Minnesota is one of the few remaining states to prohibit alcohol sales on Sunday, and a labor union is fighting to keep it that way – but not for reasons that have anything to do with the merits of the legislation.
Every year, there is talk of a legislative effort to repeal Minnesota’s ban on Sunday alcohol sales, and every year, the effort fails. Minnesota first banned Sunday alcohol sales in 1858 for religious reasons. The law was renewed in 1933 after prohibition ended, and it has remained the same ever since. The law only prohibits liquor stores from selling alcohol on Sundays – it does not affect alcohol sales in bars or restaurants.
The Minnesota liquor industry opposes Sunday sales because they claim that Sunday sales would result in extra operating expenses without significant additional sales. But the many Minnesotans who drive to Wisconsin to buy alcohol on Sundays seems to undercut that argument.
Another major opponent of Sunday sales in Minnesota is the Teamsters Union. The Teamsters’ opposition to Sunday sales has nothing to do with religion, the health effects of alcohol, or the business of running liquor stores. Instead, the Teamsters oppose the possibility of Sunday sales in Minnesota because a change in law might allow some employers in the liquor industry to reopen their contracts with the Teamsters for bargaining. Last year, the Teamsters lobbied the legislature to prevent any repeal of the Sunday sales ban, and the repeal effort failed.
Advocates of repealing the ban on Sunday sales, on the other hand, argue that: (i) the ban puts Minnesota at a competitive disadvantage to surrounding states and Canada; (ii) repealing the ban would generate an extra $10.6 million in tax revenue for the state; and (iii) repealing the ban would help support the growing craft beer industry in Minnesota. Governor Mark Dayton has previously said that he would sign a bill repealing the law if it was passed by the legislature.
Takeaway: Sometimes labor issues can have broader effects than employer-employee relations. If you feel strongly about the Sunday sales issue in Minnesota – one way or the other – consider contacting your state representatives to let them know how you feel.