More than 100 Coca-Cola Consolidated employees in the Charleston and Logan area represented by Teamsters Local 175 have officially gone on strike and 100 more around the state are honoring the work stoppage, according to Teamsters Local 175 President Ken Hall.
As of Tuesday morning, picket lines appeared at various Coca-Cola Consolidated facilities. Company locations include Logan, St. Albans, Clarksburg, Parkersburg and Bluefield.
In late April, 102 Charleston and Logan area delivery, warehouse, vending and merchandising employees represented by Teamsters Local 175 authorized a strike after unanimously voting down a three-year contract proposal offered by Coca-Cola Consolidated Inc. Their contract expired days later.
At that time, Hall told the Charleston Gazette-Mail workers would go on strike as soon as the contract expired, but the union chapter subsequently held off on walking off the job until two weeks later.
“Our members wanted to give the company a chance to come to their senses on a couple issues they insisted on in negotiations,” Hall said. “They did not want to see customers put in a position of not having drinks to sell.
“Our employees are just finally fed up. They’re frustrated.”
The local workers now on strike operate primarily out of distribution centers on Winfield Road, in St. Albans, and Whitman Creek Road, in Logan, which serve the Charleston and Huntington areas, among others. The strike represents the entirety of the two sites’ workforces apart from non-union supervisory employees and “weekend merchandisers,” according to Hall.
“Normally deliveries start at 2:30 a.m.,” Hall said. “As of this time, they have about 10% of their trucks on the road.”
Two changes seen as problematic by the union during negotiations have been proposed or enacted by Coca-Cola — one to have a third-party agency deliver syrup for fountain beverages to area restaurants, and another allegedly already agreed to without negotiation wherein Sheetz convenience stores would receive Coke products at the company’s own distribution center and have its own delivery workers ship the product to stores.
According to Hall, a similar arrangement is being sought with Sheetz in Ohio, where he said Coca-Cola Consolidated has 1,000 union employees.
Wages are also an issue. Hall claims non-union weekend merchandisers working out of St. Albans and Logan recently received a $4-an-hour raise, which he said is more than was proposed for union employees over three years in the company’s recently voted-down contract proposal.
“If this continues, if the company continues these behaviors, we’ll be following the trucks in a legal manner. It’s called ambulatory picketing,” Hall said.
But on Tuesday morning, Hall claimed the move to strike was not about the contract, but about an alleged mounting number of unaddressed grievances made by those working without a contract.
“Some of them are having supervisors do work that should be union work, depriving them of hours,” Hall said. “There are other issues. I’m not going into all of them right now.”
Hall said workers would return to work if their grievances were addressed, even absent a contract, though he said that might only be for a short time.
“We’re disappointed the union decided to take our teammates out on strike but remain committed to working with them on an equitable resolution,” read a statement from Coca-Cola. “We have a solid plan in place to continue serving our customers.
The Beckley, Elkins and Morgantown areas are the only parts of the state not served by union employees, Hall said.
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