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UFCW Union President provides testimony at PLCB hearings


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

UFCW Union President provides testimony at PLCB hearings


LEHIGH VALLEY, March 16th- The Pennsylvania legislature conducted hearings on whether the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), which operates the Pennsylvania Wine and Spirit Shoppes, should sell the retail stores to private business people.

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

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 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, has spoken at the hearings and has challenged the legislators to provide proof that selling the liquor system would really benefit Pennsylvanians.

He stated keeping the Wine and Spirit stores means protecting 4,500 tax-paying jobs. If the stores are sold the groups that buy them will most likely pay their workers much less and the Pennsylvania economy will be hurt.

Also, the stores provide a reliable and growing flow of taxes and profits to the state treasury, instead of to big out-out-state corporations.

Some newspapers in the state support the selling of the stores mainly because the main-stream media is corporate owned and perhaps their publishers may purchase one or several of the retail stores.

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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