Going to the Mattresses: Unions at war with each other over fat tax

A couple of weeks ago, it was Teamsters protesting soda taxes in Philadelphia but this story from New York gives a whole new meaning to the term Union Fat Cats:

Some background:

In late February, outgoing former cokehead New York governor David Paterson proposed putting his fiscally-floundering state onto the path to skinnydom by putting a penny-per-ounce tax on sugary beverages–most notably soda.

Paterson’s proposal, like Philly Mayor Nutter’s soda tax idea, has set off a firestorm of criticism and prompted the forming of a group calling itself New Yorkers Against Unfair Taxes. While the anti-tax crowd consists of a broad coalition of businesses, it also has unions involved who have done a few union protests at the state capital.

Unionized workers clearly have some skin in this game, as many work for companies that produce the savory (and sugar-filled) sodas being targeted as the fomenters of high fatitude.

Unions (and their employers) fear that if soda prices go up, people will be inclined to drink less soda. Less soda sold means less soda made and fewer jobs for the soda makers. That’s not too hard to understand, right?

Who could blame the Teamsters for getting a bit testy?

Except maybe Andy Stern and his Union of Purple People Eaters…

Here’s where it gets a bit fizzy and, of course, it involves America’s President Obama’s favorite union, the Service Employees International Union…

As is it with so many other union issues, the SEIU is on the opposite end of the fat tax issue with the other unions. In fact, the SEIU is siding, supporting and funding the fatricidal sodaphobes through a group called the Alliance for a Healthier New York.

According to AHNY’s website:

Two studies show that increasing price can decrease consumption. One completed by the U.S. Economic Research Service found that a 10% increase in the price of soda would lead to an 8% reduction in consumption among low income populations. In a Norwegian study, increasing the price of soft drinks by 10.8% was estimated to decrease consumption by nearly 7% in the lowest consumption group, by 17% in the highest consumption group, and by an average 9.5% overall. Increasing the price by 27.3% was associated with a drop in consumption of 17% in the lowest use group, 44% in the highest use group, and an overall 24% reduction in consumption across the population.

In other words, the SEIU is supporting:

  1. Behavior modification through the imposition of economic penalties
  2. Higher taxes that will negatively impact low-income workers and their families
  3. Higher taxes that will likely cause members of other unions to lose their jobs

Obviously, the Teamsters working for beverage makers Coca-Cola and Pepsico have a lot to lose but another union is getting into the fight of the union fat cats as well: The United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW).

The UFCW is the large behemoth union that represents grocery store workers throughout much of New York. As a union representing grocery workers, apparently, the UFCW realizes the fat tax would cause its members hardship as well and is throwing its weight behind killing the tax, putting it squarely at odds with the SEIU*.

The UFCW announced it is now beginning to run ads that read:

We’re all tired of being taxed by the government. Still, not all taxes are created equal. A Regressive Tax (the kind that hurts lower income people much more than wealthier people) is one of the worst. Any tax on sugar-based products will hurt thousands of New Yorkers in neighborhoods with meager purchasing options. In these communities, people are forced to shop in smaller stores, such as bodgeas and limited-product markets where they have fewer healthy alternatives. The sugar tax will force people to pay more simply because they have no other choice. [Emphasis added.]

It is fascinating to watch the machinations of unions like the UFCW and Teamsters fight soda taxes.

In fact, it seems almost…well…revolutionary.

If this sort of behavior keeps up and some politician gets the idea to tax other sugary drinks like, say… Lipton Iced Tea, these unions may actually become (Iced)Tea Party activists.

Then what will the SEIU do?


* Interestingly, the UFCW, like the Teamsters, is also part of the SEIU’s Change to Win federation—the 2005 brainchild of Andy Stern that was formed to breakup the AFL-CIO when AFL-CIO bosses wouldn’t go along with Stern’s plan to consolidate the federation.


“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776

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Fat Cat photo credit: Moe