‘Company will lose–
we are not giving in’
Teamsters strike Coca-Cola in Connecticut
Strikers picket Coca-Cola plant in East Hartford, Conn., May 20, four days after members of Teamsters Local 1035 walked off job over bosses’ push to raise health care costs and cut jobs.
BY EMMA JOHNSON
EAST HARTFORD, Conn., May 20—Striking drivers, warehouse and bottling workers, members of Teamsters Local 1035 at the Coca-Cola bottling plant here, have been walking the picket line since May 16. The 335 unionists struck over health care payments and plans to cut jobs.
The company wants employees to start paying for their health insurance. In 2005, the company presented a choice between a $2.65 per hour raise and new health care costs or no raise and the same health plan. The union chose to forgo the wage raise. Workers say they want to either maintain current health coverage with no premiums or get the $2.65 wage raise back.
The other main issue is elimination of drivers’ jobs. The company is planning a new distribution system where Coca-Cola drivers would be replaced by workers from Coca-Cola’s customers, who would make their own deliveries and stock supermarket shelves. The union wants guarantees against job losses.
“We’ve been working under the old contract since Dec. 3,” Chris Roos, the local’s secretary-treasurer, told the Militant. “We held talks with the company for months, but there was no give and take. It’s been either their way or no way.”
Coca-Cola has not responded to requests for comments from the Militant.
Cars passing by the picket line honk in support. Pickets try to persuade drivers in Coca-Cola delivery trucks not to cross the line.
Roos says limited production is being done by management.
“They will lose. We’re not giving in,” Jessica Welton, who works stocking shelves in grocery stores, told the Militant. “Everybody has a breaking point. They are making big profits and yet they come after our health care, a basic human need.”
When Local 1035 members take off for a union meeting the line is staffed by members of the Teamster Horsemen, Chapter 10, a motorcycle association within the union.
“We’ve come from East Haven to hold the line,” Mike DeCarlo, chapter vice president, told the Militant. “We raise strike funds and contribute to children’s charities. When we were asked to come here we readily rolled in.”
Roos said the union now has roving pickets: “Four or five guys get into a car and follow the delivery trucks. Then they picket their destinations. This is a way to spread the knowledge of our strike. We reach out all around Connecticut and Massachusetts.”
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