Saying Philly beverage tax decimates sales, soda industry workers call for repeal

 Councilman Alan Domb (seated) speaks with Ed Jones, who sells beverages for Pepsi in Philadelphia (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Councilman Alan Domb (seated) speaks with Ed Jones, who sells beverages for Pepsi in Philadelphia (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Just a month and a half after it was implemented, Philadelphia’s soda tax is being challenged in City Hall as soda industry workers lobby to have the tariff rolled back. 



The cut is consumption is shocking, said John Carpineta, who works as a salesman for Coca-Cola and lives in Holmesburg. He was among the 30 or so workers who brought their complaints to city lawmakers Thursday.

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“I think as an industry — and I’ve talked to some of my peers and other folks in my group — we’re down in total sales volume anywhere from 30 to 50 percent,” he said. “And it’s going to get worse because there are two big retailers who are absorbing the price those retailers have opted to honor their advertising for the first quarter.”

Carpintea said it’s meant big changes in his lifestyle and his family’s future.

“My son graduates high school in a couple months, and I have had to go to him and say, ‘Son,  your first choice of Drexel University is no longer an option.'”

Jerry Doherty, the sales manager at Pepsi-Cola for Philadelphia, said complaints are continuous and his commissioned salesman are suffering because of the drop in sales since the tax of 1.5 cents-per-ounce on sweetened beverages was levied on distributors.

Most distributors have passed on the cost to consumers.

“One of our employees is going home with a paycheck of $200.  He’s not some kid, he’s a 15-year employee,  he’s got kids in college, and he’s taking $200 home to his wife and family,” Doherty said.

Though he’s sympathetic to those experiencing financial trouble, Councilman Bill Greenlee said he and other Council members had a tough choice to make in seeking to raise funds for pre-K, city libraries and recreational facilities.

“You have to see both ways,” he said. “Certainly to the businesses, certainly to the people who work in the businesses, but also to the people, the parents who are getting pre-K that they weren’t getting before … also to the communities who are getting their rec centers and playgrounds fixed.”

Councilman Curtis Jones, who said he’s gotten an earful from drivers and others affected by the soda tax, said he does not expect a repeal of the tax that’s also facing a legal challenge.

“I’m always open,” he said. “But the likelihood doing another vote is less likely.”

And Greenlee said he cannot recall any tax being eliminated

Representatives of the soda industry suggested replacing the tax with a levy on shopping bags.

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