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Privatization of state liquor stores takes step forward

04.20.13

APRIL 2013, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

Privatization of state liquor stores takes step forward

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 28th- The last hope for the labor organizations that represent workers of the Pennsylvania’s approximately 600 state-operated wine and liquor stores to save their members jobs from becoming a casualty of Republican Governor Tom Corbett push for privatization is the state senate.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed the Republican plan to phase-out the ownership of the state operated stores and sell licenses to private businesses by a 105 to 90 vote.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) currently operates the wine and spirits shops and enploys more than 5,000 workers.

The United Food and Commerical Workers (UFCW) Union represent the majority of the workers which are employed as clerks and shelve stockers.

The anti-union Corbett unveiled his plan earlier in 2013 to get the state out of the liquor business that would lead to the elimination of family sustaining jobs and having twice as many private outlets selling both beer and wine.

Mr. Corbett announced his plan on January 30th stating the expansion would create consumption and therefore more tax revenue. He did not state why the selling of more liquor would be a good thing for Pennsylvanians.

Mr. Corbett’s lastest plan of privatization included using the revenue from the selling of the system to help fund school programs that he has cut in previous budgets.

The Independent State Store Union (ISSU) represent most lower supervisors of the system and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union represent mainly office employees including the PLRB auditors.

Under Mr. Corbett’s latest plan all 600-plus state stores would be closed and the employees would be fired. In place licenses to sell wine and liquor would be sold to generate revenue, Mr. Corbett stated. Under the plan public education would be financed by booze sales.

The system currently creates more than $500 million in profits and taxes a year for Pennsylvania, which benefits all taxpayers.

The legislation will now go before the state senate where Republicans hold the majority, 27 to 23. However, at least four Republicans have express reservations of selling the state-stores. The union organizations are hoping the Republican senators do not weaken from pressure applied by their party leaders and vote to dismantle the current system.