Munster, Indiana, residents may be startled to drive past a giant, inflatable, cigar-chomping “fat cat” holding a bag of money. Don’t be alarmed, folks: the fat cat can’t hurt you. He’s only a mascot, and he’s standing in solidarity with truck drivers at a Pepsi bottling plant in Munster as they continue a week-long strike for affordable healthcare, The Northwest Indiana Times reports.
The union drivers are represented by Teamsters Local 142, and they haul a number of brands including Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Lipton Tea, Gatorade, Aquafina, and Bubly sparkling water across the Midwest. Per the Times, Pepsi’s four-year contract with workers expired in May, “but was extended a few times as the two sides tried to reach a deal.” Healthcare continues to be the primary stalling point. Plant production workers reportedly approved a contract that would potentially send health insurance premiums skyrocketing; the truck drivers, however, rejected the plan, which could raise insurance premiums from $14-$36 a week to as much as $89 a week in four years. That’s bad news for drivers, whose overhead costs (gas, food, et cetera) are notoriously unstable.
Teamsters Local 142 vice president and business agent Harvey Jackson said the union had planned a meeting with Pepsi last week; unfortunately, it didn’t end up happening. Either way, the two sides will likely return to the bargaining table soon. “We’re hoping to possibly resume discussions,” Jackson told the Times. Pepsi did not immediately return a Times request for comment, but the brand has gone on record calling the strike “disruptive to all parties involved.” Well, yeah, that’s the point of a strike. Nobody really wants to strike, but skyrocketing healthcare premiums are as good a reason as any. Anyway, I’m not going to tell you what to do, but I personally won’t be purchasing Pepsi products for a while. Solidarity with our valiant delivery drivers!