• Labor groups stump for I-1634, funded by industry to fight soda taxes

    By: Graham Johnson

    Updated:

    At a Labor Day event in Burien, union leaders stumped for Initiative 1634, which would block Seattle-style soda taxes.

    "It supports affordable groceries," said Nicole Grant of the Martin Luther King, Jr. County Labor Council.

    I-1634 leaves Seattle's controversial sugary beverage tax alone but would prevent other Washington cities and counties from passing similar taxes.

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    "These types of taxes hurt communities of color, poor working families the most, and it's got to stop," said Pete Lamb of Teamsters Local 174.

    I-1634 is bankrolled by the soda industry.

    The latest campaign finance report shows the yes campaign got $3.8 million dollars from Coca-Cola, $2.9 million from Pepsi and $1.2 million from Keurig Dr. Pepper, with total contributions of $8 million.

    By contrast, the no campaign so far lists contributions of $250 from a single donor, Victor Colman.         

    "We have a David versus Goliath battle ahead of us," Colman said. "We're not going to be raising $8 million, to be sure. But we feel we have a very honest and truthful message about local control."

    Colman says cities should be able to enact a sugary beverage tax if they want to.

    He supported Seattle's soda tax, which brought in $10 million in the first six months.

    The first study on whether it actually led people to consume less sugar is expected soon.

    "It may be a regressive tool to do the tax, but it's a progressive public health policy," Colman said.

    Organized labor is involved in the yes campaign because many beverage and grocery workers are unionized.

    KIRO 7 asked Grant if labor has been bought by soda companies.

    "I don't think they're bought, I just think they want their career to be able to continue," Grant said.

    Labor leaders fear if people stop buying sugary drinks, union jobs will be at risk.

    Supporters of soda taxes point to all the other beverages now being sold and say that even if people buy less soda, they're making up for that by switching to waters and seltzers that come from the same unionized companies.

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