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COCA-COLA ASSURES UNION THAT ATTACKS ON WORKERS' HEALTH COVERAGE, RETIREMENT BENEFITS, AND JOB SAFETY DO NOT REFLECT COMPANY POLICY

COCA-COLA ASSURES UNION THAT ATTACKS ON WORKERS' HEALTH COVERAGE,

RETIREMENT BENEFITS, AND JOB SAFETY DO NOT REFLECT COMPANY POLICY
 WASHINGTON, July 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Coca-Cola has agreed to meet with the Teamsters Union to discuss management practices by companies that bottle and distribute the corporation's products which seriously threaten workers' health, retirement and safety on the job.
 In a letter to Teamsters President Ron Carey, the company repudiated those anti-worker practices and said meetings about how to put a stop to them would begin July 10.
 The agreement with Coca-Cola came only minutes before a Teamster news conference outside Coke headquarters in Atlanta at which the union was to announce a major national public information campaign about the negative effects of company policies on workers and the communities where they live.
 "We are pleased that Coca-Cola has recognized that the issues we are raising are serious and require immediate attention," Carey said. "The fact that Coca-Cola is publicly repudiating certain anti-worker management practices on the part of its bottlers and distributors is an important step in the right direction.
 "It's important to bear in mind, however, that, while positive, today's action by Coca-Cola doesn't address the fundamental needs and concerns of our members. It doesn't solve the problems of health care and pension cuts or management practices that undermine health and safety on the job. Only the discussions in the weeks ahead will reveal whether Coca-Cola is prepared to act to restore fairness for our members and other Coca-Cola workers."
 Carey said the union had informed Coca-Cola management in recent weeks that, if it didn't address the actions of its bottlers and distributors, a massive public information campaign would be launched by community coalitions of labor, religious, environmental and other citizen groups in cities across the nation. The first step in the campaign involved distribution of at least 300,000 leaflets during the July 4 weekend at concerts, baseball games and other community events.
 Carey had called leaders of Teamster locals with Coca-Cola members to Atlanta today for a campaign strategy meeting. The Teamster president said that the national campaign will be put on hold as a result of today's action by the company, but could be revived if the talks do not prove productive.
 Among the problems cited by the union at Coca-Cola distributing and bottling companies are the following:
 -- Significant cuts in health insurance benefits. In many locations, the Coca-Cola bottlers have replaced a fully paid health and welfare plan with one requiring workers to pay for a portion of their premium, adding high deductibles, and covering less of each medical bill. In Greensburg, Pa., for example, employees went from a fully paid, no-deductible policy to one in which workers with family coverage must pay over $600 out of their own pockets plus 25 percent of every medical bill.
 -- Shifting of retirement fund costs to employees. Across the country, local Coca-Cola bottlers and distributors have reduced pension contributions, forcing the employees to make up the rest or see their benefits shrink. At a typical salary level for a truck driver in Reading, Pa., the company reduced its pension contributions from about $1,600 to $525 per year. In Indianapolis, the company changed pension plans and set its contribution cap at $500 per year.
 -- More work, more risk, same pay. Through changes in work practices that attempt to increase deliveries by drivers, the Coca- Cola distributors are putting workers at greater risk of injuries, which are already nearly twice as high in the soft drink industry as in all of manufacturing. By changing pay from an hourly rate to a commission basis, more employees are being forced to work longer and longer hours just to stay at the same wage level.
 -- Take the money and run. Workers and community activists in Paterson, N.J., are struggling to keep good jobs in their state. The Coca-Cola bottler there wants to close down its Paterson facility, claiming that it is outmoded and unprofitable. A justice committee has formed to press the company to invest in the community by modernizing the plant.
 -- Forcing employees to pay for losses. Workers at a distributorship in Milwaukee who do not sell all their product before its expiration date can face a three-day layoff unless they pay for the product out of their own pockets. If at the end of the layoff they have still not paid, they can be fired. In Milwaukee, a driver whose on-board computer was damaged in a break-in was forced to pay $3,500 for repairs.
 -0- 7/1/92
 /CONTACT: Nancy Stella, 404-688-8600 (July 1 only), or Matt Witt or Stella, 202-624-6911 (after July 1), both of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters/
 (KO) CO: International Brotherhood of Teamsters; Coca-Cola ST: Georgia, District of Columbia IN: SU:


DC -- DC029 -- 5837 07/01/92 15:24 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jul 1, 1992
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