The International Brotherhood of Teamsters recently hosted a conference call for Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) investors and industry analysts to warn of escalating labor unrest. David Laughton, former Coca-Cola driver and Secretary-Treasurer of the world’s largest Coca-Cola Union’s Brewery and Soft Drink Workers Conference stated:
“Coca-Cola’s approach to labor relations has deteriorated, leaving workers with uncertainty and low morale. The company’s continued refusal to address concerns about the restructuring of their distribution system is neither efficient nor effective. Like the companies’ failed plan to change its distribution system from the POWERade brand and Wal-Mart stores … Coke and CCE’s ill-conceived, short-sighted restructuring plan will likely prove costly in the end.”
The Teamsters represents more than 18,000 Coca-Cola workers in the U.S. and Canada including roughly 14,000 at Coca-Cola Enterprises (NYSE:CCE) .
“As we speak,” Laughton said, “Teamsters are negotiating contracts covering more than a thousand workers across the country. And contracts covering more than 3,500 Coca-Cola workers will expire this year.”
“By management refusing to address workers’ most basic concerns of job security and affordable health care, Coke may soon precipitate widespread work stoppages with picket lines extended throughout the United States,” Laughton said.
Laughton said that the purpose of the call was to alert investors to escalating problems inside the company — problems the Coca-Cola Company may not reveal to investors this week at their annual meeting of shareholders.
“Our members’ job and retirement security depend on Coca-Cola executing a strong and sustainable business plan that creates long-term value for investors, workers and stakeholders,” Laughton said. “We feel an obligation to alert investors that Coca-Cola management and Board of directors are failing to achieve these goals.” He urged investors to encourage Coca-Cola to demonstrate responsible leadership and avoid a potentially crippling labor dispute.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters is affiliated with the International Union of Food Workers (IUF) whose affiliated unions represent tens of thousands of Coca-Cola workers worldwide. Unions around the world are facing problems with Coke’s mismanagement. (Photos of worldwide union actions are available at http://www.iuf.org/) Together they have called for Coca-Cola to negotiate a global agreement to protect the rights and safety of all workers who produce, package and distribute Coke products.