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May 2, 2013 | By | Posted in WatchBlog

WATCHBLOG: Liquor store union announces anti-privatization advertising push

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

HARRISBURG – The liquor privatization battle is hitting the airwaves and coming straight to your living room.

This afternoon, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Angela Couloumbis reports that the union representing many of the workers in Pennsylvania’s state-owned-and-operated liquor stores is readying a television and radio advertising push intended to squash the liquor privatization bill in the state Senate:

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1776, headed by Wendell W. Young IV, will start airing a tough ad statewide that calls Corbett’s privatization push a “reckless scheme” that will raise taxes, cost thousands of jobs and “destroy small businesses.”

Not only that, the ad alleges, but the administration’s “reckless scheme will put alcohol on every street corner and increase crime.”

The ad, which will air on both television and radio starting Friday, will be up as long as the Senate continues debate on a bill that would gradually close Pennsylvania’s 600-plus State Stores while allowing private entrepreneurs – starting with beer distributors — to sell wine and hard liquor. 

There’s no way to judge the accuracy of the ad until it actually hits the airwaves, but it will be interesting to see how the union can explain that 1,200 licenses – which the bill would create – can count as “alcohol on every street corner,” as Young told Couloumbis.

And this hasn’t been a particularly good week for the liquor bill, which faced an unrelenting stream of opposition on Tuesday morning during the first of three scheduled hearings before the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

Still, state Sen. Charles McIllhinney, R-Bucks, who chairs the committee, says he intends to move a privatization plan to the Senate floor before the end of June, though he said Tuesday it will not be the same as the version passed by the state House in late March.

And proponents of privatization are on the air too – a conservative campaign group is funding ads encouraging constituents to call McIllhinney and voice support for the privatization bill.

Polls show a majority of people in the state favor privatizing the liquor stores, but staunch union opposition means there will likely be no Democratic votes in the Senate in favor of doing so, just as there were zero Democratic votes for the proposal in the state House.

Boehm can be contacted at Eric@PAIndependent.com and follow @PAIndependent on Twitter for more.

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Eric Boehm is a reporter for PA Independent. He can be reached at Eric@PAIndependent.com or at (717) 350-0963.

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