Soda tax protesters pour it on with 'Can the Tax' rally
Chicagoans tried to stop the sweetened beverage tax before it starts leaving a sour taste in their mouths.
Hundreds of protesters demonstrated in downtown Chicago to demand that the tax be repealed before it takes effect. The Teamsters-organized "Can the Tax" rally was held at the James R. Thompson Center, just blocks from City Hall.
Several coalitions also banded together to file a lawsuit to block the penny-per-ounce tax from seeing the light of day.
“We wanted to express just how this tax will have an onerous effect on working families throughout Cook County," Michael Brandfon, communication director of Teamsters Local 727, told Chicago City Wire. “Thousands of jobs are at risk, as is $321 million in lost annual wages and $1.3 billion in economic activity across the county.”
Brandfon said the figures are based on assessments of the bill's impact gauged by Teamsters’ officials.
“We think there are other avenues the state could take,” Brandfon said. “Their side argues that a part of this is a tax against obesity, when really it’s just another way to raise revenue. The truth is the county hasn’t done its job of attracting enough businesses and good jobs to the state.”
While estimates suggest the new tax could generate as much as $224 million in annual revenue for Cook County, supporters insist it’s not all about the money.
In a statement, the American Heart Association said the move would improve the health of area residents by discouraging them from indulging in sugary beverages and by funding public health programs.
The Cook County Board of Commissioners approved the tax by one vote last November. Besides sweetened beverages, the tax will also be assessed on juice drinks, sports drinks like Gatorade, flavored water with zero calories or sweeteners, iced tea and lemonade.
With 5.2 million residents, Cook County is slated to become the largest municipality in the nation to impose a tax on sugary drinks.
“We will continue to fight this injustice no matter what,” Brandfon said.
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