In Battle with Dr Pepper, Workers Take on Poster Child for Corporate Greed
Editor’s note: Three hundred workers at the Mott’s apple products plant near Rochester, New York, have been on strike over unfair labor practices since May 23. In contract talks the company demanded a $1.50-an-hour pay cut, elimination of the pension, and a 20 percent cut in company 401(k) contributions. When the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union didn’t agree, the company declared an impasse and imposed its terms unilaterally.
A small group of Mott’s workers, who make apple juice, apple sauce, and Clamato, traveled to Texas to confront top execs at a stockholder meeting and another group protested the company’s CEO at a Goldman Sachs symposium in New York City. Strikers also leafleted company facilities in Pennsylvania and St. Louis.
Day 20 on the picket line. The rain has stopped and finally all of our union brothers and sisters have warmed up in the sun. Most of us on the picket line have never been through anything like this strike.
Fear is a factor out here because Dr Pepper Snapple Group, which owns Mott’s, has played on our worst fears: the loss of everything we have worked so hard for in our lives.
But fear is only one factor! The biggest factor is the true sense of solidarity and unity amongst us. We are determined to win the battle against corporate greed.
Prior to Dr Pepper taking over, the company and the union were like a family. When the company did well, we all did well. There were many family-oriented functions sponsored by the company outside of our contract. We all felt we jointly contributed to Mott’s success.
Shortly after Dr Pepper took over, things changed—no more Easter hams, no more Christmas party, no more family functions of any kind, and, of course, no more bonuses! We were told, “there’s a new sheriff in town,” and that the only benefits we would enjoy were those that were contractual.
We became dots on their PowerPoint presentation, not the longtime dedicated and skilled employees we are. We are now seen as mere commodities, like grain, sugar, and oil. What happened to the human factor?
I have been here 12 years, and many of my co-workers have 20, 30, or 40-plus years supporting this company and its products. These people are now wondering what their lives will be like when they retire, as they watch the profits for Dr Pepper skyrocket—$555 million in 2009.
To the workers who helped them reach that phenomenal profit in a recession, Dr Pepper said thank you by cutting wages, eliminating pensions, contributing less to our 401(k), hacking away at our health care, and much more.
Dr Pepper is the poster child for corporate greed! Stand tall with us, America, and stop by our picket line. We’re out there 24 hours a day, rain or shine.
Shelly Snyder is a RWDSU Local 220 member and Mott’s label operator.