Teamster organizers were the guests on the Workers Beat program on KNON radio September 14. Chris, Lila, and Jorge explained that they had been responding to workers at the Coca Cola Bottling Plant at 3400 Fossil Creek Boulevard in Fort Worth. Over 400 production, warehouse, and transportation workers there need a union. At least 12 of them called in during the one-hour talk show!
You can hear the entire show on podcast at http://www.knon.org/programs/workers-beat-0
Some Coca-Cola employees said they wanted better wages, and they were painfully aware that union members make a lot more money and better benefits than non-union. Others said they were primarily concerned about getting better health care for their families, but the overwhelming majority of the comments were simply about dignity in the workplace. Working people long for union status when their bosses degrade and disrespect them. Having a union steward to stand by them during disciplinary activities sounds almost heavenly to workers who have never had one.
A union organizing drive has to be done very carefully. It begins when workers contact a union. The union will want to know a great deal of information, including how many people work in the facility, what are their ages, what are their races, what are their genders, what issues do they have, how much money do they make, how are their benefits, how are they treated, when are shift changes and where do they park their cars.
If the union is convinced that an organizing drive can be successful, they usually try to set up an internal organizing committee to direct the drive. The internal committee at Coca-Cola decided to run their campaign under the slogan, "Live As Many, but Stand As One!"
Everything is done in secret until they have the legal minimum of at least 30% of the bargaining unit signed up. Most unions require much higher percentages before they file with the government authorities for an election. Once the filing is in, secrecy is no longer possible and the battle for the hearts and minds of the workers is open and intensified. At this point, community support becomes increasingly important. Unions often call on North Texas Jobs with Justice, as the Teamsters did. Compared to the work and courage that the workers have to have, our contribution seems minimal, but we're greatly appreciated.
The Teamster organizers say that Coca Cola spent a small fortune hiring union busters. Employees were subjected to "captive audience" meetings over and over again so that management and the union busters could try to persuade them to vote against the union. Every kind of fear tactic available to management is used, including, the Teamsters said, the old-time threat that management will close the plant before they will let the workers have representation. In the present case, management even went way out of their way to try to discredit North Texas Jobs with Justice.
The Coca-Cola workers in Fort Worth were set to vote on September 19th. If they succeed in getting union recognition, they may have an even harder battle getting their first contract. From the KNON radio show, it sounded like they were ready for anything!