Mott''s Strike Important for Unions
August 18, 2010
After nearly 90 days of picketing it is evident that the lengthy strike is about far more than whether the 305 hourly workers at the plant get a fatter or slimmer paycheck. According to the New York Times, the union movement and many outsiders view the strike as a high-stakes confrontation between a company that wants to cut its labor costs, even as it is earning record profits, and workers who are determined to resist demands for wage and benefit givebacks. The company that owns Mott’s, the beverage conglomerate Dr Pepper Snapple Group, counters that the Mott’s workers are overpaid compared with other production workers in the Rochester area. Chris Barnes, a company spokesman, said Dr Pepper Snapple was seeking a $1.50-an-hour wage cut, a pension freeze and other concessions to bring the plant’s costs in line with “local and industry standards.” The company, which has 50 brands including 7Up and Hawaiian Punch, reported net income of $555 million in 2009. Its 2009 sales were $5.5 billion, down 3 percent. The strike has become so important because of the prominence of the brands and because of its unusual nature: a highly profitable company is taking the rare and bold step of demanding large-scale concessions. Unlike previous battles, where American manufacturers have often sought to cut labor costs by threatening to close plants or move operations to the South or overseas, Dr Pepper Snapple is not making such threats. For unions across the country, the stakes are high because if the Mott’s workers lose this showdown, it could prompt other profitable companies to push for major labor concessions. Negotiations have not been held since May, and Dr Pepper Snapple says it has no intention of resuming them. The company has continued to operate the plant using replacement workers and says that production of apple juice and applesauce is growing each day. Union officials say production is one-third of what it was before the walkout.