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May 14, 2018 3:30 PM, EDT

Teamsters, Philadelphia Coke Distributor Agree to New 5-Year Contract

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The 600 members of Teamsters Local 830 agreed May 12 to a new five-year contract with Liberty Coca-Cola Beverages, ending the threat of a strike, the company said.

The two sides had been negotiating since February over a plan to switch worker pensions to a 401(k)-style benefit as the city’s new soda tax has diminished Philadelphia soda consumption.

Teamsters approved by a 2-1 ratio a contract that will switch the union’s pension to a defined-contribution plan from an old-style defined-benefit plan, Mayra Linares-Garcia, a vice president with Liberty Coca-Cola, said May 12.

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The new pension does not require Teamsters members to match or contribute to the money that the company puts into the new pension plan, Linares-Garcia said. She called it a “generous” offer and said “we are proud of what we presented.” She declined to disclose more specific information.

A spokesman for Teamsters Local 830 was not immediately available for comment.

The new contract — which is retroactive to April 15, the date the prior one expired — also provides for annual wage increases, Linares-Garcia said.

Union leaders say Coke executives had told them in contract negotiations they have to cut costs because of profit-margin pressures from the city’s beverage tax, an effort to raise public revenues for the city while reducing consumption of sugary drinks, the Inquirer and Daily News previously reported. Danny Grace, secretary-treasurer of the union, has been an outspoken critic of Mayor Jim Kenney’s sweet-drinks tax, which Grace says hurts his members and their families by reducing soda sales.

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