Worker Action Spurs Large Public Pension Funds to Scrutinize Private Equity Firm KKR

February 27, 2023

For more information contact:
John Ocampo, UE Field Organizer
(312) 868 0096 |

On Tuesday, February 28, workers from the Refresco bottling plant in Wharton, NJ will return to New York City to meet a second time with staff from the New York City Comptroller’s Office. The Comptroller’s Office, which oversees the investments of the city’s pension funds, has asked the Refresco workers to keep them abreast of their negotiations for a first union contract. Refresco is owned by the private equity firm KKR, in which the city’s pension funds are invested.

“We feel defrauded by Refresco and KKR,” said Ana Cáceres, who has worked as a Machine Operator at the plant for more than 18 years. “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.

“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 and make the necessary changes so that we have a better workplace.”

Refresco workers organized a union in June of 2021, largely to address issues of health and safety in their plant. 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 working conditions at the plant. KKR has so far refused to meet with workers to discuss their concerns.

Other public pension funds around the country with investments in KKR have also taken an interest in the private equity fund’s record on worker health and safety. Following a presentation by Refresco workers at their board meeting in mid-February, staff from CalPERS, the largest public pension fund in the U.S., reached out to the workers’ union to learn more about conditions in the Refresco plant.

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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