Over the past two and a half years, UFCW Locals 23 and 1776 in Pennsylvania have been fighting back against efforts to privatize state liquor stores. This past week, both locals were able to secure a victory when the Pennsylvania Senate failed to move the liquor privatization bill forward. This means that over 3,500 UFCW members will keep their jobs.
According to Wendell Young, President of UFCW Local 1776, success was due in large part to coordination across both locals and other groups within Pennsylvania.
“Everyone acted in unison. It was a great effort with Local 23. We absolutely worked as one unit on this. This was the largest member mobilization ever. The ability for everyone to become easily and actively involved was the key to success. If there was one thing that made the difference, it’s our members. They were our greatest strength.”
UFCW members lobbied at the Capitol in Harrisburg every single day during the session. Some often drove hours across Pennsylvania, arriving with spouses, children, and neighbors to help convince legislators that liquor privatization was the wrong direction for the commonwealth.
UFCW Local 1776 member Rob Peters, a Wine Specialist and Shop Steward in the Ardmore, Pa., PA Wine & Spirits store said, “Our stores generate more than $700 million a year for the state treasury. UFCW members keep alcohol out of the hands of minors and visibly intoxicated people. We take pride in our jobs.”
In addition to lobbying, members from UFCW Locals 23 and 1776 wrote letters to the editor, called in to TV shows, and held multiple strategy sessions every week. All of this helped to educate and re-educate members about the issue and guarantee that the debate stayed visible to the public.
To help financially support their campaign, members donated an extra $5 per paycheck to help put together a multi-million dollar fund. This went towards producing advertisements and hiring lobbyists to help make their case to state legislators.
As the session came to a close last week, the effort to privatize the liquor industry faced bipartisan opposition. The ability for the UFCW to gain support from both Democrats and Republicans underscored the success and effectiveness of their messaging and mobilization campaign.
Liquor privatization efforts are expected to resume in the fall legislative session but members are ready and optimistic to continue the fight.