PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) - Pepsi is laying off 80 to 100 workers at three distribution plants that serve Philadelphia, and blaming slumping sales caused by the city’s soda tax.
"I get my soda from out 63rd Street at the Acme on City Line Avenue," said Tyrone Hill. Philadelphia's soda tax isn't keeping him from his favorite sugary drinks and he says if people want it they'll make a way to get it even if it means going out of their way.
"Everybody I see now is going outside of 63rd Street or Shoprite in Cheltenham," he said. But the beverage industry in Philadelphia says the tax is hitting them so hard they're being forced to take drastic measures in the form of layoffs. Pepsi released this statement today which reads in part:
Pepsi has called Philadelphia home for nearly 100 years. We are proud of our investments in the city and the good-paying jobs we've been able to provide to many residents for generations. Unfortunately, after careful consideration of the economic realities created by the recently enacted beverage tax, we have been forced to give notice that we intend to eliminate 80-100 positions, including frontline and supervisory roles, in Philadelphia over the next few months, beginning today.
"I believe it's true. I believe it," said Twanna Berry. She works at a Rite Aid store and says sales aren't what they used to be before January first when the 1.5 cent per ounce tax on sugary drinks took effect.
"They haven't been buying it like they used to," said Berry. Others aren't so sure that Pepsi's claim that the soda tax is forcing layoffs is true.
"It seems a little suspicious. I don't know," said Rodney Chonka.
A spokesperson for Pepsi also says because of the beverage tax it's sales are down 40% in the city and up only 10 to 15% outside the city.
"It seems a little premature. I think you need more to time really suss it out a year or more to really figure out what's going on," said Chonka.
Pepsi has 423 employees in Philadelphia and while it's announcing layoffs, city officials say the tax has created 251 jobs so far. Most of them are full time teaching positions. Pepsi says if the tax is struck down or repealed, it plans to bring people back to work.