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Marysville Teamsters picket local Coca-Cola over contract
MARYSVILLE — The Coca-Cola workers strike in western Washington has hit Marysville as well, which is one of the six strike locations where approximately 500 Coca-Cola employees went on strike at 5 p.m. Aug. 23.
Teamsters Local 38 represents 37 of those striking workers, who were picketing the Marysville Coca-Cola facility in shifts starting Aug. 24. Local 38 workers were joined by members of Teamsters Local 117, based out of Tukwila.
The union's side of the story
"This is a busier road than I thought," said Barry Lund, administrative assistant for Local 38, as passing cars honked their horns in support of the union's picket signs. "All we're asking for is a fair contract."
The union's previous contract with Coca-Cola expired on May 15. Local 38 Secretary Treasurer Steve Chandler explained that the union's collective bargaining with Coca-Cola began around April, but blamed Coca-Cola for a 10-week gap during which the company did not meet with the union. Chandler also charged Coca-Cola with engaging in surface bargaining, by sending people to negotiate with the union who were not authorized to make decisions on behalf of Coca-Cola.
Chandler and Dave Campbell, a member of Local 117 and a Coca-Cola employee for 29 years, agreed that Coca-Cola's elimination of health care for retired union members and increase in health care expenses for employees are the union's primary concerns.
"Workers are currently paying premiums of $30 a month, but Coca-Cola wants to increase that by about 800 percent, to $240 or $250 a month, which would start immediately," Chandler said. "It's unreal. Coca-Cola also pays $85 per person into a retiree medical plan that they want to delete and not give to the employees."
"We've already got a lot of folks who live in Mount Vernon commuting to work here in Marysville, and folks in Bellingham could be going to work in Bellevue," Campbell said. "It just puts more of the burden on the local families."
"We just want to bring them back to the table," said Bill King, a merchandizer with Local 38. "There's right and there's wrong."
The company's side of the story
According to Bob Phillips, vice president of public affairs for Coca-Cola, the union has misrepresented the company's willingness and availability to negotiate.
"Since March, we've met with the union 13 times to reach a new agreement," Phillips said. "On four of those occasions, the union was either unprepared to bargain, cancelled the sessions or ended them early. By May, it was clear that they did not intend to reach a settlement with us, so we offered to extend their current contracts with retroactive wages, but they turned that down."
Phillips criticized the "inflexibility" of the union on its negotiation meeting times and asserted that the union had already agreed to meet with Coca-Cola the week of Aug. 30 before its members went on strike.
"We remain committed to meeting with them at that time," Phillips said. "It makes little sense for them to behave this way at such an early stage of negotiations, especially in the current economic climate."
For addition information, check out the story on the Bellevue Reporter website.