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Transatlantic union action: Coca-Cola workers demand basic rights and guarantees

Posted to the IUF website 10-Apr-2007

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In February, Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) � Coca-Cola's largest bottler - announced that it would eliminate 3,500 jobs (5% of its workforce), affecting both North America and Europe. Unions were neither consulted nor alerted beforehand.

On 21 March, 2007 the 25th IUF Congress unanimously supported an emergency resolution submitted by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), representing around 14,000 CCE and Coca-Cola workers in the USA.

The resolution demanded, among other things, that CCE and the Coca-Cola Company recognize the right of their union employees to job security, union representation in cases of restructuring, and engage in meaningful dialogue and negotiations with their unions and works councils over a sustainable, long term strategy for growth and employment.

To demonstrate that Coke workers rejected CCE's arbitrary actions, the IBT and the IUF organized an initial symbolic Transatlantic Day of Action for April 2, 2007 and requested support from a number of IUF-affiliated unions representing close to 200,000 Coke workers worldwide. On April 2, workers at CCE plants and distribution sites in the USA, Canada, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Luxembourg as well as at Coca-Cola plants in Guatemala and Uruguay showed solidarity by wearing stickers saying "Tell Coke Every Worker Counts!". In some locations workers and union representatives held gatherings and rallies, distributed leaflets explaining the reasons behind the action, and raised them with local management.

To download the action leaflet, click here.

In Guatemala Coca-Cola unions share a long tradition of international solidarity. On April 2, workers organised by STECSA and SITINCA and their federation FESTRAS held awareness-raising activities and wore stickers inside Guatemalan Coke franchises Embotelladora Central and Caf� Incasa. Workers also setup pickets lines and rallied with solidarity banners to inform their communities about the situation faced by CCE workers. In Uruguay, the Coca Cola Workers' Union halted work at the Coca-Cola Montevideo plant for 2 hours per shift.

For a full article (in Spanish) click here.

Rallies at the Embotelladora Central plant, Guatemala

In Belgium, workers at the biggest Belgian Coke plant in Gent and at the Chaudefontaine site actively supported the action by wearing stickers and leafleting fellow workers inside and outside the plants. Union representatives raised the action issues with local management.

Gent and Chaudefontaine plants, Belgium

In Canada, the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) distributed stickers and the action literature at all at their Coca-Cola facilities. At the Coca-Cola Edmonton plant the CAW had posted copies of the day of action leaflet on the union bulletin board since March 27. Although the company has a strict policy against wearing anything on company uniforms, employees in transports, warehouse and cooler services wore and continue wearing the stickers on the back and front of their safety vests.

In the United Kingdom, workers at the Wakefield plant wore stickers and distributed leaflets. The Amicus union representative wore one while meeting with Ed Potter, Director of Global Labour Relations for the Coca-Cola Company.

Wakefield plant,UK

In the United States, Teamster members wore the stickers at a number of CCE bottling plants. In some cases the stickers were worn all week. Leading up to April 2 and on the day itself, Coke local Teamster unions also held large public events in New York City (Times Square) and Atlanta and leafleted a number of high profile sports events. These actions received significant coverage by the media.

IBT leader speaking at the New York rally, USA

In France, workers at the Grigny plant (Marne) took part in the initiative, and the CFDT representative spoke on local radio explaining the situation at CCE.

In Germany, the NGG and the works council secretary expressed solidarity, spoke to the workers and handed out leaflets and stickers at the Ober�nzburg facility.

Ober�nzburg plant, Germany

Actions also took place at CCE plants in the Netherlands, and in Luxembourg.

This page will be updated as reports continue to arrive.