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Labor continues to lobby legislators for the defeat of anti-union legislation

03.28.14

APRIL 2014, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Labor continues to lobby legislators for the defeat of anti-union legislation

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, March 20th- The labor community continues to lobby legislators against a proposal that if passed would ban payroll deduction clauses in labor agreements in all levels of governments. The attempt includes contacting union members at their homes by phone and requesting they call their state representatives requesting they not support the legislation.

Anti-union groups have spent thousands of dollars on mailings and lobbying to attempt to get House Bill (HB 1507) and Senate Bill (SB 1034) passed by the legislature that would prohibit the payroll deduction of union members and fair-share fees of government workers. Should the legislation pass, the bill will force unions to represent non-members without any meaningful way to collect fees for the service of representation.

House Bill 1507 is being called by anti-union forces the “Payroll Protection” bill. The groups have been claiming, without facts, that taxpayers are paying for union dues collection for public employees and that teachers and state workers are being forced to contribute to political and legislative activism.

However, automatic payroll deduction of union dues is not mandated by any law rather it is bargained for during labor contract negotiations, the same as any other provision within a collective bargaining agreement.

Corporate interests are now working in Harrisburg to get commitments from legislators on the legislation.

The anti-union group, the Commonwealth Foundation, has falsely stated in newspaper editorials publiched across the state, that union households agree that taxpayer resources should not be used to collect political campaign contributions.

However, under the terms and conditions of the collective bargaining agreements between labor organizations and governments in Pennsylvania, any financial cost occured by any government for the collection of political contributions by union members is eimbursed by the union. The Commonwealth Foundation is stating union households agree with them that the paycheck protection legislation would empower individual public workers to have greater control over how their money is spent on politics.

But, before money contributions are deducted for political purposes by any labor organization in Pennsylvania, the individual public employee must first sign a authorization card requesting the contribution be taken from their paycheck. Meaning, the claim made by the Commonwealth Foundation is inaccurate.

The Pennsylvania American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Harrisburg is optimistic that the anti-union groups that are financing the campaign the pass the anti-union legislation will not be successful as many state legislators have indicated they do not support HB 1507 and SB 1034.

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Richard Bloomingdale stated the bills are designed to destroy negotiated payroll deductions, and are a part of a national right-wing, anti-union campaign brought to Pennsylvania by out-of-state corporate interests, to weaken unions by denying workers their voice on the job.

Mr. Bloomingdale added that the big money anti-union groups appear to have a duel objective, to pass legislation that will significantly hamper public employee unions; and to use this as a litmus test for anti-union legislation they wish to target in the future.

President Bloomingdale is a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union, which represents thousands of workers employed in local, state, and county governments in Pennsylvania.

If the legislation became law all other paycheck deductions, such as donations to the United Way, the purchasing of U.S. Savings Bonds, pension contributions, and all others, would still be allowed. Therefore, the legislation would only ban the automatic paycheck deduction of a workers’ union dues.

Iron Workers representative confused by union hatred

03.28.14

APRIL 2014, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Iron Workers representative confused by union hatred

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, March 13th- Gary Martin, Business Manager of the Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union Local 420, which represents Iron Workers members in the Lehigh Valley, “sounded-off” on why any worker would support anti-union legislation in Harrisburg that would help decrease their standard of living. Mr. Martin is also a Vice-President on the Pennsylvania State Building and Construction Trades Council in Harrisburg.

“I do have a hard time understanding, especially with the record disparity between the wealthy and the poor in our country, how any average worker can be against an opportunity to belong to an organization of other workers who together bargain for a better wage and benefit plan from the employer without fear of repercutions,” said Mr. Martin.

Mr. Martin believes one of the main reasons union membership today is down is because jobs have left the nation including those within related industries like tire manufacturers, appliances, plastics, and chemicals.

Mr. Martin stated people who hate labor unions would have people believe that its the fault of the labor community that manufacturing jobs have left the country. He said they would like you to think that unions got too greedy and the jobs left.

“I’d say the more realistic reason is that while we were busy rebuilding Europe and Japan under the Marshall Plan after World War II, corporate America didn’t invest in our industry at home. So, when the rest of the world was rebuilt and modernized, America was 20 years behind. Along with our lopsided trade deals and outdated industrial base, corporate America left America,” Mr. Martin stated.

Local 420 is affiliated with the Building and Construction Trades Council of the Lehigh Valley. Jim Reilley, the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Union Local 542 Business Representative, is president of the labor federation.

Lehigh Valley’s unemployment rate decreases to 6.8 percent

03.28.14

APRIL 2014, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Lehigh Valley’s unemployment rate decreases to 6.8 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, March 20th- According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Center for Workforce Information and Analysis in Harrisburg, the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 6.8 percent, decreasing by four-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. The Metropolitan Statistical Area includes Lehigh, Northampton, and Carbon Counties of Pennsylvania and Warren County, New Jersey. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was at 8.7 percent.

There are fourteen MSA’s in Pennsylvania and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the fourth highest unemployment rate.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA continues to have the highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 8.1 percent. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has had the highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania for nearly four consecutive years. The Johnstown MSA has the second highest unemployment rate at 7.6 percent, and the Philadelphia MSA and the Williamsport MSA are tied for third at 6.9 percent.

The main reason the MSA’s unemployment rate dropped was because of the decline of the workforce when long-term out-of-work civilians lost their unemployment benefits after Washington failed to extend the benefit. Therefore, the civilian labor-force has dropped because long-termed unemployed workers are no longer counted.

The Lebanon MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.0 percent. The State College MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.1 percent, and the Lancaster MSA is third at 5.2 percent.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 6.4 percent, dropping by four-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report, and decreasing by one and four-tenths percentage points from twelve months before.

There are 411,000 Pennsylvania residents without jobs, but that number does not include residents that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and stopped looking for work. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted workforce of 6,416,000 and 6,005,000 of them have employment.

The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was reported to be 6.6 percent, dropping by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report, also mainly because of workers that have exhausted their unemployment benefits because Washington did not pass legislation that would have extended benefits for the long-termed jobless. The national unemployment rate was down one and three-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before.

There are 10,236,000 civilians nationwide without employment but that number also does not include workers that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and stopped looking for work.

The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force in Pennsylvania with 429,000 civilians, decreasing by 9,000 during the past twelve months. There are 29,100 recorded civilians without employment. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest seasonally adjusted labor force at 2,968,400 with 204,700 not working; and the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor force at 1,243,900 with 74,100 without jobs.

Carbon County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 7.1 percent, decreasing by seven-tenths of a percentage point from the month before.

Lehigh County has the lowest unemployment rate within the MSA at 6.3 percent, dropping by eight-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report.

Northampton County has a unemployment rate of 6.5 percent, decreasing by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report.

IBT/UPS contract still not yet ratified by membership

03.28.14

APRIL 2014, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

IBT/UPS contract still not yet ratified by membership

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, March 19th- More than eight months after the national bargaining committee of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union and officials of the United Parcel Services (UPS) Inc., a national package delivery company, reached agreement on a new five-year Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) some members of the union have yet to ratified the successor pact, delaying its implementation.

The IBT represents approximately 249,000 of the 323,000 UPS employees, including full and part-time workers. Around 245,000 of those are covered by the master contract agreement between the company and the union.

In June 2013 the two parties agreed to a new five-year national master CBA that included wage increases as well as health and pension benefits.

However, after the national master agreement was ratified, sixteen regional supplements must then be approved by the rank-and-file membership throughout the nation. The supplement agreements cover mostly the regional healthcare benefit packages between the IBT members and UPS. Therefore, the supplements must be negotiated separately and approved by the rank-and-file before the CBA can take effect.

According to Patrick Connors, a member of the IBT/UPS National Negotiating Committee, which negotiated the new pact, there are several regional supplements that have not yet been ratified by the rank-and-file which is causing the delay in the implementation of the terms and conditions of the new contract.

A UPS driver told the newspaper, who requested his name not be published, that many of his co-workers are disappointed that the new pact is taking so long to be ratified, but the good news is they will receive a big retro-active back-pay check after everything gets “ironed-out”.

IBT Local 773 in Allentown represents UPS/IBT workers throughout the Lehigh Valley. The Central Region supplement covers the Lehigh Valley UPS workers and was ratified by the membership last year.

IBT/UPS contract still not yet ratified by membership

03.25.14

MARCH 2014, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

IBT/UPS contract still not yet ratified by membership

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 2nd- More than eight months after the national bargaining committee of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union and officials of the United Parcel Services (UPS) Inc., a national package delivery company, reached agreement on a new five-year Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) some members of the union have yet to ratified the successor pact, delaying its implementation.

The IBT represents approximately 249,000 of the 323,000 UPS employees, including full and part-time workers. Around 245,000 of those are covered by the master contract agreement between the company and the union.

In June 2013 the two parties agreed to a new five-year national master CBA that included wage increases as well as health and pension benefits.

However, after the national master agreement was ratified, sixteen regional supplements must then be approved by the rank-and-file membership throughout the nation. The supplement agreements cover mostly the regional healthcare benefit packages between the IBT members and UPS. Therefore, the supplements must be negotiated separately and approved by the rank-and-file before the CBA can take effect.

According to Patrick Connors, Secretary/Treasurer/Business Representative and Principal Officer of IBT Local 401, in Wilkes-Barre, and a member of the IBT/UPS National Negotiating Committee, which negotiated the new pact, there are several regional supplements that have not yet been ratified by the rank-and-file which is causing the delay in the implementation of the terms and conditions of the contract.

A UPS driver told the newspaper, who requested his name not be published, that many of his co-workers are disappointed that the new pact is taking so long to be ratified, but the good news is they will receive a big retro-active back-pay check.

03.25.14

MARCH 2014, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

Nonunion Cinram Inc. to cut 20 percent of workforce

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 4th- The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry has been notified that Cinram Group Inc., which operates a facility in Olyphant, Lackawanna County, will cut its workforce by approximately 100 workers. The compact disks (CD) and DVD manufacturing plant was purchased out of bankruptcy by Najafi Inc., a private equity firm which owns the Skymall and Direct Brands. The building itself was not included in the purchase agreement and Cinram has been leasing the facility. However, it has been announced that Cinram’s new owners is going to purchase the building and the surrounding property.

The plant currently employs around 475 permanent employees.

The lay-offs are considered “permanent” and the company will provide a monetary severance package to the employees based on the years of employment.

Ronald Vogel Jr., Regional Representative of the Labor and Industry, Workforce Partnership and Operations Rapid Response Coordination Service, stated many of the workers were laid-off in 2010 and later returned to work and are already familiar with what programs are available through the Rapid Response Program, which meets with laid-off workers and discusses with them how to apply for unemployment benefits and other services for jobless workers.

Mr. Vogel said that the workers are also covered under the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program which provides additional help for workers who lose their jobs because of trade.

The company stated the intention of the reduction of the workforce is to bring it in line with the actual consistent workload of the plant. The hours worked for the remaining employees should be a more sustainable level.

The salary level of the impacted production and warehousing employees varies from around $12.00 an hour to $14.00 an hour for lower seniority less skilled positions to $15.00 an hour to $17.00 an hour for more skilled production workers with process technicians and maintenance technicians earning between $19.00 an hour to $21.00 an hour.

The plant was previously known as WEA. Built in the early 1970’s the facility first manufactured vinyl records. However, the plant changed over to the manufacturing of CD’s in the 1980’s and sold off the vinyl record manufacturing equipment.

The plant workers were never represented by a labor organization.

Tastykake celebrates 100 years, now with unionized workers

03.25.14

MARCH 2014, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

Tastykake celebrates 100 years, now with unionized workers

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 2nd- The Philadelphia bakery Tastykake recently marked its 100th year anniversary in business by introducing a new product and giving out free treats. The company is headquartered in the Germantown section of South Philadelphia.

According to a press released the bakery made only 100 cakes on its first day 100 years ago and now produces around 5 million a day including cakes, doughnuts, cookies, and pies. In the past several years the company built a new baking facility at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

The Philadelphia Baking Company merged in 2011 with the Georgia based Flowers Foods Inc. and currently approximately 750 people are employed at the bakery. In 2010 the company employed around 870 workers overall.

The people that deliver products to stores and businesses purchase their trucks from the company and operate as owners buying their routes like franchise owners. However, drivers that drove the trucks over-the-rode were represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 115. Also, the bakery maintenance workers are represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 98, but the company always made their products with nonunion workers.

For many years the bakery workers resisted union organizing attempts believing they were already being treated fairly and in no need of being represented by a labor organization.

However, in the early mid-2000’s the company was struggling financially because of poor management and feared for their jobs when the company was moving into the new plant that aroused concerns about seniority and employment security among the workers.

In 2010 the Tastykake workers voted to be represented for the purpose of collective bargaining by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTWGM) International Union Local 492 in Philadelphia.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia conducted the representation election on August 11th, 2010. The workers voted 149 for representation of Local 492 to 72 against.

During first-time contract negotiations one of the important issues included the placing the union label on company products, which now appears on cupkakes and other bakery goods.

Most food service workers lack access to paid sick days

03.25.14

MARCH 2014, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

Most food service workers lack access to paid sick days

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 3rd- According to a new study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), that conducts research to address women needs and families, less than twenty-four percent of employees in food preparation and serving related occupations have access to paid sick days while on their job.

Also, the IWPR findings indicate that less than thirty-one percent of workers in personal care and service providing occupations have access to sick days with pay.

“Workers who have close contact with the public, such as home care aides and restraurant workers, rarely have access to paid sick days. Expanding access to this important benefit is in everyone’s interest,” stated Barbara Gault, Vice President and Executive Director of IWPR.

The analysis found that access to paid days at work is unequally distributed across the population, with substantial differences by race/ethnicity, occupation, earnings, and employment status.

The organization reviewed the National Health Interview Survey, finding that sixty-one percent of private sector employees had access to paid sick days in 2012, up from fifty-seven percent in 2009, however more than forty-one million workers lacked access.

The study found that American hispanic workers are less likely to have paid sick days than black, white, and asian workers. Only forty-seven percent of hispanic workers have paid sick days, compared with sixty-four percent of white workers, sixty-two percent of black workers, and sixty-six percent of asian workers.

Connecticut in 2011 passed a state-wide paid sick days law and currently, Washington, Vermont, Maryland, Oregon, New Jersey, California, and Illinois legislatures are contemplating similar bills.

AFSCME and Lackawanna County set to begin arbitration

03.24.14

MARCH 2014, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

AFSCME and Lackawanna County set to begin arbitration

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 1st- The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union and Lackawanna County has failed to reach an successor contract agreement and an arbitrator will determine the pact between the parties.

The first arbitration meeting between the parties and the arbitrator is scheduled for March 12th.

AFSCME Local 2736 represents the Correction Officers (CO’s) of the Lackawanna County prison, and they have been without a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) since December 31st, 2012 when the previous pact expired. However, the two parties have been working under the terms and conditions of the expired contract.

AFSCME’s other bargaining unit that represents workers of Lackawanna County voted in the spring of 2013 to extend their agreement for one year which also was slated to expire on December 31st 2012. That unit also is currently working under the terms and conditions of the previous CBA. That agreement covers workers employedwithin the Children and Youth Department of Lackawanna County.

Meanwhile, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Pennsylvania Social Services Union (PSSU), which represents mostly clerical, maintenance, and 911 center workers, also voted in the spring of 2013 to extend their agreement with Lackawann County. Negotiations are underway for the successor CBA between the parties.

Eric Schubert, Business Representative of AFSCME District Council 87, which Local 2736 is affiliated, previously told the newspaper the membership rejected the contract proposals of Lackawanna County which included a huge increase in monthly health insurance costs and other concessionary contract demands.

AFGE losing members at depot because of buy-out program

03.24.14

MARCH 2014, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

AFGE losing members at depot because of buy-out program

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 1st- The Tobyhanna Army Depot workforce continues to get smaller because of the United States Department of Defense cutbacks in spending, changing plans on upgrading facilities and equipment, and the cutback on purchasing, with the withdraw of military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Tobyhanna Army Depot has cut approximately one-third of its workforce during the past several years which resulted in the two labor organizations that represents many of the workers having a decline in membership at the military facility.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Union Local 1647, in Tobyhanna, represents around 2,000 employees at the depot and has lost members because of incentives for workers to take early retirement packages. Under the incentive plan Tobyhanna employees that are at least 50 years old and have 20 years on the job or 25 years of service can receive the federal buyout separation payment.

The depot is Northeastern Pennsylvania’s largest employer and the cutbacks will likely harm the local economy with laid-off employees and those that take the buyout having less money to purchase goods and services.

In late 2012 the depot employed around 5,100 workers counting the employees of subcontractors including those of URS Federal Support Services Inc., a contractor that provides industrial trade and electronics workers. Currently, there are approximately 3,570 employed at the depot.

Many of the sub-contractor workers are represented by the International Association of Machinists (IAM) Union Local Lodge 1717.

The AFGE does not attempt to encouage the employees of contractors to become members of Local 1647. The AFGE will only attempt to get employees that are actually employed by the United States Army to join the union. Union security clauses are forbidden in labor agreements that represent federal government workers. Therefore, a new hire must be approach and encourage to join the union.

While no AFGE member has ever been laid-off at the depot the IAM hasn’t been so lucky.

Of the approximately 400 sub-contractor workers laid-off over the last several years, many of them were Local Lodge 1717 members. At least four phases of lay-offs were conducted during 2013 with Local Lodge 1717 members being cut.

The anti-union CHS getting bigger with buy of health system

03.24.14

MARCH 2014, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

The anti-union CHS getting bigger with buy of health system

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 1st- The Community Health Systems (CHS) Inc., the Tennessee-based largest for-profit hospital chain in the nation, will be getting even bigger after it was announced on February 6th the conglomerate will purchase a western Pennsylvania health system. CHS purchased Sharon Regional Health System which has 1,800 workers making it the largest employer in Mercer County of Pennsylvania.

CHS owns or operates at least 200 hospitals in 29 states including at least eight medical facilities in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

In the previous edition of the newspaper, it was exclusively reported that CHS was hit by a United States District Court Judge in Ohio with a sweeping cease and desist injunction to end its behavior in refusing to bargain with its registered nurses (RN’s) union and engaging in repeated illegal discipline and harassment.

The anti-union CHS was hit by a ruling on January 22nd, by United States District Court Judge John Adams of Northern Ohio District. It was the third injunction within a year against CHS for violations of federal labor law. CHS has been hit with similar injunctions in 2013 in California.

RN’s affiliated with the Wyoming Valley Nurses Association (WVNA), which is an affiliate of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professional Union (PASNAP), has been unsuccessful in gaining a successor Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with CHS, which operates the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital in Wilkes-Barre. The next negotiating meeting between PASNAP and CHS is scheduled for April 8th.

PASNAP members went on strike for one day on December 3rd to protest the lack of progress at the bargaining table for a CBA. CHS responded by hiring scab nurses and locking-out unionized RN’s for a additional two days.

CHS also operates the Regional Hospital of Scranton. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Healthcare Pennsylvania Union, represents nearly 80 percent of the medical center employees including the nurses.

The injunction requires CHS to immediately cease and desist its refusal to recognize and bargain with the National Nurses United, the union which represents the RN’s at the Affinity Medical Center of Massillon, Ohio.

PASNAP has also filed labor complaints against CHS and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office has scheduled a hearing on the complaints for April 1st.

IBEW Local 81 bowling tournament raises funds

03.24.14

MARCH 2014, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

IBEW Local 81 bowling tournament raises funds

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM
REGION, March 2nd- The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 81 in Scranton conducted their annual Toby Joyce Memorial Bowling Tournament on Saturday February 22nd at the South Side Bowling lanes in South Scranton. It was the 12th consecutive year the event had been held.

The event benefits the Friendship House, the region’s only provider of care and mental health treatment for boys and girls with emotional difficulties from toddlers to adolescents.

The Friendship House serves 750 children daily through a full range of programs including, day, evening, and weekend partial hospitalization programs, residential care and tratment, foster care and adoption, outpatient program and services in the home and community.

The organization is also home to the Northeast Regional Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders.

According to Geno Arcurie Jr., Local 81 Membership Development Representative, 125 bowlers participated, slightly less than last years event, which was the most ever.

The tournament raised approximately $4,000.00 that was donated to the Friendship House. This year amount was also a little less than last years tournament. Also, there were 34 lane sponsors.

“We had electrical and building trades unions, electrical contractors, and local businesses that participated by sponsoring a lane,” stated Mr. Arcurie.

Participates came from as far away as Binghamton, New York with Myer Moskovitz, an local bowler, sponsoring 18 bowlers.

“This is a major contributing factor in helping us raise the much needed money for the Friendship House,” added Mr. Arcurie.

Labor continues to lobby legislators for the defeat of anti-union dues check-off legislation

03.24.14

MARCH 2014, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

Labor continues to lobby legislators for the defeat of anti-union dues check-off legislation

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 1st- The labor community continues to lobby Harrisburg legislators against a proposal that if passed would ban payroll deduction clauses in labor agreements in all levels of governments. The attempt includes contacting union members at their homes by phone and requesting they call their state representatives requesting they not support the legislation.

On January 13th the Pennsylvania American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Harrisburg President Richard Bloomingdale held a conference call with national AFL-CIO President Rick Trumka participating, to announce the pending dues deduction legislation being considered in the state capitol.

House Bill (HB 1507) eliminates the payroll deduction of union members and fair-share fees of government workers. Should it pass, the bill will force unions to represent non-members without any meaningful way to collect fees for the service of representation.

House Bill 1507 is being called by anti-union forces the “Payroll Protection” bill. The groups have been claiming, without facts, that taxpayers are paying for union dues collection for public employees and that teachers and state workers are being forced to contribute to political and legislative activism.

However, automatic payroll deduction of union dues is not mandated by any law rather it is bargained for during labor contract negotiations, the same as any other provision within a collective bargaining agreement.

The companion Senate Bill (SB 1034), would also ban the dues check-off from government contracts in Pennsylvania.

Mr. Bloomingdale stated these bills are designed to destroy negotiated payroll deductions, and are a part of a national right-wing, anti-union campaign brought to Pennsylvania by out-of-state corporate interests and their so-called Commonwealth Foundation to weaken unions by denying workers their voice on the job. These proposals are designed to silence all workers in Pennsylvania, Mr. Bloomingdale added. Mr. Bloomingdale is a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union, which represents thousands of workers employed in local, state, and county governments in Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO held a press conference/rally at the Capitol Building rotunda on January 28th, in which more than 1,400 union members and their leaders attended. In fact, many more bus loads of supporters from across the state were not able to participate in the rotunda event because it reached full capacity.

If the legislation became law all other paycheck deductions, such as donations to the United Way, the purchasing of U.S. Savings Bonds, pension contributions, and all others, would still be allowed. Therefore, the legislation would only ban the automatic paycheck deduction of a workers’ union dues.

The AFL-CIO stated the payroll deduction legislation is similar to that of which was introduced in Wisconsin and union members throughout the state must understand it is a strategic attack against all union members.

Mike Carroll, Pennsylvania House of Representative (Democrat-118th Legislative District), and Chairman of the Northeast Pennsylvania Democratic Caucus, made it clear he would not support any legislation that would make it harder for labor organizations to represent their members.

President Bloomingdale added that the labor movement in Pennsylvania has had a good track record in defeating anti-union legislation in the past which includes privatization, protecting good pensions, expanding healthcare for all, and advocating for good jobs and decent wages.

Mr. Bloomingdale stated that big money, and corporate interests are now working in Harrisburg to get commitments from legislators on the legislation. He added they appear to have a duel objective, to pass legislation that will significantly hamper public employee unions; and to use this as a litmus test for anti-union legislation they wish to target in the future.

Meanwhile, meetings have taken place between legislators and members of the labor community throughout the state, including Northeastern Pennsylvania. The purpose of the meetings is to receive at the least a verbal commitment that they will not vote in favor of any legislation that would change the current dues deduction system.

The lastest lobbying includes meeting with Republican legislators. According to Mr. Bloomingdale, at least six Republicans in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives have indicated they will not support the anti-union legislation. He is requesting the labor community continue to contact and meet with their representatives and senators to request they support the labor community and not support the legislation.

Governor candidate Schwartz receiving labor endorsements

03.24.14

MARCH 2014, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

Governor candidate Schwartz receiving labor endorsements

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 4th- The labor community continues to split their endorsements on who they plan to support for the spring primary election for Pennsylvania governor.

The labor community has put a high priority on defeating Mr. Corbett in 2014. Labor will be active during the election season.

Nearly all of his legislative initiatives involve union represented workers being eliminated. The Corbett agenda has hurt all three groups of the labor community, the building and construction trades, the public sector unions, and the industrial trade unions.

Unlike most elected political office holders, that deny being anti-union and for lower wages and less benefits, Mr. Corbett appears to enjoy being considered being the most anti-worker Governor in the state’s history.

Mr. Corbett supports the privitization of Pennsylvania State Liquor Stores, which would put more than 5,000 family sustaining jobs at risk, supports charter schools, supports legislation that would make Pennsylvania a right-to-work state, supports the elimination or making changes to the state prevailing wage law, and awarded a contract to let a British company manage the Pennsylvania Lottery System, a nearly totally unionized system, that would have resulted in those jobs being put in harms way. Pennsylvania Attorney Kathleen Kane rejected his plan in February 2013 and the system remains operated by the state.

Current Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord, who along with six other candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination to attempt to deny anti-union Republican Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett a second four-year term. Mr. Corbett will likely not receive the endorsement of any labor organization during the 2014 campaign.

Some of the largest unions in Pennsylvania have endorsed Mr. McCord including; the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District 13 in Harrisburg; The Pennsylvania Conference of Teamsters; and the United Food and Commerical Workers (UFCW) Union Local 1776 in Plymouth Meeting.

Besides Mr. McCord, the other candidates still seeking the Democratic nomination are: U.S. House of Representative Allyson Schwartz (13th Legislative District); Tom Wolf; Katie McGinty; John Hanger; Jo Ellen Litz; and Jack Wagner, former two-team Pennsylvania Auditor General.

The Pennsylvania American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) in Harrisburg, is fearful that a long open primary could result in wasting economic investment money and causing divisions.

Congresswomen Schwartz, which represents the 13th Legislative District in Washington, has also been endorsed by several labor organizations.

Representative Schwartz endorsements include: the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 98 in Philadelphia; the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 926 and Local 249; the United Mine Workers Union (UMW); the United Steelworkers (USW) Union Local 10-1; the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Union Local 13; the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP); the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers Union (AFT); and the Pennsylvania State Council of Sheet Metal Workers, which Sheet Metal Workers International Union (SMWIU) Local 44 in Wilkes-Barre is affiliated.

This site needs news releases and articles from your union or the labor movement in your area

02.28.14

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Labor community united against anti-union dues banning check-off legislation

02.26.14

MARCH 2014, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Labor community united against anti-union dues banning check-off legislation

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, February 13th- The labor community in Pennsylvania is united against a proposal in Harrisburg that if passed would ban payroll deduction clauses in labor agreements in all levels of governments.

On January 13th the Pennsylvania American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Harrisburg President Richard Bloomingdale held a conference call with national AFL-CIO President Rick Trumka participating, to announce the pending dues deduction legislation being considered in the state capitol.

House Bill (HB 1507) eliminates the payroll deduction of union members and fair-share fees of government workers. Should it pass, the bill will force unions to represent non-members without any meaningful way to collect fees for the service of representation.

House Bill 1507 is being called by anti-union forces the “Payroll Protection” bill. The groups have been claiming, without facts, that taxpayers are paying for union dues collection for public employees and that teachers and state workers are being forced to contribute to political and legislative activism.

However, automatic payroll deduction of union dues is not mandated by any law rather it is bargained for during labor contract negotiations, the same as any other provision within a collective bargaining agreement.

The companion Senate Bill (SB 1034), would also ban the dues check-off from government contracts in Pennsylvania.

Mr. Bloomingdale stated during the conference call that big money, and corporate interests are now working in Harrisburg to get commitments from legislators on the legislation. He added they appear to have a duel objective, to pass legislation that will significantly hamper public employee unions; and to use this as a litmus test for anti-union legislation they wish to target in the future.

The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO held a press conference/rally at the Capitol Building rotunda on January 28th, in which more than 1,400 union members and their leaders attended. In fact, many more bus loads of supporters from across the state were not able to participate in the rotunda event because it reached full capacity.

According to Mr. Bloomingdale, six Republicans in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives have indicated they currently will not support the anti-union legislation. He wants the labor community throughout the state to contact and meet with their representatives and senators to request they support the labor community and not sign on to the legislation.

During the conference call Mr. Trumka stated the AFL-CIO in Washington stands with the Pennsylvania labor community and will do everything they can to help defeat the legislation.

Mr. Bloomingdale added that the labor movement in Pennsylvania has had a good track record in defeating anti-union legislation in the past which includes privatization, protecting good pensions, expanding healthcare for all, and advocating for good jobs and decent wages.

Mike Carroll, Pennsylvania House of Representative (Democrat-118th Legislative District), and Chairman of the Northeast Pennsylvania Democratic Caucus, told the newspaper the issue of dues deduction legislation is “non-negotiable”.

“I will not support 1507 or any other bill that would make it harder to be a union member in Pennsylvania. This legislation is nothing but an attempt to hurt organize labor,” said Mr. Carroll.

The AFL-CIO stated the payroll deduction legislation is similar to that of which was introduced in Wisconsin and union members throughout the state must understand it is a strategic attack against all union members.

Joe Rowe, Acting Director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 87, stated if such legislation as the dues deduction be passed in Pennsylavnia, is right-to-work legislation far behind. “Union members better wake-up and understand, their union is under attack. The huge turn-out in Harrisburg was encouraging that they are beginning to understand,” said Mr. Rowe.

If the legislation became law all other paycheck deductions, such as donations to the United Way, the purchasing of U.S. Savings Bonds, pension contributions, and all others, would still be allowed. Therefore, the legislation would only ban the automatic paycheck deduction of a workers’ union dues.

Lehigh Valley’s unemployment rate decreases to 7.2 percent

02.26.14

MARCH 2014, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Lehigh Valley’s unemployment rate decreases to 7.2 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, February 11th- According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Center for Workforce Information and Analysis in Harrisburg, the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 7.2 percent, decreasing by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. The Metropolitan Statistical Area includes Lehigh, Northampton, and Carbon Counties of Pennsylvania and Warren County, New Jersey. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was at 8.6 percent.

There are fourteen Metropolitan Statistical Area’s in Pennsylvania and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the fourth highest unemployment rate.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA continues to have the highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 8.7 percent. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has had the highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania for more than three and a half years. The Johnstown MSA has the second highest unemployment rate at 8.1 percent, and the Philadelphia MSA and the Williamsport MSA is tied for third at 7.3 percent.

The main reason the MSA’s unemployment rate dropped was because of the decline of the workforce after long-term out-of-work civilians lost their unemployment benefits at the end of 2013 when Washington did not pass legislation to extend the benefit.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.3 percent. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.4 percent, and the Lancaster MSA is third at 5.5 percent.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 6.9 percent, dropping by four-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report, and decreasing by one full percentage point from twelve months before.

There are 443,000 Pennsylvania residents without jobs, but that number does not include residents that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and stopped looking for work. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted workforce of 6,443,000 and 6,000,000 of them have employment.

The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was reported to be 6.7 percent, dropping by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report, also mainly because of workers that have exhausted their unemployment benefits because Washington did not pass legislation that would have extend benefits for the long-termed jobless. The national unemployment rate was down one and two-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before.

There are 10,351,000 civilians nationwide without employment but that number also does not include workers that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and stopped looking for work.

The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force in Pennsylvania with 431,400 civilians and 31,100 have no employment. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest seasonally adjusted labor force at 2,974,700 with 215,700 not working; and the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor force at 1,250,800 with 78,600 without jobs. The Harrisburg-Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force at 283,300 with 17,200 without jobs.

Carbon County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 7.8 percent, decreasing by four-tenths of a percentage point from the month before.

Northampton County has the lowest unemployment rate within the MSA at 6.8 percent, dropping by eight-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. Lehigh County’s unemployment rate decreased by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report to 7.1 percent.

Building Trade Unions supporting Keystone XL pipeline

02.26.14

MARCH 2014, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Building Trade Unions supporting Keystone XL pipeline

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, February 19th- The building of the Keystone XL pipeline project, that would carry oil from Canada throughout the heart of the United States Midwest to refineries in Texas, ran into yet another problem after a Nebraska judge ruled on February 19th to overturn a state law that will leave the state Public Service Commission, a board the regulates natural gas lines, with the decision to construct the pipeline through Nebraska.

The Building and Construction Trades unions support the construction of the pipeline because most of the work will be done with their members. The pipeline will mostly be built with federal money which would put the project under the Davis-Bacon law, meaning union wages would be paid to the construction workers.

On January 31st an President Obama administration analysis of the Keystone XL pipeline stated it wouldn’t likely alter the amount of oil removed from the Canadian oil sands, suggesting it would have little impact on any future climate change.

The report was considered to be one of the last steps before a up-or-down decision by President Obama on the pipeline construction.

However, while construction unions and business leaders support the development of the pipeline, most environmental groups and ranchers in the region oppose it.

The proposed pipeline would be 1,179 miles long, 329 miles in Canada, and 850 miles in the United States. The pipeline would cross the United States border in Montana and travel through the Midwest to Texas. It will be 36 inches in diameter, with a total daily capacity of 830,000 barrels of oil.

The majority of the labor organizations that represent workers employed within the building trades are affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington DC.

The report states that the oil now being shipped from Canada is being moved by railroads and the pipeline would mostly carry oil that the railroads now haul. However, tank car safety has been an issue recently with several accidents occurring containing crude oil including a derailment in Canada that killed 47 people in July 2013 and a December 2013 derailment in North Dakota. The railroad industry is mostly unionized.

The support of the building trades unions of the pipeline creates a problem for the AFL-CIO because federation President Richard Trumka was successful in getting the affiliated member unions approval to let non-union groups to join the consortium. Groups like the NAACP and the environmental group the Sierra Club are now involved with the AFL-CIO. Mr. Trumka believes labor influence with politicians and the community at-large will grow under the consortium.

However, in the case of the pipeline, environmental groups oppose the pipeline that the building trade labor unions support.

NLRB moves to speed-up representation elections

02.25.14

FEBRUARY 2014, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

NLRB moves to speed-up representation elections

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, February 6th- The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, DC will again attempt to speed-up the time after the agency receives a representation petition and when the election is held.

On February 5th the NLRB released a new proposal that would “streamline” union organizing elections by reducing unnecessary litigation and delaying by employers after the NLRB receives a petition.

Currently, after a petition has been filed by a labor organization or an employee the employer could delay the election for months by filing challenges including whether some workers are eligible to participate in the election. The tactic often is used to stall NLRB elections, especially when it appears the union would likely win. A labor organization must receive 50 percent plus one of the voting employees to win the right to bargain for the purpose of collective bargaining.

The rule proposal has been criticized by several business groups, including the anti-union Associated Building and Contractors (ABC) group, a nonunion contractors trade association. According to the ABC statement, shortening elections denies employers their rights to free speech and employees the opportunity to make a fully informed decision. However, the organization did not state why having a election several weeks after a petition was filed would be anti-free speech.

Under the proposal, a election would be held approximately within four-weeks after the NLRB receives a petition. Currently, should the employer contest the election for any reason, it took on average 59 days before the NLRB conducted the election.

The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington DC President Richard Trumka, in a statement applauded the NLRB for proposing the rules. “When workers petition for an NLRB election, they should receive a timely opportuntity to vote,” said Mr. Trumka.

Observers believe the new rules are likely to be odopted because the NLRB for the first time in years has a full five-members. All three Democrats supports the new rule while the two Republicans oppose it.

Regional medical center operator hit with injunction in Ohio

02.25.14

FEBRUARY 2014, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

Regional medical center operator hit with injunction in Ohio

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, February 3rd- The nation’s largest hospital chain, the Tennessee-based Community Health Systems (CHS), which operates as many as eight medical facilities in Northeastern Pennsylvania, has been hit by a United States District Court Judge in Ohio with a sweeping cease and desist injunction to end its behavior in refusing to bargain with its registered nurses (RN’s) union and engaging in repeated illegal discipline and harassment.

On January 22nd, United States District Court Judge John Adams of Northern Ohio District, issued the ruling and is the third injunction within a year against CHS for violations of federal labor law.

RN’s affiliated with the Wyoming Valley Nurses Association (WVNA), which is an affiliate of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professional union (PASNAP), Conshohocken, Pennsylvania have been unsuccessful in gaining a successor Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with CHS, which operates the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital in Wilkes-Barre.

PASNAP members went on strike for one day on December 3rd to protest the lack of progress at the bargaining table for a CBA. CHS responded by hiring scab nurses and locking-out unionized RN’s for a additional two days.

The union went on strike accusing the operators of the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, of bargaining in bad faith and denouncing the dangerous and numerous violations of a Pennsylvania law that makes it illegal to mandate a nurse to work overtime, as well as consistently insufficient staffing levels in the hospital.

During negotiations management has proposed a wage freeze while demanding other contract concessions including the removal of the union security clause from the CBA.

CHS also operates the Regional Hospital of Scranton. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Healthcare Pennsylvania Union, represents nearly 80 percent of the medical center employees including the nurses.

CHS has been hit with similar injunctions in 2013 in California.

The injunction requires CHS to immediately cease and desist its refusal to recognize and bargain with the National Nurses United, the union which represents the RN’s at the Affinity Medical Center of Massillon, Ohio. Also, telling the RN’s they would “enjoy disciplining known union supporters,” and “imposing more onerous working conditions” on union supporters.