Teamsters have voted to strike at Philly area’s largest Coca-Cola distributor


Unionized warehouse workers, drivers, and sales staff at the region’s largest Coca-Cola bottler and distributor voted to strike on Sunday, Teamsters Local 830 leadership said.

“Liberty Coca-Cola has treated my members and the entire [bargaining] process with disdain,” Local 830 Secretary-Treasurer Daniel H. Grace said in a statement. He said the company was not offering satisfactory compensation or benefits to workers, and called the most recent contract proposal “insulting.”

The unionized workforce of about 400 was setting up a picket line at 725 E. Erie Ave., the Philadelphia plant where Liberty bottles Coke, Dasani water, Powerade, Monster Energy, Gold Peak iced tea, and other brands.

Liberty Coca-Cola issued a statement saying it had bargained in good faith with the workers, offering “the highest wage increases in Coca-Cola/Teamster Local 830′s history, along with a generous health and welfare benefits package. The considerable offerings are in addition to the millions of dollars we have invested in our facility over the past few years, including new trucks for our drivers, new warehouse technology and a fitness center.”

The company said national union leaders, and the head of the 3,500-member local, had endorsed that final offer, but workers voted against accepting it.

Five years ago, the union came close to striking amid tense contract negotiations in the wake of the city’s soda tax, which spurred a 38.9% reduction in the purchase of sweetened beverages, a study out of University of Pennsylvania’s medical school found. Liberty employees were then focused on fighting to preserve their retirement benefits.

The plant’s workforce shrank by about one-third since then.

“The soda tax really put a hurt on us. We’re nowhere near where we used to be,” Grace said.

Grace declined to share specifics on what wages workers are looking for now but said pay has not kept pace with “runaway inflation.” He said the picketing workers are also seeking different health insurance and retirement benefits.

“We will stay at it,” he said, “until we get what we’re looking for.”

Liberty Coca-Cola pledged to work with the union toward a fair and equitable solution. In the interim, its statement mentioned a “strong contingency plan in place that allows for continued delivery of our products to our customers and consumers throughout the Philadelphia region.”