Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Backers of Privatization Bristle as Liquor Clerks OK 3-Year Pact

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Backers of Privatization Bristle as Liquor Clerks OK 3-Year Pact

Article excerpt

The union for Pennsylvania liquor store clerks has inked a contract guaranteeing them work for three more years that it says could kill liquor privatization -- but the Corbett administration disagrees, saying the pact would be voided if the state got out of the business.

The United Food and Commercial Workers agreed to a contract Sunday for 3,500 of its workers with a clause requiring any entity taking over liquor or wine sales from the state to hire displaced union workers and pay them contracted wages, insurance and pension benefits. It extends through July 1, 2015.

"This puts [privatization] off to another day, and that day's three years or more down the road," said Wendell Young IV, the chairman of the union's PA Wines and Spirits Council.

A spokesman for Gov. Tom Corbett responded that the clause "has zero bearing on privatization efforts."

"You can't force a private employer to abide by that contract," spokesman Kevin Harley said. "If the Legislature passes a law privatizing the Liquor Control Board, that's the idea of it: It gets the state out of it. Private sector workers are not state workers with generous wages, benefits and pensions."

Mr. Harley said the union leader was mistaken. "This is wishful thinking on Wendell Young's part," he said.

The clause is not new. When lawyers for former Gov. Tom Ridge -- another Republican foe of state-run liquor stores -- went into contract negotiations with the UFCW in the 1990s, it was the major sticking point between the two sides, the union leader said.

"We went seven years without a contract while fighting about this very clause. It was the only thing we fought about," Mr. Young said. For the new contract under the Corbett administration, he said, "we expected a fight under the circumstances, but they opted not to change anything. …

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