After claiming more than 1,000 jobs would be lost, if the sweetened beverage tax was not implemented, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle negotiated a generous new deal with one of the county’s unions. In the end, Teamsters Union Local 700, which represents 3,500 guards and other security personnel, ended up with a slew of new perks including: payment for attending roll call, eliminating the cap on the use of personal time, a $1,200-per-person signing bonus, no increase in health care premiums, and 4 percent in additional salary increases, according to Crain’s Chicago Business.
This contract agreement comes only weeks after the implementation of Cook County’s sweetened beverage tax, commonly called the “soda tax.” Cook County expects to receive $67.5 million in soda tax revenue for the remainder of 2017 and another $200 million in 2018. The county has claimed 1,100 government workers would be laid off if the tax was not implemented. While some workers were laid off, the county managed to rescind other layoffs.
In November 2016, the Teamsters came out in support of the beverage tax to “guarantee job security for hundreds of people that work in Cook County.” Additionally, the Teamsters Local 700 Political Action Committee has contributed more than $10,000 to Cook County commissioners since 2016. Preckwinkle’s candidate committee has received $6,000 from the Teamsters Local 700 PAC since June 2016.
Still, a bipartisan group of Cook County commissioners filed an ordinance to repeal the unpopular tax amidst a public outcry against excessive taxation and bureaucratic insensitivities in Chicago and greater Cook County.
With each passing day, it is becoming clearer that the beverage tax was never about public health. It is simply a money grab used to benefit government and those connected to it.