Rally for Workers’ Rights at Refresco

November 9, 2021

Workers to file a series of OSHA complaints over unsafe conditions that are injuring workers

For more information, contact:
Tara McCauley, UE International Representative
217-369-5407 tara.mccauley@ueunion.org

Refresco workers and community supporters will rally in front of the plant on Monday, November 15, 2021, from 3:30pm - 7:00pm. The Refresco factory is located at 92 N Main St, Wharton, NJ.

The Wharton workers have been getting injured and maimed by dangerous machinery, standing in pools of chemical water, loud machines causing hearing loss, and exhaustion from getting little time off work. Workers have been forced to continue working with injuries sustained at Refresco, including workers in crutches.

There also were recently two fires at the plant, in September and October. No fire alarms went off and the fire department was not called.

On November 15th, the workers will file a series of OSHA complaints over severe health and safety problems in the factory. Refresco workers bottle beverages for some of the biggest drink corporations in the world, and they shouldn’t be forced to work in unsafe conditions, receive low wages, and work long hours (often 60 or more hours a week).

Anthony Sanchez, a Machine Operator III for 15 years at the Refresco plant said, “We are working in unsafe conditions, with low salaries. It's been four months since we had our union election. Refresco ran an aggressive anti-union campaign to intimidate and try to silence us, and now is refusing to negotiate with our union.”

Another Refresco employee, Machine Operator Lead Nelva Castellanos, said, “We are treated like animals. Our new supervisor doesn’t speak Spanish — and I hear supervisors now calling black people the N-word.”

Refresco Machine Operator IV Diana Acevedo, further said, “Refresco does not care about our well being. They make us continue working during the pandemic with a lack of appropriate protection and sanitary supplies. There is a lot of favoritism in the plant. They change the schedules from morning to night at the last minute. They force us to work while we are ill and have a fever and are clearly sick. We want what is in the best interest of the workers. We want to be part of the union.”

Refresco’s mostly Latin American immigrant workforce voted for a union in June, but the company is refusing to recognize or bargain with the newly-formed UE Local 115. The workers have petitioned their managers, Refresco investors, and the National Labor Relations Board to recognize their union, so that they can negotiate to improve their working conditions. The company has filed a series of appeals to contest the workers’ union election win and stall bargaining, and the Refresco workers are tired of waiting to improve their jobs.

The Refresco Wharton workers will rally for their rights on November 15th, and they will not stop their campaign until they secure better working conditions through a union contract with the company.

More Information

Refresco workers started organizing their union a year and a half ago to counter abusive treatment by supervisors, low wages, minimal benefits, sexual harassment, inhumane long hours, and an unforgiving attendance system that penalized workers for getting sick. Refresco carried out an intense anti-union campaign prior to the National Labor Relations Board certification election on June 24 and 25, 2021, when a majority of the 250 workers at the plant voted to join the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE). Since the election, Refresco has filed a series of frivolous legal appeals to stall bargaining, most of which are complaints about the behavior of its own company observers during the voting process.

Refresco is a Dutch-based transnational corporation that has production facilities in Europe, the United States, Canada, and Mexico. It is the world’s largest independent bottling corporation with a combined production volume of more than 12 billion liters per year. Workers at Refresco in Wharton produce beverages such as BodyArmor Sports Drink for Coca-Cola, Gatorade by Pepsi, Juice Bowl, Arizona Iced Tea, and Tropicana juices and bottle them for shipment to retailers and public school systems in the New York City area and beyond.