Today, Teamster Local 175 members employed by Coca Cola Consolidated in Bluefield West Virginia voted unanimously to reject the company’s final offer for settlement of a new contract and authorize a strike. The contract expires on July 28, 2021. The company is proposing significant increases to the amount that employees pay for their health insurance plan despite the fact that major changes were made to their health insurance only one year ago. The company is also offering nearly 20 percent less in wage increases for their hourly employees compared to similarly situated employees at the company’s Charleston West Virginia branch. The company is also offering substantially less for their commission employees than they agreed to pay their employees in other locations in West Virginia. During negotiations, the company claimed that it has been negatively affected by COVID-19. The fact is, as evidence by the company’s own numbers, the company sold substantially more product and made substantially more money in 2020 than it had in the previous years. While the company is crying poor mouth when it comes time to give increases to their employees, the company’s CEO Frank Harrison III already exorbitant salary was increased over $688,000 in 2020.
“It is disgusting to see a company attempt to treat a group of their own employees like second class citizens. There is no justification whatsoever to pay these employees, who perform the exact same work as employees in other parts of the state, substantially less while trying to require them to pay considerably more for their benefits. One thing is certain, if it were not for our members who do all the hard work and subjected themselves to COVID, this company would not have made tremendous profits as they did in 2020 and in the years before. During this same time period in 2020, their fat cat top executives were locked in an office or working from home. This is a gross example of those at the top taking care of themselves while showing little consideration for their hardworking employees. Talking with some of our local unions, it is also apparent that the company has taken these unreasonable positions with their union employees in Ohio. Rest assured, we will be there to support them also,” said Ken Hall, President of Teamsters Local 175.
During the last negotiations in 2018, Bluefield employees were forced to strike and extended the picket lines to all union locations in West Virginia much like what happened in 2000 when Coke members were on strike for 21 weeks. In addition to Coke and Diet Coke, they distribute hundreds of other packages including Monster Energy, Dasani, and Powerade.