On the Picket Line

Teamsters defeat takeback push at Pennsylvania Coke plant

By Osborne Hart
January 31, 2022

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Striking Teamsters at the ABARTA Coca-Cola Beverages bottling and distribution plant here agreed to a new contract Jan. 14 after more than six weeks walking the picket line. Teamsters Local 773 members — 77 drivers, service and warehouse workers — struck the company’s Bethlehem facility Dec. 6 when their previous contract expired.

The workers walked out because ABARTA management moved to replace the workers’ union pension with a 401(k) retirement account and chip away at their health care benefits.

The new four-year contract maintains workers’ pensions and preserves their health benefits, adding in an option for a lower-cost, less-extensive health care package. The workers won 60-cent-an-hour raises each year. The agreement was voted up by 81% of the union’s members, Local President Dennis Hower reported. This ended the strike. The contract is retroactive back to Dec. 6.

One employee has been there for 50 years and is among those counting on his pension when he retires, Hower said. “He deserves that pension.”