On Wednesday, January 30, Governor Tom Corbett announced his plans to privatize Pennsylvania's wine and spirits stores at an event in Pittsburgh, PA. The plan would close the 620 current stores and put 3000 union workes out of jobs. The licenses would be auctioned off, mainly to 'big box' stores, with some of the money going to public education. Convenience and grocery stores would also be able to sell beer. The plan has critics on both sides of the aisle, but the loudest is coming from labor.
"There is absolutely no good reason to let this governor dismantle a valuable, publicly-held asset that delivers for consumers and the entire state. Our members will vigorously oppose this plan. We will work with the members of dozens of groups across the state; who agree that this is a reckless scheme that threatens jobs, $500 million a year in revenue to the state, and public safety in every community in our Commonwealth,” said Union of Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776 President Wendell Young III. State AFL-CIO President Bloomingdale echoed this in a statement, "It doesn’t serve the best interests of the taxpayers, consumers, or the working families of Pennsylvania." Pennsylvania State Education Association President Mike Crossey, while glad to hear that the funding crisis in public education is being addressed, he questions the plan, "It’s nice that the governor has acknowledged that he created a school funding crisis, but our students shouldn’t have to count on liquor being available on every corner in order to have properly funded schools.”
On February 15, the review plan to privatize the managment of the State's lottery system is to be complete, and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 13 is continuing to pursue legal challenges. Their latest is based on a 1982 case that suggests that the privatization plane would need to go through the legislature.
On Tuesday, Feb 5th, the Governor announces his budget, and an analysis will follow. The budget, according to State AFL-CIO President Richard Bloomingdale, includes a false choice on pensions versus education funding. State AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Snyder adds, "The Governor knew that these obligations were going to have to be met, but instead of making the right decision and the more prudent choice he is now trying to scapegoat school teachers, firefighters, nurses and public employees. This is a manufactured crisis to scare people into believing there are only false choices when there are reasonable and fair choices that protect pensions and make the needed investments in education and social services."