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Coca-Cola says Philadelphia soda tax has led to loss of 40 jobs

The sweetened-beverage tax has led to a 32 percent drop in sales, the company said Friday.

Philadelphia's new sweetened-beverage tax has led to the loss of 40 Coca-Cola jobs and a 32 percent drop in sales, the company said Friday.

Fran McGorry, president and general manager of Philly Coke, the local Coca-Cola bottler, said in a news release that the job losses are due to commission-based employees leaving the company, not layoffs.

"We are not able to replace those positions right now," he said. "In total, we have fewer people working in the city while more people are now working outside Philadelphia due to increased demand there. We have also made the decision not to hire seasonal employees for the summer months due to the negative impact the tax is having on our business."

The 1.5-cent-per-ounce levy, which the city began collecting in January, is paying for expanded pre-kindergarten, among other programs.

The beverage industry is suing to strike down the tax.

Lauren Hitt, spokeswoman for Mayor Kenney, stressed that fact when responding to the job losses and said the industry is "looking for opportunities" to make the tax a scapegoat. She said the company this week announced it would lay off 1,200 workers nationally in light of declining sales.

"Coke had a bad first quarter and announced job cuts across all their markets earlier this week," Hitt said. "This is likely just a part of that."

PepsiCo in March said it would lay off 80 to 100 employees due to the tax. Several weeks later, when asked how many people had been laid off, a Pepsi spokesman said discussions with the union were ongoing and the layoffs would take a few months.

The Kenney administration has countered by saying the expanded pre-kindergarten services the tax is funding has led to the creation of more than 250 jobs.