company plans additional meetings and a "final closing celebration." Don't show up in your work clothes: To mark the drivers' new status as owners, this will be "a tie and jacket affair." Then it's back to the trucks.
Delaware is the latest state to demand that workers pay more for their pensions and health insurance. Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat, on Monday signed a law to boost new hires' pension payroll deductions to 5 percent, from 3 percent, and require workers to wait 10 years, not the current five, until they qualify for retirement pensions.
Also, workers will have to pay $21 a month ($53 for a family) for the state's cheapest health-insurance plan. Premiums for Aetna and Blue Cross will go up by one-third for single workers (to $27 to $35 per month for HMOs, $78 for PPO), less for families.
Delaware says the cuts will save $131 million over the next five years, and nearly $500 million over 15 years. The state's yearly budget is about $3.5 billion.