How The Sysco Strike Could Affect Ongoing Food Shortages

Another labor union has gone on strike and it's already proving to have a serious impact on the food industry. If it seems like you've seen a lot more strikes in the news lately, it's because union activity is on the rise, with national support for unions clocked at 71%, the highest since 1965, according to The Guardian. This year, 2022, has already seen several high-profile union actions in the service industry, including the longest-running Starbucks strike in company history, but the final quarter of the year could see a record amount of action.

The Guardian warns that we are seeing the signs of a coming "Striketober" as a number of unions across the country have already gone on strike in the past few weeks, including thousands of nurses, teachers, auto workers, and mental healthcare workers. Still, more unions are set to vote on strikes, including graduate workers in Indiana and auto workers in Ohio. In a case with international stakes, over a hundred thousand railroad workers have been poised on the brink of a strike, and could turn down contracts in the coming weeks. 

In the food service industry, the most recent union action has come out of Syracuse, New York, and it has major implications for the state's restaurants, schools, hospitals, and more.

Over 200 Sysco workers are on strike

You can't grocery shop like a normal person when you plan on feeding hundreds of people dozens of different dishes every day. Professional kitchens rely on broadline distributors, companies that deal in high-volume orders, delivering in bulk to save money (via Forbes). The world's largest broadline distributor, with over 650,000 clients, is the Systems and Services Company, better known as Sysco, per Yahoo. In Central New York, more than half of all restaurants rely on Sysco for supplies, as do numerous schools, universities, hospitals, and nursing homes (via That should show how impactful it was when 200 members of Teamsters Local 317 walked out of Sysco's Syracuse distribution center on September 27.

According to CNY Central, Sysco employees said they had been promised increased wages after working through the COVID-19 pandemic, but those raises never came. adds that the union's contract expired in August, and the parties have yet to reach a new agreement. The company is no longer able to fill its delivery requests, although customers can pick up items at will call if they are able and willing to make the trip. 

It is too early to know what the ultimate economic impact will be, and nobody knows how long the strike will last. In the meantime, Sysco provided a statement, saying they will look to establish "third-party resources" to help onsite as negotiations with the union continue.