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