Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

Philadelphia Area Trade Unionists Celebrate May Day

05.05.17

Members of Philadelphia’s Labor movement came together to take part in the May Day rally and family Celebration, held in Clark park, 43rd Street and Baltimore Avenue, on Monday, May 1, 2017.
The event was co-sponsored by the May Day USA Education Committee and the Pennsylvania Labor History Society. It was endorsed by several Labor groups in the Philadelphia area, including the Philadelphia Area Project for Occupational Safety and Health (PHILAPOSH), and supported by the Green Party of Philadelphia and of Pennsylvania, the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia, Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO, Veterans for Peace, Coalition of labor Union Women, locals of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFSCME District Council 47, Philadelphia Unemployment Project, and Service Employees International Union Healthcare Pennsylvania.
Various tables were set up with literature from the Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Party USA, Communist Party USA, New Sanctuary Movement, Green Party, and the Zinn Education Project (promoting the work of historian Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States). Veterans for Peace Chapter 31’s “Precision Grill Team” provided refreshments.
The rally began with a parade of members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) from Lea Elementary School, 47th and Locust streets, and performances by the Xtreme Creations Drill Team and the West Powelton Drummers.
Jim Moran and Paul Grubb, co-chairs of the May Day USA Education Committee, welcomed those attending. Bill Ehrhart, poet, writer, and member of Veterans for Peace chapter 31, read his poetry.
Bennet Sears, longtime labor activist and member of the May Day USA committee, presented a resolution from the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives, which passed unanimously, which recognized May 1, 2017, as International Workers’ Day in Pennsylvania. “It was first introduced by Representative Jim Roebuck,” said Sears, “and he got around twenty-five co-sponsors, so it’s a very impressive resolution.” The resolution, said Sears, recognized the struggles of workers to form unions for defending their interests; it was signed by House Speaker Mike Turzi.
Philadelphia City Council-member Helen Gym presented a resolution, passed unanimously by the City Council, which recognized May first, “in perpetuity,” as International Workers Day.
Evette Jones, Staff Representative of PFT, presented awards to students in the Philadelphia School District for the May Day USA Student Art Project, on the theme of “What May Day-International Workers Day-Means to Me”; Mahfuza Chowdhury and Emma Graff, Philadelphia High School for girls; and Gracylla Wijaya, Howard Furness High School.
The Aggie Moran Human Rights Award was presented to Jed Dodd, General Chairman of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees (IBT); and the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, an organization dedicated to resisting the government’s deportation policies towards undocumented immigrants. The award was presented for “significant contributions to the working class struggle for human rights.”
Speaking at the rally were Jerry Jordan, President of the PFT, who spoke on the union’s ongoing contract dispute with the Philadelphia School District; Carl Mirra, from the Zinn Education Project; and Carolina Torres, representing Juntos, an immigrant rights group.
Entertainment was provided by Joie Kathos (hip-hop), Andy Blue Antipin (folk), and Peaches Little Brothers (singers and guitarists).

Philadelphia CLUW Awards Reception

06.29.16

The Philadelphia chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) held its annual awards reception in the assembly room of Workers United, 22 South 22nd Street in Philadelphia, on Thursday, June 23, 2016.
Chapter President Laura Wentz welcomed everyone attending, and introduced the newly elected officers and board members; she also announced the introduction of the chapter’s new web site, phillycluw.org.
Wentz spoke of when she represented national CLUW at the White House Summit on Women the previous week, where Vice President Joe Biden spoke on the Violence Against Women Act, “with the clarification,” she said, “that…when it comes to rape, it’s not the victim’s fault. We need to spread that word we need to make sure victims feel like it’s their fault, because it isn’t. It’s never your fault, it’s the perpetrator’s fault. We’ve got to make sure people know that.” The conference, added Wentz, stated that consent is essential to any encounter, because “without consent, it’s called rape.”
Wentz spoke also of when President Barrack Obama spoke at the conference and declared, “This is what a feminist looks like,” and she urged all the men in the audience to declare that also, telling them, “Without your help, we are not going to succeed.”
Wentz spoke of the work Philadelphia CLUW did with the labor movement, such as supporting the strike by Verizon workers, the work of the Fight for $15 And A Union (supporting fast food workers), and for the Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC), and the radio segments the chapter put on.
The Community Empowerment Award went to Lindsey Roth, for Project Safe, a harm-reduction collective that provides services to women engaged in the drug and sex trades. She is a graduate of the Columbia University School of Social Work and has a Bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College.
The Union empowerment Award went to Neshaminy-Bucks CLUW 2016, which includes members of such unions as AFSCME, NFT, IBEW, NALC, AFGE, Plumbers, Boilermakers, and TWU.
The Rising Star Award went to Gabriella Jones-Casey, for her work in group Fight for $15 And A Union; while at Colgate University she took part in organizing around women’s and LGBT issues. Jones-Casey received her MSW from the University of Pittsburgh, where she took part in organizing against the Voter-ID bill and for voter registration.
Winners of the Lois Miller Appreciation Award-Joe (Doc) Dougherty, Joe Krause, and Pat Eiding, for their work in producing the PhillyLabor radio show, where Philadelphia CLUW has its segment.
The Union Woman of the Year Award went to Kathy Black, Treasurer of Philadelphia CLUW and former President for 21 years.

AFSCME’s pro-active initiative to strengthen union being conducted in Lehigh Valley

10.11.15

SEPTEMBER 2015, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

AFSCME’s pro-active initiative to strengthen union being conducted in Lehigh Valley

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, August 23rd- The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union has began a “pro-active” campaign of reaching-out to their members in anticipation of a United States Supreme Court ruling that could impact public sector labor organizations in early 2016.

The Supreme Court will hear a case in the fall session that could result in public sector labor organizations to represent workers that refuse to join the union and not help finance the expense of their representation.

The high court stated in late June it would consider during the next term whether public employees must pay fees to labor organizations that they have refused to join but receive the negotiated wage and working conditions under the terms and conditions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between governments and unions.

The Supreme Court ruled forty years ago that states could allow labor unions to collect fees, often called ‘agency fee’ from non-member government workers to help pay collective bargaining cost. However, the employee could be excluded from paying anything toward the labor organizations spending on political involvement. Federal workers were not a part of the ruling with most involving state and school workers including teachers. Most union haters and pro-business conservatives on the court in 1977 were critical of the ruling which was called “Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education”.

The union haters have stated that it was unfair for unions to receive fees from workers that do not want to join the union. However, the labor organization must still represent the worker(s) should he or she be fired and will receive the wage and benefits that was negotiated between the labor organization and management. A majority of the nine justices could rule against any government worker from paying compulsory dues, which would financially hurt the labor organization.

Rebecca Friedrichs, a California teacher who has refused to join the California Teachers Association, which is affiliated with the National Education Association (NEA) brought the case against the Union stating that the union was infringing against her First Amendment right of free-speech. She has claimed that her First Amendment rights were violated despite that none of the fees collected from her is used for political activities. Her backers have argued that she and anti-union workers like her should not be compelled to fund collective bargaining techniques and positions which they disagree.

Unions such as AFSCME, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and the NEA would be the most effected should the court rule in favor of Ms. Friedrichs.

David Fillman, AFSCME District 13 Executive Director in Harrisburg, which represents AFSCME members throughout the Lehigh Valley, stated his union is participating in a initiative that is intended to inform and educate members of the consequences of a ruling against ‘agency fee’ compulsory dues. Under the program called “AFSCME Strong” the union has put a staff together that is reaching-out to the membership to make them understand that they need to support their union and combat the anti-union attitude many have within the political world.

Mr. Fillman said the staff will engage the members around a campaign that will build power through education and mobilization. AFSCME 13 has approximately 52,600 members and the unions’ goal is to engage 80 percent of them before March 2016, the month the Supreme Court ruling regarding the compulsory dues is expected.

He said the staff will collectively train around 5 percent of the membership to sign-up, commit and activate co-workers to conduct one-on-one conversations about why they need to be engaged in their union. “The program is putting boots on the ground. There are many anti-union groups out there who want to destroy us,” said Mr. Fillman.

More information on the program will be published in future editions of the newspaper.

Verizon and Unions continue to meet regarding new pact

10.11.15

SEPTEMBER 2015, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Verizon and Unions continue to meet regarding new pact

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, August 24th- The around 39,000 unionized workers of Verizon Communications are working under the terms and conditions of the their previous Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that expired on 12:01 a.m. on August 2nd, while negotiations between the parties are continuing.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) Union in Washington DC represents most of the Verizon Communications workforce including line workers and operators. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union represents mostly inside repair personnel.

Approximately ten weeks ago the parties began meeting with Verizon regarding gaining a successor contract agreement. Contract meetings were held in Philadelphia and Rye, New York during that period but without the parties reaching an agreement. Verizon proposals include concessions in out-sourcing, and subcontracting language that would result in less of a unionized workforce.

The CWA and IBEW members voted overwhelmingly to give their negotiating team the right to call for a strike in necessary, however no walk-out is planned at this time.

The once very profitable copper wire land-line telephone business, which most was once operated by Verizon Communications, still makes money but has seen the use of the copper wire lines decrease over the past several decades due to the increase of wireless services.

Verizon Communications has approximately 10.5 million residential land-line customers with more than fifty percent still using copper land-lines. One of the benefits of copper land-lines is a customer does not lose their phone service in an event of a power outage, while wireless phone systems will stop working when the batteries die, such as what happen in New Jersey several years ago after Hurricane Sandy. With the power off wireless phone customers lost their phone service for as much as several weeks.

In February Verizon announced that it had agreed to sell about twenty-five percent of their copper hard-line customers to Frontier Communications Corporation. After the deal is completed Verizon will not operate wire line telephone service in three states, Texas, California, and Florida. Some but not all of Frontier workers are unionized, also by the CWA.

The remaining phone business of Verizon Communications will be mostly in the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States.

AFL-CIO discusses initiative ”Raising the Wage”

10.11.15

AUGUST 2015, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

AFL-CIO discusses initiative ”Raising the Wage”

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, August 3rd - Two field representatives of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) in Washington DC, the nation’s largest labor federation, recently met with several labor leaders of the region including Corey Lockard, Chairman of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Area Labor Federation (NEPA-ALF), which has approximately 150 labor union’s affiliated, and Kerry Gallagher, Director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 87, which represents AFSCME members throughout nine counties of Northeastern Pennsylvania, to discuss the AFL-CIO initiative “Raising the Wage.”

Jason Miller and Allison Petonic of the AFL-CIO cited a recent study released by Temple University law professor Jennifer Lee that cited 700,000 workers in the state a week are cheated out of $19 million to $32 million in wages by employers failing to pay overtime and other wage provisions.

The AFL-CIO, through federation President Richard Trumka, has conducted meetings with labor community members throughout the nation to discuss what strategies are needed for unions to help raise the wage of the working people union and/or nonunion, throughout the nation and union organize more workers.

The AFL-CIO believes wage theft is a large hidden problem that does not occur by accident. Most vulnerable to wage theft are workers in restaurants, building services, retail sales, child-care and elderly home-care workers and grounds and lawn-care workers.

Former striking AFSCME Local 524 members like arbitration

10.11.15

AUGUST 2015, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

Former striking AFSCME Local 524 members like arbitration

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION- August 1st- Frustrated by receiving lower annual pay increases than other workers employed by the County, employees of the Lackawanna County’s Children and Family Services would like changes made to allow their unit of workers to seek arbitration when the two parties are not able to reach an agreement at the bargaining table.

On Friday May 15th members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union Local 524, who work at several locations in Lackawanna County, went of strike because of the failure of gaining a successor collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the county government.

The two parties reached a agreement of a new three-year CBA on May 27th and the workers returned to their jobs on May 28th. AFSCME represents approximately 90 workers employed by Lackawanna County’s Children and Youth agency. There are seven bargaining units of unionized workers in Lackawanna County.

The workers had been working under the terms and conditions of the previous CBA since it expired in December 2014. The new pact will expire in December 2016. The new CBA included a wage increase of 2 percent the first and final year of the agreement but the workers received a 3 percent increase in year two, this year.

Local 524 is affiliated with AFSCME District Council 87, which represents AFSCME members throughout nine counties of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Members of the bargaining unit told this reporter that they believed it was unfair that both the Lackawanna County Deputy Sheriffs Association, which represent the County’s Sheriffs, and AFSCME Local 2736, which represents the Correction Officers (CO’s) at the Lackawanna County Prison, received more in annual raises than them, even after going on strike.

Mary Rose Moran, President of Local 524, stated that her bargaining unit is not covered under Pennsylvania law that forbids certain workers that protects public safety, from striking when their union fails to reach a successor contract agreement. Often an arbitrator award is better for the membership than what is being offered by management. Ms. Moran would like the law changed to include her members, which she believes provides services for public safety.

The Lackawanna County Sheriffs Assocation members received 3.4 percent annual raises while the CO’s received nearly the same through arbitration.

Verizon and Unions continue to meet regarding new pact

10.11.15

AUGUST 2015, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

Verizon and Unions continue to meet regarding new pact

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, August 4th- The around 39,000 unionized workers of Verizon Communications are working under the terms and conditions of the their previous Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that expired on 12:01 a.m. on August 2nd, while negotiations between the parties are continuing.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) Union in Washington DC represents most of the Verizon Communications workforce including line workers and operators. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union represents mostly inside repair personnel.

Approximately eight weeks ago the parties began meeting with Verizon regarding gaining a successor contract agreement. Contract meetings were held in Philadelphia and Rye, New York during that period but without the parties reaching an agreement. Verizon proposals include concessions in out-sourcing, and subcontracting language that would result in less of a unionized workforce.

The CWA and IBEW members voted overwhelmingly to give their negotiating team the right to call for a strike in necessary, however no walk-out is planned at this time.

The once very profitable copper wire land-line telephone business, which most was once operated by Verizon Communications, still makes money but has seen the use of the copper wire lines decrease over the past several decades due to the increase of wireless services.

Verizon Communications has approximately 10.5 million residential land-line customers with more than fifty percent still using copper land-lines. One of the benefits of copper land-lines is a customer does not lose their phone service in an event of a power outage, while wireless phone systems will stop working when the batteries die, such as what happen in New Jersey several years ago after Hurricane Sandy. With the power off wireless phone customers lost their phone service for as much as several weeks.

In February Verizon announced that it had agreed to sell about twenty-five percent of their copper hard-line customers to Frontier Communications Corporation. After the deal is completed Verizon will not operate wire line telephone service in three states, Texas, California, and Florida. Some but not all of Frontier workers are unionized, also by the CWA.

The remaining phone business of Verizon Communications will be mostly in the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States.

High court ruling could financially hurt public sector unions

10.11.15

AUGUST 2015, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

High court ruling could financially hurt public sector unions

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, July 22nd- The United States Supreme Court will hear a case in the fall session that could result in public sector labor organizations to represent workers that refuse to join the union and not help finance the expense of their representation.

The high court stated in late June it would consider during the next term whether public employees must pay fees to labor organizations that they have refused to join but receive the negotiated wage and working conditions under the terms and conditions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between governments and unions.

The Supreme Court ruled forty years ago that states could allow labor unions to collect fees, often called ‘agency fee’ from nonmember government workers to help pay collective bargaining cost. However, the employee could be excluded from paying anything toward the labor organizations spending on political involvement. Federal workers were not a part of the ruling with most involving state and school workers including teachers.

Most union haters and pro-business conservatives on the court in 1977 were critical of the ruling which was called “Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education’.

The union haters have stated that it was unfair for unions to receive fees from workers that do not want to join the union. However, the labor organization must still represent the worker(s) should he or she be fired and will receive the wage and benefits that was negotiated between the labor organization and management.

The United States Supreme Court could rule against any government worker from paying compulsory dues, which would financially hurt the labor organization. Rebecca Friedrichs, a California teacher who has refused to join the California Teachers Association, which is affiliated with the National Education Association (NEA) brought the case against the Union stating that the union was infringing against her First Amendment right of free-speech.

She has claimed that her First Amendment rights were violated despite that none of the fees collected from her is used for political activities. Her backers have argued that she and anti-union workers like her should not be compelled to fund collective bargaining techniques and positions which they disagree.

Unions such as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and the NEA would be the most effected should the court rule in favor of Ms. Friedrichs.

“Unions have a right to collect a fair share from the people they represent, regardless of whether the people want to pay,” stated Randi Weingarten, President of the AFT.

USPS changes of mail delivery standards effecting mail

10.11.15

AUGUST 2015, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

USPS changes of mail delivery standards effecting mail

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, July 18th- Kevin Gallagher, President of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 101 in Scranton, which represents mail clerks, maintenance workers and conducts clerical work, told the newspaper that the union was told by management of the United States Postal Service (USPS) that the Scranton Processing Center will not be consolidated until at least after April 30th, 2016.

The USPS announced in 2012 it would consolidate 48 mail processing centers throughout the nation including their operations in Scranton to the Lehigh Valley. The USPS stated the plan would save the agency nearly $1.2 billion a year.

The USPS stated around 5,000 workers would be affected by the consolidation. However, no lays-off would occur instead jobs would be “re-bid” under the labor agreement’s with the USPS and workers is some cases would need to either relocate or travel to other postal service facilities to continue to be employed by the USPS.

The Scranton mail processing center was scheduled to be consolidated with the Lehigh Valley facility on July 15th. However, the USPS delayed that action and has since notified the labor organization’s involved that the Scranton facility would remain operational until next year.

Mr. Gallagher previously told the newspaper that his members were getting adjusted the best they could with their jobs being eliminated and many of them would need to do other USPS work to continue working with the agency. Local 268 represents the APWU members that are employed at the Lehigh Valley facility.

APWU members will be the most effected by the merger. Mr. Gallagher stated more than half of his 180 members will need to be re-located or be re-assigned to other postal duties, such as becoming mail delivery carriers. Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the USPS an effected employee could be placed within 50 miles of their current workplace.

Mr. Gallagher stated he has talked to mail customers that have noticed that it often now takes longer for mail to reach its designation because of the USPS changing the mail delivery standards. Mr. Gallagher said what the management of the USPS is doing by lowering the mail standards is to fit with their decision of closing plants and making other anti-customer changes to the agency. He added that since the USPS changed mail delivery standards, customer complaints have increased because it now takes longer for letters and other correspondence to reach their destination.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA’s unemployment rate decreases to 6.1 percent

10.11.15

AUGUST 2015, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

MSA’s unemployment rate decreases to 6.1 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, August 3rd- According to data provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, (DOL) Center of Workforce Information and Analysis in Harrisburg, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) unemployment rate dropped by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report to 6.1 percent. Twelve months ago the region’s unemployment rate was 7.0 percent. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Metropolitan Statistical Area includes Luzerne, Lackawanna and Wyoming Counties of Pennsylvania.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the third highest unemployment rate among the eight-teen in Pennsylvania.

The Johnstown MSA has the highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 6.8 percent, decreasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and the East Stroudsburg MSA has the second highest rate at 6.5 percent. The Williamsport MSA has the fourth highest unemployment rate at 6.0 percent with the Philadelphia MSA and the Erie MSA tied with the fifth highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania.

The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 5.4 percent, unchanged from the month before. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,423,000 with 345,000 not working. Pennsylvania has 6,078,000 civilians with employment. Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate decreased by three-tenths of a percentage point over the past twelve months.

Meanwhile, the nation’s unemployment rate was reported to be at 5.3 percent, dropping by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report, which was released approximately four weeks before. The national unemployment rate decreased by eight-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 3.8 percent, decreasing by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. The Lancaster MSA and the Gettysburg MSA are tied for the second lowest unemployment rate at 4.2 percent, while Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the third lowest at 4.4 percent and the Lebanon MSA has the fourth lowest in Pennsylvania at 4.6 percent.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the fifth largest labor-force in Pennsylvania with 282,500 civilians, dropping by 500 from the month before and increasing by 3,400 during the past twelve months. There are 17,300 civilians without employment, dropping by 2,200 during the past twelve months.

The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor-force in Pennsylvania at 3,038,600 with 165,700 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor-force at 1,222,400 with 62,300 without jobs; and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor-force at 426,100 with 23,000 not
working.

Lackawanna County has the lowest unemployment rate within the MSA at 5.5 percent, decreasing by five-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and dropping by eight-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before. Lackawanna County has a labor force of 107,700 with 6,000 without employment, dropping by 700 from twelve months before.

Luzerne County has the highest unemployment rate within the MSA at 6.2 percent, dropping by five-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and decreasing by eight-tenths of a percentage point from one year before. Luzerne County has the largest labor force within the MSA at 160,000 and 9,900 of them have no jobs, decreasing by 1,100 during the past twelve months.

Wyoming County’s unemployment rate is 6.0 percent, dropping by five-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and dropping by six-tenths of a percentage point from one year before.

Wyoming County has a labor force of 14,300 with 900 unemployed, unchanged from the month before and also unchanged from twelve months before.

U.S. Supreme Court ruling could financially hurt public sector unions

10.11.15

AUGUST 2015, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

U.S. Supreme Court ruling could financially hurt public sector unions

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, August 3rd- The United States Supreme Court will hear a case in the fall session that could result in public sector labor organizations to represent workers that refuse to join the union and not help finance the expense of their representation.

The high court stated in late June it would consider during the next term whether public employees must pay fees to labor organizations that they have refused to join but receive the negotiated wage and working conditions under the terms and conditions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between governments and unions.

The Supreme Court ruled forty years ago that states could allow labor unions to collect fees, often called ‘agency fee’ from non-member government workers to help pay collective bargaining cost. However, the employee could be excluded from paying anything toward the labor organizations spending on political involvement. Federal workers were not a part of the ruling with most involving state and school workers including teachers.

Most union haters and pro-business conservatives on the court in 1977 were critical of the ruling which was called “Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education’.

The union haters have stated that it was unfair for unions to receive fees from workers that do not want to join the union. However, the labor organization must still represent the worker(s) should he or she be fired and will receive the wage and benefits that was negotiated between the labor organization and management.

The United States Supreme Court could rule against any government worker from paying compulsory dues, which would financially hurt the labor organization.

Rebecca Friedrichs, a California teacher who has refused to join the California Teachers Association, which is affiliated with the National Education Association (NEA) brought the case against the Union stating that the union was infringing against her First Amendment right of free-speech. She has claimed that her First Amendment rights were violated despite that none of the fees collected from her is used for political activities. Her backers have argued that she and anti-union workers like her should not be compelled to fund collective bargaining techniques and positions which they disagree.

Unions such as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and the NEA would be the most effected should the court rule in favor of Ms. Friedrichs.

“Unions have a right to collect a fair share from the people they represent, regardless of whether the people want to pay,” stated Randi Weingarten, President of the AFT.

David Fillman, AFSCME District 13 Executive Director stated under the program called “AFSCME Strong” the union has put a staff together that is reaching-out to the membership to make them understand that they need to support their union and combat the anti-union attitude many have within the political world.

Mr. Fillman said the staff will engage the members around a campaign that will build power through education and mobilization. AFSCME 13 has approximately 52,600 members and the unions’ goal is to engage 80 percent of them before March 2016, the month the Supreme Court ruling regarding the compulsory dues is expected.

He said the staff will collectively train around 5 percent of the membership to sign-up, commit and activate co-workers to conduct one-on-one conversations about why they need to be engaged in their union. “The program is putting boots on the ground. There are many anti-union groups out there who want to destroy us,” said Mr. Fillman.

“I agree with Mr. Fillman, this program is a pro-active way to get to our members and more unions should do the same,” said Corey Lockard, Director of District Council 86, which is affiliated with Council 13.

CWA and Verizon begin successor contract negotiations

10.11.15

JULY 2015, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

CWA and Verizon begin successor contract negotiations

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, July 1st- The Communications Workers of America (CWA) Union in Washington DC has publicly challenged Verizon Communications for not repairing broken copper land-line telephone service throughout the Northeast section of the nation.

The once very profitable copper wire land-line telephone business, which most was once operated by Verizon Communications, still makes money but has seen the use of the wire line decrease by around twenty-five percent over the past several decades due to the increase of wireless services.

The CWA recently said Verizon is not repairing the copper lines in mostly the Northeast instead have attempted to get their customers to switch to wireless, which has a lot less infrastructure and shifts the responsibility of their phone problems to the customer. Customers must buy a new wireless phone every couple of years and often be required to purchased their service for several years in advance.

The CWA filed public information request with state regulators in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey to look if whether the Union can find data showing Verizon’s extent of not fixing problem phone lines. Tele-communications company’s including Verizon Communications are required to report information regarding service issues but the CWA believes the company is not fully disclosing the problems to the general public.

The CWA represents most of the Verizon Communications workforce including line workers and operators. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union represents mostly inside repair personnel. The CWA and Verizon have just began successor collective bargaining agreement negotiations. It is estimated that the CWA still has around 35,000 members employed by Verizon Communications.

Verizon Communications has approximately 10.5 million residential land-line customers with more than fifty percent still using copper land-lines. One of the benefits of copper land-lines is a customer does not lose their phone service in an event of a power outage, while wireless phone systems will stop working when the batteries die, such as what happen in New Jersey several years ago after Hurricane Sandy. With the power off wireless phone customers lost their phone service for as much as several weeks.

Meanwhile, in February 2015 Verizon Communications announced that it had agreed to sell about twenty-five percent of their copper hard-line customers to Frontier Communications Corporation.

The deal is awaiting federal regulators approval of the sale. After the deal is completed Verizon will not operate wire line telephone service in three states, Texas, California, and Florida. The remaining phone business of Verizon Communications will be mostly in the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States.

The selling of the assets to Frontier Communications will continue what Verizon began several years ago, selling-off much of their land-line telephone service business that they received in 2000 after Bell Atlantic merged with GTE, forming Verizon Communications.

According to Verizon, sixty-nine percent of the $127 billion of annual revenue is created through their wireless business. However, despite the need of more infrastructure in the hard-line telephone business it still makes money.

The CWA stated that Verizon is systematically abandoning their copper hand-line phone business and as a consequence their customers quality of service has plummeted. However, Verizon management denied it is abandoning their copper hard-line phone service network.

NALC collects more than 71 million pounds of donated food

10.11.15

JULY 2015, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

NALC collects more than 71 million pounds of donated food

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, June 26th- On Saturday May 9th the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Union in Washington DC held their annual National Food Drive and collected nearly 71 million pounds of food to help restock food banks, pantries and shelters around the country.

The NALC stated the amount of food collected was an impressive result made all the more necessary by the extreme weather experienced by much of the country, along with the economics struggles many American face.

The NALC represents mail carriers of the United States Postal Service (USPS), excluding rural delivery throughout the nation. As always, the NALC Branches in Northeastern Pennsylvania participated in the one day event in 2015. The newspaper will report on how much food was collected throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania in upcoming editions.

However, regionally union members affiliated with the Scranton Central Labor Union and the Greater Wilkes-Barre labor Council labor federation’s participated in the annual food drive, which is the largest one-day food collection in the nation.

The NALC has approximately 200,000 active members and began the food drive in 1991 and have conducted the event every year since 1993. There are around 1,500 NALC branches throughout the nation that participate in the food drive.

The United Way of America and Feeding America sponsored the food drive with several other organizations providing volunteers or financial support for the event.

While the NALC members collect the food items from their customers many other union member volunteers sort and deliver the collected food to area shelters and food banks.

This year was the twelfth consecutive year in which at least 70 million pounds of food was collected.

“This shows the value of the universal postal network, which goes to more than 150 million addresses six days a week. It also shows the strong connection between letter carriers and the communities they serve, a unique bond the serves the nation well,” stated NALC International President Fredric Rolando.

“Six and even seven days a week, letter carriers see first-hand the needs in the communities where we work,” added Mr. Rolando.

Scranton firefighters hit lowest number ever at 117

10.11.15

JULY 2015, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

Scranton firefighters hit lowest number ever at 117

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION- June 30th- The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Union Local 60 in Scranton, which represents the fire personnel of the City of Scranton, currently represents only 117 firefighters. Scranton has the largest Fire Department in the region and the city is the third biggest land mass municipality in Pennsylvania at 27 square miles. Only the Cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have more square miles.

IAFF Local 60 represented approximately 121 Scranton firefighters for several years. More than twenty-five years ago the Union represented more than 200 members of the Scranton Fire Department. However, over the past two decades the IAFF has agreed to eliminate positions to help the municipality save costs.

According to David Gervasi, Greivance Chairman of Local 60, which was chartered by the IAFF to represent the Scranton Fire Department more than 80 years ago, the department has decreased by two positions recently with the retirement of several firefighters including himself. Mr. Gervasi previously was President of Local 60 and has been a activist for the Union, often speaking at weekly meetings of the Scranton City Council.

Mr. Gervasi retired as a active Scranton fire-fighter in June and his position has not yet been filled. However, Mr. Gervasi stated that current Scranton Mayor William Courtright will soon hire several new firefighters.

The IAFF gives local union numbers in the order for which they are chartered, meaning Local 60 was the sixtieth local union chartered by the labor organization. For several decades the Scranton IAFF Local Union was 669, however they returned to Local 60 in the 1990’s.

Mr. Gervasi told the newspaper the current number of 117 firefighters may be the lowest in Scranton’s history.

USPS changes of mail delivery standards effecting mail

10.11.15

JULY 2015, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

USPS changes of mail delivery standards effecting mail

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, July 5th- Kevin Gallagher, President of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 101 in Scranton, which represents mail clerks, maintenance workers and conducts clerical work, told the newspaper that the union was told by management of the United States Postal Service (USPS) that the Scranton Processing Center will not be consolidated until at least after April 30th, 2016.

The USPS announced in 2012 it would consolidate 48 mail processing centers throughout the nation including their operations in Scranton to the Lehigh Valley. The USPS stated the plan would save the agency nearly $1.2 billion a year.

The USPS stated around 5,000 workers would be affected by the consolidation. However, no lays-off would occur instead jobs would be “re-bid” under the labor agreement’s with the USPS and workers is some cases would need to either relocate or travel to other postal service facilities to continue to be employed by the USPS.

The Scranton mail processing center was scheduled to be consolidated with the Lehigh Valley facility on July 15th. However, the USPS delayed that action and has since notified the labor organizations involved that the Scranton facility would remain operational until next year.

Mr. Gallagher previously told the newspaper that his members were getting adjusted the best they could with their jobs being eliminated and many of them would need to do other USPS work to continue working with the agency.

APWU members will be the most effected by the merger. Mr. Gallagher stated more than half of his 180 members will need to be re-located or be re-assigned to other postal duties, such as becoming mail delivery carriers.

Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the USPS an effected employee could be placed within 50 miles of their current workplace.

In the May edition of the newspaper it was reported that Mr. Gallagher stated there are approximately 25 mail delivery positions currently unfilled in Scranton, 21 available in Wilkes-Barre, and 17 in Pittston, that his members could be transferred or re-assigned to those jobs. The APWU members would be required to join the letter carriers union.

The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Union is the largest of the labor organizations that represent USPS employees.

The NALC has 280,000 members and represents letter carriers of the USPS across the country and was founded by Civil War veterans in 1889 and is one the oldest labor organizations in the United States.

Mr. Gallagher stated he has talked to mail customers that have noticed that it often now takes longer for mail to reach its designation because of the USPS changing the mail delivery standards. Mr. Gallagher said what the management of the USPS is doing by lowering the mail standards is to fit with their decision of closing plants and making other anti-customer changes to the agency.

The USPS began sending all out-going mail to the Lehigh Valley Processing Center in Bethlehem before being returned to the Scranton facility to be sorted for area customer delivery. In fact, this newspaper has recently experienced problems with the USPS delivery. Out-going mail has been returned by the USPS stating there was “no such address” when if fact the address was correct. The USPS “no such address” label was removed by the newspaper and put back into the out-going mail to only then be received by the address recipient.

Mr. Gallagher said he has heard numerous reports of similar issues regarding mail delivery problems. He believes the mail processing machines in the Lehigh Valley are being over-worked and simply can not handle the volume, causing delays is customer mail delivery.

Mr. Gallagher added that since the USPS changed mail delivery standards, customer complaints have increased because it now takes longer for letters and other correspondence to reach their destination.

USW members at Follett Corporation ratify new labor pact

10.11.15

JULY 2015, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

USW members at Follett Corporation ratify new labor pact

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, June 26th- The United Steelworkers Union (USW) Local 2599 members employed at Follett Corporation in Easton recently ratified a new four-year Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the company.

Local 2599, East Lehigh Street in Bethlehem, has approximately fourteen units of workers employed throughout the Lehigh Valley and has around 2,000 members. Local 2599 is one the largest labor organizations in the Lehigh Valley and once represented workers employed at Bethlehem Steel. The stacks of the steel mill can be seen from the union office building just several blocks away in Bethlehem.

The union once represented thousands of workers at the mill along with several other USW local unions that were merged into Local 2599 after the mill was closed in 2000.

The previous CBA between the company and the USW expired on May 3rd, 2015. The workers and the company agreed to work under the terms and conditions of the expired agreement while the parties continued to negotiate for a successor labor contract agreement.

According to Jerry Green, President of Local 2599, the parties agreed to work under the old CBA after the membership rejected managements “final contract offer”. Mr. Green stated the membership requested working under the terms and conditions of the expired CBA rather than striking and the company agreed to continue to met for contract negotiations.

After negotiation meetings continued Mr. Green stated contract proposals were slightly changed by Follett Corporation negotiating team and the USW membership ratified the new four-year pact.Highlights of the new CBA include a 2.25 percent wage increase each year for the first three years. The membership will receive a 2.50 percent increase in the fourth and final year of the new pact.

Also, workers will receive a $750.00 lump sum bonus in the first and fourth years of the agreement and a $500.00 lump sum bonus in the second and third years of the pact.

Prescription safety glasses and shoe allowances have been increased. Also retiree life insurance was increased to $10,000.00.

Mr. Green told the newspaper all raises are retro-active and the new CBA was overwhelmingly approved by the membership.

As promised, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf vetoes Liquor Stores privatization

10.11.15

JULY 2015, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

As promised, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf vetoes Liquor Stores privatization

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, July 5th- Pennsylvania Democratic Governor Tom Wolf rejected the pro-business anti-union Republican plan in the General Assembly to privatize the state liquor stores by vetoing their plan. Mr. Wolf days earlier vetoed the Republicans state budget with no Democrats voting in favor of the legislation. The budget passed both sides of the Republican controlled legislature leaving the state currently without a spending plan to begin the fiscal year.

Mr. Wolf last year while campaigning for governor made it clear he would not support the privatization of the State Wine and Spirits Stores, which are unionized. Also, the Republican legislature wants to privatize the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) which oversees the selling of the wine and liquor in Pennsylvania.

The Republican members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly have been pushing for the selling-off of the system, which provides millions of dollars of profits for Pennsylvania, for several terms of the legislature. However, this is the first time a privatization proposal has reached any governors desk. When the Republican’s controlled both the House of Representatives and the Senate and fellow Republican Tom Corbett was Pennsylvania Governor last year no privatization legislation passed both sides of the General Assembly.

Meanwhile, net profits of the latest reporting period under the current system was $123.68 million on gross revenue of $2.27 billion, amounting to a net profit margin of 5.44 percent.

Mr. Wolf campaigned during his attempt to unseat Incumbent anti-union Republican Governor Tom Corbett in 2014 against the privatization of the 600-plus wine and spirit store system. Mr. Wolf made it clear he would veto any legislation that would sell-off the stores should it reach his desk wanting instead to modernized the system.

He has proposed a plan for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), which operates the system, to “modernized” the system by extending Sunday hours and Holiday sales, improve store locations, having more flexible pricing, create a system of competitive pricing, and more customer engagement. Under Mr. Wolf’s proposal he estimates the system would be even more profitable creating an additional annual profit of $185 million by fiscal 2018. However, as expected Mr. Wolf’s plan was greeted was skepticism by Republicans, and they have not taken any action on his proposal.

The selling of the system will put more than 5,000 family sustaining jobs in harms way. The United Food and Commerical Workers (UFCW) Union represents the majority of the stores employees, including clerks and shelve stockers. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union represents mainly the office employees of the system including the PLCB auditors. UFCW Local 1776 represents the workers within the eastern part of Pennsylvania while UFCW Local 23 represents the western part.

On July 2nd Mr. Wolf vetoed the privatization plan that would have allowed private retailers to sell wine and liquor, and lease the PLCB’s wholesale operations which will result in the closing of the State Stores. As more licenses are purchased to sell booze any state store in that area would be closed and the employees would be fired.

Former striking AFSCME members thankful for support

10.11.15

JULY 2015, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

Former striking AFSCME members thankful for support

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, July 1st- The union that was recently on strike against Lackawanna County is very grateful to the labor community that supported them during the work-stoppage.

On Friday May 15th members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union Local 524, who work for Lackawanna County’s Children and Family Services went of strike because of the failure of gaining a successor collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the county government.

The two parties reached an agreement of a new three-year CBA on May 27th and the workers returned to their jobs on Thursday May 28th. AFSCME represents approximately 90 workers employed by Lackawanna County’s Children and Youth agency. There are seven bargaining units of unionized workers under contract with Lackawanna County.

The workers had been working under the terms and conditions of the previous CBA since it expired in December 2014. The new pact will expire in December 2016. The new CBA included a wage increase of 2 percent the first and final year of the agreement but the workers received a 3 percent increase in year two, this year.

The main issue for the workers was wages. Lackawanna County’s final offer included wage increases of 2 percent for 2014; 2 1/2 percent increase for 2015; and an 2 percent increase for 2016. However, the workers believed they were being “disrespected” with the offer and choose to strike for a better economic package.

Local 524 is affiliated with AFSCME District Council 87 in Dunmore, which represents AFSCME members throughout nine counties of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Mary Rose Moran, President of Local 524, stated she and her fellow union members are extremely grateful for the support the members of the labor community showed them during the strike.

She said, fellow union members from many other labor organizations walked the picket line with them, provided coffee, and used their car horns to show support as they drove by.

The AFSCME members picket daily in front of the Lackawanna County Administration building on Adams Avenue in downtown Scranton. During the strike the three-member County Commissioners did not enter the building through the front and side door entrances. Instead, they entered the building through the back entrance.

Ms. Moran stated the membership has began to resolve any bad feelings toward the few members that cross their own picket line during the strike.

Most sectors of local economy gained jobs from one year ago

10.11.15

JULY 2015, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Most sectors of local economy gained jobs from one year ago

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, June 22nd- According to data provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (DOL), Center for Workforce Information and Analysis in Harrisburg, the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) largest job gainers are in the private service providing sector of the economy. The sector gained 2,900 jobs during the past twelve months the data indicated.

The majority of the increase of jobs in the sector were in trade, transportation and utilities, which rose of 2,300 jobs during the period.

There are 36,600 manufacturing jobs within the MSA, rising by 500 from this time last year. Within the sector there are 21,700 durable goods and 13,900 non-durable jobs.

DOL reported that there are 355,300 non-farm jobs within the MSA increasing by 3,100 during the past twelve months, a strong employment growth for the region.

Most sectors within the MSA gained jobs during the past twelve months. The Leisure and Hospitality sector gained 2,100 jobs, the Retail Trade sector gained 800 jobs during the period, and Transportation and Warehousing jobs increased by 1,100.

Professional and Business Services lost 1,100 jobs during the past year with Management of Companies and Enterprises being the biggest loser within the sector with a loss of 900 jobs.

Local Government jobs decreased by 800 during the past twelve months while Federal Government jobs were unchanged from one year ago.

According to the data, there are 72,600 Education and Health Services jobs within the MSA with the majority of them, 59,800, being in the Health Care and Social Assistance sector.

Overall, there are 402,300 MSA civilians with employment and 24,100 of them are currently unemploy the DOL reported.

Labor community grateful for President Obama’s support

10.11.15

JUNE 2015, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

Labor community grateful for President Obama’s support

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, May 31st- While most within the labor community in the nation disagree with President Barack Obama’s support for passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement (TPPTA), a measure meant to ease trade restrictions Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Peru, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Brunie, Singapore, and Canada, they are grateful for support of the new National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rules regarding representation election that took effect on April 14th.

Businesses throughout the nation have made it clear they are worried about the new National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rule that will expedite representation elections through the agency.In the previous edition of the newspaper it was reported that the labor community applauded President Barack Obama’s veto of a Republican led resolution that would have overturned the NLRB rule that will expedite representation elections.

Mr. Obama’s veto was seen as a victory for the labor community, and the Democrats in the United States Congress. The resolution to overturn the new rules was passed by both the House of Representatives and the United States Senate in March. The anti-union legislation was supported and passed by mainly members of the Republican party.

The new rules, which was created by the five-member NLRB in Washington DC in December, is intended to streamline NLRB conducted Representation Elections. The labor community has complained for years that the current process favors companies, mainly larger employers, that have used the procedures of the old system to often delay, sometimes for months or years, of having the election conducted by the NLRB, which oversees the election. The tactic often is used to stall NLRB elections, especially when it appears the union would likely win.

Republicans were unable to override President Obama’s veto because there were not enough Senate Republicans in the chamber. There are 54 Republican seats in the Senate and under the chamber rules 67 is needed to override a presidential veto.

Under NLRB rules, at least 30 percent of a unit of workers must request the agency conduct an election. In the election at least 50 percent plus one of the eligible to participate employees must vote to be represented by a labor organization to become their bargaining representative for the purpose of collective bargaining.

Mr. Obama has made it clear he will sign TPPTA into law should if reach his desk. The legislation successful passed the Senate however, it is not yet known if the trade agreement will get enough votes for passage in the House of Representatives. There are 435 members of the House and the legislation will need to gain a majority of the representatives votes to successfully pass the chamber. It is expected the House will vote on TPPTA later in June, likely just before congress recesses for the summer.

Under the new NLRB election rules, employers will be required to post an “NLRB Notice of Election,” which contains information about the representation petition that was filed, and advises the two parties their rights and obligations. A “Statement of Position” form will need to be submitted by the employer to the NLRB within seven days after the petition receipt.

The document must include a list of eligible voters, their job classifications, their shift schedules, and work locations. However, the employer can not present any opinion or evidence on the issue of the representation election or request a delay in the vote. Employers can no longer challenge voter eligibility before the election, often used to delay elections, and must wait for the post-election hearing. Also, pre-election hearings will be limited to ‘Statement of Position’ the employer submitted not questioning the election merit.