About 345 members of Teamsters Local 135 went on strike Thursday at a PepsiCo bottling plant on Indianapolis’ Northwestside.
PepsiCo said it doesn’t expect disruptions of supply of beverages to customers due to the strike.
Click here to read more at the IndyStar.
The war to set global labour standards in the brewing industry is being fought in the Canadian city of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.
On one side, the Canadian division of the world's largest (and very profitable) brewing corporation, Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev). On the other, one of the global giant’s smallest and most vulnerable local unions in what appears to be an attempt to establish a pattern of concessions and roll-backs that the corporation could then try to impose on all of its other unionized workers around the world.
The workers, who are members of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public Employees (NAPE/NUPGE), have been on strike since April 10. Before they were in a legal position to exercise their right to strike, the company attempted to force the workers to train the scabs who are now doing their jobs.
AB InBev and its shareholders enjoy their massive profits thanks to the loyal and careful labour of workers around the world, just like those in St. John's. But if the corporation sees fit to demand that they accept concessions for the sake of a tiny bit more in profit, what will stop it from demanding similar concessions from its workers around the world?
Please write to AB InBev and demand that they treat their workers, and their workers' communities, with fairness and respect.
Click here to send your message.
A union representing workers at a Labatt brewery in St. John's has launched a boycott campaign, asking the public to refrain from buying a large number of brands manufactured at the site. About fifty employees (NAPE Local 7004) have been on a legal strike since April, following a brief wildcat strike that was prompted by the company's request for the unionized workers to train their replacements. The request was made days before the expiration date of the workers' collective agreement.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE) president Carol Furlong was joined by Newfoundland Federation of Labour president Lana Payne at a press conference on June 7 to announce the campaign, three weeks after talks broke off in May.
Prior to the legal strike action, a court injunction was issued against workers by the province's supreme court, with Judge Donald Burrage ruling that workers may not block access to the brewery, citing traffic concerns, as well as incidents where nails and other objects were placed in front of its entrance. In late May, Labatt erected a fence around the brewery property to keep out striking workers. Labatt spokesperson Wade Keller has said that the fence is also in place to protect strikebreakers, saying that workers had been "putting up signs with [their] names and home addresses[.]"
Neither side is revealing details about the concessions sought, but Keller has been reported as saying the deal is similar to those struck at other plants.
Highly concessionary deal sought by company Chris Henley, an employment relations officer with NAPE and the local's lead negotiator, told rabble.ca that to call the deal similar is inaccurate and instead called it "highly concessionary." He said that the agreement is "not really similar [and] it's a lot more concessionary than any other group in Canada."
Henley also expressed concern that the deal will set a precedent for other breweries. "Once Newfoundland agrees to it, they're going to shove it down everyone else's throat. That's why we're getting so much international support," he said.
The Canadian Brewery Workers Alliance (CBWA), a group of locals representing workers at seven Labatt breweries, has asked its members to boycott Labatt imports across Canada, while support has also been reported from AB InBev workers in Ontario, Argentina, the United Kingdom and Belgium. AB InBev owns Labatt and over a dozen other brands and is the world's largest brewing company.
Fred Linton, a Labatt employee and communications officer with the CBWA, also told rabble.ca that the agreement offered "is worse than the deals signed in other plants.
There has been one offer and it is take it or leave it." Linton also disclosed that a letter has been sent to Carlos Brito, the CEO of AB InBev, asking him to make Labatt resume talks.
Neither Labatt or NAPE is discussing the details of concessions being sought, though NAPE representative Bert Blundon has previously said that Labatt is seeking changes to insurance and retirement benefits.
Henley also said that the workers have always been under threat of closure, but that the brewery has survived due to a provision in Canada's Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT), wherein Newfoundland "reserves the right to deny beer and beer products of any other Party access to outlets of brewers' agents[.]"
Henley did not offer details about specific concessions being sought, but noted the introduction of two-tier wages for new employees that has been pursued at other plants, and a desire by Labatt to change benefits for existing retirees. He also criticized Labatt for a failure to negotiate. "The reality is three days prior to these workers going on stike, this company settled with Edmonton. ...In Newfoundland, they're saying our first offer is our only offer. ...They're not bargaining."
"[There was] a conference call on Monday with the conciliator [and] someone from Labatt from Montreal. We haven't gotten any response. They keep up with this foolish rhetoric that the union isn't prepared to sit down and negotiate. The reality is the opposite," he said.
Security and alleged surveillance
In addition to the fence Labatt has erected, Henley said that Labatt has also been using other security measures. Henley told rabble.ca that Labatt has hired a private company to monitor and film workers, identifying the company as AFIMAC Security. The company's Canadian branch is headquartered in Milton, Ontario, but its website advertises the availability of services outside North America, and it expanded into South America in August 2012 through its acquisition of Mena International.
"They're following our members around the city. Trying to provoke argument, continuously. Trying to goad our members into violating the court injunction," Henley said. "They spend all their time, two people in a van ... Consistently in their faces, filming them. The police come and talk to workers, they'll try to get the names of the workers and even the police officers. But it's all from the perspective of intimidation. They won't use that video for anything."
A call to AFIMAC Canada has not yet been returned, though an AFIMAC staff person said she was not able to confirm outright whether Labatt had hired the company.
Strikebreakers and the law
The use of strikebreakers, or persons who work despite a strike, has a long and controversial history. The notorious Mohawk Valley formula, for instance, outlines tactics to guide strikebreaking, including purposeful discrediting of union leaders, barricading site properties, and the heavy use of police and outside security to demoralize workers. The formula is thought to have been written by the head of Remington Rand during its strike in the late 1930s, but its authenticity and authorship is disputed.
The use of temporary replacement workers has been banned in Quebec since 1978 and in British Columbia since 1993. Anti-scab legislation was also in place in Ontario during much of the Rae government, but was abolished in 1996. Legislation banning replacement workers remains part of the platform of Newfoundland's New Democratic Party.
Despite the security measures, Chris Henley said that morale is high and has improved since the boycott, while workers have been passing out campaign flyers at intersections and events in St. John's. The campaign asks that consumers in Newfoundland and Labrador boycott Labatt Blue, Labatt Lite, Blue Star, Alexander Keith's, Budweiser, Stella Artois and several other brands.
Please help us with NUPGE email campaign by using the following link.
Members of a proposed bargaining unit covering some 400 workers at a Coca-Cola Co. bottling plant in Fort Worth, Texas, voted against representation by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the National Labor Relations Board has announced.
In an NLRB-supervised election conducted Sept. 19, a bargaining unit of all production workers, voted 215-191 against representation by IBT, an NLRB representative told BNA Sept. 20. The election has not yet been certified by NLRB.
“We strive to maintain and enhance our direct relationship with our employees and while we respect our employees' right to choose whether or not to be represented by a union, we are pleased and grateful that employees decided to reaffirm their direct working relationship with the company,” the company said in a Sept. 26 statement. “Barring any objections by the union, we expect the National Labor Relations Board will certify these results within seven to 10 days. We hope the union will respect the employees' decision.”
Representatives from IBT declined to comment Sept. 26.
The Coca-Cola Co. is opening all the spigots to keep the corporate-owned Fort Worth bottling plant from becoming its only unionized facility in the South.
If a majority of voting employees cast ballots to join Teamsters Local 997 on Wednesday, it could flag an important victory by organized labor over the soft drinks giant. Some 427 workers would be covered.
"It would be earth-shattering," said Ben Speight, a Teamsters organizer in Atlanta, the home of Coke's headquarters where the union failed in an election last year at three area plants. A similar move to unionize was defeated in Richmond, Va.
But success in Fort Worth, Speight said, "would send a ray of hope to the region that it's possible to overcome Coke's pressure tactics."
Locally, it would be a rare victory this year for unions.
Other unions have suffered setbacks, including striking machinists at Lockheed Martin who failed to keep pensions for new hires despite a 10-week walkout, and American Airlines pilots who will have their contract vaporized in bankruptcy proceedings for the carrier's corporate parent, AMR Corp.
The South, including Texas, has seldom been fertile ground for unions. Coupled with attractive operating costs and plentiful tax incentives, the region's "right to work" laws -- meaning all employees are not required to be represented by a union -- have lured employers from traditionally strong union areas in the North and Midwest.
Among other things, Coke's pro-union workers are seeking better pay, an end to what they consider favoritism in promotion and shift assignments, lower-cost health plans, better job security, time-and-a-half overtime pay, fewer temporary workers and less outsourcing. They turned to Teamsters Local 997, which represents drivers at Miller-Coors and Bimbo Bakeries.
The organizing effort at Coke's sprawling Fossil Creek complex at I-35 and I-820 has been countered by a series of weekly mandatory meetings by management. Production workers attend on company time and the sessions -- some in English, others in Spanish -- feature outsourced labor consultants. This is not the union's first rodeo in Fort Worth.
It called off a June 9, 2011, vote after discovering that roughly a third of eligible workers had been overlooked and, therefore, hadn't been canvassed. To defeat that unionizing effort, Department of Labor filings show Coke paid $213,752 to consultants from the San Clemente, Calif.-based Crossroads Group, and they were effective.
Clearly, many workers would have voted against the union last year, even union supporters acknowledge.
"Give us 12 months and we'll fix the problems here," workers say the plant's manager, Terry Ford, told them at employee meetings. And there were one-on-one sessions where employees were asked what needed to be done to improve conditions.
Afterward, some employees said, 'Let's give them a year and see if they do fix things and we won't have to pay union dues," recalled one pro-union worker, Jose Fernando Ramos, 36.
TVS in break rooms
Large flat-screen TVs were put in break rooms, bathrooms were refurbished and Coke gave out pay raises of 2.25 percent.
But healthcare options changed and the deductibles increased so sharply that truck driver Gary Smitherman says he no longer sends his family to the doctor.
"Like any other company, we regularly review compensation and health benefits and make adjustments where appropriate to ensure that they remain competitive in the marketplace," said Coke spokesman Ishmael Arebalos.
Smitherman and other workers complained of scheduling issues, and a pay system known as "Chinese overtime." The Texas Workforce Commission's website says the system is welcomed by employers because it results in "a diminishing regular rate of pay, and thus diminishing overtime pay, the more overtime hours worked." Moreover, the Teamsters claim Coke is misusing the method.
Arebalos said Coke pays locally competitive wages and, unlike many companies, has continued to increase pay.
"They did give us TVs in the break room, put in new bathroom fixtures and gave us more reasonable schedules," said Ramos, a production employee and Dallas Cowboys fan, who sports a huge team star tattooed on a beefy forearm and a head of short-cropped hair dyed 'Boys blue.
"Then the schedule went back like it was. And there's been a lot of turnover," he said, saying he is now doing work once done by two employees.
The number of temporary workers has increased and many were given coveted day shifts while he was frequently stuck on late ones.
And the break-room TVs backfired for one worker, T.J. Gilmore.
Gilmore, a forklift driver, said he was fired without warning for watching TV 14 minutes past his break time, which he denies.
Gilmore says he was targeted for being among the first to push for a union. Meanwhile, a co-worker not connected with the union drive, facing discipline for the same offense, was not fired but instead got a transfer to a Coke plant in Michigan, he said.
Coke's Arebalos declined to discuss individual personnel issues. Teamsters organizer Chris Rosell said protests were filed with the National Labor Relations Board over the firing of Gilmore and four other pro-union Coke workers this year.
The collective frustrations, workers said, prompted them to contact the Teamsters. This time, far more employees than before signed a petition handed to management requesting a vote.
Rosell said the union is at a disadvantage because, unlike management, it can't compel workers to attend its gatherings. And it cannot hand out pamphlets in the plant while management has information sheets displayed in glass cases.
On Thursday, as workers headed home after a mandatory, election-related meeting, Teamster organizers and supporters waved signs on the street and tried to engage workers as they drove out of the complex.
Pro-union employee Joe Uribe, who is bilingual, said he was barred from attending the Spanish-language session, where he had planned to contest arguments by Crossroads consultants. "They say whatever they want in Spanish," he claimed.
A Spanish-speaking employee leaving the plant just after Uribe said no one in the audience challenged anything said by management's speakers.
Ice cream and, of course, soft drinks are served at the meetings, but it's far from a party atmosphere.
At an early September meeting, plant manager Ford complained that vandalism has sharply increased in recent weeks, according to a recording of the meeting made available to the Star-Telegram. Ford said one supervisor's car had its windshield smashed and another's vehicle was keyed.
Ford also warned that free ice cream would be stopped if someone again pulled the plug on the freezer, melting 15 cases.
More serious were plant disruptions involving equipment being hidden and forklifts parked to block other forklifts.
"We don't need that," Ford said, according to the recording.
Rosell denied that union supporters were behind the vandalism. "They blame us but the place is crawling with security."
At the mandatory meetings, Crossroads consultants caution workers against believing that having a union would automatically bring higher wages. Pay could go up, remain the same or possibly even decline, they said, according to the recording. And even if wages went down, workers still would have to fork over union dues, they were told.
One consultant, Mike Penn, called "misleading propaganda" a union flyer that purported to show that hourly wages were $2.45 to $8 higher on average at unionized Coke plants.
Those plants are in high-cost states, Penn argued. And he cited a Coke worker transferred to Atlanta from New York where $3 less an hour gets him a comfortable home instead of a cramped apartment.
But wages at the Fort Worth plant still are generally lower than those paid in the only unionized Coke plant in the South, which is owned by Coca-Cola United, an independent bottler based in Birmingham, Ala., where the cost of living is similar to that in North Texas.
In Fort Worth, the Teamsters say a diesel truck mechanic earns $20 an hour. At the Alabama plant, a mechanic gets almost 14 percent more -- $22.74 -- and next July it goes up to $23.37, according to the most recent contract obtained by the Star-Telegram.
The lowest-paid warehouse worker in Fort Worth gets $12.50 an hour; in Birmingham, the lowest hourly wage is $17.96, and will rise to $18.45.
Former union star
At the plant meeting, a polished Crossroads partner named Steve Beyer told workers he had personally negotiated contracts for Coke at union plants a number of times.
And who, he asked, does the Teamsters have at the bargaining table? "Just someone from the union hall."
Actually, the well-spoken Beyer was himself once that guy from the union hall.
He was a rising star at Local 681 of the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Union near Anaheim, Calif., where he negotiated contracts with numerous Orange County hotels, including Disney properties, and became president at 36.
But things fell apart when he fired a 42-year-old woman organizer who had been raped on the job at gunpoint and was taking too long to return to work, according to lengthy stories in The Los Angeles Times.
Beyer declined to speak with the Star-Telegram, Coke said.
At the time, however, Beyer was quoted as saying that firing the rape victim was the hardest decision he had ever made, but that he had been pressured by other women organizers who complained of a heavier workload caused by their co-worker's recovery.
The union was cited by state authorities for not having a rape prevention program and Beyer, who narrowly lost his re-election bid to a woman organizer in June 1992, soon became a labor consultant for Disney and other large employers he had once opposed.
Outside the Fort Worth plant, Coke employee Uribe proudly sported pro-union buttons on his uniform and said workers like him no longer bought into what he considered superficial improvements of the past year.
"There's no remote for the TV," joked Uribe, a 43-year-old forklift driver.
Then he looked out of his car window and said: "We don't want TVs. We want better pay. We want respect. We want our voices heard."
With the Coca Cola workers strike entering its second weekend, Washington came to East Hartford to lend its support.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy joined the striking workers on Friday.
"You are in a fight. Not just for yourselves, but for working men and women across the United States of America. You are in a fight for the middle class of America," Blumenthal said.
Workers at the Coca Cola bottling plant in East Hartford are upset that Coca Cola now wants employees to pay for health insurance.
In their last contract, the union took less in pay to have health insurance covered.
Their contract expired on Dec. 4, and the union members decided to strike after no agreement could be reached after nearly six months of negotiations.
Officials from the soda company said all other plants chip in for health insurance and East Hartford should as well.
It remains anyone's guess when these 350 or so members of the Teamsters Local 1035 will get back to work.
Strikers at the East Hartford Coca-Cola bottling plant have found the plant's closest neighbor receptive to the union's request to boycott Coke, but how much the boycott movement could hurt local sales is yet to be seen.
Teamsters Local 1035 members, who began striking a week ago, plan to hand out leaflets asking customers to boycott Coke at local stores, and will publicize the boycott at Six Flags New England theme park, the Dave Matthews concert on Saturday, and Rock Cats baseball games.
The Teamsters is also funding a small plane pulling a "Boycott Coke" banner this weekend.
C-town of East Hartford, the closest store to the Art Deco-influenced brick bottling plant, has Coca-Cola advertising logos on its automatic doors. Manager William Moronta said not many people are buying Coke products since the strike began. And once the inventory is gone, he won't replenish it.
"We are not purchasing any. We want to support the guys," he said.
About 350 bottling, warehouse workers and drivers started picketing a week ago. The strike has already lasted longer than the one seven years ago, which ended after five days.
The workers, who make about $20 an hour, want to preserve the status quo of health insurance without employee-paid premiums. They say they gave up $2.65 an hour over the life of the last contract in order to have fully employer-paid premiums.
The company says it's unfair for union members to pay nothing into health insurance when all other Coca-Cola employees have to pay in.
Wally Henderson, 50, has been with Coke for 23 years, and drives a forklift. He estimated that if the company's health care cost-sharing proposal were to be ratified, he would spend $4,000 a year more on medical costs than he does now — as a person with a plan for himself and a spouse.
For family coverage, the cost would be an additional $8,000 per year, Henderson said, citing what the union has told the workers. For workers who live in Massachusetts, in-network coverage would be limited, he said.
"We've kind of given up a lot in wages to keep the health care benefit," which is important, he said, because the job "is a lot of physical work."
Henderson, who was picketing Wednesday afternoon with about 25 others, said he had hoped the strike would not last any longer than the last one.
A driver who is on strike, but did not want to give his name, said he draws just $200 a week in strike pay.
"I'm assuming both sides don't want to be out on strike," he said.
Will the boycott be effective?
The company did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Henderson thinks so. "We have quite a lot of support from the public," he said as car horns punctuated his point.
The driver was less convinced. He said while union members may honor the request, "I don't think it's going to affect the sales of Coke. No, people are going to buy it if they want it."
The union says the bottling plant is distributing only 20 percent of its normal deliveries. The company said that is not true. Spokesman Toney Anaya said: "We have received few customer complaints regarding product availability and address those issues as they arise."
Workers at the Coca-Cola bottling plant in East Hartford went on strike on Wednesday, threatening to disrupt distribution of the soft drink in Connecticut.
About 350 members of the Teamsters Local 1035 walked off the job at 4 p.m. and began picketing outside the plant at 471 Main St.
Their contract expired on Dec. 4, and the union members decided to strike after no agreement could be reached after nearly six months of negotiations.
“We want our insurance that we have. We've worked hard for our insurance,” said Matt Gegliardi.
He said Coca Cola was considering a new distribution system, which means his job could get cut.
“They want companies to come pick up their soda like Walmart, then they’ll deliver it and that’s what I do,” Gegliardi said.
The drivers, mechanics, plant workers and delivery workers want better wages and better benefits, according to Chris Roos.
“What we asked for is a guarantee that no one would get laid off going forward and they said no,” Roos said.
The Teamsters will stay on the picket line until they can reach a new deal, Roos said.
This time around, the Teamsters said they’re ready for the long haul.
“Oh yes, I’m not going anywhere,” Gegliardi said.
That could mean a cola shortage in Connecticut might become a quick reality.
Workers at the same plant went on strike in 2005 for about a week and managers and sales workers made the deliveries.
The company issued a statement to the Associated Press on Wednesday night saying it is disappointed by the strike and looks forward to resuming negotiations. The company also said there should be few, if any, disruptions to deliveries.
NBC Connecticut tried reaching Coca Cola several times for a comment on Wednesday, but calls and emails were not returned.
September 15, 2011: Waste Management’s strategy is simple: divide and conquer.
During the last round of bargaining, the company beat strikes and forced concessions on members in New York (2006), Los Angeles (2007), and Wisconsin (2008).
In Wisconsin and Central Illinois, the company successfully pulled out of the Teamster pension, leaving the workers without a real pension.
In each of these fights, the International Union talked about extending picket lines—but it was all talk. In the end, local unions were left to fend for themselves.
In 2010, four locals in Southern California gave Coca-Cola the green light to roll out an “Alternative Distribution” program that uses a nonunion, third-party logistics company to make Teamster deliveries.
Coke’s new business model is a threat to Teamster jobs nationwide. And our union knows it.
The Hoffa administration called an emergency meeting and put forward a plan to defeat the company’s pilot program—if necessary, through nationally coordinated strike action.
But just one month after this tough talk, our union caved in without a fight. Now Coke is looking to spread its job-killing program nationally.
Good Teamster jobs in grocery are under a double threat: nonunion distributors and automation.
Earlier this year, 1,500 Teamsters in New Jersey and the Northeast lost their jobs when C&S, the biggest nonunion food distribution company in the world, moved the work to a new nonunion, automated warehouses.
A coalition of local unions came together last year to take on the nonunion C&S threat. Teamsters began leafleting A&P, Pathmark and other stores to put pressure on C&S by reaching out to customers.
But instead of backing the campaign, the International Union instructed local officers to stop leafleting stores and to bargain a severance package instead.
New Jersey Teamsters lost their jobs. And C&S immediately went on the attack in Maryland.
By now, the C&S debacle had become an election issue. So the IBT launched a last-minute campaign. The facilities were kept open but C&S won major contract concessions.
The Teamsters union said workers at Coca-Cola Enterprises facilities in College Park and Marietta will vote Oct. 7 on whether to be represented by the union. It's the latest step in an organizing campaign that has stirred controversy in Coca-Cola's hometown.
"We're very close to having unionized Coca-Cola employees in Atlanta," Dave Laughton, director of the union's brewery and soft drink division, said at a Sunday afternoon rally inside the meeting hall of Teamsters Local 728 in Atlanta. "If it's good for the rest of the country, it should be good for Atlanta."
Click here to read more at the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Teamsters Union Protests Coca Cola’s Labor Practices, as Company Shutters Plants
Although they work for a company that popularized the slogan “Have a Coke and a smile,” Coca-Cola workers are doing more frowning than ever these days.
While the world’s largest beverage company has come under fire for their reported anti-union activities abroad, the company is now facing growing labor conflicts here in the United States.
Click here to read more at In These Times.