There was free Pepsi for all at City Hall Tuesday during a rally to tell Mayor Michael Nutter that "no means no" when it comes to the soda tax.
The rally was organized by Philly Jobs, Not Taxes, a broad-based coalition that, according to a news release, "is made up of small business owners, labor unions, beverage industry workers and concerned Philadelphia citizens."
The tax, which failed to pass last year, proposes a two cent per ounce tax on soda and other sweetened drinks. Its proponents say it could ease the city's financial burden and save some school programs.
But Dan Grace, the secretary and treasurer of Teamsters Local 830, the union that represents 2,200 Philadelphia members in the soft drink and brewery industry, says it is a threat to a significant number of local jobs.
"They don't have to be in Philadelphia," he said of the soft drink industry. "(If this tax is enacted), they can move to Montgomery or Bucks County."
The possibility of losing some of the more than 2,000 jobs associated with the industry is very real, Grace said. He cited Baltimore's bottling company moving when the city approved a two-cent increase.
"These are jobs that we just can't afford to lose, there are too many taxpayers without jobs as there is," he said.
And it's not just Teamsters that are concerned.
Frank Keel, a representative from the Manayunk Development Corporation, said the tax "terrified" bar and business owners along Main Street that are near the border between the city and Montgomery County.
"If people could quickly cross the border and get something for cheaper, why wouldn't they?" he asked.
Keel said Manayunk business owners are preparing to send a letter to Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. begging him to oppose the tax.
Karen Brown, who is challenging Nutter on the Republican ballot, said citing the tax as something for kids is "shameful."
"I can't believe we are using our kids to get this passed," she said. "The school district has to be held more accountable for the money they receive now. We can't give them any more."
Although there was a significant turnout at the rally, Brown said she doesn't know if that's enough.
"Only four of our 17 council members were here today," she said. "Where were the other 13? They are our voices."
Bill Hamilton, a member of Local 830, agreed.
"This is a pass-the-buck tax because they don't know how to handle the issues in City Hall," he said. "It's easy to put the burden on the backs of the taxpayers—the people who can't afford it."
City Council held a lengthy hearing about the tax last week and is scheduled to continue this discussion later this week.