Coke workers fight for lost quarters

Seven On Your Side
August 8, 2008 7:06:06 PM PDT
The old coke slogan used to say "Have a Coke and a smile." We found one long time employee of the beverage baron whose smile has turned to a smirk. That's because he says he and seven other employees have been shorted years worth of wages.

"This is all about the money that they owe. That's it," John Darbenzio said.

He says his employer, soft drink giant Coca Cola, owes him 11 years worth of quarters - so to speak.

"In my case, it comes to about eight-thousand, four-hundred and seventy dollars," he said.

Darbenzio says the problem started more than a decade ago when he made foreman. He says his hourly rate should have jumped to $1.25, but he says Coke shorted him a quarter an hour.

It was just this past March that Darbenzio noticed the problem. When another employee, working in exactly the same job as nighttime foreman at the plant, asked to look at his paycheck for errors. Darbenzio noticed the other guy was being paid more.

"It was like the "wow" factor. They knew they made a mistake, and now lets rectify it," he said.

Darbenzio's not alone. Each of the seven other employees with whom we talked said Coke owes them thousands.

They said Coke was told about the payment problem last May. The quarter per hour was added to new paychecks, but what about retro pay?

"I'm not making progress," Darbenzio said.

So we visited the Coke facility. I was told to leave a card. Minutes later, we were told to stop taping.

After we contacted Coke, we were told the employees' union had filed a grievance. They couldn't comment because the matter will go before an arbitrator later this month.

As for Darbenzio and his co-workers? They're message is still clear.

"Just give us our money is all we're really asking," Darbenzio said.

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