Over the last three decades, Pepsi steward Phil Lewandowski has seen plenty of changes. But one thing that hasn’t changed is his dedication, both to his job and to his union.
“I got involved as a steward because I wanted to see our contracts get better, I wanted to see our members have more rights, and I wanted make sure everyone was represented,” said Lewandowski, a 29-year Teamster and 20-year steward. “I believe in keeping us united as one voice because that only makes us stronger moving forward.”
Lewandowski, 49, began working for Pepsi in 1987 as a 19-year-old fresh out of Chicago’s Coyne College — then known as Coyne American Institute — where he studied the HVAC trades.
“There were 15 or 20 guys from that school who went to work for Pepsi at that time, and we’ve been here for almost 30 years now,” Lewandowski said. “It’s been a good, solid, stable job for us, and we’ve always had steady work.”
Lewandowski said his department — Market Equipment Management or MEM — has continually grown over the years. When he started, he said there were about 35 MEM workers and now there are 75.
He spent a year as an installation technician before becoming a field service technician, the job title he still holds. Lewandowski, a Harvey, Ill., native and Oak Forest resident, repairs vending machines, fountain machines and other equipment at locations throughout Chicago’s western suburbs. About 30 Teamsters Local 727 members work as Pepsi field service technicians across the Chicago area.
When he’s not working, Lewandowski and his wife, Dawn, stay busy taking their sons Matthew, 16, and Parker, 12, to football and soccer practice and games and getting in as much family time as they can.
Lewandowski also was part of the Teamsters Local 727 Bargaining Committee, which recently secured a new four-year contract for Pepsi members at four Chicago-area facilities. It was his fifth go-round as a bargaining committee member and his first with Local 727.
“I’ve been through negotiations five times, and this last one was exceptionally great,” he said. “We were involved in every step of negotiations, and as a group, we all got to voice our opinions and build our contract.”
Lewandowski said he still enjoys his job, especially because he gets to play his part in keeping his co-workers and clients in business.
“What I like about being a field service tech is knowing you can help people and knowing you’re part of a system that keeps everyone working,” he said. “The drivers deliver, the sales reps sell, and when it’s broke, we fix it. It’s a chain, it’s a circle, and together, we keep everything going.”
Teamsters Local 727 represents nearly 10,000 hardworking men and women throughout the Chicago area, including more than 600 Pepsi workers in Chicago and Kankakee.