New York, NY – IBT Local 812 proudly represents more than 4,000 Teamster families working in the beverage industry. Its members produce, haul, deliver, merchandise and sell soda, water, beer and sports drinks throughout the New York Metropolitan area.

The involvement and solidarity of its membership provides the union with the strength needed to protect and improve wages, benefits and working conditions. Local 812 aggressively fights for workers, be it at the bargaining table, in organizing campaigns, in the halls of government or in the community.

Joe Vitta is the President and Principal Officer of IBT Local 812. He is a Vice President on the Teamsters National Brewery & Soft Drink Conference, member of the Board of Joint Council 16, Chairman of the 812 Pension Fund and of the Local 812 Health Fund. He also chairs the Computer Committee.

Vitta has risen from very early beginnings working in the soft drink industry to his impressive current standing. His first exposure to Local 812 came even earlier, as he had two uncles in the union, one biological and a shop steward at Pepsi Cola, the other a person very close to Vitta who he called “Uncle” Jim, who was a Pepsi distributor and owned a route in Bushwick, Brooklyn.  At the age of 10, when there was a strike against Pepsi, his shop steward uncle took him to the strike line in Canarsie, Brooklyn, something he’ll never forget.

Vitta began his career by working as a helper on Uncle Jim’s truck over the holidays and during the summer. Because he was not 18 yet, he was non-union, yet here his first ties to the industry were formed. “I was always a big kid, so I could handle soda cases and hand trucks,” he tells LaborPress.

When the time came to make a decision about his future career, Vitta decided college wasn’t for him, and went to work at a Pepsi-Cola facility in Brooklyn. He joined Local 812 when he was 18 and worked in the loading department as summer help. In 1974, he was hired permanently as a warehouseman for Pepsi and got his union book. He was elected Shop Steward in 1984 and held that position until he was elected to the 812 Executive Board as a Trustee/Business Agent in 1987. He was elected Recording Secretary in 1991 and later elected Secretary Treasurer.

With the help of his work on their behalf, Local 812’s members are “very well compensated, have pensions, 401k’s, fully paid for health care insurance, and retirees before the 1990’s fully paid for medical for the rest of their lives.” Although he says the industry has consolidated since the early days, and “his guys deliver everything on one truck now,” he says it is a “very good industry to be a part of.”

All of his long and distinguished years of experience has left him with a deep knowledge of and details about the industry: how the companies adapt their products to the changing times in terms of evolving consumer tastes, how experimentation and adaptation is a necessary part of the process, and how, as he puts it, “People will always be thirsty. The secret is finding out what they want to drink.”

His accomplishments are many; with over 40 years in the Executive Board and having been trained there, there have been “very few strikes, and we have always been able to negotiate a fair contract.” In the last contract, he adds, with Coke, Pepsi, Anheuser-Busch and some smaller companies, he was able to negotiate almost half a billion dollars from all participating employers that put the union over 100% funded this year.

Through COVID, his members, who were deemed essential workers, powered through the incredibly difficult time, under his leadership. Some workers, he says, were lost, about a dozen. “I lost some good friends,” he says.

Yet throughout that time, as through all others, he brought his decades of experience and first-hand knowledge of the industry to bring them the best that could be had.

President and Principal Officer, IBT Local 812


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