In Spain, 'Open Happiness' Turns to Open Rebellion for Coke

The soft drink giant has announced major Spanish plant closings, and threatened workers are making their displeasure known
Colman Andrews

Workers and their representatives have responded to factory closings by demonstrating in the streets of Madrid.

Iberian Partners, the massive bottling operation that last year took over seven independent Coca-Cola bottling plants around Spain, has announced that it is shuttering facilities in Asturias, Mallorca, Alicante, and Fuenlabrada, a suburb of Madrid, laying off or relocating at least 1,250 workers. A spokesman for the workers estimates that at least twice that number of people will be directly or indirectly affected by the bottler's decision.

Workers and their representatives have responded by demonstrating in the streets of Madrid, often chanting a slogan that translates to "If Madrid doesn't make it, Madrid won't drink it!" — that is, if the Madrid plant closes, the workers and presumably their supporters will boycott the soft drink. Demonstrators even spent three or four hours outside Madrid's Palacio Municipal de Congresos last week, where the 12th annual edition of Madrid Fusión was being held (Coca-Cola had a stand on the exhibition floor).

The plants haven't closed yet, but starting today February 4, workers in Fuenlabrada are holding two-hour work stoppages on Tuesdays and Thursdays for two weeks, and then all-day stoppages for the third week.

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Union spokesman José Vicente Canel told the left-wing Madrid-based newspaper Diagonal that there was no economic justification for the plant closings, since Coke in Spain showed profits of 900 million euros (about $1,200,000,000).