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August 26, 2013 | By | Posted in WatchBlog

WATCHBLOG: Yuengling CEO says PA should change alcohol laws, become right-to-work

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

HARRISBURG – Dick Yuengling, said Monday he would like to sell “Lager” in grocery stores.

Yuengling is CEO of the prominent Pennsylvania brewery, which has been in his family for six generations.

He told a crowd of reporters and lobbyists at the monthly Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon he wants the state out of the businesses of selling wine and liquor, and he would favor allowing beer sales in supermarkets and other stores, which would be a boon to his own business. But Yuengling said any changes to the state’s alcohol laws should protect beer distributors, the very issue that tangled the effort to privatize Pennsylvania’s wine and liquor stores earlier this year.

AMERICAS OLDEST BREWERY: The head of Yuengling brewery said Monday he'd like to see changes to some state laws regarding alcohol and unions

AMERICAS OLDEST BREWERY: The head of Yuengling brewery said Monday he’d like to see changes to some state laws regarding alcohol and unions

“I don’t support the government being in business. I think they should be private enterprise,” said Yuengling when asked about his thoughts on the state’s alcohol laws. “Everybody has their thumb in the pie for their own good, us included. We’re trying to protect the beer distributors and make sure they’re not harmed by this thing.”

Yuengling said he would like to see lawmakers in Harrisburg approve a measure to make Pennsylvania a “right-to-work state,” because he believes it would help bring jobs to Pennsylvania. Right-to-work states do not require compulsory membership in a union for people working in certain professions.

Neither point of view is necessarily surprising, given Yuengling’s status as a successful businessman, Pennsylvania-based brewer and occasional supporter of Republican campaigns.

Republicans in many states, including Pennsylvania, have pushed right-to-work, but it has never succeeded here. Republicans are also leading the effort to privatize the state’s alcohol laws and allow greater access for consumers, but that effort has been equally fruitless.

Yuengling is worth about $1.3 billion, according to Forbes Magazine, which profiled him in March.

Monday, Yuengling said he did not like the article and denied his reported net worth. He said such value would only be true if he sold the company – and maybe not even then.

“We’re not for sale. Nobody is going to offer me a billion dollars, and if they did I wouldn’t take it,” he said.

Yuengling occasionally gets involved in politics. Campaign finance reports show he has given more than $15,000 to candidates and political action committees since 1998, nearly all of it to Republicans.

And in 2005, the employees at Yuengling’s Pottsville brewery voted to decertify from their local Teamsters union, leading the union to challenge that decision in front of the National Labor Relations Board.

The NLRB eventually allowed the decertification, finding that Yuengling did not pressure employees to leave the union. The Teamsters and AFL-CIO responded with a boycott of Yuengling products.

But despite the union issues, the brand has continued to grow – Yuengling is now available in 14 states – and it seems both Democrats and Republicans love the 184 year-old brewery’s products. In 2012, President Obama declared Yuengling his favorite beer.

Boehm can be reached 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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