Teamsters from the Tri-State area will rally on Oct. 19 at 9 a.m. at Philadelphia’s City Hall to urge the Philadelphia City Council to repeal the city beverage tax. City Hall is in Dilworth Plaza at 15th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard.
According to a statement released by Teamsters Local 830, “Since its enactment in January, the beverage tax which levies a tax on bottles, cans and fountain drinks, the tax has cost retailers a large part of the beverage market and resulted in hundreds of job losses.”
A few month ago, Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association Chairman Jeffrey Brown of Brown’s Super Stores, former PFMA president David McCorkle and Grant McLoughlin, EVP for The Fresh Grocer, testified before the Senate Local Government Committee about the business losses the industry was experiencing due to the 1.5 cents-per-ounce tax on beverages in Philadelphia.
“In my opinion, if the tax continues, it will stop food store development in Philadelphia,” McCorkle said. “The result will be store closings, additional job losses and the loss of convenient city shopping locations where healthy and affordable food will be available.”
In his testimony, Brown, who operates six ShopRites and one The Fresh Grocer supermarket in the city, explained that the tax impacts nearly 4,000 items sold in his stores; not just soda but also sports drinks, flavored water and nutrient-enhanced drinks.
“In my six ShopRite stores alone, sales are down by an average of 15 percent storewide,” Brown said. “I have 210 fewer associate positions in my stores this year as a direct result of the beverage tax, and I am not alone.”
McLoughlin of The Fresh Grocer said his company opened two high-quality supermarkets in the city’s food deserts thanks to the support of Gov. Ed Rendell and Rep. Dwight Evans in 2009.
“We don’t want to reverse the progress we have made to grow the supermarket industry and improve food access and promote economic development in Philadelphia,” he said.
McLoughlin added, “Many of our customers rely on SNAP benefits to feed their families. Year-to-date, our SNAP sales are down almost 14 percent in the impacted stores as evidence that the Philadelphia Beverage tax is forcing those customers to leave the city to avoid a reduction in their purchasing power. Those who cannot leave the city are using their valuable SNAP benefits to purchase Philadelphia Beverage Taxed items, thus reducing their purchasing capabilities.”