Mott’s strike takes national stage

As of August 30, the 300 workers at the Mott’s plant in Williamson, N.Y., have been on strike for 100 days. They have dug in their heels as management continues to push for huge pay cuts and other givebacks, while solidarity and, more materially, money for the strike fund, has poured in from across the country.

The strike started on May 23, after the company, owned by Dr Pepper Snapple demanded surprisingly big givebacks, including a freeze on all pensions for current workers-and now for any new hires. Further, they demanded the workers agree to a jump in health insurance copayments and a cut in the company’s contributions to workers’ 401(k) plans.

Most shockingly, Mott’s is demanding a pay cut of up to $2.50 per hour per employee.

While the company has decided to squeeze its workers more than the apples it makes juice and sauce out of, it has posted earnings of $555 million and increased their market share. In addition, stocks are up for Dr Pepper Snapple by nearly 30 percent.

Management argues that it wants to push workers’ wages down to average Rochester-area wages; the workers point out that working conditions in Rochester are nothing to aspire to, as half the population lives in poverty.

The workers are represented by Local 220 of the Retail Workers and Department Stores Union. RWDSU Canada held its convention in early August, and raised $5,000 for its brother union in New York State. The locals strike fund has now reached $100,000, with more money coming in routinely from other supporters. The more money in the strike fund, the longer and harder the Mott’s workers are able to fight. 

The David-and-Goliath battle in which slightly more than 300 workers take on an international mega-corporation has attracted support from all over.

On August 26, unions and others in handed out fliers in Indianapolis. Taking part in the action were Todd Davis and Kent Knox, both workers at Mott’s, as well as other members of RWDSU and its parent union, the United Food and Communication Workers; as well as communication workers, steel workers, members of the teachers’ and leaders of the Indiana AFL-CIO.

Closer to home, the New York City Council weighed in on the matter, sending a letter signed by 34 members, to Larry Young, president and CEO of Dr Pepper Snapple. In the letter, the council members argued that “the workers who are responsible for the company’s success should not be forced into a contract that cutes their income at a time when the cost of living in this state increases with each passing year.”

“Your employees are entitled to be treated with respect and compensated fairly for their work,” the letter continued.

The Rev. Al Sharpton joined in, meeting with Local 220 President Mike LeBerth.

According to the Local 220, the strikers “have extended our picket lines to Bowman Apple Products and National Fruit, both in Virginia, and American Bottlers in Chicago. The Virginia plants are co-packing Mott’s and the Chicago plant is sending staff to scab in Williamson.”

At the Chicago picket lines, Union Pacific train workers have refused to cross picket lines. According to the local, the plants have run out of sugar.

Workers remain optimistic that they can beat the corporate behemoth. They are asking people to continue to check for updates at their website, and to send a letter in support of the strikers to:

DPS President and CEO Larry Young

5301 Legacy Drive

Plano, Texas 75024

Fax: 972-673-7976