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Anti-Pennsylvania State Store legislators fail to pass privatization law

06.26.12

JULY 2012, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Anti-Pennsylvania State Store legislators fail to pass privatization law

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, June 20th- The anti-union, pro-business members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly continues to introduce legislation to get Pennsylvania out of the business of selling liquor and wine and privatize the state run stores.

The latest proposal, the second in 2012, was tabled because of the inevitability of defeat in the House of Representatives. The backers of privatization promises to re-visit the issue after the summer recess of the General Assembly.

The last plan would give Pennsylvania’s 1,200 beer distributors first shot at buying licenses to sell wine and liquor that is currently only available at state owned stores and licenses that are not sold would be auctioned off to other private companies. All 600-plus state stores would be closed over five years, with the employees being fired.

Pennsylvania House of Representative Republican Majority leader Mike Turzai has lead the way for the selling of the system. His latest proposal died before the full House voted on the legislation because even members of his own party would not show support for the plan.

At least three privatization proposals have been introduced during the past sixteen months but have failed to become law. The privatization supporters are led by pro-business groups, profiteers and corporate owned main-stream media members, which are unfriendly to labor unions. The groups continue to cite polling that suggest Pennsylvanians support the selling of the stores, despite the system success in making money for state. Also, the pro-privatization supporters have failed to provide a reason why making it easier to purchase liquor in Pennsylvania would be a “good thing.”

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

UFCW Local 1776 and Local 23 have requested the labor community contact their members of the General Assembly and ask them not to support privatizing the state stores.

Meanwhile, members the two UFCW Unions have ratified a new four year contract with the Commonwealth. Wendell Young IV, President of Local 1776 stated on June 5th the successor contract agreement was approved by a 85 percent to 15 percent margin.

Local 1776 represents approximately 2,000 state store employees throughout the Northeast, Southeast and Central parts of Pennsylvania while Local 23 represents around 1,500 workers throughout the Western part of the state.

The new pact provides wage increases in the second, third and fourth year of the agreement. The contract term runs from July 1st, 2011, when the previous pact expired, to June 30th, 2015. There was a wage freeze in the first year of the agreement.