Monday, March 26, 2012

Unions in N.Y. Oppose Wellness Program

Check out this story. As SEIU does flashmobs and wellness walks in a lame attempt to rally workers’ support behind Kaiser Permanente’s wellness program, three Teamsters locals in upstate New York are fighting their company's wellness initiative.

According to this article in Bloomberg’s Business Week, PepsiCo recently applied a fee of $50 per month to employees who are “smokers, as well as to workers who have diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure or asthma, conditions that often lead to being overweight.”

Fortunately, the local unions that represents PepsiCo’s drivers, sales agents and warehouse workers are fighting the fee. A Teamsters official put it this way: “We’re against that type of tax, frankly. It feels wrong to tax workers if they are overweight or happen to have diabetes or smoke…”

The Bloomberg article reports that U.S. companies are increasingly imposing financial penalties on “unhealthy” workers:
U.S. companies adding financial incentives and penalties to control workers’ health-care management rose 50 percent from 2009 to 2011, according to a survey of 355 employers by Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health. The use of penalties may double this year, with 38 percent of respondents saying they plan to punish people who miss targets linked to cholesterol levels or body-mass index, the study showed.
In a separate article, the New York Times describes how more and more companies are imposing financial penalties on "unhealthy" workers, including WalMart's $2,000-a-year penalty on smokers.

What's going on? Companies are using wellness programs as their latest technique for shifting more health insurance costs onto workers' backs... and for pushing the most "unhealthy" workers onto the rolls of the uninsured or out of the workforce.

SEIU's Dave Regan recently put it this way to workers attending a conference of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions: “If you're overweight, you pay 10% more for your health care. If you smoke, you pay 20% more. If you do this or that, you pay more. That's what's going on out there.”

And guess what? Companies are not afraid to commit hair-raising acts of hypocrisy to get it done. For example, PepsiCo is penalizing 'unhealthy" workers even though it's a giant purveyor of junk food. The multi-billion-dollar corporation sells a wide range of "health" foods to U.S. workers that include Pepsi, Cap’n Crunch, Mountain Dew, Doritos, Cheetos, Mug Root Beer, Tostitos, Fritos, Cracker Jacks, Ruffles, Lays, 7Up, Grandma’s Cookies… and even “Baken-ets Fried Pork Skins” and “Matador Meat Snacks.”

Got hypocrisy?