Teamsters have been on strike at the Keurig/Dr. Pepper/7-Up Bottling Company for more than a week in a suburb that borders on the western edge of Detroit. The workers of Local 337 — who have been working throughout the Covid-19 pandemic — began picketing on March 10 in Redford Charter Township, demanding the bosses return to the bargaining table so they can negotiate a contract.
The past few days have seen a real escalation in the dispute. In the early morning of March 17, the private security goons hired by the company confronted picketers with physical force, punching one of the union’s business agents in the face and calling a Black worker the “n*” word. Local 337 tweeted out news of the assault and noted that at earlier contract negotiations, the company’s chief bargaining representative had laughed out loud when the union proposed adding Martin Luther King Day — a federal holiday — to the workers’ paid holidays.
The union’s tweet encouraged community members and workers from other unions to join the picket lines and also phone (313) 937–3500, press 0 (which gets a live person), and demand that the bosses “bargain a fair contract and discontinue their racism.”
That same day, director of the United Auto Workers (UAW) Region 1A Chuck Browning sent out a letter requesting that all area UAW locals “support the striking workers of Local 337 by joining the picket lines, providing any needed provisions to the strikers, and by boycotting the purchase of Seven Up/Dr Pepper products until the conclusion of the labor dispute.” He reminded workers, “Throughout history, the UAW and the Teamsters have had a relationship consisting of great respect and support for one another, especially in times of need. Whenever the UAW conducts a strike action, the Teamsters immediately refuse to cross our picket lines.”
Redford cops have played their expected role in the service of capital, helping get scab trucks in and out of the facility. But strikers say that the daily number of trucks has been reduced significantly as picketers have mobilized to keep them from moving.
The solidarity call from the UAW regional director is just what’s needed — but much more broadly. The entire labor movement as well as social movements in the Detroit area, including Black Lives Matter activists, need to heed that call. UAW members and everyone else who comes out in solidarity from around Detroit, amassed at the bottling plant in Redford, can keep the scabs from moving any product. Militant action will force the company back to the bargaining table.