Coke & Pepsi Teamsters Win With Contract Campaigns

Coke and Pepsi Teamsters in Indiana use new strategies to win strong contracts.

Local 135 Teamsters at Coca-Cola and Pepsi won record contracts after organizing contract campaigns that built the union’s bargaining power by involving and mobilizing members. 

Coke and Pepsi Teamsters won major wage increases, additional floating holidays, better vacation accrual, and shortened their contract length from five years to three years. Workers paid on commission won time and a half on their sixth day. At Pepsi, members also defeated tiers. 

How did they do it? By replacing backroom negotiations with open bargaining and mobilizing members in contract actions from button days to practice picketing. 

Coordinating with locals in three states — Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa — helped, too. 

Open Bargaining

A major change in contract negotiations was the introduction of open bargaining. 

Any member could attend and observe bargaining. Contract campaign volunteers passed out flyers with information about the date, time, and location of bargaining so any member could attend. 

Members were encouraged to come by bargaining any time they were off the clock to get informed and put pressure on the company. 

“We had fifteen to twenty people on the bargaining committee with us at all times. It made me proud to be a Teamster,” said Ron Sanders, a 28-year driver at Coca-Cola, alternate steward, and member of the bargaining committee. 

The last Coca-Cola contract had only passed by three votes. This Coca-Cola contract passed 2 to 1. The Pepsi contract passed 9 to 1.  

Informing and Involving Members

The contract campaign started with volunteers surveying members on contract issues. Then, they held meetings to discuss what they wanted to fight for—everything from wages to healthcare to stewards’ rights. 

Once bargaining started, the bargaining committee kept members updated through bargaining update meetings.

“We had about seven people at our first meeting at Coke, and seventy by the last meeting. At Pepsi, we started with about twenty, and by the end were near three hundred,” said Jesse Mikesell, a business agent at Local 135. 

“Nobody is going to want to go on strike if they don’t know what they’re striking for,” Ethan Wallsmith, a member of the bargaining committee at Coca-Cola said.

Local 135 members and organizers also used social media to share information, creating short videos and sharing them with one another in group chats and on Facebook. 

Taking Action

Members wore buttons to work that said, “Coke Teamsters United for a Strong Contract.” 

As negotiations heated they organized practice picketing to show the company and each other they were ready to strike.

Although Ron Sanders was still in bargaining during practice picketing, he had a member FaceTime him from the practice picket line. 

Teamsters from Pepsi, UPS, and Sysco showed up at the practice picket in solidarity. After winning their new contract at Coca-Cola, Ron went to Pepsi Teamsters’ practice picket. 

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