On the Picket Line

Philadelphia Teamsters strike at Coca-Cola won broad solidarity

By Ved Dookhun
June 5, 2023

PHILADELPHIA — Teamsters Local 830 ended its nearly monthlong strike against Liberty Coca-Cola Beverages May 8. The union, representing 450 drivers, warehouse and production workers, set up picket lines April 16.

The Liberty plant is the largest Coca-Cola producer and distributor in a region that covers Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. It bottles Coke as well as Dr. Pepper, Dasani Water, Monster Energy, Minute Maid and Sprite.

The union was seeking higher wage compensation and lower health insurance costs. “We’re just looking to make sure that these guys get a good inflation raise,” union member Frank Rider told the media. “Inflation is up sky-high.”

Workers had unanimously voted to strike after the old agreement expired.

On the first day of the strike management canceled workers’ medical coverage. In the 2018 contract the company had replaced the union’s health and welfare plan with a more expensive one.

The new five-year contract includes an 85-cent hourly raise per year, no increase in the cost of medical coverage the first three years, and a $1,500 signing bonus.

Workers had overwhelmingly rejected the bosses’ previous offers, before the strike and the day after it began. The latest one was approved in a vote held at the plant May 9, not at the union hall.

Unionists from throughout the area had joined the Teamsters in solidarity during their strike. A delegation of eight rail workers, members of SMART-TD Local 1373, walked the line. They provided coffee, food and a donation of several hundred dollars.

Jerome Johnson, a rail conductor and vice chair of the local, who had previously worked at the Liberty Coke facility for 12 years, said, “Solidarity is important, we all have the same cause. At the end of the day, the union is only as strong as its members.”

Members of United Auto Workers Region 9 also picketed in solidarity. A neighborhood church organized a solidarity rally at the plant May 4. Dozens of parishioners and the Philly Harvest Motorcycle Ministry brought food for the strike.