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Labor Day Festival committee meeting about 2015’s event

10.11.15

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

Labor Day Festival committee meeting about 2015’s event

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, May 25th- The Northeastern Pennsylvania Labor Day Festival Committee in Wilkes-Barre have been meeting to discuss this years’ event which will be held in Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre on Labor Day September 7th . Admission is free with everyone invited.

According to Joe Padavan, a member of the committee that met throughout the year to discuss the event and make plans to conduct the Labor Day Festival and Celebration, 2015 will the third consecutive year the event will be held. Festivities will begin at Kirby Park at 10.00 am.

The event will include lots of food, refreshments, music, vendors and fun for the entire family, Mr. Padavan stated.

However, unlike past events, one of the planners is no longer involved with the labor community and is not helping with its planning and co-ordination of the bands that will play at this years event.Roxanna Pauline, who was the Co-ordinator for the Northeastern Pennsylvania Area Labor Federation (NEPA-ALF), a labor federation throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania, left the organization last fall, was very involved with the Labor Day Festival and Celebration, Mr. Padavan stated.

However, the group believes this years event will again be fun for the labor community, the community and large, and their families.

The committee is made-up of mostly delegates of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council (GWBLC) labor federation, Route 315 in Pittston. The committee that oversees the event meets all year to discuss what changes and improvements can be made to expand the festival.

Edward Harry, President of the GWBLC, stated he is hopeful the labor community from the region will plan to attend this year and economically support the event.

Lackawanna County’s Children and Family Services workers went on strike

10.11.15

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

Lackawanna County’s Children and Family Services workers went on strike

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, June 2nd- 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 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.

The workers voted by more than 50 votes to accept the agreement. 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 deal included retro-active wages meaning the members will receive back-payments for the first seventeen months of the new pact.

Matt Balas, Business Representative for District Council 87, told the newspaper the membership was upset with Democratic Majority Commissioner Jim Wansacz’s attitude toward them. Mr. Wansacz basically said “take-it-or-leave-it”, Mr. Balas said.

Also, Mr. Wansacz believed they would not vote against the pact, which they did, they would not vote to strike, which they did, and the membership would not actually go on strike, which they did, Mr. Balas stated.

The workers suffered financial hard-ship during the walk-out because AFSCME has no strike benefit and they did not qualify for unemployment benefits.

Northeastern Pennsylvania CLUW Chapter holds meeting

10.11.15

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

Northeastern Pennsylvania CLUW Chapter holds meeting

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, June 1st- On Wednesday May 27th the Northeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the Coalition of Union Women (CLUW) held their organizational meeting at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union District Council 87, O’Neill Highway in Dunmore, building.

Approximately fourteen members of the organization attended which included active and retired union members of AFSCME and other labor organizations that represent workers in the region.

CLUW is a organization within the labor movement that is sanctioned by the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington DC.

The organization was formed in 1974 and currently has more than 75 chapters throughout the nation and a membership of approximately 20,000 women and men.

CLUW’s primary goal is to be a resource to all union represented women to develop action programs within the framework of the labor community to deal with women objectives in the workplace.

The basic objective of CLUW is to promote affirmative action in the workplace, increase participation of women in their labor unions, organize the unrepresented, and engage women in the political and legislative process.

At the May 27th meeting, the members that attended selected officers which included a President, Vice President, Treasurer and three Trustees.

Melissa Matoushek, a Staff Representative for District Council 87, which represents AFSCME members throughout nine counties of Northeastern Pennsylvania, and who worked on getting enough people to commit of joining the organization, stated that the first priority of the organization is to find a way to raise funds to operate. The group at the meeting decided how much affiliation dues will need to be paid for any person wanting to be a CLUW member.

Mrs. Matoushek told the newspaper that the Northeastern Pennsylvania Chapter was recognized by the International Board. Therefore, the members met to elect officers. No challenges were made to any of the nominated people selected therefore, those nominated have been elected and will begin serving.

Anyone wanting to join the organization or needs more information can contact Ms. Matoushek at (570) 352-8006. Her e-mail address is: nepacluw@gmail.com.

IBEW Union Local 81 proud of their new training center

10.11.15

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

IBEW Union Local 81 proud of their new training center

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, May 16th- Richard Schraeder, Chairman of the Scranton Electricians Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee, the group that oversees the training and upgrading of union members affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 81, Wyoming Avenue in Scranton, is proud of the training center that opened in 2014.

The building is located on a three-acre site along Skyline Drive in Clarks Summit just next to Acker Drill Company, a unionized company.

Mr. Schraeder recently gave this reporter a tour of the facility that contains five classrooms, computer rooms, instruction area’s, meeting space, a multi-purpose room, a loading dock, and a snack area. The building has 16,000 square feet and replaced the space Local 81 used for training in their downtown Scranton building on Wyoming Avenue. Local 81 stills owns and maintains that building which houses their main office and meeting hall. The IBEW has tenants in the building which includes several other labor organizations in the area.

The training facility was envisioned by former and current members of the Scranton Electricians Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee to train and educate their apprentices and journeyman in a modern environment with all the resources available to them to become the best, most productive, and safest electricians in the industry and to produce quality, on-time, and on budget projects for customers, Mr. Schraeder told the newspaper.

The Committee is made-up of three IBEW Local 81 members and three members of signatory contractors with the Union for a total of six. There are currently approximately 30 signatory contractors of Local 81.

The IBEW apprentice training program is for five years and includes two days a week of classroom studies. Also, the apprentice members must conduct 2,000 hours per-year of working on the job in the industry for the five years before they can earn journeyman status.

“The program is tough. But after graduation the contractors and customers know he or she have been trained properly and are ready to be a qualified electrician,” said Mr. Schraeder.

Mr. Schraeder is also the Business Manager and Principal Officer of Local 81, which has more than 500 members. He joined Local 81 in 1969 and has held several officer positions with the Union before becoming Business Manager. He is currently serving his first full term in that position.

The Committee makes all decisions regarding the training center with four of the six votes needed before the implementation of any change can take place.

In 2014 the first class of apprentices graduated from the new center with fourteen becoming journeyman electricians. This year seven are expected to complete the training and become journeyman with the graduation taking place in November.

“Our members should be proud of their building and the commitment that has been made to them,” added Mr. Schraeder.

Mr. Schraeder wanted everyone to know the cost of the center is shared between Local 81 and the signatory contractors and it cost the public nothing.

General Dynamics plants have many workers on lay-off

10.11.15

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

General Dynamics plants have many workers on lay-off

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION- June 2nd- The two General Dynamics operated plants in Northeastern Pennsylvania are operating with a unprecedented low number of employees.

The company operates the General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems plant on Cedar Avenue in South Scranton employs only a handful of workers, approximately 35 unionized, after the company laid-off twenty-nine additional workers in February. That followed the fifty-six workers that were laid-off in December 2014.

The International Association of Machinists (IAM) Union Local Lodge 847 represents the non-management hourly employees of the company. The plant, which mostly produced military projectiles for the United States Department of Defense including the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy, for a short time had no active Department of Defense work and survived by commercial contracts.

In 2012 the IAM represented approximately 236 workers at the plant.

The company several years ago began bidding on other work out-side of projectiles and was able to also begin the production of elbows for the natural gas industry. The current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the IAM and the company expires on October 17th, 2015.

During the Vietnam War in the 1960’s the plant employed more than 600 workers, with the plant operating three shifts a day to keep-up with demand.

The U.S. Department of Defense awarded the plant to produce new projectiles shells for the Navy earlier this year. The plant is expected to produce between 4,800 to 5,000 shells a month, which will result in some workers being recalled.

Meanwhile, the General Dynamics Land System plant on East Street in Eynon has only a hand-full of workers currently employed.

The United Auto Workers of America (UAW) Union Local 1193 represents the hourly workers at the plant. The plant refurbishes, rebuilds and heat treats parts for military ground combat vehicles, mainly the Army’s main battle tank.

Ken Klinkel, President of Local 1193, stated that around 70 workers are employed at the plant, with around 156 workers on lay-off. In 2010 the plant employed around 300 workers. Mr. Klinkel stated that General Dynamics wants to do everything they can to keep the plant opened, while waiting for more work to return to the facility.

Under the CBA between the parties, union members could be recalled from being laid-off for more than a decade.

Labor haters continue pushing for right-to-work laws

10.11.15

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

Labor haters continue pushing for right-to-work laws

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, May 24th- Anti-union forces have continued their attack on labor organizations by pushing for more states in the nation to pass legislation that would ban union security clauses in collective bargaining agreements (CBA’s). Banning union security language in CBA’s is commonly known as “right-to-work” legislation.

Wisconsin became the twenty-fifth state in the nation to ban employers and labor organizations from agreeing to union security clauses this past winter.

Without “right-to-work” law, or what the labor community often refer to as “no-rights-at-work”, CBA’s could include contract language that makes employees become an union member after working a probationary period. The clause is a term of collective bargaining and must first be negotiated between the union and the employer and ratified by the membership.

A new wave of legislative bills has been introduced in some states including Maine and Pennsylvania that would ban union security clauses. Clearly, the legislation in intended to weaken the numbers of union members. Pennsylvania Democratic Governor Tom Wolf has made it clear he would veto any right-to-work bill if it should reach his desk.

Labor haters throughout the nation believe the banning of union security clauses will come more easily because of last years pro-business Republican party gaining seats in legislatures throughout the United States.

Wiscomsin Republican Governor Scot Walker, wasted little time in signing into law the legislation that made the badger state the twenty-fifth state in the nation to ban employer and labor organizations from agreeing to union security clauses within their CBA’s. Mr. Walker is a possible candidate for his party’s nomination in next years presidential campaign.

Pro-right-to-work supporters, including the America Chamber of Commerce, and many business groups, have stated that the removing of union security clauses from labor agreements would bring economic prosperity. However, no independent data has shown that states that have passed right-to-work legislation has seen a significant increase in job creation.

In Pennsylvania, success of right-to-work legislation is unlikely because of Mr. Wolf’s threat of a veto and despite the Republicans controlling both the House of Representatives and the Senate, there are not enough votes to overturn it. Two-thirds of both chambers are needed to over-ride Governor Wolf’s veto.

USW Local 2599 conducts annual ‘Ed O’Brien’ legislative dinner-dance

05.29.15

JUNE 2015, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

USW Local 2599 conducts annual ‘Ed O’Brien’ legislative dinner-dance

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, May 16th- The United Steelworkers Union (USW) Local 2599, held their annual ‘Ed O’Brien Legislative Dinner/Dance’ on Friday evening, May 8th at the USW building on East Lehigh Street in Bethlehem. More than 110 attended the event which included USW officers and members, elected political officials, candidates for the May primary election and other union officials. The scheduled featured speaker was Pennsylvania Lt. Governor Mike Stack, however Mr. Stack cancelled the event just hours before because of a death in his family.

Local 2599 is one the largest labor organizations in the Lehigh Valley and once represented workers employed at Bethlehem Steel, just several blocks away from the union hall. The site of the former steel mill is now the location of the Sands Casino. The steel mill closed in 2000.

This years event was held on a Friday, normally it is held on a Saturday evening and the attendance increased from last year by more than 30 people.

Jerry Green, President of Local 2599, which was recently elected by the membership for a sixth consecutive three-year term as leader of the union, welcomed the guest of the dinner/dance. Mr. Green broke the record by winning a sixth term as President of Local 2599. The previous record was held by Louis Schrenko who served for five consecutive terms from 1964 to 1979 when the union represented thousands of workers at Bethlehem Steel. Following the steel mill closure several USW local unions’ were merged into Local 2599.

Mr. Green serves on the Pennsylvania State Workers Compensation Advisory Board, being appointed by former House of Representatives Speaker Keith McCall.

Retired USW official and former Democratic party candidate for the House of Representatives 15th Legislative District Ed O’Brien, for which the legislative dinner/dance is named, attended the event. Mr. O’Brien ran and received the Democratic nomination in 2001 and 2003 but was defeated by current Republican United States Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, also from the Lehigh Valley.

Mr. O’Brien first joined the USW in 1964 and serve in many positions within the USW, both in the Lehigh Valley and with the USW International Union. He resides in Coaldale with his wife Shirley.

Also attending the event was Allentown Democratic Mayor Edward Pawlowski, an candidate for Mr. Toomey’s Senate seat in 2016. Mr. Toomey will be seeking a second six-year term next year.

Mr. Pawlowski will likely receive the support of many of the affiliated unions of the building and construction trades. His relationship with the unions has been excellent because of his support for the hiring of the workers for building projects in the City of Allentown.

Also attending was Corey Lockard, Director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 86, and the Chairperson of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Area Labor Federation (NEPA-ALF). Mr. Lockard attended the event for the first-time and stated he was “impressed” with the USW building and found the event to be “old-school” and very enjoyable.

Wilkes-Barre Labor Council donates books for children

05.26.15

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

Wilkes-Barre Labor Council donates books for children

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, May 3rd - The Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council (GWBLC) Community Services Committee along with the United Way of the Wyoming Valley recently held their annual ‘book drive’ to help celebrate the “Week of the Young Child”, a program intended to bring focus of the value of reading among young children of the Wyoming Valley.

The event is sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. The organization wants to bring public attention on the needsof young children and recognize early childhood programs that meet those needs.

According to Sandra Moosic, the United Way of the Wyoming Valley American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) Community Services Labor Liaison, the go-between the labor community and the community based organization, union members of the Crestwood Education Association Union, the Wyoming Valley West Education Association Union, and the Hanover Area Education Association Union, which are all affiliated with the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) in Harrisburg and the National Education Association (NEA) Union in Washington DC; the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 401; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 1944; the Wyoming Valley Nurses Association (WVNA/PASNAP) Union; the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 1776; and the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Union Local 2809, collected over 5,000 books for distribution to area preschool and school age children.

Anti-union businesses seeking help with new election rule

05.25.15

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

Anti-union businesses seeking help with new election rule

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, May 3rd- 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. The new rules and President Obama’s veto was clearly under reported by the main-stream media. However, this newspaper had several news articles regarding the new election rule.

Mr. Obama vetoed the Republican attempt to overturn the NLRB rule that took effect on April 14th. The 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 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 entended 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 O’Bama’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.

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 receipt of the petition.

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.

Under the rules, employers can not 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.

The eligible to participate employees list must be filed electronically two days after the election notice was filed and must include employees names, home addresses, telephone numbers, and e-mail addresses.

Anti-union companies throughout the nation have been contacting law firms and consultant groups for strategic advice how to not have their employees vote to be unionized. They fear more workers may vote to become affiliated with a labor organization for the purpose of collective bargaining and have stated their “first amendment “ rights will be violated under the new rule.

It is expected that the new rule will increase the current average election time from 38 days after filing to 20 days.

Auditor General DePasquale audit indicates lack of Act 102 law enforcement

05.25.15

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

Auditor General DePasquale audit indicates lack of Act 102 law enforcement

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, May 5th - Pennsylvania Democratic Auditor General Eugene DePasquale audit released on April 22nd indicated that enforcement by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry’s (DOL) law to protect healthcare workers from excessive mandatory overtime was poor and his findings came as no surprise to Terry Marcavage, Staff Representative of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) union in Conshohocken, just outside of Philadelphia. PASNAP represents nurses at the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, River Street in Wilkes-Barre.

The Union was involved with a long protracted labor dispute with the operators of the medical facility, the Commonwealth Health System (CHS) Inc., the nation’s largest for profit conglomerate of hospitals in the nation. CHS also operates the Regional Hospital of Scranton, formerly the Scranton Mercy Hospital, the Moses Taylor Hospital in Scranton and the Tyler Memorial Hospital in Tunkhannock. The company also owns and operates several smaller medical facilities in the region.

PASNAP represented nurses employed at the Wilkes-Barre General Hosptial bargained with the company for more than sixteen months without gaining a successor collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with CHS and was forced to strike for several days last July. The company responded by hiring scabs to temporarily replace the striking workers. The two sides agreed to a new CBA in August 2014. The previous contract between the parties expired on April 30th, 2013.

Ms. Marcavage indicated to the newspaper more than one year before Mr. DePasquale released his findings regarding the lack of enforcement of Pennsylvania Act 102 (the Prohibition of Excessive Overtime in Health Care Act of 2008), that PASNAP believed the Department of Labor was not investigating and enforcing the law at the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital. “We knew all along there were problems at Wilkes-Barre General,” Ms. Marcavage stated.

“To put it simply, the implementation of the law to protect healthcare workers and their patients was clearly not a priority at the Department of Labor and Industry. In addition to missing, by more than four years, the legislatively mandated deadline to adopt regulations to enforce the law, Labor and Industry summarily dismissed eight precent of the complaints it received during our audit period,” stated Mr. DePasquale.

Act 102 of 2008 limits healthcare facilities including hospitals, nursing homes and outpatieent facilities from requiring hourly, nonsupervisory employees involved in direct patient healthcare to work more than agreed to predetermined and regularly scheduled work shifts.

Mr. DePasquale indicated that the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry was very cooperative during his audit which covered July 1st, 2009, when the full act went into effect, through August 31st, 2014. During that time the DOL was overseen by officials appointed by anti-worker Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett. Mr. Cobett was defeated by current Pennsylvania Democratic Governor Tom Wolf in November 2014 and took over as Pennsylvania Governor this past January.

PASNAP stated that in late August of 2009 the union brought to the Auditor General DePasquale attention the numerous violations of Act 102 throughout Pennsylvania, including at the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, and the failure by the Corbett administration’s DOL to enforce the law.

“The results of this audit shine an important light on the reluctance of past administrators blatant unwillingless to enforce the law. Because of the persistence and determination of our members, particularly at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, we now have proof of what we’ve known all along. Too many hospitals violate with impurity a law established to protect patients and nurses,” stated Patricia Eakin President of PASNAP.

PASNAP also represents nurses employed at the Geisinger Community Medical Center (GCMC) in Scranton, covered under a seperate CBA with Geisinger Health Systems.

Under the Wolf administration, Pennsylvania Labor and Industry has hired an additional five investigators for the Bureau of Labor Law Compliance, which works in the field investigating any complaint or tip regarding Department of Labor and Industry rule violations.

DOL stated it is addressing Mr. DePasquale’s report that showed failures within the audit by streamlining central record keeping, updating their database, and having more boots on the ground to investigate and talk to employees involve with any possible violation. One finding was that DOL tracking system was so bad it made it almost impossible to determine if there was not compliance of the law.

May Day March and Rally in Philadelphia, by John O. Mason

05.04.15

May Day March and Rally in Philadelphia, by John O. Mason

Members of the Labor movement and allied causes in Philadelphia joined in the May Day March and rally on Friday, May 1, 2015.
The events were sponsored by the Philadelphia Area Project for Occupational Safety and Health (PHILAPOSH) and the May Day USA Education Committee.
The march started at the McDonald’s restaurant on 40th and Walnut streets, to emphasize the movement for supporting fast-food workers’ right to a living wage and to organize. State Senator Daylin Leach spoke to reporters of a bill he introduced in the General Assembly that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $15.00 an hour.
The bill, said Leach, would help low income workers “who have been left behind I this economy, and it’s time that stopped.” Also, the bill, added Leach, “would eliminate the tip minimum wage, which hasn’t gone up in twenty-one years. It’s $2.83 an hour in Pennsylvania, if you have a job where you supposedly get tips. Often tipped workers don’t even make close to the $7.25 an hour minimum wage.”
The problem with the current minimum wage, said Leach, is “if you work full-time in hard back-breaking work, often you live in poverty, and that’s not what the minimum wage was designed to do, and in a time of the greatest income inequality in a hundred years, it’s just not an appropriate way to be…In Seattle, they raised (the minimum wage) to $15.00, which is what (his bill) proposes to do, and they’re doing great in Seattle.”

The march went south on 40th Street to Baltimore Avenue, then to Clark Park, 43rd and Baltimore Avenue, for the rally. Literature tables were set up such groups as the Green Party, Socialist Party USA, Socialist Alternative, the Philadelphia chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), and the Socialist Workers Party. Chapter 31 of the Veterans for Peace had their “Precision Grill Team” provide food for participants.
Paul Grubb, one of the co-chairs of the May Day committee, welcomed people to the rally and introduced Evette Jones, a staff member of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT). “The PFT,” said Jones, “believes in and supports our brothers and sisters who are out there fighting to get a fifteen dollar minimum wage…As educators, we have the great responsibility of preparing our school children for the future, whether that means college or joining the work force.”
The fight for the fifteen-dollar minimum wage, said Jones, “is not only for future generations, but is for today’s working parents of our Philadelphia school children. It is proven, that children from more economically stable homes do better school. Raising the standard of living in Philadelphia means raising the achievement levels for our students. And when we raise the achievement level of our students, we can stop the hedge-funders and the fat cats from trying to close our schools (and from) trying to close public education.”
Jim Moran, veteran Labor activist and co-chair of the May Day Committee, introduced Cheri Honkala, veteran homeless activist and a leading figure in the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign. “I bring you greetings,” she began,” from the poor and homeless brothers and sisters” in Philadelphia, and added, “I’ve been working with other poor and homeless families in the last twenty-five years in this city.
“People have always said” added Honkala, “that homeless people are lazy, they don’t have a work ethic. They are some of the hardest working brothers and sisters I’ve ever met in my life. Every day, they lay down on a couch, a sidewalk, in a car, wherever in this city because you can’t get a place, a room or a shelter, and you haven’t been able to in five years, and when they lay down at night, they know the next morning they’re going to get up and (work) at McDonald’s or Wendy’s or wherever. And they’re going to continue to live in homelessness working in that poverty wage job.”
Jim Moran presented the Aggie Moran Human Rights Award to Books through Bars, an organization that supplies prison libraries with books for inmates to read; Cathy Brady, an activist for SEIU Health Care PA and Vice Presidetn of Friends of Elmwood Park, for her work in developing the Labor Monument at Elmwood Park, 71st Street and Buist Avenue, which honors the struggles of Organized Labor; and 15 Now and Fight for 15, groups advocating for the $15.00 an hour minimum wage.
Music before the rally and in intermission was provided by DJ Raul. ON the stage performing were singer-guitarist Shanta Bristow, folk singer Andi Antipin, hip-hop artist Joie Kathos, soloist Dina Yarmus, and folk singer Dave Marley.

USW Local 2599 to hold annual Ed O’Brien Dinner on May 8th

05.04.15

MAY 2015, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

USW Local 2599 to hold annual Ed O’Brien Dinner on May 8th

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, April 24th- The United Steelworkers of America (USW) Union 2599, East Lehigh Street in Bethlehem, will hold their annual Ed O’Brien Legislative Dinner/Dance on Friday May 8th at the USW building.

The cost of a ticket to the event is $50.00, with cocktails starting at 5:30 pm and dinner at 6:30 pm. Beverages will be served throughout the event.

Local 2599 is one of the largest labor organizations in the Lehigh Valley and is the largest USW Union. Local 2599 has fifteen seperate bargaining units throughout the Lehigh Valley.

Jerry Green is President of Local 2599 and just recently the membership voted to give him a sixth consecutive three-year term, breaking the previous record held by Louis Schrenko of five terms. Mr. Schrenko served as President from 1964 to 1979.

Local 2599, along with several other USW local unions, once represented workers employed at Bethlehem Steel, just several blocks away from the union hall. The site of the steel mill is now the location of the Sands Casino. After Bethlehem Steel closed the mill in 2000 the USW merged the four unions that represented the workers into Local 2599.

During last years Ed O’Brien Legislative Dinner, former United States Navy 3-star Admiral and current candidate for the Democratic nomination for the 2016 United States Senatorial seat from Pennsylvania Joe Sestak addressed the events guest. Allentown Mayor Edward Pawlowski is also a candidate for the Democratic nomination. The seat is currently held by Lehigh Valley resident Republican Pat Toomey. Mr. Toomey represented the 15th Legislative District, which represents most of the Lehigh Valley in Washington DC, before defeating Mr. Sestak five years ago. Mr. Sestak is seeking a “rematch” against Mr. Toomey next year.

Mr. Green stated that this year Pennsylvania Democratic Lieutenant Governor Michael Stack will be the keynote speaker. Mr. Stack was previously a member of the Pennsylvania State Senate.

Mr. Green was the lead organizer when the USW was successful in organizing Registered Nurses and Social Workers employed at Gracedale Nursing Home in Northampton County in 2003.

Also, nearly eight years later headed-up the group that wanted to defeat Northampton County’s plan to sell the Gracedale Nursing Home in 2011. Mr. Green was very instrumental, along with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union, which also represents Gracedale workers, in helping to convince Northampton County voters to reject the plan to sell the nursing home.

The USW selected Mr. Green as their 15th congressional legislative district Rapid Response Co-ordinator and serves on the Pennsylvania State Workers Compensation Advisory Board, being appointed by former House Speaker Keith McCall.

“I am very honored that the membership has given me the opportunity to serve them for more than 15 years. I will continue to do my very best to lead this great union forward,” stated Mr. Green.

More retailers announce they will also raise their wages

04.18.15

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

More retailers announce they will also raise their wages

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 30th- This month the anti-union Wal-Mart Inc. will begin raising the starting wage of their workers. The nation’s largest retailer announced in February it would increase their starting wage to around $10.00 an hour, well above the federal minimum wage but will not raise the top level wages of their current workforce.

Wal-Mart Inc. is known to be extremely anti-union but they will increase the starting wage of workers while the federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour.

However, current Wal-Mart workers wages “top-out” around $11.00 an hour no matter how long they are employed by the company. Meaning, while new and recent hires will receive a higher wage than previously, long-time employees wages will not increase and see new workers wages be close to their’s despite only recently being hired.

Also, Wal-Mart makes their employees purchase the clothing they must wear while working in their stores and has faced protest by union activist and their own workers for poor treatment by management .

Target Corporation also announced in mid-March that they would boost their workers pay to no less than $9.00 an hour, beginning this month.

Unlike Wal-Mart’s big announcement and media release, Target Corporation officials mainly announced to their employees of the wage increase.

TJX Inc. also stated they would raise the wages for all of their hourly workers to no less than $9.00 an hour this year and up to $10.00 an hour in 2016. TJX Inc. operates T.J. Maxx stores, Marshalls stores, and HomeGoods stores throughout the United States. The company will begin to raise their workers wages starting in June.

Target, the nation’s second largest retailer, has 347,000 workers and pays all of them within their 1,800 stores more than the federal minimum wage.

Wal-Mart stated the new wage package will cost them approximately $1 billion. The company plans to raise the minimum wage for workers to $9.00 an hour this April and continue to raise the wage until reaching $10.00 an hour by February 2016.

The increase will effect around 500,000 employees which work for Wal-Mart stores and Sam’s Club stores or around 1.4 million employees.

Business groups do not like new NLRB conducted election rules beginning this month

04.17.15

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

Business groups do not like new NLRB conducted election rules beginning this month

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 4th- The labor community is applauding President Barack Obama’s veto of a Republican led resolution that would have overturned a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rule that will help expedite representation elections through the agency.

Mr. Obama vetoed the Republican attempt to overturn the NLRB rule that wil take effect on April 14th. The veto was seen as a victory for the labor community, and the Democrats in the United States Congress. The resolution was passed by both the House of Representatives and the United States Senate in March. The 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 in December, is entended 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 current 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 O’Bama’s vteo because there was not enough Senate Republicans in the chamber. There are 54 Republican seats in the Senate and 67 is needed to override a presidential veto.

Some trade groups waisted little time and have already filed lawsuits in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia attempting to block the new rules. The groups are claiming the election rule violates law by not allowing enough time with employees to communicate with them is hoping to change their minds about voting for union representation for the purpose of collective bargaining. As expected, the United States Chamber of Commerence joined the law-suit.

Under NLRB rules, at least 30 percent of a unit of workers must request the agency conduct an election. During 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.

Richard Trumka, President of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington DC stated the changes are very modest to the election rules but will make it easier for workers to vote on forming a labor union in a timely manner.

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 receipt of the petition.

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.

Under the rules, employers can not 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.

The eligible to participate employees list must be filed electronically two days after the election notice was filed and must include employees names, home addresses, telephone numbers, and e-mail addresses.

The new rule has also been criticized by the anti-union Associated Building and Contractors (ABC) group, a nonunion contractors trade association. According to the ABC, 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.

Labor community getting ready for NALC National Food Drive

04.17.15

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

Labor community getting ready for NALC National Food Drive

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 3rd- The labor community throughout the nation and the region is getting ready for the largest food drive held in the United States by members of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Union.

The NALC represents mail carriers, excluding rural delivery, of the United States Postal Service (USPS) throughout the nation.

The 2015 ‘Letters Carriers Stamp out Hunger Food Drive’ will be held on Saturday May 9th in which postal service customers are requested to place non-perishable food items near their mail boxes to be pick-up by the NALC members.

Each year since 1991 the NALC members, with the support of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington DC, conducts the food drive that helps feed the needy throughout the nation. Last years food drive was the tenth consecutive year in which at least 70 million pounds of food was collected.

The United Way of America and Feeding America will again sporsor the food drive with other organizations providing volunteers or financial support for the event. Those organizations provide flyers, bags, and postcards.

The food drive is held in more than 10,000 cities and towns in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam. Last year almost 73 million pounds of food was collected in the one day event for people in need throughout the United States.

Regionally, union members affiliated with the Scranton Central Labor Union and the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council labor federation’s, which are affiliated with the AFL-CIO, will again participate in the annual event.

Labor volunteers are needed to sort food items donated by mail costumers that will be picked-up by NALC members in the Wyoming Valley and Lackawanna Valley and brought to area food banks and pantries.

Sandra Moosic, the AFL-CIO Labor Liaison for the United Way of the Wyoming Valley, the go-between the labor community and the agencies affiliated with the community based organization throughout the Wyoming Valley, and a member of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council labor federation Community Services Committee, stated members of the labor comunity are needed as volunteers for the May 9th day- long event.

Anyone wanting to volunteer their time to help sort and deliver food items to area food banks can contact Ms. Moosic at: (570) 829-6711.

NEA report finds fault with provision of Health Care Act

04.17.15

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

NEA report finds fault with provision of Health Care Act

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 4th- The National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest labor organization that represents teachers and education support staff and other educational professionals with more than 3 million members, released a report that finds fault with one of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) is affiliated with the NEA. The report analyzed a key tax provision, the excise tax on high-cost health plans.

The NEA stated that the report finds that although the excise tax is often referred to as a tax on overgenerous health benefits, it’s likely to be a tax driven by other things, including where health plan members live, employees and workers in high-cost insurance markets.

“We continue to support the Affordable Care Act because it already has strengthened health benefits for kids and families and provided an opportunity for millions of Americans to obtain quality, affordable care. This new report however, highlights a significant and damaging flaw in the excise tax. The excise tax on high-cost plans can randomly and unfairly cause hardship to American workers and their families. In fact, the excise tax will disproportionately hurt women and older workers,” stated Kim Anderson, senior director of the NEA’s Center for Advocacy and Outreach.

The NEA report stated the excise tax wrongly equates high premiums with overly generous health benefits. It is flawed that some plans offering moderate benefits will face a steep tax, while plans with better benefits may not face any tax at all.

Employers are already preparing to shift health care costs to workers by cutting benefits or passing the tax liability to employees even though the law doesn’t hold employees responsible for paying the tax.

“We believe that it’s more accurate to call the excise tax on high-cost plans an ‘Age Sex-Geography Tax,’ added Ms. Anderson.

Verizon selling part of hardline phone business to Frontier

04.03.15

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

Verizon selling part of hardline phone business to Frontier

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 2nd- The once very profitable copper wire land-line telephone business, which most was operated by Verizon Communications, still makes money but has seen the use of the wireline decreased by around twenty-five percent over the past several decades because of the increase of wireless services.

Recently it was announced that Verizon Communications Inc., a mostly unionized company, has agreed to sell about a quarter of its hardline telephone business to Frontier Communications Corporation.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) Union and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union represent thousands of Verizon Communications workers.

Verizon Communications stated that they will sell part of their system to Frontier Communications. After the deal is completed Verizon will not operate wireline 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 deal must still be approved by federal regulators.

The selling of the assets to Frontier Communications will continue what Verizon began several years ago, selling off much of their land-line telephone 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.

Verizon Communications landline business is unionized. Throughout the region CWA Local 13000 represents line-repair workers while CWA Local 13500 represents mostly office workers.

Meanwhile, the CWA does represent some of the Frontier Communications Corporation workers, depending on where the employees work.

Approximately 11,000 current Verizon Communications Inc. employees will become Frontier Communications employees after the deal is completed. The majority are represented by the CWA.

Verizon Communications and Frontier Communications stated the purchase price of the network is around $10.5 billion.

Current Verizon Communications Chief Executive Lowell McAdam is the first non-hardline phone business person to lead the company. He worked within the cellular phone business.

“Right-to-work” legislation becomes law in Wisconsin

03.31.15

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

“Right-to-work” legislation becomes law in Wisconsin

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 3rd- The State of Wisconsin legislature passed and the Republican Governor Scott Walker signed into law legislation that will make the badger state the twenty-fifth in the nation to ban employers and labor organizations from agreeing to union security language within their Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the two parties. The legislation is commonly known as “right-to-work”.

A new wave of legislative bills that are intended to weaken the numbers of members of labor unions is expected this year after the pro-business Republican party gaining seats in legislatures across the United States.

New right-to-work legislation is expected to be proposed by anti-union pro-business Republican statehouses across the nation including the pro-union state of Maine and Pennsylvania.

Democratic Pennsylvania first-term Governor Tom Wolf made it clear during last years political campaign that he would veto any right-to-work legislation that passes the Republican controlled General Assembly. Mr. Wolf has been called the “fire-wall” between the anti-union members of the Republican party and the labor community. Should have Republican Tom Corbett regained the governors seat, most if not all anti-union legislation would have become the law of Pennsylvania.

Recently union workers held a “right-to-work” legislation protest at the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison. Media reports indicated that only several thousand union members participated in the event because it is believed legislation banning the mandatory payment of union dues in Wisconsin will likely pass and be signed into law by the anti-union Walker, a possible Republican candidate for President of the United States in 2016.

In Pennsylvania the issue of banning union security clauses in labor agreements, or what the labor community often calls “no-rights-at-work,” was front and center during 2013 after billionair Dick Yuengling Jr., leader of the D.G. Yuengling and Son Inc. brewery, said Pennsylvania should become a right-to-work state.

Before Wisconsin legislation was signed into law, there were 24 states that banned union security clauses, which makes workers join the union after working a probationary period. The clause is a term of collective bargaining and must first be agreed to by the union and the employer and ratified by the membership.

IBEW Local 81 bowling tournament raises funds

03.31.15

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

IBEW Local 81 bowling tournament raises funds

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 4th- The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 81 in Scranton conducted their annual Toby Joyce Memorial Bowling Tournament on Saturday February 21st at the South Side Bowling lanes in South Scranton. It was the 13th consecutive year the event has 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 Canter for Autism Spectrum Disorders.

According to Geno Arcurie Jr., Local 81 Membership Development Representative, this years event was the largest ever with 145 bowlers participating and 50 sponsors of bowling lanes, which he said provides the most funds.

The event raised around $5,500.00 that was donated to the Friendship House. This years amount was the also the most ever, and $1,000.00 more than last years event.

“We hired Jaworski Sign Company to make all of the lane sponsor signs, a unionized company,” said Mr. Arcurie.

Mr. Arcurie stated several lane sponsors have indicated they want to sign-up for next year already.

NLRB in Washington, DC rules against area nursing home

03.31.15

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

NLRB in Washington, DC rules against area nursing home

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 1st- The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, DC ruled against an operator of a area nursing home in Hazleton and ordered them to begin contract negotiations for a first time Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) which involves Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN’s) employed at the facility. However, the employer has refused to begin contract negotiations and promised to appeal the NLRB decision.

Twenty months ago a unit of approximately fourty LPN’s employed at the Manor and Pavilion at St. Luke’s Village Nursing Home on Stacie Drive in Hazleton, voted overwhelmingly to be represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union District Council 87.

AFSCME District Council 87, which represents AFSCME members throughout 9 Counties of Northeastern Pennsylvania, won a representation election conducted by the NLRB Region Four Office in Philadelphia in June 2013, 26 to 12 that involved the LPN’s.

There were fourty-three workers eligible to participate in the election. AFSCME already represented a unit of workers at St. Luke’s which included dietary aids and other food service workers.

The Union won the right to represent the LPN’s despite the operators of the nursing home hiring a lawfirm that specializes in attempting to delay representation elections and the spending of thousands of dollars on anti-union attorney’s and consulting firms.

The employer challenged the right of whether the LPN’s had the right to become union members claiming they are supervisors and under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct) are ineligible from joining unions. However, Region Four ruled they were and conducted the election.

However, according to Matt Balas, Business Representative of AFSCME District Council 87, the nursing home operators will not meet with the union to discuss the CBA.

AFSCME filed a Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) against the St. Luke’s operators with the NLRB in which the agency ruled in favor of the union. St. Luke’s appealed the Region Four decision to the NLRB Washington office and the five member agency the parties are still waiting for their decision of whether the LPN’s are management or can be represented by AFSCME.

Mr. Balas stated that the existing CBA with St. Luke’s has been re-negotiated since the LPN’s voted for unionization.