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Pennsylvania liquor store system again facing privatization

04.03.15

MARCH 2015, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

Pennsylvania liquor store system again facing privatization

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 5th- The pro-business anti-union Republican members of Pennsylvania General Assembly have yet again proposed the selling-off of the State Wine and Spirits Stores.

Their latest measure passed the Republican controlled House of Representatives last month that would sell licenses to sell booze which they estimated would bring in $1 billion.

Pennsylvania Democratic Governor Tom Wolf promises to veto the legislation should it reach his desk. He has proposed a plan for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), which operates the system, to “modernized” the system by extending Sunday hours and Holiday sales, improve store locations, having more flexible pricing, create a system of competitive pricing, and more customer engagement.

However, as expected Mr. Wolf’s plan was greeted was skepticism by Republicans, business-people that want to purchase a license, and some within the media, including Times-Shamrock Communications, the parent publishers of the Scranton Times-Tribune, the Citizens’ Voice, and the Hazleton Standard-Speaker.

The newspapers’ would benefit financially should the stores be privatized by creating advertising competition between license owners and perhaps even the publishers plan to purchase one of the licenses and go into the booze business. Recently, several family members of the publishers of Times-Shamrock became part owners of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Railriders baseball team, breaking away from the media business.

Net profits of the latest reporting period under current system was $123.68 million on gross revenue of $2.27 billion, amounting to a net profit margin of 5.44 percent. Under Mr. Wolf’s proposal he estimates the system would be even more profitable creating an additional annual profit of $185 million by fiscal 2018.

The selling of the system will put more than 5,000 family sustaining jobs in harms way. The United Food and Commerical Workers (UFCW) Union represents the majority of the stores employees, including clerks and shelve stockers. UFCW Local 1776 represents the workers within the eastern part of Pennsylvania while UFCW Local 23 represents the western part.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union represents mainly the office employees of the system including the PLCB auditors, which operates the stores.

There are currently 600-plus wine and spirit stores within the current system statewide.