Local grocery, construction workers feel impact of supply chain constraints

Posted at 10:22 PM, Sep 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-24 11:57:57-04

MILWAUKEE — Grocery and construction workers in southeast Wisconsin report the labor shortage is squeezing them at every step of the supply chain, and they say they think it will last for at least another few months.

Eighteen months ago, the COVID-19 pandemic began and people started hoarding.

"The supply chain got behind and we were kind of hopeful it would catch up, but unfortunately it just hasn’t," said Tim Metcalfe, the co-owner of Metcalfe's Market.

Metcalfe says supply chain constraints are making some products harder to come by.

"We’re struggling with Gatorade, we're struggling with canned cat food, Capri Sun," Metcalfe said.

A spokesperson for Roundy's, the parent company of Pick 'n Save and Metro Market, sent TMJ4 News this statement: "The situation with supply chain constraints is a fluid one. Various manufacturers are struggling to keep up with supply and demand. Add to that the fact that raw materials, at times, can be scarce and with the transportation industry short resources, it does create some supply chain constraints. Certain vendors in various commodity categories have been affected; however, the problem is not across the board and the good news is the situation is nowhere near as serious as it was during the early stages of the pandemic when the supply chain was heavily constrained."

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"You’re really running with a less than full workforce," said Wisconsin Grocers Association President Brandon Scholz. "That’s dominating the entire chain."

Scholz said customers might see the prices of some foods go up, but not across the board.

"For now, yes, we are going to have prices increases," Scholz said. "Is it going to be everything in the store? No, it's not. Is it going to last a while? Yes, it is."

He said everyone in each step of the supply chain are working hard to bring the workforce back and reduce the costs on bringing supplies to the shelves.

Thomas Bennett is the secretary and treasurer for Teamsters Local 200, which represents grocery warehouse workers. He says he's feeling the labor shortage first hand.

"When you have a worker shortage, work has to get done, right, and those man hours have to be made up by somebody," Bennett said. "So overtime is abundant, but overtime can burn a person out."

Construction workers are also feeling the impact.

Abe Degnan is the president of the Wisconsin Builders Association and owns his company, Degnan Design-Build-Remodel, in DeForest. He says some of his supplies are on back order for weeks and months.

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"The cost of construction goods is still is up around 19 percent year to date," Degnan said. "At the worst point the lumber prices for a single family home had gone up about $36,000."

Degnan and others say they need more people to work.

In the meantime, they are asking customers to be patient.

"We are all doing our absolute best to get stuff to market," Metcalfe said. "But the system is just challenged right now."

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