Around 5PM yesterday evening, approximately 500 Coca-Cola employees, from six “Teamster Local Unions” across Western Washington, went on strike as a result of the company’s “surveillance and intimidation of its employees” and its “refusal to bargain a contract in good faith.”
Coca-Cola is currently under investigation by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for serious and repeated violations of federal labor law, including “surface bargaining”, surveillance of its employees, and threatening to retaliate against workers for engaging in protected activities.
“The last thing we wanted is a strike, but Coke has left us no alternative,” said Tracey A. Thompson, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 117 and lead negotiator for the Union. “The Company’s refusal to bargain a contract has resulted in hardship for 500 Coke employees and their families and the disruption of its own operations.”
“The Union will not tolerate Coke engaging in surveillance of its employees, including taking photographs of employees who have engaged in activities that are protected under federal labor law,” Thompson added.
This most likely could have been prevented since negotiations between Coca-Cola and the coalition of six Teamsters Local Unions (called Washington Teamsters United) date all the way back to April. The Teamsters wanted to bargain with Coca-Cola Key regarding the company’s desire to eliminate health care for its retirees and raise the share of the cost that employees pay on health care premiums by 800% (yeah, you read that number right … eight hundred percent increase on health care premiums). But, Coca-Cola refused to yeild and, after about 10 weeks of negotiations, the Teamsters allege that the company began “an aggressive campaign of unfair labor practices.”
Late last night, Bob Phillips, Coca-Cola’s vice president of public affairs, defended the allegations to KOMO News. “We have been willing to negotiate. We’ve given the union ample opportunity to negotiate. They have not been flexible on date; however, we’ve been more than willing to negotiate,” he said. “We always and will continue to assure and productive workplace. We always have and we will continue to treat all employees with dignity and respect.” (Source: KOMO News)
There is no word yet to how long this strike will last, or it will impact Coca-Cola Enterprises. If Coca-Cola stands by its statements, a negotiation should be reached soon.