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Teamsters Unit Rejects Coke Accord

Three locals on strike at Coca-Cola bottling sites vote to ratify but still plan to honor their colleagues' picket lines.

June 03, 2005|Nancy Cleeland | Times Staff Writer

Teamsters production workers at Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. on Thursday rejected a contract deal worked out by union negotiators to end an 11-day strike, and planned to resume picketing today at all seven local plants.

The surprising news came after a scheduled ratification vote dragged into a contentious five-hour meeting between union leaders and rank-and-file members. Union spokeswoman Hilda Delgado said union drivers and warehouse workers voted to ratify the contract, but bottlers rejected it. She said that she had no further details and that union leaders would not comment.

Four locals of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, representing about 1,650 workers, have been jointly negotiating with the company for several months. They launched a coordinated strike May 23, mainly over failure to agree on healthcare benefits.

A settlement reached early Wednesday was expected to end the strike.

Union negotiators unanimously recommended ratification, and members of three locals did just that. But the bottlers, in Local 896, voted 296 to 192 to reject it, according to company spokesman Bob Phillips.

If members of Local 896 resume picket lines today, as they said they would, members of the other three locals will honor them and not return to work, said Delgado.

The offers to the four locals were identical and "generous," Phillips said.

"What we've got here is a minority of striking employees who are grandstanding, and keeping the majority from coming back to work," he said.

Asked if the company would reopen negotiations, Phillips would not speculate.

He said only that "Local 896 has a fully recommended contract, so Local 896 has to deal with it."

Fast-growing Coca Cola Enterprises, based in Atlanta, bottles and distributes 80% of Coke beverages in the United States. The company was created by Coca-Cola Co., which holds about one-third of the stock.

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