Caroline MacGregor Published

Teamsters Strike Against Coca-Cola

A group of striking Coca-Cola workers standing on the side of a road in West Virginia.
Members of the Teamsters Local 175 in Charleston, West Virginia are striking against Coca-Cola over the company’s alleged refusal to compromise.
Teamsters Local 175/Facebook

Members of the Teamsters Local 175 are striking against Coca-Cola over the company’s alleged refusal to compromise. 

Workers are picketing in St. Albans, Bluefield, Logan, Parkersburg and Clarksburg and are supported by other Teamsters locals who have set up picket lines across the state.

Teamsters Local 175 President Ken Hall said the company won’t compromise on several grievance issues and employees have been without a contract for more than a week. 

He accuses Coca-Cola of backtracking on signed agreements, including one over health insurance.

“After signing off on that language within an hour, their attorney called and said, ‘We can’t agree to that now. We have a person in our Charlotte office who doesn’t agree,’” Hall said. “We’d negotiated for over a week, it’s not like someone tricked them, they’re represented by council.”

Hall said Coca-Cola is trying to take away work from their members. 

Last month workers rejected a contract offer after the company reached an agreement with the gas station chain Sheetz to use its warehouses and employees to transport products to their convenience stores. 

“They want to direct ship their product from one of their bottling stores in somewhere like Roanoke, Virginia or Charlotte, North Carolina,” Hall said. “They want to direct ship it to a warehouse that’s owned by Sheetz and eliminate our drivers who go there, check to see what their order is, put their drinks on the shelves and merchandise it. They want to eliminate what they’re paying our drivers which will eventually result in layoffs. It’s bizarre.” 

Hall said his experience with Coca-Cola’s competitor, Pepsi, is just the opposite. 

“They don’t want to do that and they’re not doing that,” Hall said. “And they sell more drinks in West Virginia, so I think they have some idea of how to negotiate.”

Hall explained that the last time workers went on strike against Coca-Cola the volume of lost sales was high enough that two years later the company was still struggling to recover its numbers.

“This company’s mentality is unbelievable,” Hall said. “And part of that is driven, I think, that prior to them acquiring the West Virginia operation in the late 80s, they had maybe 100 unionized employees out of 4,000 and that was in Alabama. So they’re not accustomed to working with unions, frankly they despise unions, so every so often they decide, ‘We’re just going to take you on.’ So far they have not been very successful at it.”

Coca-Cola declined a request for an interview with West Virginia Public Broadcasting but in a statement said the company is disappointed the union initiated a strike.

“We’re disappointed the union decided to take our teammates out on strike but remain committed to working with them on an equitable resolution. We have a solid plan in place to continue serving our customers.”