Privatizing liquor sales — ‘hangover’ on the horizon?

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PLBC members have two principal concerns with privatization, Flood said: (1) increased accessibility of liquor through increases in retail sales outlets in areas that don’t need more liquor availability; and, (2) the impact on jobs now held by state workers employed by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, the state agency in charge of wholesale and retail liquor sales and liquor law regulation.

While a finalized privatization plan is not in place as yet, proposals call for replacing the 600 state stores with at least 1,200 new private liquor sale stores statewide plus allowing the sale of liquor and wines in existing supermarkets, convenience stores, pharmacies like Rite-Aid, big-box stores and beer distributors that purchase proper licenses.
Proposals also call for eliminating 3,200 of the PLCB jobs in retail (state stores) and wholesale operations. One study on privatization conducted for Pa’s Office of the Budget stated “separation costs” related to just unemployment compensation and paid leave involving the furloughed PLCB workers “will be significant.”

That study released in October 2011 estimated $68.2-million in just unemployment compensation payments between 2014 and 2017 for the 2,302 PLCB workers anticipated to seek unemployment compensation due to difficulties with obtaining other employment.

“Governor Corbett promised [PLBC] workers first crack at jobs in government and private stores,” PLCB Director Flood said. “However, this governor has established a track record of reneging on pledges.”

That state Budget Office privatization study noted that state government hiring freezes and other budgetary restrictions are “key challenges to placing a significant” number of furloughed PLCB employees in other state government slots. Compounding those challenges is the fact that opportunities for possible state government job slots for PLCB workers are better in the Philadelphia/Pittsburgh/Harrisburg areas with significantly less options available in rural counties, that study stated.

Gov. Corbett and his supporters of privatization inside and outside of state government argue that increasing the number of outlets selling liquor will translate into increases in employment opportunities for furloughed PLCB workers and other job seekers.

That rosy picture of more jobs is dimmed by findings in that state study detailing how the salaries now earned by PLCB state store workers will not be matched in privately owned stores. For example, a PLCB cashier earns $31,200 yearly, while private sector cashiers working in New Jersey earn $20,070 and $21,070 in Maryland.

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