By JOHN CAST
On Sunday, April 16, over 400 workers, members of Teamsters Local 830, at the Liberty Coca-Cola Beverages bottling plant in the Juniata Park neighborhood of Philadelphia walked off the job after their contract expired. The workers voted by a five to one ratio in favor of going on strike. This includes warehouse workers, drivers, and sales staff. The workers are striking over several issues, including pay and benefits.
According to a statement on the Local 830 website: “Their last and supposedly best offer did not come close to matching the rampant inflation we’re all facing. We’re also fighting for a better benefits package that will afford our members working there to have the opportunity to switch to our superior Local 830 Health and Welfare plan.” At present, the workers are enrolled in an Aetna plan that is more expensive.
The strikers are also demanding a better retirement package. Their last contract, which was negotiated in 2018, switched the workers’ plan from a defined-benefit pension to a 401(k)-style investment plan.
On their own website, Liberty Coca-Cola refers to itself as “the annual top performer in sales and revenues” of all Coca-Cola bottling and distribution operations nationwide. “Our employees are essential to our shared success,” the management of the Philadelphia plant claims.
Workers Voice stopped by the picket line on April 19. The workers had pickets around the entrances to the facility, and their spirits were high. As of this writing, no trucks have left the bottling plant, and Coca-Cola has not resumed any operations there. Passing motorists and truckers were heard frequently honking in support of the picketing strikers.
The Liberty Coca-Cola workers were offered a measly $1.85 raise in the new contract, $0.50 of which was actually withheld from the previous contract, so in reality, it amounted to a $1.35 raise (with no retroactive pay).
The company also offered a minuscule $200 pandemic bonus (which was taxed). Workers at the Liberty bottling planet worked through the COVID-19 pandemic, and were dropping like flies. They were working 40-hour weeks—and sometimes up to 50 and 60-hour weeks—to provide soft drinks to people. Given that the workers at risked their lives to provide people with soft drinks, they need to be justly compensated by the company.
The workers at the Liberty Coca-Cola Bottling plant in Philadelphia say that they will stay on the picket lines until they get a contract that they think meets their needs.
Photo: Elizabeth Robertson / The Philadelphia Inquirer