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State store privatization legislation not yet introduced before full legislature


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

State store privatization legislation not yet introduced before full legislature


LEHIGH VALLEY, November 20th- The United Food and Commericial Workers (UFCW) Union Local 1776 is requesting the labor community contact their members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly that serve on the House Committee on Liquor Control to ask them not to support privatizing the state stores.

The UFCW represents the majority of the workers employed by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), which operates the Pennsylvania Wine and Spirit Shoppes. The UFCW represents shelf stockers and clerk workers, while the Independent State Store Union (ISSU) in Harrisburg represents most lower supervisors of the system and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union represents mainly office employees including PLCB auditors.

There are approximately 625 liquors stores throughout Pennsylvania and the PLCB also operates liquor stores located in some grocery stores. The retail store system generates millions of dollars in profit including creating at least $400 million in tax revenue for Pennsylvania each year.

Before Pennsylvania can sell the stores to private owners, which proponents suggest would raise $2 billion in licensing fees, the state general assembly must first pass legislation approving the sale to companies such as Wal-Mart, Target and Costco, who are unfriendly to labor unions. The state revenue yield would be a one-time infusion of funds.

“While the UFCW PA Wine and Spirits Council representing local unions with a combined membership 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 Wendell Young IV, President of UFCW Local 1776, Plymouth Meeting.

Mr. Young stated privatization supporters suggest the 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.

There have been public hearings conducted throughout the state during 2011 but the legislation has not yet left the House Committee on Liquor Control that is neccesary before the full House can vote on the measure. Pennsylvania’ anti-union Republican Governor Tom Corbett supports the selling of the state stores and has stated will sign the legislation if it should reach his desk.

The UFCW would like the legislation to stay in committee and not be introduced to the full House and is requesting the labor community and opponents of the privatizing effort to contact any legislator on the House Committee on Liquor Control.

The only member of the General Assembly from the Lehigh Valley on the committee is Joseph Brennan (Democrat-133rd Legislative District).

Should the stores be “sold-off” to private owners the labor organizations would likely lose members or may even be removed as the bargaining reprsentative of the employees.

The union’s believe their members, who earn a decent living wage, will be replaced will lower earning workers with less benefits.

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