Philly Soda Tax Faces Strong Union Opposition

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Philadelphia Teamsters members rallied at their city hall Wednesday against a proposed soda tax they say could hurt truck drivers and local businesses.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney first detailed his 1.5 cent-per-ounce soda tax in March during a budget speech. It is designed to curve the consumption of soda, iced tea and other sugary drinks to improve health, while boosting revenue for schools and other city programs. But Teamsters Local 830 alongside other critics warn the tax could cost jobs.

“With a stroke of a pen in that building they could put us all out of a job,” Local 830 Secretary-Treasurer Danny Grace told the crowd. “This is an egregious tax against people and the soda industry. We need family-sustaining jobs with good wages and health care. We have to send a clear message today – no more taxes!”

Teamsters members rallied outside the city hall while truck drivers drove around the protest. The Teamsters estimated that hundreds of people participated in the protest. Nevertheless Kenney has garnered significant support for his tax including by others with the labor movement.

“Big Soda isn’t thrilled about that at all,” Kenney said during his March 3 budget speech. “See, the problem is that Big Soda charges our citizens, small businesses, and distributors much, much more than what it costs for them to make the soda And then, they use some of those profits to fund lobbyists, who come here and say that a tax on sugary drinks will cost jobs.”

Kenney adds that the tax will not hurt small businesses or cost jobs. He reasons that it will only impact the already large profits of major soda companies. Truck drivers, restaurants, grocery stores and many other types of businesses either sell or transport soda making critics fear the tax won’t just impact the large soda companies.

“This soda tax is a regressive tax that will hurt our industry,” Teamsters International Vice President Bill Hamilton said in a statement. “The issue has never been about health and we will all end up paying for this tax with the job losses that will occur if the mayor’s soda tax is passed.

Kenney is not the first politicians to target the soda industry specifically with an increased tax. Former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter also wanted to tax sugary drinks but his proposal failed in 2011. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg famously proposed a tax on soda in 2010 but his proposal ended up failing too.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders has condemned soda taxes in April 21 for disproportional impacting the poor. He made his comments not long after his primary rival former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came out in support of the soda specific taxes.

Kenney did not respond to a request for comment by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

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