UFCW PA Wine and Spirits Council Urges Legislators to Reject Risky Privatization Scheme

13 Jul, 2011, 14:33 ET from UFCW Local 1776

HARRISBURG, Pa., July 13, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The latest misguided effort to dismantle Pennsylvania's Wine and Spirit shops "is driven by bad math and worse public policy and should be rejected by the legislature and all Pennsylvanians," said Wendell W. Young, IV, Chairman of the United Food and Commercial Workers PA Wine and Spirits Council, today.

"Rep. Mike Turzai's scheme would jeopardize much of the more than $500 million a year that the stores generate for the state.  It would clear the way for more underage and irresponsible drinking and threaten the livelihoods of 5,000 working Pennsylvanians," said Young, President of UFCW Local 1776.  He added:

"Our current system works well for all Pennsylvanians.  It should be strengthened – not ripped apart to benefit chain store retailers and the Big Alcohol industry looking to cash in for a quick buck.  We look forward to a thorough and honest debate on this bill, and we will participate actively in the hearings that we expect will be held around the state."

The legislation has major flaws that simply cannot be fixed, said Anthony M. Helfer, President of UFCW Local 23.

"Rep. Turzai either fails to understand or chooses to ignore the facts that should drive this debate," Helfer said. "There's a reason why groups such as the PA DUI Association and Students Against Destructive Decisions, among others, are opposed to his scheme for privatization.  It is risky and just makes no sense."

Both Helfer and Young noted that testimony before the House Democratic Policy Committee in hearings across the state earlier this year, along with news media accounts, have made it clear that the state will realize nowhere near the $2 billion to $6 billion that Turzai claims an auction of the licenses would generate.

Media reports have made it clear that prices and selection for consumers will not improve under private ownership.   A survey of liquor stores in four states conducted by the Harrisburg Patriot-News and published on May 25, 2011 revealed that Pennsylvania prices often are cheaper.  This report echoes similar work done by others and reflects the experience of virtually every state that has made the mistake of turning to privatization.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended in April that states and other jurisdictions not privatize the sale of wine and spirits.

A CDC task force said: "Based on its charge to identify effective disease and injury prevention measures, the Task Force on Community Preventive Services recommends against the further privatization of alcohol sales in settings with current government control of retail sales, based on strong evidence that privatization results in increased per capita alcohol consumption, a well-established proxy for excessive consumption." (1)

Young said:

"Rep. Turzai has made a sport of bashing our members and this system.  But in the end, I believe most Pennsylvanians will trust the CDC over a politician who has decided to put his ideology above his constituents' interests.

"We welcome this debate and we believe that when legislators and the public look at the facts, they will see that giving away an asset that benefits all Pennsylvanians is unwise."

(1) http://www.thecommunityguide.org/alcohol/RRprivatization.html

The UFCW PA Wine and Spirits Council is comprised of UFCW Locals 1776, 23 and 27, representing the clerks who staff the Pennsylvania Wine and Spirits shops throughout the state.

For more information, visit www.ufcwpawineandspiritscouncil.com.

SOURCE UFCW Local 1776