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John Ocampo, UE Field Organizer
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Workers from the Refresco bottling plant in Wharton, NJ attempted to bring their concerns about conditions in their plant to the corporate headquarters of private equity firm KKR yesterday. It was the second attempt the workers have made to meet with KKR, which owns a majority stake in Refresco. For a second time, KKR refused to meet with the workers.
“We went to the building, we tried to talk to someone at KKR, and did it respectfully,” said Refresco worker Pamela Burgos. “All we’re asking for is equal rights and our rights as workers. We just want to be able to have a meeting with them so we can discuss our issues.”
“The least they could do is meet with us and talk with us,” said César Moreira, who also works at Refresco. “We’re just asking to meet with them and discuss our issues, especially as we are the ones who do the work that they profit from.”
Photos from the workers’ attempt to meet with Refresco are available here.
“It’s been a year now since KKR acquired Refresco and we have been fighting to win our union and first union contract for over a year,” said Refresco worker Ana Cáceres. “Meanwhile, things are getting worse for us at the plant. Now they are changing the schedules of co-workers who have been injured at the plant and forcing them to work weekends. KKR, as the head of this operation, should be here to show their face.”
Refresco workers organized a union in June of 2021, largely to address issues of health and safety in their plant, and are still struggling for a first contract. Workers continue to suffer from poor safety conditions, with a near-fatal accident occurring in the plant in early January. They are still being forced to work mandatory 12-hour shifts, punishing work hours which exacerbate the dangerous conditions at the plant.
Refresco workers also met with staff from the New York City Comptroller’s Office, which oversees the city’s pension funds, including their investments in KKR.
KKR was recently the subject of a glowing profile by CBS news, which touted the company’s commitment to employee ownership. But the experience of Refresco workers tells a different story, as related by journalist Matt Cunningham-Cook in his recent article “At This Jersey Factory, Pension-Backed Private Equity Takes On Union Workers”.
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