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Striking Coca-Cola workers' benefits to be restored

Posted On: Aug. 31, 2010 12:00 AM CST

SEATTLE—Approximately 500 striking Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. workers in Washington state will have their health benefits restored when they return to work Wednesday and contract talks resume, a company spokesman said.

However, the Atlanta-based soft drink company maintains it was within its legal rights to suspend the workers' health benefits during the work stoppage, which began Aug. 24. The company spokesman also said Monday that when health benefits are restored, workers' contributions will be prorated to reflect the temporary lapse in coverage.

Meanwhile, lawyers for the striking workers filed a motion for a temporary restraining order in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle seeking to force Coca-Cola to restore health benefits retroactively.

Attorneys from the law offices of Schwerin Campbell Barnard Iglitzin & Lavitt L.L.P. also filed a lawsuit against Coca-Cola on Friday, asserting that the company violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act when it terminated health benefits for the 500 striking workers.

Despite the resumption of contract talks, the workers plan to pursue their litigation, said Dmitri Iglitzin, a partner in the Seattle-based firm.

Although the Coca-Cola spokesman said the company had not yet been served with the suit or the motion for a temporary restraining order, the company believes the litigation has no merit, he said.