Left Coast Coke Strike Ends

Los Angeles, CA — Life at Southern California’s Coca-Cola bottling plants and distribution centers returned to normal Monday after a Teamsters local voted to end its two-week strike.

It ended a tumultuous period of bicoastal labor unrest, as Hartford-based workers also struck two weeks ago before settling.

All of the 1,700 production workers and drivers at seven facilities in the area voted to accept Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc.’s contract offer last week except for Los Angeles-based Local 896, which voted down the proposal and kept the work stoppage going until finally accepting the offer Sunday.

There were some reprisals — some workers from CCE’s Downey bottling plant were fired for illegal or overly aggressive picket line behavior.

“There will be no amnesty for any employees who broke the law and engaged in threatening or intimidating behavior during the strike,” said Bob Phillips, spokesman for Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Southern California, which holds the franchise rights for the region. “The employees who did this will be dealt with.”

Jim Santangelo, president of Teamsters Joint Council 42, said he’d been told between eight and 18 workers had been escorted from the facility by security.

“That’s what this company does,” Santangelo said by phone. He said everyone who angers the company is “punished.” The Local 896 workers, who accepted the proposal by a 277 to 70 vote Sunday, got the same wage and benefits deal they voted down three days earlier, Phillips said.

Despite the firings, both sides appeared satisfied with the contract. Santangelo said the deal was comparable to what the Teamsters got from rival Pepsi Cola in May.

“We got the raises and pension benefits we were looking for and our health and welfare funded,” Santangelo said. “But it was not going to happen without a strike.”

Phillips said the two-week strike did little to hurt the company’s sales.