Pepsi Truck Drivers in Indiana Are on Strike Over Healthcare Costs
Despite its cola-centric name, PepsiCo actually has three major divisions in North America: PepsiCo Beverages, which handles brands like Pepsi, Mountain Dew, and Gatorade; Frito-Lay, which covers snacks like Lay's and Doritos; and Quaker Foods, which deals with stuff like oatmeal, Cap'n Crunch, and Rice-A-Roni. And recently, two of those divisions have been dealing with striking employees.
Last week, we covered how the majority of employees at the Frito-Lay manufacturing plant in Topeka, Kansas, walked off the job demanding better pay, hours, and working conditions. That strike is continuing to grab headlines as it wraps up its third week. But it's not the only Pepsi-related strike in the U.S.: On July 12, truck drivers at the Pepsi bottling plant in Munster, Indiana, also began picketing after rejecting a new contract of their own that would have seen significant increases to their health insurance premiums, according to The Times of Northwest Indiana.
"We hope Pepsi comes to an agreement. There's no reason they can't," Indiana State Rep. Mike Andrade, who picketed alongside the workers, told the paper. "We're still dealing with a pandemic. They need to work this out. They need to not raise the premium. Maybe in a few years they can revisit it again but at this time there shouldn't be any reason why they're wanting to raise the premium, especially coming from a multibillion corporation."
Before the strike began, Pepsi transport driver Tom Albano — one of the more than 100 members of the Teamsters Local 142 behind the strike — told The Times that Pepsi was looking to increase workers' share of healthcare premiums by about $20 a week over each year of a four-year contract. He said that by 2025, the cost would be $81 per week; currently, it's just $14.
"We shouldn't be paying for it in the first place. This is a multibillion-dollar company," Albano was quoted as saying. "And the raises the company is offering is not going to cover, or barely cover, what your increase is going to be in your health insurance."
As for Pepsi, a company spokesperson provided the paper with a statement. "PepsiCo Beverages North America has been negotiating with Teamsters Local 142 in Munster, Indiana, for months to reach mutually agreeable collective bargaining agreements with two bargaining units," they began. "One unit decided to ratify the contract that was negotiated. Unfortunately, despite the union leadership committee's recommendation to approve a fair and competitive contract, another unit opposed citing new term requirements related to employee-paid health insurance costs only after negotiations had concluded. A strike, particularly after productive negotiations and a union leadership recommendation to approve a contract, is highly unusual and disruptive to all parties involved. Despite this unfortunate decision by Teamsters Local 142, we will continue to run our business and work to serve our customers and consumers who depend on us."
Interestingly enough, despite Pepsi calling the strike "highly unusual," the Frito-Lay employees in Topeka also decided to strike despite their union leaders lending their support to the eventually-rejected agreement.