Pepsi Challenge Lands Coke Worker In Hot Water

June 16, 2003 ( - It may be "The Right One Baby Uh-huh," "The Choice of a New Generation" or what one drinks to "Think Young," but what Pepsi apparently is not is an appropriate beverage for a Coca-Cola employee.

Management at the Coca-Cola Bottling Company in Sylmar, California, told Rick Bronson, a union activist and driver at a Coca-Cola bottling plant, he was fired for allegedly violating a policy prohibiting slander of Coke products. The slander occurred when Bronson apparently drank a Pepsi, according to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in a Reuters report.

However, Teamsters Local 848, the union chapter of which Bronson was a member, claims that he was actually dismissed for a different reason: his involvement in union organizing events for Coke merchandisers in Southern California. “Rick Bronson was actively involved in those organizing campaigns and Coke management knew it,” said Jim Santangelo, a spokesman for Local 848, which represents Bronson. “That’s why he was fired.”

Because of this contention, the union has filed unfair labor practice charges against the Southern California bottler.

Bob Phillips, a Coca-Cola Bottling spokesman, declined to comment on the specifics of the case and would not say whether drinking a competitor’s products was a disciplinary offense. However, Phillips noted that the bottler had a strict policy prohibiting retaliation against union members and other employees and hoped to reach a “satisfactory resolution” of Bronson’s case.