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Pepsi drivers on strike at bottling plant in Munster

Pepsi drivers strike over health insurance premium increase

Contributed By:The 411 News

But some Teamsters remain on the job

Store shelves are stocked with Pepsi soft drinks for now, but that can change the longer it takes PepsiCo and the Teamsters to reach a solution over rising health plan costs.

Monday was Day 1 for the striking truck drivers at the PepsiCo bottling plant in Munster. About 130 union members walked off the job after voting ‘no’ on a contract that raised employee contributions to their health insurance premiums.

Harvey Jackson, Local Teamsters Union 142 vice president said PepsiCo wants to increase weekly contributions to $37 from the current $14 this year. The contract includes more yearly increases from workers until it reaches $81 per week by 2025. “The Teamsters have kept workers’ contributions low over the last 20 years and we want to keep it that way,” Jackson said.

Local 142 faces another dilemma. Teamster members working inside the plant crossed the picket line Monday to continue work. Those inside workers – warehouse employees – belong to a separate bargaining unit in the local. They voted ‘yes’ on the contract.

Jackson said warehouse workers are paid hourly while transportation workers receive commission pay based on the number of cases delivered. Inside workers feel safe pay increases will keep up with their increased contributions, but drivers don’t.

“Drivers worry if something happens, maybe the volume falls. Maybe people stop buying soft drinks. If that happens, then they’ll be upside down,” Jackson said.

“These guys are looking at the overall factors of this phenomena of rising prices. Everything, from the cost of French fries, gas, cars is going up. If we just break even on the cost of our health care, we’re going backwards on taking care of our families,” Jackson said.

“Pepsi has to come around and we have to come around; got to meet in the middle somewhere,” Jackson said. “It’s trying to find a balance. For the last 2-3 contracts, we had that balance where insurance wasn’t real high.”

Local 142 drivers deliver Pepsi products across northwest Indiana and to other locations where they can return the same day. They go as far as Indianapolis, Detroit, Sheboygan, Kenosha, and Milwaukee.

Story Posted:07/13/2021

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