Workers from Alabama’s Coca-Cola United — the largest privately-held Coca-Cola bottler in North America — returned to work at 5 a.m. Monday after 11 days of striking over wage benefits.
“We wanted to send a wake-up call that we will not stand for Coca-Cola treating workers this way,” said Antoine Lott, an equipment services technician at Coca-Cola United. “We work hard to provide for our families, and everyone at this company should be able to earn family-supporting wages.”
In negotiations, Coca-Cola United is demanding to pay new hires $6 to $8 less per hour than what it is currently paying.
“When Coca-Cola United insisted on cutting wages and wouldn’t listen to us at the bargaining table, we felt we had no choice but to go on strike as a wake-up call,” added Bobby Kovacevich, a delivery driver at Coca-Cola United. “We have good relationships with our customers and don’t want to hurt them, which is why we went back to work. We care about the community, but Coca-Cola United doesn’t seem to. We are asking the company to change its behavior so that we can negotiate a fair contract and avoid any more disruptions to our customers.”
Workers in Mobile, Robertsdale, Leroy, Alabama, as well as workers in Ocean Springs, Miss. first walked off the job Thursday, August 9.
According to AL.com:
The union’s concerns revolved around what they said was “unfair labor practices” by the company that stemmed from low pay offered to new employees, along with higher costs for insurance. According to union representatives, incoming worker salaries being offered by the company were $6 an hour to $8 an hour less than the previous contract.
For now, the strike has been suspended.
“We were informed late Sunday evening by the Teamsters that our union associates would be returning to work on Monday (August 20), without a contract,” Coca-Cola United said in a statement. “Our Coca-Cola UNITED team worked into the night and early morning hours to reactivate these associates.”
According to the company, negotiations through the mediator will continue
“We will continue to provide our customers and communities with the highest levels of product delivery and service,” Coca-Cola United concluded.