Teamsters at Bluefield, WV Facility Strike After Coke Makes Unilateral Changes
(CHARLESTON, W.Va.) — Coca-Cola Consolidated (NASDAQ: COKE) workers in Bluefield, W.Va., shut down state-wide distribution operations yesterday when approximately 28 employees went on a one-day unfair labor practice strike after the company made unilateral changes. The picket line was extended to other Coca-Cola Consolidated locations in Logan, Charleston, Parkersburg, and Clarksburg, where approximately 130 workers elected to honor the picket lines.
“We have filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that the Coca-Cola distributor has violated federal labor laws, but we hope this short one-day strike will minimize service disruptions and force the company to honor the law,” said Teamsters Local 175 Secretary-Treasurer Ralph Winter.
Teamsters Local 175 represents approximately 28 employees at the Bluefield facility and approximately 130 around the state in locations at Charleston, Logan, Parkersburg and Clarksburg. The parties have been in negotiations for several months, but have yet to reach an agreement. One of the biggest issues is that Coca-Cola Consolidated is attempting to make major changes to the health insurance plan, and drastically increase costs for employees, even as the company’s health plan costs at the Bluefield location have decreased.
Coca-Cola Consolidated distributes, markets and manufactures Coca-Cola products in 14 states and the District of Columbia. Coca-Cola Consolidated’s largest customers are Walmart Stores, Inc., The Kroger Company and Food Lion.
Approximately 14 percent of Coca-Cola Consolidated employees are covered by collective bargaining agreements, including approximately 1,500 workers represented by the Teamsters Union.
Many Teamsters who work at unionized Coca-Cola facilities in West Virginia and in other states have the ability to recognize and not cross a picket line when it is extended to their locations.
Although yesterday’s strike was over an unfair labor practice, the last time a strike occurred at Coca-Cola Consolidated for a failure to reach an agreement was in 2000 and lasted for 21 weeks. In that strike, employees won unemployment benefits as a result of the company's actions.