Seattle Metro Chamber/Labor groups unite against proposed soda tax

By JASON MERCIER  | 
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Jun 1, 2017

It's not often that business chambers and labor groups unite hand in hand to oppose a tax increase but that is exactly what is happening in Seattle right now. Yesterday the Seattle Metro Chamber and the M.L. King County Labor Council issued a joint press release calling on Seattle to let the proposed soda tax fizz out. From the joint press release

"Leaders of the Martin Luther King County Labor Council and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce today issued a joint statement urging the Seattle City Council to shelve plans to impose a tax on sweetened beverages that will wreak economic harm on small businesses and working families alike. The joint statement follows steps that both organizations took separately earlier this month to formally oppose the tax . . . 

'In recent years, beverage taxes have become more and more attractive as potential revenue sources for cities and municipalities across the United States, including in the City of Seattle,' said Teamster Joint Council 28 President Rick Hicks. 'However, these taxes have been shown time and time again to be destroyers of good jobs in the beverage industry and other related industries. Despite mounting evidence of this, beverage tax proponents have consistently failed to consider the adverse impacts these taxes have on the thousands of Union members who produce, warehouse, and deliver these products.'"

The Seattle Metro Chamber previously sent a letter to Councilmember Burgress expressing serious concerns about the proposed tax. From the May 19 letter

"Through our outreach to businesses, it also become very clear this tax would disproportionately impact our small, local, and minority-owned restaurants, retailers, and beverage manufactures at a time when the City should ensure they have the right environment to grow and be successful. While the intention of improving education and health outcomes for the city is incredibly important to the Seattle Metro Chamber and its members, this tax proposal does not provide a clear and effective solution for the needs of the community and would have a negative impact on our small businesses." 

It's not just business and labor pointing out problems with the proposed soda tax but the Council's own fiscal note. From the fiscal note

"The proposed tax will likely increase the price of sugar-sweetened and diet beverages to all consumers in Seattle. People with lower incomes will pay a higher proportion of their income for this tax than those with higher incomes for each ounce of beverage purchased. Those that are better able to travel outside of the City of Seattle to shop, will be better able to avoid the tax. Those that are immobile or unable to afford transportation outside the City, will have no choice but to pay the higher prices for these products."

Though business and labor groups in Seattle are opposing the tax, there is no word yet if similar groups just outside Seattle city limits are encouraging the Council to move full steam ahead to help facilitate the expected increase in business from "those that are better able to travel outside of the City of Seattle to shop" to avoid the tax. 

Additional Information 
Seattle proposes to tax soda 8 times higher than beer