Pennsylvania is one of the few states left where you can only buy wine and liquor at a state-owned and operated store. Notice I’m not saying “state-licensed;” the state government actually directly runs all wine and liquor sales in the state, and has for decades. I know; I grew up there. Now a state representative wants to privatize sales, auctioning off liquor licenses and enabling free-market economics. The union that covers the ~3,500 employees that work in the state stores is crying foul, claiming that the plan will actually lose money for the state and cost 5,000 jobs (the suspicion starts here, since there are only 3,500 liquor store employees). There are 620 state liquor stores and the plan calls for auctioning off 1250 liquor sales licenses (and likely, more to follow in later years, as in most states allow and have many more than that).
What really caught my attention though, was that even though the state rep’s plan for auction licensing calls specifically for 750 “large retailer” licenses (read: Sam’s Club, Costco, etc) and 500 “small retailer (mom-and-pop-type) licenses, the union still claims that jobs will be lost, since somehow ALL the licenses will still go to Sam’s and Costco, who will use existing employees instead of hiring the now-unemployed state store employees, in effect turning all liquor sales in PA over to a small economically-controlling faction.
This is another case of the union making a huge fuss to try to sustain itself. There was a time when most industries in this country DID need unions. Some industries STILL DO need unions, but for the most part, IMHO, many of them are parasitic dinosaurs, living of the dues of their members without giving back a value greater than those dues in return. The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776 is no exception. Short-term, yes, those 500 small-retailer licenses will be bought, open stores, and each may hire as little as two or three workers, so some of those liquor store employees will be out of a job and stay out of a job. However, having lived in many states with open liquor stores, demand will grow, and more licenses will be issued, and more small outlets will open, and more folks will be employed, and more business taxes flow into the economy.
The area I grew up in, in Central PA, is probably less than or around 100,000 people. There are currently five PA Liquor Control Board stores and one “kiosk” to service that population. Quite frankly, if privatized I can easily see a demand for more than a dozen small liquor outlets in that area, which will likely bring as many, if not more, jobs than they state stores currently employ. I suspect, with only 620 stores across the state, including such huge cities as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, that if privatized, the growth of liquor retailers per capita – and accompanying jobs – will be similar.
Here in Colorado, there’s probably a liquor store every half mile or so, and while we only use it a couple of times a month, the convenience of having one just down the street when friends are coming over or we’re heading out to a bbq and we need a bottle of wine is great! Plus, those retailers are our neighbors and friends. The closest one to us is a small mom-and-pop store that raises funds to support our local dog park. State-owned stores in PA don’t – and probably by law can’t – create those kinds of ties.
So the union needs to, frankly, shut the hell up and realize that it’s a relic from another century, and Pennsylvania needs to pass this law to help bring it into the current century.