UFCW Fined for Misreporting Terrible Anti-Privatization TV Ads

Pennsylvania’s Liquor Control Board (PLCB) has persistently generated corruption scandals as it manages the state-run liquor system. Now, the loudest advocate for retaining this inefficient and unpopular artifact of Prohibition has similarly run afoul of state law.

The Pennsylvania State Ethics Committee recently ruled that the union representing state wine and spirits store employees, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776 (UFCW 1776), violated lobbying disclosure requirements.

This topic may sound familiar. Back in 2015, CF warned that UFCW 1776 underrepresented their political activities (which are funded through taxpayer-collected membership dues). Not only did president Wendell Young IV fail to register as a lobbyist – despite admittedly lobbying – but the union funded an anti-privatization TV campaign and refused to claim it as a political lobbying expense.

 As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported at the time:

State law requires lobbying interests to report the cost of messages that “encourage others [to take steps that will] directly influence legislative action.” But Mr. Young said the ads were “representational activity” about contract issues, not lobbying.

“Asking the public to support [state store] members is no different than asking them to support our members at grocery stores,” he said.

The Ethics Committee disagreed.

UFCW 1776 was fined over $15,000 for defying lobbying disclosure requirements. It turns out, those anti-privatization ads were, indeed, political and should have been filed as such.

The real victims, however, are Pennsylvanians. UFCW’s ads fought privatization on the grounds it would harm children, yet a recent report shows that the percentage of alcohol-related driving fatalities actually increased from 2014-15, in contrast to a decrease in the national average. Also troubling is the increase in young children trying and even regularly drinking alcohol. The state-system continues to fail state families on all accounts.

The PLCB and the UFCW 1776 have joined forces in violating state ethics. Unfortunately, it’s consumers and all Pennsylvanians who pay the price.