Foremost/Coke staffers protest proposed wage cuts - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Foremost/Coke staffers protest proposed wage cuts

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If you were anywhere near Barrigada Heights this morning then you couldn't miss them - several Foremost employees went on strike today following failed labor negotiations. Over a dozen Foremost and Coca-Cola employees rallied in front of the Department of Revenue & Taxation in protest to proposed cuts to their wages and benefits.     

The protest was coordinated with the help of Teamsters Local 986, a union that helps negotiate employment contracts. The company has been in existence for over 100 years and represents over 20 different industries. Union representative Justin Muraki told KUAM News, "We came at a standpoint where the last thing on the table was wages; we've taken cuts for the past ten years with our benefits almost cut in half: our sick leave, our vacation time, as well as our medical."

The last employee contract with Foremost expired on March 31. Muraki said the company claimed it could not afford employee raises, as it hasn't for the past ten years, and that it instead proposed wage cuts, adding, "And on top of that, taking a benefit cut with our medical - this group is a middle class group, they don't make a whole lot of money and what the company is looking for would put these guys at poverty status."

So what exactly are employees fighting for? John Pereda has been a Foremost employee for almost 15 years, and said he is fighting for the livelihood of his family. "The main thing here for everyone is you know it's not easy taking cuts, readjusting our loans, paying bills utilities, paying for food, putting it on the table," he stated. "A lot of these guys voted that enough is enough, we just want status quo, three more years that's all we want."

Chief executive officer of Foremost/Coca-Cola Marcos Fong said it is unfortunate that it has come to this after six weeks of negotiations which yielded significant progress. "Unfortunately, the contract expired and there were still issues on the table, and the union has decided to remove themselves from the table and go to strike. Our company is committed to paying the prevailing wage for all positions and also be competitive in benefits, and we strongly feel that we've done our homework and the proposal we have on the table is a fair and competitive one."

He said that just a fraction of employees are participating in the strike, and that the ball is now in their court. 

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