A Coca Cola truck driver was fired after being spotted drinking a soft drink made by the rival Pepsi company, Union officials said yesterday. Rick Bronson worked for Coca-Cola 12 years and was a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
“Coke is really grasping at straws on this one,” said Jim Santangelo, principal officer of Teamsters’ branch of which Bronson is a member in El Monte, east of Los Angeles.
“This is nothing more than an attempt to get rid of a pro-union employee. The Teamsters will fight every step of the way to get Rick’s job back,” he vowed.
The Teamsters claim that Coke really fired the worker because of his work three months ago in organizing Coke merchandising workers under the powerful Union’s aegis.
The dismissal came after he was allegedly spotted in the back room of a store where he was making a delivery swigging on a Pepsi.
Bronson believes the person who reported him for publicly drinking a Pepsi had been hired by Coca-Cola to follow him and catch him off guard.
The Union alleges that Coca-Cola fired Bronson under a company rule that bars “slander” of the world famous product after he was seen drinking the rival soft drink, Santangelo said.
“Hey, Rick’s a Pepsi drinker, what can he do?” he said. But it’s not as if he was seen drinking a Pepsi in Times Square on live TV – he was in the backroom of a store.
“This wasn’t slanderous. They just wanted him because of his union activity and because he is a union leader,” he claimed.
A spokesman for the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. in Southern California, Bob Phillips, declined to comment on the allegations and on the case citing California’s privacy laws, but said the company would not resort to a pretext to fire an employee active in a union.
“I can tell you that we have at this company a strict policy against retaliation and the company does not retaliate, nor do we tolerate any retaliation against employees,” he said.
The Teamsters Local 848 has filed unfair labor practice charges against Coca-Cola over the incident, according to the Union.
Coca-Cola and the Teamsters in California have been at odds over labor-related disputes, including strikes, involving Coca-Cola workers in recent months, and negotiations over other contentious issues are still on-going.
Absolutely Mind Boggling!