You have to love a company that makes it abundantly clear to workers — you’re overpaid! At $19 an hour, those employed at an upstate New York plant making Mott’s apple juice have been told they earn too much.
This, in comparison to other area production workers near Rochester, many of them desperate for work after layoffs by Xerox or Kodak, former corporate behemoths.
The company is doing just fine.
It’s not in bankruptcy, or struggling, or cut to its knees by competition from China or India. No, they posted $555 million in income for 2009, compared to a $312 million loss the year before.
They just want more profit! Because…they can.
So, in a gesture almost touching in its quaint futility — sort of a whaling captains’ convention — the workers went out on strike in May. They’re still there, reports The New York Times’ terrific labor reporter Steven Greenhouse.
The company cut its annual picnic and holiday party — but also wanted a $1.50/hour wage cut, pension freeze and other concessions.
The plant, of course, is running with scab labor. In this economy, they can certainly count on finding willing bodies happy to make sure the plant’s workers have little leverage.
Read “The Big Squeeze”, Greenhouse’s depressing, powerful analysis of where the American worker has ended up: with little to no power, forced into wage and benefit concessions, scared and angry. Published in 2008, it is nothing but prophetic.
If it doesn’t wake you up, you’re not paying attention.
Few reporters even bother to cover “labor” anymore, instead preferring business profiles about CEOs or Wall Street analysts.
Workers? Not so much.
Now that corporate executives earn 300 times their lowest-paid workers, when — exactly — is enough profit enough?
From The Times’ story:
“Companies have asked for concessions throughout the history of the labor movement because they’ve faced hard times and needed help to survive,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which represents the Mott’s workers. “Dr Pepper Snapple is different. They don’t even show the respect to lie to us. They just came in and said, ‘We have no financial need for this, but we just want it anyway because we figure we can get away with it.’ ”
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 apple sauce is growing each day. Union officials say production is one-third of what it was before the walkout.
The Mott’s workers voted 250 to 5 to strike, walking out on May 23. They were furious about the company’s demands to cut their wages by about $3,000 a year, freeze pensions, end pensions for new hires, reduce the company’s 401(k) retirement contributions and increase employees’ costs for health care benefits. Dr Pepper Snapple said it was merely seeking to bring its benefits more in line with those of its other plants.
I’m not swallowing Motts’ arguments.
Nor a drop of any of their products.
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