7/3/08

Teamsters go on strike v. Coca-Cola

Related Coca-Cola strike stories: here

Unionists seethe as workers cross picket line

About 600 Teamsters are on strike from Coca-Cola warehouses in Oceanside and San Diego, a protest against what they term a substandard contract offer for the Oceanside workers. The Oceanside distribution facility opened early last year. About 80 of its 100 workers voted in August to affiliate with Teamsters Local 683, in San Diego, but have been unable to come to agreement with The Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Southern California over a contract.

A spokesman for the bottler said its deliveries will continue without interruption. The 11 months of contract wrangling had allowed plenty of time to develop contingency plans.

The company bottles Coca-Cola, Fanta, Fresca, Dasani water, and a variety of other soft drinks. It's a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc., which itself is 35 percent owned by The Coca-Cola Co., also based in Atlanta.

Teamsters say the bottler's proposed terms would make the unionized employees in Oceanside "second-class citizens" compared to the 550 workers in San Diego and others elsewhere in Southern California.

They would earn less in wages and benefits, and they wouldn't be guaranteed 40-hour work weeks, said Shannon Silva, the principal officer for the 80-odd union members in Oceanside.

"It doesn't cost any less to live here," Silva said. "The fuel is not any less expensive here. The food is not any less expensive here."

Bob Phillips, a spokesman for the bottler, noted that Silva himself had advised the Oceanside employees to approve the contract. And he differed with Silva's assertion that all but one of the 550 workers in San Diego had walked off the job Wednesday in support of the Oceanside employees.

"Some San Diego employees have not crossed" the picket line, Phillips said. "Some have crossed. It's unfortunate that the union has asked people in San Diego who are under contract to forego their wages and benefits."

Silva said he advised the Oceanside workers to accept the bottler's contract proposal because he thought they probably lacked the bargaining power to wrangle out a better offer. But the members dug in their heels and voted down the offer 54 to 2, he said.

(nctimes.com)

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