The Teamsters have voted to strike the Philly area’s largest Coca-Cola distributor

Unionized warehouse workers, drivers and salespeople at the region’s largest Coca-Cola bottler and distributor voted to strike Sunday, Teamsters Local 830 management said.

“Liberty Coca-Cola has treated my members and whole [bargaining] process in contempt,” Local 830 Secretary-Treasurer Daniel H. Grace said in a statement. He said the company does not offer adequate compensation or benefits to workers, and called the latest contract proposal “insulting.”[ads1];

The unionized workforce of about 400 was setting up a picket line at the 725 E. Erie Ave., Philadelphia plant, where Liberty bottles Coke, Dasani water, Powerade, Monster Energy, Gold Peak iced tea and other brands.

Liberty Coca-Cola released a statement saying it had negotiated in good faith with the workers, offering “the highest wage increases in Coca-Cola/Teamster Local 830 history, along with a generous health and welfare package. The significant offerings are in addition to the millions of dollars we have invested in our facility in recent years, including new trucks for our drivers, new warehouse technology and a training center.”

The company said national union leaders, and the head of the 3,500-member local, had supported the final offer, but workers voted against accepting it.

Teamsters Local 830 Secretary-Treasurer Daniel H. Grace (left) speaks with members as they push for better wages and benefits in front of Liberty Coca-Cola in Philadelphia. The union voted for a strike on Sunday. .read moreElizabeth Robertson / Staff Photographer

Five years ago, the union came close to striking amid tense contract negotiations in the wake of the city’s soda tax, which led to a 38.9% reduction in sugary drink purchases, a study by the University of Pennsylvania’s medical school found. Liberty employees were then focused on fighting to preserve their pension benefits.

The plant’s workforce shrank by about a third since then.

“The soft drink tax really hurt us. “We’re nowhere near where we used to be,” Grace said.

Grace declined to share details about what wages workers are looking for now, but said wages have not kept pace with “ongoing inflation.” He said the workers are also seeking various health insurance and retirement benefits.

“We’ll keep at it,” he said, “until we get what we’re looking for.”

Liberty Coca-Cola pledged to work with the union for a fair and just solution. Meanwhile, the statement cited a “robust emergency plan in place that enables continued delivery of our products to our customers and consumers throughout the Philadelphia region.”

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