July 3, 2018 4:45 PM, EDT

Dr Pepper Drivers in Chicago Reach Deal, End 40-Day Strike

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More than 150 Chicago Teamsters ended their strike against Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc. after ratifying a new four-year contract, union and company officials confirmed July 3.

Striking delivery drivers, represented by Teamsters Local 727, returned to work July 2 after the 40-day strike. Union members over the weekend voted overwhelmingly to ratify an agreement offering an average wage increase of 14% over four years.

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Dr Pepper Snapple Group ranks No. 14 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest North American private carriers.

“I am extremely proud of our members for remaining united throughout this challenging negotiation process,” said John Coli Jr., secretary-treasurer of Local 727. “When we stand as one, we cannot be ignored.”

The drivers are employees of American Bottling Co., a subsidiary of Plano, Texas-based Dr Pepper Snapple.

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“From the beginning, we bargained in good faith on a fair contract for our employees,” Brad Allbee, the regional vice president for Dr Pepper, said in a statement. “We are pleased to have our drivers back at work, focused on providing great service to our valued customers throughout the Chicagoland area.”

Dr Pepper drivers, working from two distribution facilities in suburban Chicago, went on strike May 22. They accused the company of dragging its feet in negotiations and interfering with their protected rights. Local 727 filed a half dozen unfair labor practices charges with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing the soft drink company of retaliating against drivers for engaging in protected activity, denying drivers access to union representatives during discipline, and failing to bargain in good faith.

The parties hit a breakthrough June 28 during a 24-hour mediated bargaining session, the union said. A tentative pact quickly followed.

While full details of the agreement were not disclosed, Local 727 said the pact includes several improvements from a previous “last, best and final offer.” Those improvements include full retroactivity, a bump in the number of paid sick days and higher pension benefits. Dr Pepper also agreed to drop language giving management the ability to unilaterally alter the health-care plan.