BLUEFIELD, W. VA. (WVVA) – Union workers at the Coca-Cola plant in Bluefield, West Virginia, have rejected the latest offer in their contract negotiations and are considering a strike.
Every three years, Coke employees are offered a contract.
For this round, Ken Hall, the President of the worker’s union, said the new contract is different from what the company offered to other branches across the state.
“We just settled a contract with Charleston last year, their increases were about 18% higher than the company’s offered in Bluefield,” said Hall. “The company has put a final offer out that would require employees to pay more contributions for their own health insurance than they ever have in any contract in the state, including Bluefield over the past 30 years.”
Ron Johnson, a bulk driver for the Bluefield branch, told WVVA News these contract negotiations are similar to what they experienced in 2018 during the last cycle of talks.
“We just went through an ordeal, three years ago, where we couldn’t reach an agreement and it took six or seven months of us, putting pressure on them to give us a contract,” said Johnson.
Johnson says Bluefield workers are treated differently by the company despite the fact they perform the same work. He said this leaves many employees disappointed.
“[We feel] incredibly disrespected because we do the same job, that branches around the state, what it seems like to us is that we get offered a less than fair deal compared to the other places around the state,” said Johnson.
Jim Hayes is a 35-year employee with Coke. He said he’s never seen an offer like this, adding he’s surprised to see it come to this.
“I’ve never seen them come through with an offer like this, after we worked through this pandemic it’s just been very stressful and to be treated like that, it’s just not good,” said Hayes.
The next step for these employees would be a strike, which would be difficult for the employees, customers, and company.
Hayes said they do not want to hit the picket lines, but they want to stand up for themselves.
“We don’t like strikes, everyone loses in a situation like that, but somewhere along the line we have to draw the line in the sand, something has to be done,” said Hayes.
WVVA News reached out to the company for a response.
Representatives for Coca-Cola consolidated have released a statement that said:
“We care deeply about our Bluefield teammates and presented the union with a fair and equitable offer.
Unfortunately, the union has taken our teammates out on strike, but we have a solid plan in place to ensure continuity in serving our customers and communities.”
– Coca-Cola Consolidated representative
Coca-Cola has until July twenty-eighth to modify its last offer before these union members initiate a strike.
We will continue to follow this story and provide updates as they become available.