April 16, 2013

UFCW Local 1776 President: For Corbett, privatizing liquor stores is about saving his own job

Wendell YoungBy Wendell W. Young IV

It only took two years, but it appears that Gov. Tom Corbett has finally ‘fessed up about why he persists in trying to dismantle Pennsylvania’s wine and spirits shops: he really likes his job.

According to recent reports, the governor is leaning on fellow Republicans to support dismantling the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board so he can bolster his reelection chances.

It would be more ironic than tragic if not for the stakes. Gov. Corbett wants to put as many as 5,000 PLCB employees and roughly 12,000 beer distributor workers out of a job so he can save just one: his own.

At least our governor has come clean and told voters the truth, a rarity in his first three years in Harrisburg. Time and time again, our governor has proven that he just cannot be trusted.

He promised to balance our state budget by spreading the pain across the board – on businesses and the middle class alike. Not true: He has given his business friends $800 million in tax cuts, made up by middle class taxpayers who have yet to see a single break.

He promised that by cutting corporate taxes, he would create jobs and the middle class would benefit. Not true. Our state unemployment is higher than the national rate and is headed in the wrong direction.

He promised to reform Harrisburg and change the way that ‘politicians’ in Harrisburg work. Not true. Our governor has taken yacht trips, helicopter rides, tickets to black tie galas and other goodies from corporate and lobbyist friends. It’s now been revealed that one of his corporate patrons, who paid for the governor’s private flights and a yacht vacation, is accompanying Gov. Corbett on a state-sponsored trade mission to South America, and previously joined him on a similar junket to France and Germany.

When pressed, his defense was that he didn’t break the law.

At least our governor has come clean and told voters the truth.

He promised to conduct a transparent government accountable to the voters. Not even close to the truth. Gov. Corbett continues to try and cut a backroom deal with a foreign company to outsource our state lottery. He signed the first deal – later ruled illegal by our Attorney General Kathleen Kane – without benefit of one single public meeting.

On the LCB issue, the governor continues to mislead. He strong armed the state House to rush a bill through without a single hearing (sound familiar?) because he simply cannot stick to the facts and make a compelling case.

Corbett claims the state stores make no money. Not true: They’re  currently running at 14.8 percent profit.

Corbett first claimed that an auction of liquor licenses would generate $2 billion; then it was $1 billion and, then $800 million. On this point, nobody knows how much the auction might generate because the bill was rushed through the process. But the record suggests that Gov. Corbett’s projections remain a pipe dream.

Corbett and his allies say that displaced workers will find new jobs. Not true. The governor’s own experts at Public Financial Management concede that 2,300 full-time equivalent employees will go on unemployment compensation and virtually no new jobs will be created. None. And that estimate did not include the impact on the 12,000 employees of our state’s beer distributors who could lose their jobs under Corbett’s current plan.

Finally, Gov. Corbett said that not one person has told him that privatization is a mistake. Not true. There are too many groups opposed to privatization to list here but a very quick sampling includes: Mothers Against Drunk Driving, PA Fraternal Order of Police, PA Chiefs of Police, Drug and Alcohol Service Providers Organization of Pennsylvania, The Commonwealth Prevention Alliance.

In addition, a taskforce of The U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued a recommendation against wine and spirit privatization because of increased public health risks, while not addressing Pennsylvania specifically.

The truth of the matter is that privatization is bad public policy: it will cost jobs, hike prices and increase underage drinking, drunk driving and other public health risks. Gov. Corbett cannot convince his fellow party members on the merits, so he needs to make it about keeping his job.

But UFCW is encouraged that public hearings when this complex and important issue are to be convened in the Senate. Our members are confident that issues are aired, the governor’s political wishes will lose to good old fashioned facts.

Wendell W. Young IV is president of Local 1776 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which represents state liquor store employees.

Click here to read the original op-ed.