By Stan Friedman
SAN FRANCISCO, CA (October 6, 2011) – Walter Contreras, director of outreach and Hispanic church planting for the Pacific Southwest Conference, is one of many signatories to a petition by religious leaders asking California Gov. Jerry Brown to sign a bill that would ban alcohol sales through self-serve checkout machines in California.
Currently, the self-serve machines are supposed to “lock out” any purchase of alcohol until a store clerk checks the purchaser’s identification, but recent studies have demonstrated that the system often breaks down, say supporters of the bill.
Research over the past few years from UCLA and San Diego State University shows that self-checkout machines failed to operate properly almost 10 percent of the time when alcohol was scanned. Furthermore, up to 32 percent of the test cases, students were not asked to show identification.
Metro United Methodist Urban Ministry has reported that a study they conducted found young people were able to “game” the self-checkout system almost 70 percent of the time by scanning a 12-pack of soda and bagging a 12-pack of beer.
Contreras cites those studies as a reason for the proposed law and helping to explain why the religious leaders are calling for the governor to sign the bill. “Our responsibility as a society is to help the least among us, and this is the least the governor can do to control teen drinking,” he says.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among youth ages 15 to 20, and the rate of fatal crashes among alcohol-involved drivers between 16 and 20 years old is more than twice the rate for alcohol-involved drivers 21 and older. Alcohol use also is linked with youthful deaths by drowning, suicide, and homicide.
In addition to the inter-faith alliance of religious leaders, other supporters of the bill include MADD, Consumer Federation of California, California Council on Alcohol Problems (CalCap), California Police Chiefs, California Narcotic Officers Association, Metro United Methodist Urban Ministry, California’s Police Officers, and California Professional Firefighters.
While the legislation is aimed at making it harder for teenagers to buy beer, wine and liquor, supporters said it is also about saving the jobs of store clerks.
“If we all went to self-checkout, we’d lose good jobs and communities,” Jeff Ferro, a field campaign coordinator for the United Food and Commercial Workers union, told the Los Angeles Times. The union has been trying to organize workers at 127 California stores operated by the Fresh & Easy supermarket chain, which offer only self-serve lanes.
Opponents of the bill say such comments only confirm their contention that the bill is more about forcing stores to hire more people and forcing companies to recognize unions.