A Coke and a Smile

Julio Besue has worked at UPS for more than 20 years, starting not long after he left Coca-Cola Beverages Florida (CCBF) where he was a supervisor. A chance discussion in mid-May led to a life-changing vote for CCBF workers at the South Dade distribution center.

Besue, a UPS steward, was riding with Local 769 Secretary-Treasurer Roly Pina when Pina mentioned that there were rumors the CCBF driver’s wanted to join the Teamsters. Besue pulled out his cell phone and called one of the guys who worked for him more than two decades ago.

“Julio called me and I said yes we want the Teamsters,” said Humberto Alvarez, a 23-year CCBF driver.

That call took place on May 19, 2018. On June 22, 2018, the workers in the 48-person unit voted by a 3-to-1 margin to join the Teamsters.

“For me, this is liberty,” said Alvarez after the vote. “They used to be the lion and we were the monkey tied up to the tree. Now there are two lions standing against each other.”

A Latin Family

Local 769 Business Agent David Renshaw noted that this was a united group who knew what they wanted.

“The real difference in this campaign is that the internal Latin family and community came together wanting this,” Renshaw said. “The company ran an aggressive campaign, but the workers stood together to achieve a greater voice on the job.”

CCBF is based in Tampa and is one of the most profitable companies in Florida. However, the workers sought out the Teamsters to gain a voice on the job for safer working conditions, improved wages and retirement security.

Jorge Castillo observed the balloting and vote count on behalf of the workers. Immediately after winning the election Castillo was speechless for several moments when asked what this win meant to him and his family, including his parents who live with him. But with a smile and praise to God, he put it all in perspective.

“This is another win for freedom and democracy,” said Castillo, a CCBF driver who emigrated to the U.S. from Cuba. “This is right up there with coming here.”