Public policy issues are best resolved when they remain open to an honest debate. Weighing the pros and cons of any particular issue is always good for the people of Pennsylvania, as well as parties with a vested interest.
However, no matter what the issue or how passionate those involved may feel, this discourse should never cross the line to dishonesty and disrespect. Unfortunately, when it comes to discussions on reforming the state’s system for selling alcohol, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776 union has proven time and time again that they do not believe that these rules apply to them.
In what can only be described as a tasteless ploy to retain total control over the state’s system for selling alcohol, the UFCW recently released an ad claiming that Pennsylvania businesses that are interested in selling alcohol would be willing to trade the life of a child in favor of their own “greed.” Despite being baseless and irresponsible, this claim is a slap to the face of every business owner and operator in Pennsylvania, many of whom have children themselves.
The ad’s primary attack on these businesses states that “it only takes a little bit of greed to kill a child” — implying that private stores would carelessly sell alcohol to underage young people. There are no circumstances under which these types of comments are acceptable, and even those who support the UFCW position on this issue should be appalled by the accusation.
While everyone should be disgusted by the UFCW’s message and scare tactics, the fact they have opted to go to such extremes with this ad only goes to show that even they realize how much public support is behind efforts to release their leadership’s stranglehold on the state’s liquor system.
Each day, more and more consumers are making it abundantly clear that they want to be afforded the same convenience and choice that is offered in 48 other states. They see through the facade and are smart enough to know that despite the UFCW claims, consumer convenience and public safety are not mutually exclusive when it comes to alcohol sales.
The reality is that many states operating under a consumer-friendly system are among those with the nation’s lowest levels of alcohol-related traffic deaths. A 2013 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report shows that 29 other states have a lower percentage of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities than Pennsylvania.
If so many other states have found ways to effectively enforce their laws and safely protect residents in an open system, then Pennsylvania certainly can, too. In fact, moving away from the state’s current system would enable the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to focus solely on its appropriate role of enforcement — a step that will only help promote public safety. Who can argue against that?
Consumers have made it clear that they want a system that provides reasonable access to alcohol in a convenient manner, and businesses seek to safely and responsibly provide consumers with the products they want. With these correlating interests, the environment is certainly ripe for change.
The public pressure is building, and the leadership at the UFCW is feeling it now more than ever before. Consumers should continue their push for convenience and choice and finally bring Pennsylvania out from beneath the 80-year-old shadow of prohibition.
Sam Denisco is vice president of government affairs for the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.