By Reid Maki, Director of Social Responsibility and Fair Labor Standards
After a four-month strike, 300-plus workers at the Mott’s applesauce plant in Williamson, New York, have won their battle and have avoided pay and benefit cuts the conglomerate that owns the plant was trying to cram down their throats despite earning huge profits last year.
In addition to Mott’s, Dr Pepper, and Snapple, Dr Pepper Snapple Group makes Sunkist soda, 7UP, A&W, Canada Dry, Crush, Squirt, Hawaiian Punch, Penafiel, Clamato, Schweppes, and Venom Energy.
According to the New York Times, Dr Pepper Snapple Group–despite profits of over a half billion dollars in 2009–tried to slash workers’ wages $1.50 an hour because it felt that the facility’s pay was too high for the area, which is economically depressed after years of layoffs from firms like Kodak and Xerox.
“It used to be that corporations…moaned about how bad they were doing when they demanded givebacks. Now they don’t bother. ‘We’re doing great, we admit it…but we want more, more, more,’” said one observer.
In addition to the wage cut, the company wanted to eliminate pensions for future workers, freeze pensions for current workers, decrease its contributions to the 401 K plan, and increase employee contributions toward health care premiums and co-pays.
Hopefully, the workers’ “victory,” extensive media coverage it garnered, and the strong support the workers received from New York’s congressional delegation (29 members of which asked the company to return to the negotiating table) will serve as a signal to corporations that they should think twice before they cut workers’ wages and benefits while they are generating huge profits.
To add insult to injury, Larry Young, the CEO of Dr Pepper Snapple Group, made $6.5 million last year, and he’s averaged nearly 30 percent raises for each of the last three years. By contrast, veteran plant workers earned less than $40,000 a year without overtime.
It’s a sad comment on the current state of labor relations that a contract for level pay is considered a victory. We think the Mott’s workers deserved a raise and a share of the parent company’s success. At least the company’s arrogant and insulting attempt to drive down wages was beaten back.