Production workers and delivery drivers for Coca-Cola Enterprises can’t afford higher health care costs on their salaries but that’s what Coke is asking them to do. Over 2,000 workers — 400 in Connecticut and 1,700 in Los Angeles — are on strike. Union leaders say the workers have been arguing with management over health care costs since last fall. David White of Teamsters Brewery & Soft Drink Conference says:
These are folks that live paycheck to paycheck, many of them. They’re not well-to-do people. And you have the company giving out huge consulting contracts and lifetime health care coverage for departing executives and that doesn’t seem to bother them.
What makes it even worse is that the current CEO, E. Neville Isdell, got over $17 million in compensation in 2004. Even as excessive compensation goes, this is pretty bad: well above the average $9 million in compensation given to CEOs in 2004. Indeed, it seems that Coke has a tradition of bending over backwards to help out the guys at the top:
As part of his severance agreement, Coca-Cola’s former chairman of the board and CEO, M. Douglas Ivester, received a six-year consulting agreement worth $675,000, office space, furniture, supplies, a company car, home security service and club dues. In total, Ivester’s retirement package was reportedly worth $119 million.
Coke got a bit of bad press in late 2003 and early 2004 because — as one generous journalist put it: “Coca-Cola’s human resources staff was so busy with layoffs and restructuring this year that the company didn’t meet its diversity goals.”