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PA Union Wants Better Customer Service In Alcohol Industry, Fights For System That Does The Opposite

Despite advocating for improved customer service at state-run liquor stores, a powerful Pennsylvania union is doing all it can to uphold a system designed to do the exact opposite.

Since the end of probation, some state and federal control over the liquor industry has became a common practice in many states. In Pennsylvania, however, the control goes to a whole new level. Pennsylvania and Utah are the only states with complete control over wholesale and retail operations. While Republicans tried time and time again to end the state monopoly, most recently with House Bill 466, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776 continue to be one of their biggest opponent.

“It’s important to note the House has passed it not once but twice,” Jay Ostrich, a spokesman for state House Speaker Mike Turzai, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

While Local 1776 argues state control through The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) is important for several reasons, the union also claim to be an advocate for improving customer service within the industry, a position Ostrich finds to be hypocritical.

“We look forward to working with Gov. Wolf and the Senate to pass common-sense modernization proposals that will make the PLCB a stronger asset that can deliver even more than it does today for all Pennsylvanians,” Wendell W. Young IV, president of Local 1776, said in a statement.

The very system the union is seeking to uphold, however, was designed to make buying liquor as difficult for consumers as possible. PLCB is an independent government agency which was established alongside the repeal of prohibition in 1933 to help manages the alcohol industry in Pennsylvania.

“The current state-run liquor system in Pennsylvania was created in 1933 by then-Gov. Gifford Pinchot, who said the PA Liquor Control Board’s mission was to make liquor sales ‘as inconvenient and expensive as possible,’” the House Republican Caucus noted on its website.

Ostrich noted that Local 1776 is being more than just disingenuous by claiming it wants to make buying liquor more convenient for customers while fighting for a system that was designed to do the opposite.

“There’s no question it’s hypocritical,” Ostrich noted. Nevertheless, at least according to the union, the most important reason to keep the state alcohol monopoly going is because of the revenue it brings in.

“The PLCB is a profitable asset that continues to set records in total sales and profits. Last year alone, the agency returned more than $565 million in profits, transfers and taxes to this commonwealth,” Young added. “It makes no sense to sell it off to the big chain retailers and put 5,000 Pennsylvanians out of work in the bargain.”

Ostrich argues that there is no merit to those claims, and in fact because of bad management and regulations forcing people to buy across stateliness or through bootleggers, the state is losing money.

“They like to brag that they are creating profit,” Ostrich declared. “It’s just a disingenuous argument.”

“It’s disrespectful to the Pennsylvania taxpayers to say that,” Ostrich continued. “It costs $1.2 billion just to keep the state run stores open.”

“This is a government agency so out of control they spend millions each year on advertising,” Ostrich proclaimed. “For a state sponsored monopoly.”

“Even China and Russia have given up the idea of a state run monopoly,” he added. The real reason Ostrich thinks the union is fighting to keep the PLCB going is to protect its members who work within the state system.

According to Watchdog.org, Local 1776 has used powerful lobbyist and ad campaigns to get what it wants. Republicans are not willing to give up, though, with the state House and Senate looking to make privatization and pension reform the two top priorities for the upcoming budget session.

Local 1776 did not respond to a request for comment from TheDCNF.

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