(MOBILE, AL) – On Thursday, Aug. 9, employees at Coca-Cola United in Mobile walked off the job to protest the company’s behavior during contract negotiations.
The 275 drivers, salespersons, merchandisers, clerks and mechanics are members of Teamsters Local 991. The workers suspended their picketing and went back to work at 5 a.m. today.
“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.
“The wealth inequality in America is staggering, and Coca-Cola United is a prime example of how the 1 percent hoovers up money from the rest of us,” said Jim Gookins, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 991. “This company makes billions thanks to the hard work of its frontline employees, but it doesn’t want to share the wealth. For a rich corporation to demand cuts to workers’ wages is a slap in the face to workers, their families, and our communities.”
Gookins continued, “Meanwhile, Coca-Cola United’s executives have no problem paying themselves high salaries — the CEO alone belongs to 3 different country clubs: Greystone, Shoal, and Augusta. Coca-Cola’s employees deserve respect and a fair return on their work. It’s outrageous.”
“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,” said 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.”
Coca-Cola United is the largest privately-held Coca-Cola bottler in North America, with an estimated $2.2 billion in annual sales. It has nine production facilities in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Tennessee, and over 45 sales and distribution centers in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee. Its customers include Walmart, Winn-Dixie, and the University of Alabama.