Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Good Fight at Mott's

A trip to the striking workers picket line at the Mott’s plant on Route 104 in Williamson is at once inspiring and frightening if you are yourself part of the working class. You feel a sense of bravado driven by desperation in the 300 blue-collar industrial workers who walk the perimeter of the Mott’s property around the clock discouraging strike-breaking scabs from crossing the picket line.

Mott’s, once a worker-friendly hometown company, is now owned by Dr. Pepper Snapple Group (DPSG) from Plano, Texas. DPSG made $555 million in profit last year and it’s President and CEO Larry Young was given a whopping $6.6 million in compensation. In a tight economy Dr. Pepper Snapple Group generates that kind of profit the old-fashioned way: by oppressing workers. Weeks ago DPSG dumped a “take it or leave it” contract proposal on workers calling for an across the board wage cut of $1.50 hour, greatly increased health care premiums, medical co-pays and deductibles in the thousands of dollars, pension freezes and cuts in company 401k contributions. Plus Mott’s insists on arbitrary changes in job descriptions designed to lower salaries and displace skilled senior workers. For weeks DPSG negotiators have refused to return to the bargaining table despite the fact that workers are proposing a “flat contract” which only continues their current agreement without an increase in salary.

The perceived arrogance and greed of Dr. Pepper Snapple Group has generated widespread community support for the Mott’s plant workers by the Williamson community as easily proven by the almost continuous supportive honking of passing vehicles. On Monday morning bags of food were being dropped off for strikers and representatives of several other unions including Pride at Work, CSEA, SEIU, NYSUT and NGU (Next Generation United) walked the line in solidarity.

PAW Member Rosemary Rivera & President Jim Bertolone - Rochester Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation

Politicians also recognize the importance of this particular strike. Robin Wilt, the Democratic candidate for NY State Senate District 56 was there Monday offering encouragement. Congressman Dan Maffei had walked the picket line on the weekend, Mayor Duffy of Rochester is slated to visit this week and Senator Gillibrand wrote to CEO Young calling for the corporation to return to the bargaining table in good faith. ( )

Local Pride at Work President Bess Watts spoke with the strikers and reflects: “This is not simply about money. The wage cut is almost secondary to the huge cuts in benefits. One long time Mott’s employee told me it would cost $6000.00 out of pocket in medical expenses to have a baby.” Watts continued ”Everyone is struggling at the negotiation table right now and this strike has special significance to all local unions because of the extreme undercutting of worker benefits and compensation by this large national corporation. If this strike fails, which union wants to be the next domino to fall to so low a level? So this fight is our fight and we will support the courageous RWDSU (Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union) strikers. Backs to the wall, they speak for all American workers when they say ‘Enough is enough’”.

Watts encourages union and other workers to support the Mott’s strikers by joining the picket line for a few hours to visibly show unity of purpose. And join the boycott of Dr. Pepper Snapple Group products listed below:

7UP, A&W, Canada Dry, Clamato, Country Time, Crush, Deja Blue, Diet Rite, Dr Pepper, Hawaiian Punch, Hires, IBC, Margaritaville, Mott’s, Mr and Mrs T, Nantucket Nectars, Orangina, Penafiel, RC Cola, ReaLemon, Rose’s, Schweppes, Snapple, Squirt, Stewart’s, Sundrop
Sunkist, Vernors, Welch’s, Yoo-hoo

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