Coke Plan Threatens Thousands of Jobs

May 28, 2010: Coca-Cola executives have a plan to eliminate thousands of Teamster delivery jobs.

What is our union’s plan to fight back?

Coke wants to eliminate Teamster jobs by moving toward nonunion, third-party distribution.

The Hoffa administration vowed to draw the line against this “Alternative Distribution” by defeating the company’s pilot program in Southern California—if necessary, through nationally coordinated strike action.

But one month after this tough talk, our union caved in without a fight.

With the IBT’s blessing, four locals have inked a deal that gives Coke the green light to use a non-union, third-party logistics company to do Teamster deliveries.

According to the IBT’s own estimates, the new deal could eliminate hundreds of Teamster jobs Thousands more Teamster drivers could lose their jobs if Coke is allowed to spread their Alternative Distribution across the country.

The SoCal deal also freezes Teamster wages in the first year and delivered a laundry list of benefit givebacks. Member’s out-of-pocket healthcare will more than double—topping out at $135 a month for family coverage by the end of the contract. Retiree healthcare is eliminated altogether for new Teamsters.

How did this sellout happen?

The Threat to Teamster Jobs

In April, the Hoffa administration called an emergency meeting in Las Vegas of all the locals in the Brewery and Soft Drink Conference.

Local officers flew in from around the country to get briefed on the threat posed by Coke’s Alternative Distribution pilot program—and to hear about the union’s action plan for defeating it.

Coke’s new business model is a threat to Teamster jobs nationwide. The company wants to start servicing large accounts through third-party warehouses and distributors instead of Coke Teamsters doing store delivery.

In Southern California, Coke proposed a “pilot program” starting with 7-11 stores. Teamster drivers would deliver trailers to a warehouse. From there, a third-party logistics company would take over warehousing and distribution.

When 7-11 stores need Coke, they’d get the drinks along with other products from the nonunion, third-party company—cutting out the Teamster drivers who currently deliver to each store.

Tough Talk

In April, the IBT said the new system was a threat to Teamster jobs nationwide. They told local unions to be prepared for nationally coordinated strike action to draw a line against the new system.

The IBT warned investors of “widespread work stoppages and service disruptions, first in California and then possibly in other key markets.”

It was all empty talk. The union caved without a fight. The new contract covering Coke Teamsters in Locals 848, 896, 952 and 986 allows the company to implement its pilot program at 7-11—and to expand its Alternative Distribution to other customers.

Before Alternative Distribution can be implemented beyond 7-11, the company has to meet with the local unions in Southern California. And these locals have the right to strike if the company implements the new system without the union’s agreement.

But at that point, members would be striking to stop a system that the company has already implemented—instead of stopping this union-busting, job-killing system before it starts.

Get Serious

The International Union’s original plan to stop Alternative Distribution at Coke was an aggressive and well-thought out response to a serious attack on Teamster jobs. But it was all talk.

Teamster members need to demand that our leaders get serious about addressing this threat.

Coke is after much more than a pilot program—and both the company and our union know it.

Coca-Cola Co. is in the process of acquiring the North American operations of Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), the formerly separate bottling and distribution company that employs Teamsters.

The company’s goal is to save $350 million in operating costs—including eliminating Teamster delivery jobs.

After the merger with CCE, half of Coke’s revenue will come from North America. Our union represents 15,000 members who produce and distribute this product. That gives our union leverage to protect good Teamster jobs—but only if we use it.

Is Pepsi Next?

Just like Coca Cola Co., Pepsi has moved to acquire its bottling operations.

In February of this year, Pepsi opened a new subsidiary, Pepsi Beverages Co, after buying its two largest bottlers, PepsiAmericas and Pepsi Bottling Group.

If Coke is allowed to expand its nonunion Alternative Distribution, Pepsi is going to demand the same concession under the guise of “staying competitive.”

Time to Fight Back

The Teamsters represent workers at Coke and Pepsi across North America.

We need a real nationally coordinated plan to protect Teamster jobs in the industry—not tough-talk and backroom sellouts.

Teamsters for a Democratic Union brings members together to defend our industry standards, contracts and benefits.

Are you a Coke or Pepsi Teamster concerned about your future? Do you want to network with other concerned stewards and members in your industry? Click here to contact TDU today.

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