Teamsters in San Diego, California, who produce and distribute Coca-Cola products for Coca-Cola Enterprises went on strike yesterday to protest the company's demand to dramatically increase workers' health care costs.

Coca-Cola Enterprises, CCE, is the world's largest bottler of Coca-Cola. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters is the largest Coca-Cola union in the world and represents more than 15,000 Coca-Cola Enterprises distribution and production workers.

"Coke's greed has put nearly 500 San Diego families in jeopardy," said Jack Cipriani, international vice president and director of the Teamsters Brewery & Soft Drink Workers' Conference.

"It is unconscionable that Coke would turn on the very people who work so hard to make the company the number one selling soft drink brand in the United States. Paying for those health benefits would have cost CCE less than what the company earned in 17 minutes last year."

In a statement Teamsters said that the Coca-Cola Company, the majority shareholder of CCE, recently awarded a US$24m "golden parachute" to its departing president, Steven Heyer who served only three years with the company.

"Rather than lavishing departing executives with millions of dollars, the company should address the health care needs of workers," said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters general president. "Heyer's payout alone could have covered health care costs for thousands of Coca-Cola Teamster families."