Soda Tax Opponents Rally Outside City Hall

Frank Berthcsi , a Coca-Cola forklift operator, protested outside City Hall today. Teamsters drove their soda trucks in circles around City Hall during the rally. ( Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer )

Opponents of Mayor Nutter's proposed soda tax rallied outside City Hall this afternoon, saying the tax would cost the city jobs.

About 200 people attended the rally, mostly teamsters who work for Coca Cola or Pepsi. It was organized by a coaltion that includes the teamsters and the American Beverage Association. The Beverage Association has a team of paid lobbyists and media consultants in place locally to help defeat the tax proposal.

Nutter -- who is trying to fill a projected $150 million budget deficit -- has proposed a soda tax that would add 2 cents per ounce to the price of soda. It would be charged to merchants as part of their business tax. Nutter has said the soda tax would raise revenues and help fight obesity. But the opponents said it would hurt merchants and those employed to bottle or deliver beverages.

"We're gathered today, to say in a unified voice: no!," said Danny Grace, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local Union 830.

Councilmen Brian O'Neill and Frank Rizzo both appeared at the rally. "It is a bad idea and should be stopped in it's tracks," O'Neill said.

The crowd also heard from one concerned merchant. Frank Maimone owns Rustica, a pizza restaurant in Northern Liberties. He said the tax would add $20,000 to his business tax bill, based on his sales of soda last year. That would force him to lay off an employee, Maimone said. And he said he would spread the added tax over all his products, not just soda.

"In the end you're paying more for what you shouldn't have to pay," Maimone said.