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Food Workers Union making noise about selling of Liquor Stores

03.16.11

MARCH 2011, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Food Workers Union making noise about selling of Liquor Stores

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, February 14th- The union that represents the majority of the workers employed by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), which operates the Pennsylvania Wine and Spirit Shoppes, began a public awareness campaign against selling the retail stores to private business people and union officials are meeting with legislators requesting they not support the privatization plan.

The debate of whether Pennsylvania should sell their state liquor stores to private owners has resurfaced in the General Assembly in Harrisburg and the three labor unions that represent the workers will likely be affected if the stores are privatized.

The Pennsylvania Senate has began to conduct hearings and hear testimony on what impact privatization will have on the public, the business community, and the unions that represent the PLCB employees.

The United Food and Commerical Workers Union (UFCW) represents the majority of the workers employed by the PLCB. The UFCW represents shelf stockers and clerk workers.

Most lower tied supervisors of the system are represented by the Independent State Store Union (ISSU) in Harrisburg while the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union represents mainly office employees including auditors.

Should the stores be “sold-off” to private owners the unions’ would likely lose members and may even be removed as the bargaining representative of the employees.

There are approximately 625 liquor stores throughout Pennsylvania and the LCB also operates liquor stores located in around 50 grocery stores. The retail store system generates millions of dollars in profit including creating $400 million in tax revenue.

Supporters of privatization suggest the selling of the stores would generate $1.5 billion of state revenue yield, but it would be a one-time infusion of funds.

Before a sale can be held legislation would need to be passed in the Pennsylvania General Assembly and signed by Republican Governor Tom Corbett, which supports privatizing the stores.

Wendell Young IV, President of UFCW Local 1776, which has offices in Plymouth Meeting, Gettysburg, and Pittston, stated there has been a lot of talk about the merits of selling the stores recently but there are several myths being repeated regarding privatization including the two billion dollar wind-fall for Pennsylvania.

“While the UFCW PA Wine and Spirits Council representing local unions with a combined membership of over 40,000 members in Pennsylvania is not averse to engaging in the debate on this issue, we think that the discussion has to be based on facts, not fantasy. Selling the state stores is an irresponsible, risky scheme that won’t fix Pennsylvania’s budget” stated Mr. Young.

Mr. Young stated privatization opponents suggest selling of the licenses would raise $2 billion but comparable licenses have not been shown to be worth anything close to that anywhere in the nation. Also privatization supporters suggest selling of the stores would give “mom and pop” a chance to go into the liquor business. However, they do not show where “mom and pop” would come up with the $2.3 million needed to purchase a license.

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