New contract may scuttle effort to privatize Pa. liquor sales

Posted: June 06, 2012

HARRIBURG — In what some are calling a setback for privatizing the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, the union representing state wine and liquor stores has ratified a new four-year contract that appears to require private business in the liquor business to hire displaced LCB workers — and give them the same salary and benefits.

The new contract between the state and members of two United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) locals representing 3,500 people in the state’s wine and spirits stores would, among other things, seemingly obligate any employer that sells wine and hard liquor — including a private business — to adopt all the terms and obligations of the contract. That could put a serious dent in interest from private employers as a number of high-ranking state Republicans seek to sell off the LCB.

"The language in this contract is broad and very clear," said Wendell W. Young IV, president of the UFCW’s Local 1776. "Whether [wine and hard liquor] products are sold in the same building or in a different facility — and no matter what kind of divestiture takes place — anyone who operates stores that sell these products will have to use our members and honor all terms of the contract."

The new contract covers four years starting in July of last year, when the previous contract expired, and ending June 30, 2015.

The announcement of the new contract comes as a high-ranking House Republican is making another push for action on a bill to privatize the LCB.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) has said he will try for a floor vote as early as this month on a bill he introduced last summer to auction off Pennsylvania’s state-owned wine and liquor stores to private owners.

Turzai could not be reached for immediate comment on how the new contract with state liquor store employees will impact his efforts.

Gov. Corbett also campaigned hard on a pro-privatization platform when he ran for governor in 2010, and is a supporter of selling off the state system — although since taking office in January 2011, privatization has seemed to slip further and further down his legislative priority list.

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Contact Angela Couloumbis at 717-787-5934 or acouloumbis@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @AngelasInk.

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