Amid an ongoing strike at Kellogg's cereal plants that has stretched beyond two months and a weekslong strike at Nabisco factories in September, workers at a Coca-Cola distribution center in far eastern Pennsylvania have followed suit with a strike that began Dec. 6.
Local news reports say that 77 Teamsters union members— comprised of delivery truck drivers, loaders and warehouse workers — began picketing at the ABARTA Coca-Cola Beverages distribution facility in Bethlehem, PA at midnight Sunday, which, according to the company, is when those workers' contract expired. They have been picketing outside the facility since.
The facility is about 15 miles from the New Jersey border and 60 miles north of downtown Philadelphia.
Dennis Hower, president of Teamsters Local 773 (Whitehall, PA) told Lehigh Valley Live that the strike centers on the company’s desire to switch healthcare plans and move employees from a pension to a 401(k) retirement-planning account, while the union's social media posts also note wage issues.
“We told the company we’re ready to sit down and talk whenever they are. Hopefully we’ll get to an agreement,” Hower said. “We’ll be out as long as we need to. Everyone is strong. No one’s going to break. People worked here for decades, they count on that pension. The union members are picketing almost around the clock during their usual work shifts and are receiving strike benefits."
ABARTA Coca-Cola is the exclusive distributor of Coca-Cola beverages in the Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia region, carrying products that include sodas, Dasani water, Monster Energy Drinks, VitaminWater and Powerade. The company has 15 distribution centers, with 12 of them in Pennsylvania.
ABARTA said union members rejected the company's 4-year contract offer, which followed about 10 negotiation meetings over the past two months.
“Unfortunately, despite our lengthy negotiations, the union rejected our last, best and final offer,” ABARTA's human resources manager told local media. “We hope to reach a resolution in the near future and will continue to negotiate in good faith with union leadership.”
Meanwhile, ABARTA said it has a contingency plan to continue production and delivery.