CHICAGO, March 26, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Teamsters Local 727 sent Great Lakes Coca-Cola Distribution Inc. (GLCCD), a subsidiary of Reyes Holdings and bottler/distributor of Coca-Cola products (NYSE:KO), a detailed information request that asked for: 1) the sick leave and/or attendance policy the company will be using during this time to ensure members stay home while sick and/or to identify exposure; 2) what cleaning standards have been put in place including increased cleaning and disinfecting; and 3) what measures the company is taking to keep members informed of policies, procedures, and exposures. Since all the other soda companies in the Chicagoland area represented by 727, and many companies across the nation, non-union and union alike, are offering hazard or incentive pay—the union demanded hazard pay for its essential frontline GLCCD members as well.
To date, the company has not fulfilled the information request in its entirety but instead sent vague responses such as, "I can assure you that the well-being of our employees is our top priority. We continue to closely monitor this ever-changing situation and to focus on ensuring we are taking appropriate precautions to maintain the safety, health and well-being of our team. We will take time to understand each employee's concern or situation brought forth and will address as appropriate on a case-by-case basis." In fact, the company has yet to identify any substantial measures recommended by the CDC or similar to what is being done in other companies. Instead, the multinational company stated that gloves are allegedly made available to members, and the company has posted "daily personal hygiene messages" throughout the facility. To make matters worse, one 727 member reported that when he approached a company supervisor to express his fear for himself and his family management responded by stating that, "Your chances of catching the flu are many, many, many, many, many times higher than catching this virus. Did I say many? Just show up to work."
Unlike other soda companies, Great Lakes Coca-Cola is potentially offering their frontline essential workers a weekly lump sum "stipend" of $100 contingent on their attendance. Other companies in the industry are offering 10 to 20 percent on top of the employee's base hourly rate, including overtime. Upon hearing of this, the union immediately raised concerns to Great Lakes Coca-Cola that its substandard hazard pay would incentivize employees to come to work sick, which contradicts the recommendations put out by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Governor JB Pritzker, the CDC and WHO. Under GLCCD's stipend, employees are only eligible if the employees works all scheduled shifts and hours within the relevant work week (i.e. employees who are exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus would still be required to report to work if they were scheduled). While the company is potentially offering paid leave if an employee is sent home or quarantined during a work week, GLCCD is only guaranteeing pay for a facility shut down if it happens during the work week and only for that week. In order to be eligible the following week, the facility must be operational and the members must work all scheduled shifts and hours. While the rest of the soda industry and many employers across the country are focused on keeping their employees safe and rewarding them for working during this time, Great Lakes Coca-Cola is seemingly still focused on profit and attendance. In fact, one manager told a truck driver for the company, "A lot of people aren't working. You should just be glad to still have a job."
"Great Lakes Coca-Cola had the opportunity to change their image from a greedy, anti-worker corporate bully to an employer that cares about their workers and is helping the nation during an international health crisis. Instead, they once again picked profit over people. The fact that they are trying to enforce an attendance policy for their employees to get a substandard incentive stipend while workers put themselves and families at risk just shows how low GLCCD will go. We demand that they do more and put their employees first," said John Coli Jr, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 727.
Teamsters Local 727 represents nearly 10,000 hardworking men and women throughout the Chicago area.
Nothing in this article should be read as the union's waiver of any legal argument, position or grievance(s), or as a waiver of any rights, arguments, or defenses under any contract, collective bargaining agreement, or applicable law. The union does not forfeit its right to make any and all supplemental arguments.
Caleen Carter-Patton, (847) 696-7500
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SOURCE Teamsters Local Union 727, Park Ridge, Illinois