Friday, April 2, 2021

Michigan workers no longer call for boycott of Vernors’ parent company

Posted By on Fri, Apr 2, 2021 at 10:32 AM

click to enlarge Workers at a Redford Township facility are no longer calling for a boycott of beverage company Keurig Dr. Pepper, which owns Vernors. - LEE DEVITO
  • Lee DeVito
  • Workers at a Redford Township facility are no longer calling for a boycott of beverage company Keurig Dr. Pepper, which owns Vernors.

A labor dispute at a facility in Redford Township owned by Vernors parent company Keurig Dr. Pepper is now over, and the workers are no longer calling for a boycott of Michigan's favorite pop.

The company and the Teamsters Local 337 union announced a new five-year contract agreement on Thursday that ends the strike, which started on March 11 over what the Teamsters described as "the beverage company’s refusal to bargain in good faith" and received high-profile support from members of Congress including U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Andy Levin.

"I am incredibly proud of our Teamsters members at 7UP Detroit for continuing to stand up for fair wages and treatment, and persevering until our goals were reached," Teamsters Local 337 president Todd Lince said in a statement. "In addition to our members' strength, we would not have been able to secure such a strong contract without the support of our community. The support 7UP workers received these past few weeks from elected leaders, customers, and the Michigan labor community has not gone unnoticed. Thank you for your solidarity, and we look forward to continuing to provide the Detroit community with our essential services."

Keurig Dr. Pepper denies it never negotiated in good faith, however.

"Keurig Dr Pepper is pleased to have reached a new long-term Collective Bargaining Agreement with Teamsters Local #337, which ends the strike and brings employees back to work," the company said in a statement. "It is unfortunate that this strike impacted our employees, as we negotiated in good faith throughout the process and strongly believe we could have come to an agreement without a strike. The agreement reached honors the union's proposal to continue with the existing seniority-based tier 1 and tier 2 wage structure that has been in place since 2008. It also continues to pay above-market wages and provides the Company with the flexibility needed to better serve our customers and compete in our very competitive industry."

According to the Teamsters, many of the lower-tier workers were Black. The Teamsters also claim that the company brushed off a request to add Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a paid holiday, though the company disputes this. The Teamsters also alleged union-busting activity from the security firm hired by the company, including threats of violence and an altercation that involved police, but the company also denies this happened and says the police incident involved a man who did not work for the firm.

Contacted by Metro Times, neither party offered much more on the record about the contract agreement other than what was in their statements. But a source says the lower-tier workers now have a path to progress to the higher tier, and new language in the contract specifies that the workers still have nine paid holidays and they can take MLK Day off as one of their paid personal leave days or an unpaid holiday, unless the company needs workers that day.

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