In response to a March 27 letter (“Teamsters should support soda tax and families’ health”) calling into question the Teamsters Union’s commitment to the health of our members and our communities, I would like to set the record straight. Teamsters Local 174 has been unwavering in our support for improved health outcomes for our communities. We support these not just as a moral and societal issue, but also as a fiduciary issue for the union health plans that our members participate in. A healthier society benefits our union and our members in many ways, and so we have been clear about our support for any organization or elected official that will work to end food deserts, increase inclusion and opportunities for early childhood education and provide true solutions to fight the obesity epidemic.
However, we have also been unwavering in our position that these programs should not be funded on the backs of Teamster members, working families, people on fixed incomes, and communities of color. We have highlighted this position in every meeting with elected officials, every Seattle City Council meeting, every meeting with other labor partners, and even in meetings with the opposition.
We have been willing to explore other potential solutions and funding mechanisms for the many wonderful programs this tax was designed to fund. We believe that educating our children on the importance of healthy eating and the dangers of obesity is a challenge that we as a society have a responsibility to address. But, it does not make any sense to tackle this issue via an approach that targets the hardworking people employed within the food and beverage industry.
When our members’ jobs are under threat, we will do everything we can to protect them. That includes supporting measures like the ballot initiative that will prohibit new local taxes on groceries — taxes that would impact our members and those least able to afford it. We welcome the opportunity to explore solutions to society’s health problems, but these solutions should not be funded using another regressive tax that not only hurts our members, but every working family in the state.
Teamsters Local 174