Our mission is to join distributors together in a common cause and improving business profitability and protecting route equity.
POAA is comprised of Biscuit and Bakery Distributors and Franchise Owners. We are the men and women who deliver Pepperidge Farm Products to your local grocer. We are independent distributors who have invested much time and effort into Our Business.
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There have been several associations over the years starting in the Mid 1970’s when Pepperidge Farm changed the contract from Yellow to Green for incoming distributors. The new color contract included several contractual changes. Many distributors were upset about these changes and started forming associations to combat this, but logistical and financial constraints lead to their demise.
In 1987, three associations from NY, NJ, and California amalgamated to form the current Pepperidge Farm Owners Association (POA) and held the first national meeting at Maxim in Las Vegas, NV. in May 1988. Walter Mack was elected president. Members fought for commissions on Price Club stores along with other distributor concerns, including franchise rights.
In 1988, the contracts were changed from Green to Blue with more contractual changes for incoming distributors. In addition, purchasing handheld computers and Club store deliveries were important issues to the independent distributors.
Shortly after the first meeting, the association president, Walter Mack, was disenfranchised by Pepperidge Farm for alleged service issues. Mr. Mack took personal legal action against the company because he felt that this was Pepperidge’s Farm attempt to break the Association and to make an example of him. Mr. Mack won his termination suit and was awarded $1,200,000. Shortly after, Pepperidge Farm Distributors were allowed to service club store accounts.
1989 - 1991
Annual meetings were held in Las Vegas in 1989 and 1990 and in 1991 the annual meeting was moved to Orlando, Florida.
The 1992 annual meeting was back in Las Vegas and this time to stay. The 1992 & 1993 meetings were held at the Sam Remo and were visited by Dominic Sidari– Pepp. Farm Vice President of Sales.
In 1997, Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut hosted the 2nd attempt for an East Coast Meeting. Due to cost restraints and the lack of volunteers, East Coast meetings at larger venues were eliminated. Later a smaller Road Show format was used to connect independent distributors
During the 1990’s President Bill Kovaly ran the association with little support and announced his resignation as president at the 2000 annual meeting. During 2000-2002 the association reorganized and in 2003 POA had a new look. Officers, Board of Directors, and committees were established. Steve Prager was elected president for a two year.
Pepperidge Farm also changed during this time frame as well. Gone were the employees who had positive dealings with the association. They were replaced with new employees who viewed the association as combative.
In 2003, legal counsel, J. Michael Dady attended the Annual meeting and spent one year researching and establishing POA positions. In 2004, Mr. Dady contacted Pepperidge Farm with the Associations positions on certain Pepperidge Farm policy. After one year of conversations and exchanging written complaints, Pepperidge Farm stated POA’s positions were invalid and ended any further talks. Pepperidge Farm’s response led to a unanimous vote at the 2005 annual meeting to file legal action against the company. Knowing that this was going to take several years and a large bankroll to support, the association decided to take the annual meeting on the road. In a period of 6 months the association held 10 ‘road show meetings’ for recruitment purposes. These shows have been very successful in growing the association.
2006 - 2007
2006 and 2007 were years that the association was in court (Illinois) litigating our claims. Pepperidge Farm was successful in a procedural ruling that denies the Pepperidge Farm Owners Association of litigating on behalf of its members. The judge ruled that while our claims are valid, the association does not have the ability to bring forth the suit. It has to be done by individual distributors.
So in late 2007, seven POA members starting their own lawsuit with the financial backing of the association. This is a federal case that was filed in the state of Minnesota. This lawsuit addresses all the allegations made in the previous court filing by the association
In March 2008, a Federal Judge set the timeline for the court case to be heard. Realizing that the association had already spent $750,000 and was going to need an additional $500,000, a settlement was reached with the seven defendants and the case was closed. It never made it to court.
In 2012 the association was asked to help finance a legal issue concerning the convenience availability issue. We supported the distributors and the case was settled with distributors getting back the ability to service the accounts that were taken away by the company.
Greater oversight in day to day operations by Pepperidge Farm commenced several legal actions by members in California, Illinois, and Massachusettes. Pepperide Farm spent a week testifying in front the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to determine if distributors are employees and can join a union.
Pepperidge Farm reduced commissions paid to distributors for deliveries to Walmarts under what the company is calling a test. While this Everyday Low Pricing Test was going on with Bakery Distributors for a few years, now Snack distributors were involved.
National Labor Relations Board ruled that distributors are independent and not employees. Key testimonies obtained in this hearing will be used later on in other litigation.
Mike Brien who was President of the Association for approximately 6 years announced his retirement and Tony Sherman was installed as new President at the annual convention in Las Vegas. New Board members were also installed at this meeting including for the first time a Bakery Distributor.
Litigation takes a long time. The California lawsuit started in 2013, to determine if distributors are employees received Class Action Status in April by a State Appeals Court. A few days later, Pepperidge Farm Senior Vice President resigned and took a position with a Chip Company. Coincidence? Pepperidge Farm asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to hear the case and the case will be heard in Spring 2018. Pepperidge Farm is attempting to decertify a lower ruling. The actual case has yet to be heard.
The Owners Association launched a new website as well as social media platform (Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Pinterest). YouTube video series called Protect Your Equity was made to educate on how Pepperidge Farm is in breach of contract and in possible violation of federal law (Robinson Patman Act) by using Price Discriminating practices with Walmart. (See the Video section for more info). The current series not only educated the Independent Distributor on the contract and federal law, it demonstrated how to calculate losses and contact Federal and State Authorities as well as litigation options.
Road Shows were reinstituted for outreach in Baltimore in October and Southern and Northern California in November.