Published: 23/02/2012

Teamsters union members at PepsiCo in upstate New York are seeking help from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to fight a health-care policy by the company that charges employees who smoke or have medical issues that may trigger weight gain $50 a month.

Three International Brotherhood of Teamsters locals, representing about 300 drivers, sales agents and warehouse workers in Binghamton, Latham and Syracuse, complained to the labor board in October, reports Bloomberg.

“We’re against that type of tax, frankly,” Secretary-Treasurer Ozzie Martucci said in an attempt to explain that the union is shopping for a health plan without a “sin tax”. “It feels wrong to tax workers if they are overweight or happen to have diabetes or smoke, and we wanted to look elsewhere for different insurance.”

Company spokesman for PepsiCo Dave DeCecco said, “These programs enable our associates and their families to live a healthier lifestyle.”

The fee is applied to smokers, as well as to workers who have diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure or asthma, conditions that often lead to being overweight, said DeCecco.

The New York Teamsters locals have turned to the NLRB, which mediates disputes between employers and workers, after the company refused to turn over gender and age demographics the unions needed to shop for an alternative health plan, violating the labor agreement, Martucci said.

The NLRB is currently reviewing the case.