PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa., Aug. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- The following is a statement by Wendell W. Young, Chairman, UFCW Wine and Spirits Shoppe Organizing Committee: Over the last 25+ years, I've watched the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board come under attack from all sides: Governors hungry to privatize the system in order to pay off political donors, newspaper editors and publishers hungry for the advertising dollars that private industry would funnel to their papers, cultural conservatives who wish to impose their morality on everyone and the teetotalers who want to return the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to Prohibition-Era rules on drinking. Throughout these attacks, I've stood for the stability that State control provides, while making efforts to showcase the Wine and Spirits Shoppes as the best that government can be. The all-out assault on the PLCB led by previous governors was defeated by the UFCW, with help from groups like Pennsylvanians Coalition About Alcohol Problems (PCAP) and MADD. Now, some of these groups that have worked with us in the past are taking a strong stand against PLCB Chairman Jonathan Newman and Governor Ed Rendell's efforts to modernize the Wine and Spirits Shoppes. The UFCW's position on privatization has not changed one bit. We are strongly against selling off the only revenue producing part of the State's government, especially in this time of fiscal need. In months past, we met with and discussed this issue with then-Candidate Rendell, and he agreed that there was no need to sell off the Wine and Spirits Shoppes. In a 2002 letter to UFCW Local 1776 members, Governor Rendell said, "I am sure that the improvements needed to truly make the PLCB a world class system are possible within the framework of state ownership and control." This is a clear policy statement that he has followed up with action. Chairman Newman's efforts do not endanger the State's control of alcohol sales in any way, and we fully support him and his efforts. There have been claims that opening up Wine and Spirits Shoppe outlets in grocery stores will end with total privatization of the PLCB. Nothing could be further from the truth. Already we see banks, coffee shops, donut shops, and dry cleaners in grocery stores. These "stores within a store" are often separately owned. The Wine and Spirits Shoppes in grocery stores will operate on the same principle. If anything, they will be even more separate than some other retail operations in grocery stores. The Wine and Spirits Shoppes will have a separate entrance, keep separate hours and have their own cash register, which will be operated by PLCB employees. Others are suggesting that the cuts in alcohol treatment and education programs that are currently being discussed in the General Assembly make it more important to restrict alcohol sales. This is, to put it mildly, false. The PLCB's revenues go directly into Pennsylvania's budget. The Wine and Spirits Shoppes generated more than $384 million for the cash-strapped state. The employees at the Wine and Spirits Shoppes are doing their part to help the Commonwealth out of its fiscal nightmare too. They, just last week, ratified a contract that foregoes across the board pay raises for the first two years. Such responsible sacrifice is all too rare in today's budgetary process. With the increased revenues generated by Sunday sales, the outlet stores near Pennsylvania's borders and the proposal for grocery store sales, the PLCB's contribution to alcohol awareness and education programs will be increased by about 30% over fiscal year 2001-2002. The choice to drink responsibly is just that: a choice. We fully support the right of Pennsylvanians to be able to purchase the kind of alcohol that they choose, at a reasonable price. We also support the laws that make it a crime for Visibly Intoxicated Persons to purchase alcohol. I would also remind those that are afraid of modernizing the Wine and Spirits Shoppes that a study by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety found that the employees in PLCB stores are more than twice as likely to card minors, thereby denying them access to alcohol, than the low-wage clerks in New York booze emporiums. Editorialists have claimed for years that Pennsylvanians are "voting with their feet" and going out of state to purchase wine and spirits. If that is true, there's a new trend in this voting. Sales at the Wine and Spirits Shoppes that have instituted some of the reforms that the UFCW has been pushing for more than 20 years are up dramatically. The Franklin Mills Outlet store saw a 93% increase in sales in the first month of operations, and the Easton Outlet store saw a staggering 104% increase. Keeping these sales in Pennsylvania benefits us all. The increased revenue to the general fund will help to balance the Commonwealth's books. The fact that the sales stay here will help to insure that control over the sales of alcohol is maintained. Perhaps most importantly, the increased business at the Wine and Spirits Shoppes will mean more money for alcohol education and awareness programs. All in all, the PLCB's modernization programs are a winning solution for the Commonwealth and all its residents, whether they choose to drink or not.
SOURCE UFCW Local 1776