State Liquor Store Union Members Rally in Capitol; United Food and Commercial Workers Union Calls for Binding Arbitration to Settle Stalled Contract with Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board

Apr 30, 2001, 01:00 ET from UFCW Local 1776

    HARRISBURG, Pa., April 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Faced with the unwillingness of
 the Ridge Administration to settle a contract for the employees of
 Pennsylvania's state-owned liquor stores, members of the union representing
 approximately 3,000 liquor store workers today attended a rally in the Capitol
 Rotunda in support of a resolution that has been introduced in both the State
 House of Representatives and the State Senate calling for the Ridge
 Administration to enter into binding arbitration.
     Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union have been working
 under the terms of a contract extension for the past five years and have
 received no raises or benefits increases during that time.  The Ridge
 Administration has been insisting that the union must give up the contract's
 successor language, which would force anyone buying a privatized liquor store,
 to hire the store's workers under the conditions of their union contract.
     Wendell W. Young, III, President of UFCW Local 1776 and Chairman of the
 United Food and Commercial Workers State Store Organizing Committee, noted
 that the Governor's insistence on demanding that the Union give up job
 security language in the contract in exchange for a settlement has caused both
 Republican and Democratic legislators to sign on to the binding arbitration
     "As of today, we have 118 co-sponsors for the House resolution and 26
 co-sponsors for the Senate resolution.  That broad range of bi-partisan
 support should send a strong message to the Governor that his demand for our
 Union members to give up their job security is falling on deaf ears," said
 Young.  "The majority of the legislature, members of both political parties,
 has recognized that it is time for the Governor to settle a fair contract."
     Also addressing the rally were two state liquor store workers who detailed
 their individual experiences working without a contract settlement for so many
     Sitara Devero, a single parent of three high school age children, who has
 worked in a Philadelphia liquor store for 12 years, said that the Governor's
 demand that she and other liquor store employees give up their contract job
 security language in exchange for raises was "just not fair."
     Devero, who a couple of years ago was robbed at gunpoint on the job, said
 the stalled contract dispute was just as traumatic.
     "Sometimes now I feel like I'm being held up by the State every day," she
     Pat O'Donnell, a clerk at a liquor store in Quakertown and a Union shop
 steward, said the Ridge Administration's lack of action on a fair contract
 settlement was "unconscionable and unjustified" and noted that his fellow
 union members' service in limiting sales to minors and the visibly intoxicated
 provided a valuable service to the citizens of the Commonwealth.
     "The political reality for us, as employees of the PLCB, is that the
 Governor has not been successful in his efforts to force privatization, so he
 is using the contract negotiations to punish those of us whose job it is to
 contribute to the state's budget and to protect the citizens of the state,"
 said O'Donnell.  "The significant personal sacrifices made by our Union's
 members are being used by Governor Ridge to advance his own political
 ambition.  That is unconscionable and unjustified no matter how you look at
     The binding arbitration resolution's Senate prime sponsor, Senator Tina
 Tartaglione (D-02, Philadelphia), addressed the rally and praised the Union's
 members for their patience over the last five years.  She noted that the
 unionized workers in the state liquor stores generate large amounts of revenue
 for the Commonwealth's Budget and they provide valuable services in limiting
 the sales of alcoholic beverages to underage drinkers.
     "While these loyal state employees continue to protect the integrity of
 the state's liquor system, they are held hostage by an Administration
 motivated by privatization," she said.  "This contract dispute has gone
 unresolved long enough.  We owe it to these employees and their families to
 move this process forward.  It's time for the Governor to either get the job
 done, or step aside and let an impartial arbitrator do it."
     The prime sponsor of the House resolution, State Representative Gary
 Haluska (D-73, Cambria) echoed Tartaglione's sentiments, adding that the large
 number of House and Senate co-sponsors indicated that the citizens of the
 Commonwealth clearly oppose privatization and support the Union's request for
 a fair contract settlement and that their elected representatives in
 Harrisburg have heard them.
     "The will of the people of Pennsylvania is to maintain our state store
 system and Governor Ridge should realize that," said Haluska.
     Ron Kean, President of UFCW Local 23 in Pittsburgh and a member of the
 UFCW State Store Organizing Committee, said the bi-partisan legislative action
 on the binding arbitration resolution showed that legislators of both parties
 recognized the issue as one of "basic fairness."
     "Our members are grateful for the actions taken by the legislators who
 have signed on as co-sponsors of these resolutions because these legislators
 recognize the basic fairness that has been denied our Union's members for the
 past five years," said Kean.  "The introduction of the resolutions should
 serve as a wake up call to the Governor."
     The resolutions, which are non-binding, allow legislators to express their
 concerns to the Governor about the sensitive issue of the stalled contract
 talks without intruding into the collective bargaining process.
     The fates of the two resolutions are subject to legislative procedural
 rules that are controlled by Republican leadership in both legislative
 chambers.  With that in mind, UFCW members branched out in small groups after
 the rally to pay personal visits to lobby Senators and Representatives and to
 offer thanks and support.
     The United Food and Commercial Workers Union represents over 65,000
 workers in the retail, food service, and health care industries in
 Pennsylvania in addition to the state workers in the Commonwealth's liquor
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SOURCE UFCW Local 1776