Fighting the Beverage Tax: Silenced Speeches for the Seattle City Council

May 19, 2017

On Wednesday, May 17, 2017, the Seattle City Council met to take public comment on their proposed Beverage Tax. This tax, if implemented, would devastate jobs in the beverage industry in Seattle, just as it did to workers in the beverage industry in Philadelphia when a similar tax was implemented in January of this year. You can learn more about the background of the situation here.

Unfortunately, the Council limited comments and our members were not given the chance to speak. However, we will NOT be silenced. If we can’t speak in the City Council Chambers, then we will speak here instead.

Here are our stories:

Luke Vaule

My name is Luke Vaule and I am an employee at the Coca-Cola Company. I am here today to not just urge, but beg the Council to vote “no” on the proposed beverage tax.

I am against this tax because I am worried about my family. What is going to happen to them if MY job gets eliminated?

This tax WILL cost jobs. It did when it was introduced in Philadelphia, and it will if it is introduced here in Seattle, make no mistake. There are real people in Philadelphia who don’t have jobs anymore because of their soda tax. And the tax in Philadelphia was even lower than the one the Mayor is proposing for Seattle.

I have a family. My family counts on me. Now I am counting on you to do the right thing, and find another way to get the money for these programs. One that doesn’t put me and my coworkers out on the street. Thank you.

Adam Murphy

Hi, my name is Adam Murphy and I work at Columbia Distributing. I have a real concern about the fact that most Starbucks products are exempt from this Beverage Tax.

Half those fancy drinks at Starbucks – Unicorn Frappuccinos and whatnot – have more sugar in them than anything I can think of that Coke or Pepsi makes. The special exception in the tax for milk-based drinks like what Starbucks produces is clearly intended to pacify this massive corporation and keep them on the sidelines in this debate.

The Starbucks exclusion is politics, pure and simple. It isn’t about raising revenue for the programs this tax is intended to support.

It is MY job and MY family that will be hurt by a soda tax just because soda companies are an easier target for politicians than Seattle’s favorite coffee empire. If this tax is really about generating revenue and curbing consumption of sugar, then apply the tax to Starbucks drinks too. At least make it a little bit less unfair. Thank you.

JR Noa

Hi, my name is JR Noa, and tomorrow is my 17th anniversary as a Coke employee.

I make about $25 an hour, and I have health insurance and a Company-paid pension.

I am living a middle-class life, and I am thankful for that.

If this Beverage Tax is passed, I am worried about my job. This tax will cost jobs that we can’t afford to lose.

I don’t have a college degree. I’m not going to be the next CEO at Amazon. I’m just a guy who works hard in a warehouse every day, and I don’t want any of the people in this room to forget that I exist.

My coworkers exist.

And if this tax is passed, many of us WILL lose our jobs. That is a FACT, and you can’t just brush it under the rug.

Vote no on this tax. There are better ways to raise revenue that don’t go after people like me – the middle class. Thank you.

Anthony Brown

Hi, my name is Anthony Brown and I work at PepsiCo. I have worked there for 9 years. I am here to ask the Council to help save my job from this Beverage Tax.

In Philadelphia when the same kind of tax was introduced, lots of beverage industry workers lost their jobs. Right now, the total is at 155 people. I believe that the same thing will happen if this tax is enacted here in Seattle.

I have a good job right now where I make a good wage with health insurance and a pension. All of that is about $75,000/year.

This job will let me take care of my family, buy a house, live the American dream.

I am scared of what will happen to us if this tax costs me my job. Jobs like mine don’t grow on trees. We need to protect them.

I urge you, to please help to protect my job by voting no on this tax. Thank you.

 

Pete Lamb

My name is Pete Lamb and I’m a Business Agent at Teamsters Local 174. I am here today to urge the Council to vote “No” on the proposed beverage tax.

The way I see it, this tax is just another tactic in the War on Workers. Not only is it completely regressive, but it is a full frontal attack on working families in the City of Seattle.

This does not represent sound fiscal policy. Impacts on good family wage jobs were never taken into account. In fact, the supporters of this tax never sat down with us prior to developing this extremely flawed proposal. It doesn’t have any provisions whatsoever to address job losses. Not only that, only a small percentage of the money even makes it to the people that it is supposed to benefit. This proposal is anything but sound and the impacts on working families and the poor can’t be ignored.

The Teamsters have been more than willing to work with the Council to find collaborative solutions to meet the goals we all want to achieve. To develop sound policy that provides a sustainable revenue source while protecting good family wage jobs, the poor and minority communities. It starts by scrapping this proposal and showing the courage to develop a proposal that will actually meet our shared goals.

Please Vote “no” on this tax, and work with us to find a real solution. Thank you.