Coca Cola workers: locked out and fighting back | #cokestrike

Coca Cola workers: locked out and fighting back |

By: Peter Votsch, Chief Steward CUPE Local 3202

July 17, 2013

On June 27, shortly before a midnight strike deadline, Coca Cola Canada locked out over 700 at their Brampton plant. The workers, members of Canadian Auto Workers, Local 973, had not even begun to negotiate economic issues, such as wages, shift premiums, etc.

Coke had put in front of the Local’s bargaining committee a long series of concessions, including:
– The elimination of pensions for new hires; the end of a defined benefit plan for those already working, to be replaced by a defined contribution plan.
– Contracting out of skilled jobs, including a whole department.
– Refusing to allow temporary workers to access full time work.
– Eliminating the right of layed off workers to transfer to other facilities in the region.
– Dismantling of traditional seniority rights, affecting promotion, transfer, recall from layoff.
– Reduction of benefits, and forcing of workers into a co-pay arrangement.

… and the list goes on.

All this from a company that made over $9 billion in profits last year, and paid its CEO $30.5 million.

Coca Cola is following a trend throughout both private and public sectors to demand concessions from their workers, and when they (the union) balk at the bargaining table, lock them out. Some of Coke’s demands will sound familiar, especially when it comes to different (reduced) conditions for new hires, and the transfer from a stable, predictable defined benefit plan to one driven by the market, ie. defined contributions. Most of us will be quite familiar with demands to contract out work, especially from the unionized public sector to low wage, non-union private firms. The money saved by employers do not benefit the public, let alone improve efficiency, as study after study has noted – it is simply a way to boost corporate profit.

Another attack by Coke on its workers that will sound familiar to many trade unionists is its attempt to enforce “precarious” work, by refusing to allow mobililty from temp to full-time. Precarious, insecure employment is everywhere in the economy: we see it from workers forced to sign employment contracts year after year, to workers who are hired as part time workers, who see their hours jump to full time, only to find them reduced to below an acceptable amount needed to earn a living wage.

That makes it crucial that we support the members of CAW Local 973, who are holding strong on the picket line. The workers, many with high levels of seniority, have known plans were afoot by Coke since April to lock them out. On June 27, hours before the strike deadline, workers were told to gather their belongings and leave the plant, clearly indicating that Coke did not want to negotiate with its workers. When the workers left the plant, they found that Coke had already erected a ring of fences around it!

Though this is their first strike, the members of Local 973 are fighting back. They have maintained around the clock pickets at all three plant entrances. Unfortunately a company injunction has allowed scabs to be bused in from a gathering point at the Holiday Inn at the Bramalea City Centre. However the workers are holding up the scabs as long as legally possible. They have also received solidarity visits from members of other CAW locals, and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Local 966. But more solidarity is needed, especially from unions outside of the CAW – this can raise the possibility of real resistance to the scab buses, and in this way inflict a real, and deserved defeat on the Coca Cola corporation, setting a positive pattern for other Coke plants, and indeed all of Labour.

After all, the mighty Coca Cola Ltd. owes every bit of their profits to the work of their workers the world over, like members of CAW Local 973. As Shop Steward Irvin Active put it: “This company isn’t interested in its employees. A company of this magnitude should be, as we provide the worldwide product”.

Let’s show Coke that our solidarity is “the real thing.”

Join CAW members on the picket line at 15 Westcreek Blvd. in Brampton, near Hwy. 410 and Steeles Ave., or visit for updates or to deliver messages of solidarity.

Geo Tags:

Canada: Billions in profit, cuts for local workers, scab-brewed beer for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians!

Sound familiar?  This is happening everywhere.  This is why our fight matters.

Canada: Billions in profit, cuts for local workers, scab-brewed beer for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians!.

The war to set global labour standards in the brewing industry is being fought in the Canadian city of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.

On one side, the Canadian division of the world’s largest (and very profitable) brewing corporation, Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev). On the other, one of the global giant’s smallest and most vulnerable local unions in what appears to be an attempt to establish a pattern of concessions and roll-backs that the corporation could then try to impose on all of its other unionized workers around the world.

The workers, who are members of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public Employees (NAPE/NUPGE), have been on strike since April 10. Before they were in a legal position to exercise their right to strike, the company attempted to force the workers to train the scabs who are now doing their jobs.

AB InBev and its shareholders enjoy their massive profits thanks to the loyal and careful labour of workers around the world, just like those in St. John’s. But if the corporation sees fit to demand that they accept concessions for the sake of a tiny bit more in profit, what will stop it from demanding similar concessions from its workers around the world?

Please write to AB InBev and demand that they treat their workers, and their workers’ communities, with fairness and respect.

CUPE/CAW Solidarity Rally through the eyes of a young worker | CUPE 2544 #cokestrike

Thanks for sharing, Victoria!  Your support, and the support of the next generation of Canadian workers, means a lot.  This is all of our fight!  #solidarity

CUPE/CAW Solidarity Rally through the eyes of a young worker | CUPE 2544.

By Victoria Bouchard

Where do I begin? Today was my first time attending a rally with my father Dan Bouchard, and his union CUPE Local 2544. What an inspirational and moving experience! I must admit, I didn’t know much about what CUPE does or the issue that we were fighting for on this date, but everyone was so welcoming to me!

Throughout the day, learning bits and pieces here and there about what was happening and the struggles that face Coca Cola workers, I felt like we were doing a good thing for our fellow community members.

Although I hadn’t actually met any of these lovely workers before attending the rally, I’m very glad I went. It was a hot and muggy day, but everyone still came out to show their support. WOW. Truly empowering!

We started the day out with some introductions with the first group, and later gravitated toward where the Coca Cola trucks themselves go in and out of the plant. That area was by far my favourite. It felt like I had known these people for years and years, and we came together to fight something going on around us. Having been shown that kind of support, for people we don’t even know was honestly so inspiring. There’s no better way to say it. Between chanting, dancing to ‘Lean on Me’ and trying to cool off, I met so many admirable people.

As a 17-year-old girl, I’ll admit that taking part in these activities isn’t something that really ever entered my mind. That has definitely changed!  I can’t wait to join in on another one! Last but not least, I’d like to thank everyone who let me tag alone and show my support! Hope to see all of your friendly faces sometime again soon. Keep up the amazing work you all are doing within our community.

In support,

Victoria Bouchard