Fighting the Beverage Tax: Seattle City Council Votes 7-1 in Favor of Amended Beverage Tax

June 6, 2017

Yesterday, in a move that was as disappointing as it was unsurprising, the Seattle City Council voted 7-1 in favor of a tax on sweetened beverages. The amendments that had been made to the tax prior to the last Council meeting – to exclude diet soda, and to include $1.5 million for retraining of workers displaced by the tax – thankfully survived and were included in the final proposal that passed the Council.

Teamsters Joint Council 28 Political Director Lily Wilson-Codega testifies before the Council

The lone vote against the tax was Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who had proposed amendments to lower the tax and broaden its application. She felt that the proposal in its current form – a 1.75-cent-per-ounce tax on only sugar-sweetened beverages – was unduly regressive, as it targeted only the poorest communities with a tax high enough to be considered punitive. However, her amendments were rejected by the Council, pushing her to vote against the proposal in its entirety.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant was not present at the meeting.

Teamsters Joint Council 28 Political Director Lily Wilson-Codega gave testimony at the meeting, thanking certain Councilmembers for taking the Teamsters’ concerns seriously enough to at least include measures in the tax to help protect our members.

Teamsters Local 174 Business Agent Pete Lamb testifies before the Council

Teamsters Local 174 Business Agent Pete Lamb also gave testimony in which he thanked those Councilmembers who had worked with us, but lambasted those who had cut deals, and who seemed to be proposing amendments designed to aid certain special interests rather than the community at large.

Despite the Teamsters’ months of hard work fighting against this tax, the prospect of an extra $15 million a year in the city’s coffers was too enticing for the Council to resist.

“We knew this was going to happen. It was like free money to them. How could they say no?” said Teamsters Joint Council 28 President Rick Hicks. “It is extremely disheartening to hear your elected officials essentially say, ‘I agree that this tax will hurt working people, but I don’t care.’”

The tax is now expected to go into effect in January of 2018. However, there will likely be more hiccups along the way for proponents of the tax – namely, that opponents may put a referendum on a public ballot and let the residents of Seattle decide whether or not they want to be taxed on their soda consumption. The measure is also likely to wind up in court, just like it has in Philadelphia.

“Rest assured, our fight does not end here,” Rick Hicks continued. “Teamsters have long memories.”

Founded in 1909, Teamsters Local 174 represents 7,200 working men and women in the Seattle area. “Like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TeamstersLocal174.

Media Coverage:

The Stranger article including quote from Local 174 Business Agent Pete Lamb
My Northwest article with great two-part quote from Pete Lamb
Seattle Times article with quote from Pete Lamb and picture of Teamsters at the podium
KIRO 7 article and news coverage