PLCB Modernization: Everybody Wins By Wendell W. Young, Chairman UFCW Wine and Spirits Shoppe Organizing Committee

Aug 26, 2003, 01:00 ET from UFCW Local 1776

    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