By Maggie Astor
AUGUST 7 — More than 300 Mott’s workers at a plant in Williamson, N.Y., have been on strike for nearly three months now, and the deadlock shows no signs of abating. Out of 305 workers on strike, only seven have crossed picket lines — a 98 percent retention rate, according to Peter Montaldano, an organizer for the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union.
Representatives for Mott’s and the union representing the workers — the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union Local 220 — met “briefly” on Monday, July 19, but “no progress” was made, Montaldano said.
“The company is sticking to their last, best, and final ultimatum, which was what they had threatened to unlawfully implement in May,” Montaldano said, referring to a plan that would cut wages, eliminate pension plans for new employees, and freeze pension plans for current employees, despite the fact that Dr. Pepper Snapple Group — the parent company of Mott’s — made over $500 million in profit last year.
Mott’s spokesman Chris Barnes told the media in May that Mott’s “offered to keep wages unchanged after three years of salary increases and, unfortunately, the union rejected this offer.” He said even with the $1.50 cut, workers — who currently earn about $20/hour — would still earn “well above the average for manufacturing jobs in the Rochester area.”
With negotiations stalled, the plant continues to operate with temporary workers, and the striking workers are ramping up their efforts to gain public support by picketing Mott’s and parent company Dr. Pepper Snapple facilities. They have also been targeting companies that co-pack Mott’s products, or “make their own applesauce and put a Mott’s label on it,” Montaldano explained. Those companies include National Fruit and Bowman Apple Products, both located in Virginia.
The United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents the strikers along with RWDSU, sent a letter to Mott’s shareholders outlining “what we consider to be false statements made by the company about the impact of the strike on its productivity,” Montaldano said, adding that UFCW/RWDSU are considering filing charges with the Federal Trade Commission.
As the workers have persisted, many prominent politicians — including New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and 36 other council members — have come forward to support them and urge Dr. Pepper Snapple to reopen negotiations.