This week, approximately 240 workers at the Refresco bottling plant in Wharton, New Jersey overcame a brutal anti-union campaign to vote for UE a second time, reaffirming their June 2021 union victory.
Workers began organizing in February 2020 after years of abusive treatment by supervisors, low wages, paltry benefits, sexual harassment, an unforgiving attendance system that penalizes workers for getting sick, and constant schedule changes. Management’s blatant disregard for workers’ safety as the COVID-19 pandemic spread in March of that year only increased their determination to organize a union for fair treatment, and they won a National Labor Relations Board election in June 2021.
However, rather than bargain with the union, Refresco management spent nine or ten months filing legal appeals, making frivolous allegations as to why they lost the election. Eventually they were able to convince the NLRB to overturn the original election based on the NLRB itself opening the voting five minutes late — a minor error that UE conclusively demonstrated had no effect on the election outcome.
The company hoped to use the second election to eradicate UE organization in the shop, filling the plant with anti-union propaganda. However, many workers who had been convinced to vote no in the first election now saw through the company’s lies, and UE won the second election by a wider margin than the first.
As Refresco worker and UE activist Licinia Ochoa told reporters from More Perfect Union, “There’s a bunch of folks that voted no the first time that now want to vote yes. They’re so excited and can’t wait for the election to come.”