Extortion. That’s what people called it—and that’s certainly what it was. Big Soda just held California hostage and won.
Last month, the American Beverage Association, whose largest contributors include Coca-Cola and Pepsi, bullied California legislators into signing a bill to ban all local sugary drink taxes in the state until 2031 (read more in this piece from Anna and Shaniece Alexander, director of the Oakland Food Policy Council). At the legislative hearing about the bill, dozens of people expressed their outrage. The testimony by young people, including many high school students, from Stockton, California, was particularly moving. “I come to you heartbroken,” said one organizer who had been working for more than a year and a half to get a soda tax on the ballot in Stockton.
Around the country, communities of color are directly targeted by soda companies. In part because of this, people of color and low-income communities experience preventable health issues at a disproportionate rate. Soda taxes are proven to reduce consumption and direct revenues towards valuable health and education programs, particularly in communities most affected by health disparities.
So-called preemption laws like the one passed in California are not new. Big Tobacco has used them, so has the gun lobby. These preemption policies are a strategy to bypass democracy to ensure corporations can continue to profit, while public health and safety is jeopardized.
Author Marion Nestle compiled a list of article links and resources on Big Soda’s corporate coup in California. And for more resources and ways to fight Big Soda in your community, sign up for our forthcoming Organizing Toolkit.
In community and solidarity,
Anna, Tanya, Christina, and Tiffani
Header photo: Still from Real Food Films Grand Prize Winner “Home Flavored.”