Striking Coca-Cola women speak out

12 women in red anti-Coke T-shirts at the gates of the factory

On Saturday 1st March we met with 12 Coca-Cola workers. In this group interview we wanted to find out how the closure of the Fuenlabrada plant would effect their lives. They wanted to talk because each has a story to tell. A story very different from looking "on the Coke side of life."

Marisa's worked in customer service for 25 years. "I've 2 children, I'm separated, one of them is independent but lives in Germany, he's very young and paid badly there. And I've a daughter who's studying full-time." On the relocations offered by Coca-Cola she says: "They haven't explained it. I have all my life here: home, mortgage, student daughter. To leave on my own, I can't do that."

Teresa interrupts and explains that the posts they offered "are a complete trap." She's worked at Coca-Cola for more than 30 years. "Suppose we agree, later they have the luxury of saying that you don't meet the conditions of the profile they're looking for and so 'voluntarily' you're made unemployed. Whatever they call it, they're firing us!" Teresa's father worked his whole life at Coca-Cola but now he and her mother are both frail. "I can't go and leave my parents alone. My sister works at Fuenlabrada too and so we're both in the same situation. It's not just that you have a mortgage, or that it's the money, there's loads of things. It's that your life is here and they don't have the right to finish with you"

Maria has her 5 month-old daughter in her arms. Closure of Fuenlabrada would leave not just her out of work but also her husband, who has worked there for 12 years. "I'm temporary but my husband's permanent. And with what they're saying about the moves ... Where will I go with two mortgages? Above all, you don't know the conditions you're going to go to. We have to find 2 jobs, not one and with a 5 month-old baby, paying for vaccinations, paying for everything...?"

Eva's children are with her, wearing shirts with slogans against the Coca Cola firings. She watches her daughter as we speak: "They don't know what's going to happen. She asks me: 'Mama where will we go? Can I stay with my friends? Am I going to go to the same school as my friend of 3 years? What do you say to an eleven year-old girl with that future ahead of her?"

Idoia is younger than her colleagues and single: "I don't have the same situation as most of my colleagues, no family expenses, but I don't know what state I'll be in, where I'll be in, on what salary ... More than that, I want to stay in Fuenlabrada." She's one of the first women to work in production at the plant, which has always been a business "by and for men," she tells us.

Gema is moved by the story of each companion and when we talk she echoes the feelings of most present. "What have we done to deserve this? Because I've 2 children, the oldest is 5, how do I explain to her that she has to leave her family, her friends and then she might also have to be away from her Dad? I have my job in Madrid and it cost me a lot ... It seems super unjust that all these workers, who were proud to say they worked for Coca-Cola, now we have to be in this situation, having to take to the streets against forced redundancy."

Virginia is angry and wants to refute the claim of Juan José Litrán, Coca-Cola Iberia's Institutional Relations Director, who said recently that Coca-Cola had made a "generous" offer to Iberian Partners which permits "anyone who wants to work can have a job." "I'm totally outraged that the man in charge told me this! We in Madrid want to work. They have plenty of money for a PR campaign but here in Madrid we're treated like beggars."

"Having said this, suppose we accept the transfers, we're going to have to compete with our own colleagues for the jobs. But even if I get the job and I go with my daughter, the salary would only pay for a hostel room with cooking area (...) so we'll go to a state of economic instability, family instability. So I as a mother am outraged, we understand that it's because of greed, Coca-Cola's business has always presented itself as a happy one yet it's made us very unhappy, all for greed."

Mercedes is a CCOO delegate and tells us how the struggle continues: "the Coca-Cola workers, we're constantly demonstrating, raising the visibility of our fight, through media and other means. And they hope that this will finish on Day 11, at the end of the 10-day consultation period. But no. We've prepared a calendar of actions that run at least until the 30th of March. We have marches, demonstrations, rallies at the US embassy, at Coca-Cola Iberian Partners' central office. Everything we've done, we'll continue to do and above all we're going to maintain our base here, our Ground Zero in Fuenlabrada."

Teresa, Raquel, Virginia, Marisa, Gema, Idoia, Eva, Mercedes, Vida. They're Coca-Cola workers or family of the workers and they don't want to be robbed of the right to decide over their own lives. "Your life is here and they don't have the right to finish with you." They share with millions of women the struggle for the power to choose what to do with their own bodies. Early in February they went to the demonstrations against Gallardón's Law, for the right to free (in both senses) abortion. They went together with the Waves [Mareas], health workers, they're backing the marches on 22nd March, they're in solidarity with the workers at Panrico. The struggle continues.

"Why will we be on the streets on 8th March?" it's Virginia speaking. "Because we think. We think and we want to decide. That's why I invite all women to be with us that day. Because we have, all the time, to fight for our rights. So women, girls ... everyone to the streets to defend our rights!"

Translation of this article by Josefina Martínez in Periodico Diagonal.

Posted By

Mar 8 2014 00:44


  • Why will we be on the streets on 8th March? Because we think. We think and we want to decide. That's why I invite all women to be with us that day. Because we have, all the time, to fight for our rights. So women, girls ... everyone to the streets to defend our rights!

    Virginia, striking Coca-Cola worker

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Mar 8 2014 11:57

Hey, thanks for posting, especially today, International Women's Day. Really enjoying these updates from Spain