CHICAGO, March 30, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- When the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic escalated in the United States, Teamsters Local 727 flew into action and immediately sent information requests to every employer represented by Local 727 to ask how they were going to handle the international health crisis. More specifically, the union asked companies for detailed explanations about amendments to their attendance policies, enhancements to their safety protocols, and how the company intended to disseminate information to its employees. As the city of Chicago enacted orders to keep sick people home and Illinois Governor JB Pritzker put in place a "stay at home" order, Local 727 reached out to every employer with "essential employees" and demanded hazard pay and paid leave for illnesses and facility shutdowns related to COVID-19.
In the soda industry, PepsiCo Beverages North America (NYSE:PEP) and the American Bottling Company, a subsidiary of Keurig Dr Pepper (NYSE:KDP), responded by the time non-essential businesses were forced to temporarily shutter in order to slow the spread of the virus. Both companies are giving percentage-based increases to their frontline, essential workers in addition to their regular hourly pay. Additionally, the Great Lakes Coca-Cola (GLCC) competitors are both providing additional paid sick leave for anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 or forced to quarantine because of COVID-19 in addition to paid leave during facility shutdowns caused by COVID-19. On the other hand, Great Lakes Coca-Cola, a subsidiary of Reyes Holdings and bottler/distributor of Coca-Cola products (NYSE:KO), refuses to match its competitors by providing similar benefits to its employees.
Last week, Local 727 sent a demand to bargain to management after receiving its substandard COVID-19 "supplemental pay" proposal. The proposal states that each member will be given a $100 "stipend" on a weekly basis from March 23 to April 3. The stipend, however, is entirely conditioned on attendance—to receive it, an employee "must work all scheduled shifts/hours within the relevant work week." The substandard stipend, on its face, clearly incentivizes GLCC's frontline employees to come to work sick and punishes those who do the right thing and stay home if ill.
"It's absurd that any company during an international health crisis is essentially telling its members they must come to work, no matter what. When the city of Chicago is citing and fining people if they are caught outside of their house exhibiting any symptoms of the coronavirus, Great Lakes Coca-Cola is not only asking members to put themselves, their families, and the public at risk, they are essentially asking members to break the law," said John Coli Jr, Secretary-Treasurer.
Perhaps even more egregious, the multinational, multibillion dollar company refuses to put clear sick or paid leave policies needed to address the coronavirus on paper. The company has repeatedly stated that attendance will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and refuses to commit that all members will be paid if they have to stay home with symptoms or family illness related to COVID-19.
Most recently, a member was told by a doctor to quarantine while he and his family fearfully waited for his sick wife's COVID-19 test results. When the member informed management of the doctor-mandated quarantine, a human resources employee told the member to come to work or take vacation time. Another member reported that when she informed management that she was exhibiting mild cold-like symptoms she was told she could not return unless and until she produced a doctor's note in advance of her return. Mayor Lightfoot and Gov. Pritzker have specifically mandated that members of the public who feel sick should stay home, self-quarantine, and only leave if they are seeking medical care for severe symptoms. Both the governor and mayor are trying to avoid a rush in patients seeking care for mild symptoms. Despite these clear government directives, GLCC continued to prove it is an anti-worker company that does not care about public health as it told the employee she could not return to work without a doctor's note—something that the member may very well not be able to provide, as many doctors are understandably limiting patient visits to those with severe symptoms only. GLCC further provided no clarity to the member on whether she would be paid while she attempted to obtain a doctor's note and/or if she would receive disciplinary attendance points.
"At best, having a policy that is on a case-by-case basis with poorly-trained, incompetent management is a recipe for disaster. At its worst, the company is seriously risking the health of its employees, their families, and the general public. GLCC is, in essence, asking employees to choose between their lives and their livelihoods by tying their incentive pay to weekly attendance. These members are the face of the company—they are on your streets and in your stores. They are stocking the shelves as your family shops for your household. To tell these employees that they have to come to work unless the company decides otherwise is not only irresponsible, it's potentially deadly," Coli Jr. said.
When Teamsters Local 727 raised all of these concerns in a phone meeting last Friday, the company representative simply stated they "agree to disagree". Company representative Kathy McCabe also stated that every situation would be handled on a case-by-case basis, and that the company had no intention of clarifying their clearly vague policies, regardless of their employees' or the public's safety.
Teamster Local 727 will continue to demand that Great Lakes Coca-Cola do the right thing to protect its frontline, essential workers, their families, the public, and you. Teamsters Local 727 asks that the public call 847-653-0784 and demand Great Lakes Coca Cola protect their employees.
Teamsters Local 727 represents nearly 10,000 hardworking men and women throughout the Chicago area.
Nothing in this article should be read as the union's waiver of any legal argument, position or grievance(s), or as a waiver of any rights, arguments, or defenses under any contract, collective bargaining agreement, or applicable law. The union does not forfeit its right to make any and all supplemental arguments.
Caleen Carter-Patton, (847) 696-7500
SOURCE Teamsters Local Union 727, Park Ridge, Illinois