Big companies’ alcohol shipping bill hurts mom-and-pop outlets

A variety of liquor brands on the shelves of a store in Orange County. (Photo: Tonelson Productions, via Shutterstock)

In the latest move by out-of-state corporations and logistics empires like Amazon to increase profits over people and crush the little man, large liquor suppliers are pushing legislation in California that would allow them to ship alcohol direct to consumers.

Senate Bill 620, to be heard in committee on Tuesday, will have far-reaching impacts, not only threatening the jobs of up to 10,000 employees, many of them teamsters, who work in wholesale, but also the jobs of employees at the more than 38,000 local retail stores, restaurants and bars that will be impacted by DTC through reduced sales.

At the same time, it seeks to undercut the growing locally distilled spirits industry that has only recently started to gain traction in California.

Big, out-of-state companies are alarmed by recent consumer trends toward smaller, locally distilled beverage offerings.

I am one of the Teamsters union employees. I work directly with stores across my region and my job would be placed in jeopardy under the proposed legislation. I am a steward for suppliers to help them grow their business, build their brands and reach new customers. I play a critical role in lifting up the locally distilled spirits industry that is invested in communities across the Golden State.

Now, gigantic, out-of-state companies alarmed by recent consumer trends toward smaller, locally distilled beverage offerings are looking to undercut the nascent market and pad their profits by selling direct to consumers online.

When you purchase a bottle from the shelf, you’re not just supporting the mom-and-pop market next door. Your purchase benefits thousands of California workers who help get your bottle to the store, from the docks to the warehouse to the truck – well-paying, quality jobs with benefits and one of the few remaining industries with high union density. By purchasing from local retailers and local brands, you are investing in your own community.

The current distribution infrastructure makes direct-to-consumer sales unnecessary in California.

Local businesses source locally, sponsor the Little League, adopt highways and show up for clean-ups at the park. They are entrenched in and responsive to the needs of their communities because they are a part of the fabric of that community. Large liquor companies that will benefit under the proposal simply don’t have those same deep ties to the local neighborhoods or the same interest in helping them succeed.

Large liquor companies don’t have families or children here, and they aren’t concerned with preventing underage drinking the same way local community members are. SB 620 directly increases the likelihood of underage access, with little to no age verification. When direct-to-consumer sales do try to verify age, they are only successful half of the time.

The current distribution infrastructure also makes direct-to-consumer sales unnecessary in California. With a network of thousands of drivers across the state, consumers can already get the distilled spirit they choose in a matter of hours.

My father spent his entire career working in the Teamsters union, my brother works for Teamsters, and for the past eight-and-a-half years I have worked as a Teamster. Our family has depended upon the quality, pay and benefits of these jobs that have now become so scarce. It is how we have been able to build our lives here, establish our families here and spend our money here.

California Legislators should follow the lead of other states and reject this drastic move by out-of-state conglomerates to put thousands of California workers and small businesses – representing more than $3.2 billion in overall economic impact — out of work.

On behalf of my peers and the small, local businesses we serve, I call on the Senate Governmental Organization Committee to vote the bill down when it is heard in their committee this Tuesday.

Editor’s Note: Trevor Cooke is a Teamster Member and direct store delivery store representative for Republic National Distributing Company.

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