Labor Union Fights Liquor Store Privatization in Pennsylvania

How organized labor is resisting efforts to privatize the state-owned liquor monopoly.


The labor union that forms the backbone of opposition to Republican plans to privatize Pennsylvania's liquor store system gave more than $140,000 to state-level candidates in 2012, including plenty of campaign cash to some high-ranking Republicans.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, which counts about 3,000 state liquor store employees among its members, is the most visible and vocal opponent of House Majority Leader Mike Turzai's (R-Allegheny) call to privatize the state-owned liquor monopoly.

And with Gov. Tom Corbett in support of privatization and the GOP in control of both chambers of the General Assembly, the union must rely on more than just Democratic support to keep privatization proposals at bay.

A review of campaign finance records by PA Independent found the union gave more than $12,000 to Republican candidates in 2012—much of it targeted at key figures in the state House.  As expected, the union gives more heavily to Democrats, who collectively received more than $40,000 in contributions.

Wendell Young IV, president of UFCW Local 1776, said Thursday that his union is not a single issue entity, but acknowledged that the privatization of the liquor stores is their top issue.

He said the union follows general guidelines published by the AFL-CIO, a conglomerate of many smaller trade unions, to determine which candidates to support.

"We look at pro-labor votes and their support of workers' issues," Young said. "Democrats more often score better than Republicans, but we support candidates on both sides."

State Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery) received $2,700 from the UFCW this year—all of it during the primary cycle, when he did not have an opponent.

Vereb is one of the House Republicans' top fundraisers and made no bones about the support he receives from the UFCW, but he said contributions from any source do not dictate his views on policymaking.

"People are allowed to have different views and money does not determine those views," he said Thursday. "Taking contributions from anyone doesn't determine my vote."

When it comes to liquor issues, Vereb said he favors increasing access for his constituents and all resident of the state. What form that takes—public or private—will be the subject of discussions with House leaders and other public officials, he said.

But there is another connection between Young and Vereb that helps explain the high level of contributions to the Republican representative: Young lives in Vereb's district.

In interviews, both men acknowledged a mutual respect that dates back to Vereb's time as his days on the West Norriton Board of Supervisors.

"Mike's got a good record," Young said.

Behind Vereb, the top GOP recipient of campaign cash from the UFCW was state Rep. John Taylor (R-Philadelphia), chairman of the House Liquor Control Committee. It's not hard to figure out why he would be targeted by the union.

Three other Republicans in the General Assembly received more than $1,000 from the UFCW this year: Speaker of the House Sam Smith (R-Jefferson); state Rep. Mario Scavello (R-Monroe); and state Sen. Dave Argall (R-Schuylkill).

All told, 15 Republicans took a combined total of $12,000 from the union during 2012. By comparison, 74 Democratic candidates for office got $43,000 from the UFCW during the year, with nine of them receiving more than $1,000 each.

Top Democratic recipients were state Sen. Christina Tartaglione (D-Philadelphia), Auditor General Jack Wagner, and former state Reps. Kevin Murphy (D-Lackawanna), and Babette Josephs (D-Philadelphia), who both lost in the primary election last April.

The remainder of the unions' contributions went to political action committees and get-out-the-vote efforts.

It's no secret that unions are among the most powerful forces in Pennsylvania politics.

During the 2012 election cycle, private-sector unions in Pennsylvania gave more than $2.8 million to candidates and political action committees at the state level, according to data gathered by the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that tracks political spending.

Public-sector unions in the state contributed another $1.6 million, according to the same data.

All told, the unions' grand total of $4.4 million made them the most powerful political voice in the state in terms of dollars spent on the election.

The UFCW's contributions account for only about 3 percent of that total, far behind heavier hitters like the Pennsylvania State Education Association, a teachers' union, which gave more than $662,000 during 2012, easily the highest total from any single union in the state.

But with liquor privatization a hot button topic in Harrisburg, scrutiny of UFCW contributions is bound to take place.
Matt Brouillette, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation, a free-market think tank in Harrisburg that supports privatization of the liquor stores, said he was not surprised the union was spending on both Democrats and Republicans.

"Republicans hold the keys to the government unions' monopoly power over our wine and spirit purchases," Brouillette said. "They win while the taxpayers lose. And they will keep spending on politics to keep it that way."

If the liquor stores were privatized, the union would lose about 3,000 members and the dues payments that go with them. Those dues help fund the political activities of the union.

But Young said the real reason the liquor stores have not been privatized is because lawmakers—including many Republican lawmakers—realize it will not be a profitable move for the state.

This article originally appeared at Pennsylvania Independent.


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  1. But Young said the real reason the liquor stores have not been privatized is because lawmakers?including many Republican lawmakers?realize it will not be a profitable move for the state.

    And by state he mostly means the lawmakers and the union. It still boggles my mind that the Commonwealth’s legislature is a full-time job. Why do we need a full time state legislature?

    1. Nevada’s (and I believe also Texas’s) only meets once every two years. Now THAT’S how a legislature should be.

      1. MT

    2. I didn’t know the government was out to make a profit.

  2. I bet a level of taxation could be arrived at which would turn out to be both more profitable for the state than operating their own stores and less costly to customers. Either that, or you’re saying monopoly is more efficient than free enterprise.

    1. “Profitable” for the politicians that run the state primarily means getting political contributions and votes, and handing out government jobs to people who will then by loyal to you.

    2. Hell, ANY level of taxation that allowed me to purchase Adam Carolla’s Mangria would be more profitable to the Commonwealth than the current system of treating their own constituents as less responsible than those of our neighbours in Ohio, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland.

      1. Mangria? Is that some foofy version Sangria for men or something? Do you carry it in your murse?

  3. I just want Minnesota to allow Sunday sales and to get rid of the 10pm cut-off. At least I live 15 minutes the Wisconsin border and can make the trip when I have to.

    1. Good luck with that. Now that the DFL has the legislature as well as an on/off again drunk in the governor’s mansion, I don’t see who is going to champion that change.

      The sad fact is that our liquor store owners don’t want Sunday sales. They like Sundays off and know that all those potential Sunday sales will decoy into the store right before closing time Saturday anyhow.

      Nicest thing about our cabin in Wisconsin is that I can buy beer and liquor at the local store any day I want.

  4. All told, the unions’ grand total of $4.4 million made them the most powerful political voice in the state in terms of dollars spent on the election.

    So union money doesn’t “corrupt the democratic process”?

    OT: Taking the LSAT soon. Any tips from the professional lawyers on this board?

    1. Don’t go to law school. It’s a waste of time for almost everyone.

    2. Examine how you being a lawyer might add value to anyone’s lives. If you can’t come up with anything other than “I think I’ll make a buttload of money”, that is a red flag that you will be deeply unhappy with that career.

      1. Well, I guess I am looking at how I could fight unjust laws from a legal standpoint, like working for the Institute of Justice or Cato.

        1. “Unjust laws”?

          What a concept!

          Seriously, good luck, cw. My BIL is a (patent) lawyer. He works a *lot*.

          1. My brother is a patent lawyer. A comfy couch in your office is a must.

            Start “not sleeping” now.

    3. If you decide to change your mind about the LSAT, cw, also avoid the MCAT like the plague.

    4. I don’t recommend law school because there is a glut of lawyers and has been for a while. People keep flooding into law school because it has prestige, but job prospects were declining even before 07.

      The best way to raise your LSAT score is to take the old tests under timed conditions and buy the Logic Games Bible.

  5. Im always surprised when KY has better liquor laws than other states.

    No state stores, sunday sales, 4 AM closing times.

    What the fuck is wrong with the rest of you?

    However, yes, do to the principle of subsidiarity, which is generally a good thing, we do have dry counties and dry precincts and etc. And also wet precincts inside dry counties.

    1. And I’ll bet the ‘dry’ areas aren’t nearly as “dry” as they would claim.

    2. Well, that settles that. I’m coming to KY to do my long delayed liquor purchasing (due to a personal boycott of the ABC stores here after a bad experience with a surly, thug behind the counter) soon. Totally serious. It will be worth a Saturday afternoon to avoid those assholes.

    3. When I last lived in KY, it was in a dry county. We just drove over to the next county, or if we wanted to pay more for convenience sake, drove over to the bootlegger who had a little kiosk like shack set up back a dirt road.

      But typically, I would just buy a few cases of beer over in the neighboring county every time I got down to one case, so that I wouldn’t ever run out.

      I never did get the point of having a dry county when it never stopped anyone from buying and consuming whatever booze they wanted.

    4. And also wet precincts inside dry counties.

      Puddles. They’re called puddles.

      Nicholasville is one such place. Can’t buy liquor in the county, but in the city liquor stores abound.

      And we get around the dry county bullshit by drinking moonshine anyways. I very rarely drink (most on this board had more last night than I’ll have in a year – maybe two or three), but when I do it’s shine. The well-thought and executed flavored shine, not that straight-up fire in a bottle.

      (SLD – I’m fully aware that some of the bigger tyrants are those at the local level.)

      1. Oh, I have moonshine up the yang yang, but I like the flavor of a good commercial distillation. Moonshine is pretty basic. I add taste to mine with Belgian hard candy (the frosty surfaced kind) and Moroccan sour plums thrown in to soak for a few months. Not big on mixed drinks, prefer shots.

        1. My bad, that stuff is Japanese.


          I didn’t get the tin.

    5. “No state stores, sunday sales, 4 AM closing times.”

      I’d no idea that Lexington had legalized Sunday sales. Apparently it happened right after I left town. An0nb0t’s Law.

      The sucky thing is that Kentuckians, like many non-TN southerners, can’t have alcohol shipped to them, which, in concert with the cartelized, rent-seeking, consumer-screwing three-tiered alcohol distribution system effectively prevents them from having access to the outstanding craft beer produced out west.

      Three generations later, the proggy prohibition on alcohol continues to screw the American people.

    6. Im always surprised when KY has better liquor laws than other states. No state stores, sunday sales, 4 AM closing times.

      Same here in NY. The only BS I can think of (other than we probably have outrageous taxes on it) is that liquor store owners have to live within a certain radius of the store. I have no idea what the point of that is – it’s not like I don’t have four of them within a block of me.

  6. So what we have here is a hiring hall disguised as a state assembly?

  7. Curacao police arrest 3 suspects following dramatic $11.5 M gold bar heist

    Police in the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao have arrested seven suspects in connection with the recent heist of 70 gold bars worth an estimated $11.5 million.

    Huggins said that security guards allowed the suspects to enter a restricted area thinking they were customs officials.

    1. They clearly stole from the wrong people.. Someone should let them know the federal reserve has some burdensome purely traditional gold bars sitting in their vaults (or do they?). Since they’re purely traditional, I’m sure they won’t be missed.

      1. Everybody knows that you’re not supposed to steal the gold bars; you’re supposed to irradiate them so that they’ll become useless and your own gold will become more valuable.

  8. A union standing in the way of freedom. Go figure. And in Pennsyltucky no less.

    PA is a good state to be “FROM”.

    1. ABC stores are Satan’s retail outlets. That is all.

    2. Haven’t lived there since 1995, but have fond memories of the Easton PA to Phillipsburg NJ Sunday liquor pipeline runs, with the occasional cop dodge coming back.

  9. What is needed is the Libertarian Party to specifically target one or two GOP legislators who refuse to back privatization. The GOP hold on both houses is tenuous (they lost three senate seats in 2012) and there are a few vulnerable Republican seats. Until the consumers vote their interest in this issue, then 3000 union members will continue to control this product.

  10. WA’s liquor privatization has been fucking great, except for the appalling tax they apply: 20.5%. It means that one of my Crater Lake martinis, that I make at home, costs $8. At home. Yeah, it’s a pretty big martini but it’s not a Big Gulp.

    1. Martinis should be shaken, dirty, and one only wafts the vermouth cork over the glass saying, “Vermouth.”

      Anything else dooms you to irrelevancy.-D

      1. There is no vermouth in my martini. There is only the idea of vermouth. Crater Lake, baby. That shit is amazing.

        1. Hmm, I’ll have to see if any of the restaurants carry it. Otherwise, I’ll have to order it. Though I am not a big drinker, I have admittedly developed a taste for Russian and Ukrainian vodka.

          I need to send Jimbo some aquavit for his crushing depression, and of course blames you.

          1. I couldn’t even get it in Vancouver so I doubt you will be able to. JJ’s just being pissy; he’ll be fine after some alone time.

            1. Oh, since you have such a refined palate (I’m positive Jimbo is your palate cleanser after Tuffing Little Warty’s Muff), behold what UKR has to offer thee:

              Kiev, Ukraine

              Kiev is the food lover’s Wild, Wild East with its wide boulevards, gold-domed churches, all-night parties, vodka, caviar and ruby-colored borscht. Get acquainted with Kiev’s distinct cuisine at a low-cost cafeteria-style eatery, where dozens of national dishes are offered up daily like beet and herring salad and stuffed cabbage rolls. Embrace the kitsch of peasant garb, wagon wheels and stuffed farm animals at traditional-style restaurants and dig into pork fat, pickles and thick cuts of meat. Don’t miss the varanyky, Ukraine’s famous stuffed dumplings are boiled or fried, best served with pork cracklings and smothered in sour cream. In Kiev, feast into the wee hours then hit one of the city’s outrageous theme bars for a perilous pyrotechnic libation.

              I know. That’s why I suggested to Suthenboy that he send that scotch, that I “won” in our wager, to someone else closer. I would have suggested you, but you’re…quite honestly, inferior.

              1. Scotch is for jerkoffs and micks, doc. But fine: yours is the superior “intelligence”. Remember, doc: you are in a position to demand nothing. I, however, am in a position to grant nothing. Do you understand now?

                1. Epi…I’m laughing at your “superior” palate intelligence…

                2. I don’t know how anyone drinks liquor. My wife has a fully stocked liquor cabinet, and a full selection of wines, although she is a very light drinker. I think she likes buying it more than drinking it. I won’t touch any of it.

                  Some people say it’s all just alcohol, but beer is the only alcohol that I like the taste of or the buzz that I get from it. All the rest of it could be dumped into the bottom of the sea and I wouldn’t care. Without beer, I would definitely be a non-drinker. Beer, however, I drink way too much of at times.

                  1. Some people say it’s all just alcohol

                    And these people are never to be trusted with anything, especially sharp objects and pointy things and require safety helmets.

                    I’m not a huge beer fan, myself. I like wines with dinner or before I toddle off to bed if I am having trouble sleeping. Liquor is an acquired taste, and for me, it really is about the taste as opposed to the effects that follow. Alcohol, in moderation, has demonstrable health benefits unless otherwise contraindicated.

                    1. Liquor is an acquired taste

                      So is beer, and I have definitely aquired it. First time I ever took a drink of it, I wondered how anyone could ever drink the vile stuff.

                  2. Love beer. Just that I get bloated before I get sufficiently drunk.

                    1. I drink pretty slowly when drinking beer. One 12 oz. an hour is my night of heavy drinking. I have a lot of home brew I have not even touched yet. Been too busy, and buying too many commercial brands to get around to it.

                    2. I went over to our big super liquor store last night, where you can get 6 pack cartons and walk several aisles making up your own 6 packs. I got some interesting imports and micros to try, but so far haven’t gotten into them, waiting for the New Years Eve.

                      Me and a friend of mine at work, are supposed to start us up a home brewing operation after the new years. I’m excited, never tried it before, but there are several businesses in the area that sell the supplies and equipment.

                    3. That is what I did last year. I teamed up with a guy, a local chef, who had the equipment. I bought the ingredients, grew my own figs too, (sorry Epi that my aunt didn’t visit this year. I was going to have her take a pony keg back west with her) and he did most of the labor intensive aspects like dry hopping.

                    4. Well, works local, but the dude’s Canadian.

            2. My nephew is doing an experiment that may interest you. Two pounds of pearl onions and capers soaking in a gallon of Beefeater gin he got for Christmas. We have not tried it yet, but in a few weeks . . .

              1. If you’re talking to me, Killaz, no go. I HATE onions with a white iron passion. Blech!

                1. If it was me I would have gone with only capers, or made two separate batches and seen how the taste of each stacks up before combining. Plus lots more capers. But, it should still be fine. Onions are the food of heroes and demi-gods.

                  1. Agreed on the capers. Onions, however, are the food of fools and the flatulent. They are Satan’s Fruit, and should never be consumed.

                    1. Satan hoards them for himself and forces the damned to watch as he eats them. He is a prince, after all.

                2. A sweet Vidalia cut up into quarters for a salad, mmm, now we’re talking.

                  1. You probably like scallions too, provincial knave! I’m thoroughly disgusted…

                    Admit it: You eat Bloomin’ Onions, don’t you? DON’T YOU?!?!?!

                    1. Don’t be silly. They absorb too much oil to be tasty, but a good batch of rings will do.

                      Scallions, shallots, garlic, there is no such thing as a bad onion. I pity your tong that it is incapable of joy.

                    2. I don’t know if your tongs are semi-sentient like mine, damn that mouse and his wand, but your tongue is what is deserving of sympathy.

                    3. Nonsense. Garlic is God’s Fruit, and the only bulb worthy of consideration (and demonstrably very healthy for you). I’m sure I have eaten stuff with onions (read: flatulence), but the recipe masked the taste.

                      My tongue, I assure you, is hardly deprived of yummy food goodness, as I have the Dish of Dieties: BORSHH! I can’t get enough of that stuff!

                    4. To not have experienced the red onion in its natural environment, the potato salad, is like, well, damn hard to compare, never having sex with a b-list celebrity, never squishing a squirrel with the wheels of a Hummer, never farting in an elevator and angering a crowd . . .

                    5. I do a lot of cooking that uses onions and garlic. There is no substitute for either. They may taste bad by themselves, but they are some of the best food enhancers without doubt.

                    6. Amen!

                    7. Ths.

                      I like onion flavor, but fucking hate onions. It’s a texture thing for me.

                3. You’re in eastern Europe and getting picky about root veggies? Sounds like a bad choice…

                  1. Borshh is made with turnips.-D


        2. What the fuck is with a page that forces you to have background images loaded to be able to read the text?

          (I suppose I could just Ctrl+A, but still….)

      2. Martinis should be shaken, dirty, and one only wafts the vermouth cork over the glass saying, “Vermouth.”


        Now the real question, and I’m sure I’ll catch hell for this…

        Vodka or Gin?

        1. Konechno, vodka, ty glupij durok!-)

          1. I might have known.

            1. Ahem, was that a dig, FdA? I’ll have you know that Khor is palatal coitus. Nectar of Ye Gods of Top Hats and Monocles.

              If I am drinking gin, limes and tonics are a must.

              1. Niet, niet, wadka es fine en da martini.

                It’s my favorite, right after gin.

              2. Squeeze a lime into a double shot glass, add a healthy amount of sea salt, top with chilled gin, perfect summer drink.

        2. Vodka on days that end with the letters ‘d’, ‘a’ and ‘y’, and gin on everyday that ends with ‘d’, ‘a’ and ‘y’.

          In its raw form, I’m a bit more fond of gin. But then I love both the taste and aroma of juniper.

          1. I go both ways, so to speak, but I think I also prefer gin.

    2. Also, if you ever decide to travel to Eastern Europe, let me know. Liquor in UKR is remarkably cheap, and boasts very fine vodkas.

      However, they are possibly cracking down on alcohol sales in the evening.

      1. Seems like no matter where you go in this world, there are always a bunch of assholes sitting around thinking up things to ban.

        1. MEh. I had no illusions that UKR-landia (or Euro-landia in general) would ever be mistaken as some sort of Libertopia, but so far, I find it very agreeable. They, as well as Russia, have gone FULL METAL BAN on cigarette smoking as well, and both countries, unfortunately, do have higher rates of alcoholism than the US does.

        2. Also, SLD on cigarette smoking bans.

  11. OT-

    Tip a glass for a champion.

    The oldest living Eclipse award winner has passed. Lord Avie(PDF) was the best two year old in 1980. Two Grade 1 wins, five Grade 1 seconds, never worse than third in 16 races before an injury sent him to the breeding shed.

    Here’s an excellent piece about the trainer and his horse.

  12. OK, at the bottom of page 2 you quote/paraphrase the union rep about the “real motivation for no privatization”, after you last quoted him on page 1. Very sloppy. A person who’s not reading carefully would probably think it’s the free market think tank guy, who would have more credibility since he’s not trying to deflect blame as the union guy is.

  13. Private Liquor stores? You people are truly living in the promised land.

    1. California has had private liquor stores as long as I’ve been alive. It helps, but it hardly makes it the promised land.

  14. I think, in their origin, state-run liquor stores are an example of socialism working as intended. Prohibition proving to be a non-starter, dry legislators said, “OK, at least let’s make hard liquor less accessible and more expensive. Why not make it a state monopoly?”

  15. No love for limoncello? My wife has a carboy working in our cellar, should be ready by March.

    1. Made some last winter in anticipation of long summer days of working outside and mowing the lawn.

      Drank one shot of it in late May and decided it was a girly drink unfit for a strapping he-man like myself. A week later, a 2 liter bottle of the stuff was gone.

      A dangerous game, making limoncello.

      1. My wife lives dangerously. 100 proof when it’s done.

  16. Dude seems to be talking a LOT of smack. Wow.

  17. Is it too late to get in on the booze thread?

    Obviously, you’re all wrong, and there’s only one right way to do a martini. Gin, with vermouth, stirred. You can garnish with an olive or a piece of lemon peel. If you don’t think you like vermouth, stop buying cheap shit, use a fresh bottle, and keep it in the fridge. If you don’t want vermouth, order a chilled gin in an up glass with an olive, no one will make fun of you for it. Just don’t call it a martini.

    Got an “age your own rye” kit for Christmas, it looks to be pretty epic. 3 liter wooden keg, 3 liters of 62.5% rye (perfectly clear, looks like shine). Age it for 3 – 5 months, then cut it with distilled water down to a more reasonable percentage. Can’t wait to get that going.

  18. We’ve got drug pushers fighting government to keep their monopoly on selling drugs to the public. Sounds like a drug cartel to me. Why not go after the leaders as the drug kingpins they are, and put them in jail for life?

    Oh yea, it’s OK if the government does it.

    I wonder what social conservatives think of government when it has the monopolies on gambling and drugs. Why aren’t the Democrat union leaders promoting a government monopoly on prostitution as well?

  19. Wait a minute…. There are no private liquor stores in Pennsylvania? Only government stores? Am I reading this right?

  20. Vereb is one of the House Republicans’ top fundraisers and made no bones about the support he receives from the UFCW, but he said contributions from any source do not dictate his views on policymaking.

  21. the union must rely on more than just Democratic support to keep privatization proposals at bay. SohbetChat

  22. Young lives in Vereb’s district. SohbetSohbet Odalar?

  23. a conglomerate of many smaller trade unions, to determine which candidates to support.Sohbet SiteleriChat Siteleri

  24. Democrats more often score better than Republicans. G?zel S?zler?ark? S?zleri

  25. all to privatize the state-owned liquor monopoly.SohbetChat

  26. Anything else dooms you to irrelevancy.-D Mynet SohbetMynet Sohbet

  27. But there is another connection between Young and Vereb that helps explain the high level of contributions to the Republican representative. Film izleDizi izle

  28. They like Sundays off and know that all those potential Sunday sales will decoy into the store right before closing time Saturday anyhow. SohbetSohbet Odalar?

  29. Taking contributions from anyone doesn’t determine my vote. OyunMirc indir

  30. Democrats more often score better than Republicans, but we support candidates on both sides. R?ya TabirleriYemek Tarifleri

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