In The News
'Poster Child for Corporate Greed" Leads to Trumka Call
Sept. 13 Bulletin: The New York Times reported a deal in which both sides can cite victories. Dr Pepper Snapple and the union representing 300 workers at the Mott’s apple juice plant announced a settlement that ends a 16-week strike and includes a wage freeze but not the pay cuts the company had demanded. The union strike also persuaded the company to drop its demand to freeze pensions for current workers.
Responding to recent news stories and a plea from Joseph Hanson, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW), AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka in August sent a letter to all state and local federations, as well as the news media. His letter plus references is excerpted by Milwaukee Labor Press :
Sometimes a story about corporate greed and anti-union attacks is so dramatic, that it wakes people up and moves them to action. I believe this may well be the case with the strike of 305 UFCW members at the Mott’s apple juice plant (owned by the conglomerate Dr Pepper Snapple Group) in upstate New York.
A recent New York Times article gives a sense of how this profitable giant has decided to demand wage and benefit cuts – not because it is losing money (it made a profit of $555 million last year) - but because it wants to make recession wages the local standard. The company told the union that the workers should think of themselves as a “commodity” like “soybeans or oil.”
This fight has implications well beyond these workers. This greedy company thinks it can take advantage of a small group in Williamson, New York, while the rest of the labor movement sits by and watches. If we allow this to happen in New York, it will spread to other profitable companies seeking to follow suit. The New York AFL-CIO and the Rochester ALF have been working with Local 220 from the beginning, and their efforts have made a difference over the past 90 days.
Visit the Take Action section of milwaukeelabor.org to download a poster describing the issue and the products involved. Please use Labor Day or any gathering of workers as an opportunity to share this important story within your community.
UFCW President Joe Hansen has asked for our help, and in the spirit of labor movement solidarity we stand ready to support these workers and their union. Though the UFCW is not currently affiliated with the AFL-CIO at the national level, hundreds of its local unions have Solidarity Charters with you at the state and local level. I urge you to reach out to your UFCW locals and offer your assistance in bringing this fight to the attention of the public in order to build a national call for the corporation to bargain a fair contract with RWDSU-UFCW Local 220.
The New York Times story gave the background clearly: "Negotiations have not been held since May, and Dr Pepper Snapple says it has no intention of resuming them. The company has continued to operate the plant using replacement workers and says that production of apple juice and apple sauce is growing each day. Union officials say production is one-third of what it was before the walkout.
“The Mott’s workers voted 250 to 5 to strike, walking out on May 23. They were furious about the company’s demands to cut their wages by about $3,000 a year, freeze pensions, end pensions for new hires, reduce the company’s 401(k) retirement contributions and increase employees’ costs for health care benefits. Dr Pepper Snapple said it was merely seeking to bring its benefits more in line with those of its other plants.
“Even before the strike vote, workers were stewing, saying that management had begun treating them far worse after Cadbury Schweppes, the former owner, spun off its American beverages division in 2007, creating Dr Pepper Snapple.”