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.

Leisure and Hospitality jobs increase in the Lehigh Valley

10.11.15

SEPTEMBER 2015, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Leisure and Hospitality jobs increase in the Lehigh Valley

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, August 22nd- According to data provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (DOL), Center for Workforce Information and Analysis in Harrisburg, within the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), non-farm jobs have increased by 1,500 from the previous reporting period, which was approximately released four-weeks before. Non-farm jobs have rose by 3,800 from twelve months before to 361,000, the DOL data indicates.

The MSA includes Lehigh County, Northampton County and Carbon County of Pennsylvania.

Many within the MSA’s industry employment sectors have increased from the previous report with Leisure & Hospitality jobs reaching a new record high level. There are 41,200 jobs within the sector, increasing by 2,000 from the previous report and rising by 3,600 during the last twelve months.

Within that sector, Accommodation and Food Services jobs gained 2,000 from the previous report and rose by 1,100 from twelve months ago to 30,600. Also, Food Services and Drinking Places jobs increased by 800 from the previous report and increased by 1,500 jobs from this time last year to 26,200.

Government jobs have continued to lose jobs in the Lehigh Valley over the past twelve months dropping by 800 to 39,600.

Local Government jobs lost 1,000 jobs during the past month and dropped by 800 jobs from twelve months ago to 34,600. Federal Government jobs dropped by 100 during the past year but was unchanged from the previous report at 2,200. There are 2,800 State Government jobs within the MSA, decreasing by 100 from the previous report and from one year ago.

Overall jobs within the MSA were up 0.7 percent or 2,600, over the past twelve months.

Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA’s unemployment rate increases to 6.3 percent

10.11.15

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

MSA’s unemployment rate increases to 6.3 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, September 4th- 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 rose by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report to 6.3 percent. Twelve months ago the region’s unemployment rate was 6.9 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 continues to have the highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 6.9 percent, increasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report and the East Stroudsburg MSA has the second highest rate at 6.7 percent. The Johnstown MSA surpassed the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA for the highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania around six months ago. The Scranton/Wilkes-barre/Hazleton MSA had the highest unemployment rate within Pennsylvania for more than five years before being surpassed by the Johnstown MSA.

The Williamsport MSA has the fourth highest unemployment rate at 6.2 percent while the Philadelphia MSA has the fifth highest at 5.6 percent followed by the Erie MSA at 5.5 percent.

The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 5.4 percent, unchanged from the previous three months. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,426,000 with 349,000 not working. Pennsylvania has 6,077,000 civilians with employment. Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate decreased by one-tenth of a percentage point over the past twelve months.

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

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 3.8 percent, the same as the month before. The Gettysburg MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 4.2 percent while the Lancaster MSA has the third lowest. The Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fourth lowest rate at 4.5 percent followed by the Lebanon MSA for the fifth lowest at 4.9 percent.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the fifth largest labor-force in Pennsylvania with 284,800 civilians, rising by 2,000 from the month before and increasing by 6,300 during the past twelve months. There are 18,100 civilians without employment, decreasing by 1,200 during the past twelve months.

The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor-force in Pennsylvania at 3,040,400 with 169,300 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor-force at 1,225,500 with 64,100 without jobs; and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor-force at 427,500 with 23,800 not
working.

Lackawanna County has the lowest unemployment rate within the MSA at 5.9 percent, increasing by four-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report but dropping by seven-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before. Lackawanna County has a labor force of 109,000 with 6,400 without employment.

Luzerne County has the highest unemployment rate within the MSA at 6.4 percent, rising by two-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 161,900 and 10,400 of them have no jobs.

Wyoming County’s unemployment rate is 6.0 percent, dropping by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report and dropping by eight-tenths of a percentage point from one year before. Wyoming County has a labor force of 14,500 with 900 unemployed.

CLUW members raise funds by holding yard-sale

10.11.15

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

CLUW members raise funds by holding yard-sale

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, August 1st- The Northeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the Coalition of Union Women (CLUW) held their first fund raiser by conducting a yard sale on Saturday July 18th at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union District Council 87, O’Neill Highway in Dunmore, building.

According to Theresa Lipko, who is the Treasurer of Northeastern Chapter of CLUW, approximately $400.00 was raised through the day-long yard sale. Also, Ms. Lipko added that around $300.00 was also added to the organizations funds by people paying their affiliation dues.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.

Melissa Matoushek, an 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 the organization now has enough funds to operate and they are currently planning for a member meeting to discuss what issues the group would like to pursue.

On Wednesday May 27th the organization met at the AFSCME building to select officers which included a President, Vice President, Treasurer and three Trustees.

On July 18th several members of the organization volunteered their time to participate in the yard-sale fund raiser. The group had met before-hand to tag prices for the donated items that were sold.

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.

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.

Teamsters Union Local 401 members son awarded James R. Hoffa scholarship

10.11.15

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

Teamsters Union Local 401 members son awarded James R. Hoffa scholarship

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, August 5th- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 401, South Washington Street in Wilkes-Barre, announced that one of their members child was awarded the James R. Hoffa Memorial Scholarship for 2015. It was third time a member of Local 401 has won the award which was named after the legendary labor leader who disappeared 40 years ago last month in Detroit. Mr. Hoffa’s remains where never discovered and law enforcement continues to follow possible leads in solving the cold case.

Mr. Hoffa became a International Brotherhood of Teamsters member in 1934 and served as General President for fourteen years, and in recognition of his service to the Union and its members after his disappearance was honored as General President Emeritus for life.

At the November 1999 IBT General Executive meeting, then General Secretary/Treasurer C. Thomas Keegel presented a resolution which was passed to establish the new scholarship fund in Mr. Hoffa’s name.

The $1,000.00 scholarship is awarded annually to 200 college students across the nation and Canada that are enrolled in an undergraduate program after they complete an essay of 500 words or less and meet several other requirements including that one or both of their parents or grand-parents must be a member of good standing of the IBT. This years essay’s topic was “What impact would an increase in union membership have on the United States economy and the middle class”. The IBT increased the scholarships to 200 recipients from 150 this year.

James J. Musto Jr., the son of James and Lisa Musto of Pittston, received the scholarship. Mr. Musto Jr. is a student of Wilkes University in Luzerne County and is enrolled as a Junior majoring in Integrative Media and Art, minoring in Marketing. His mother is employed by Local 401 as the Titan Operator, which is the communication operation used within the IBT.

In 2014 Local 401 member Deanna Habib and her husband Victor Habib daughter Amber was one of the years scholarship recipients.

Before a scholarship is awarded, the student must rank in the top 15 percent of their high-school class; have, or expect to have, excellent SAT or ACT scores; and demonstrate financial need.

Mr. Musto said he was thankfull to the IBT for his scholarship.

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.

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.

Food services and drinking places jobs in the MSA most ever

10.11.15

AUGUST 2015, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Food services and drinking places jobs in the MSA most ever

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, July 22nd- According to data provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (DOL), Center for Workforce Information and Analysis in Harrisburg, within the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), non-farm jobs have increased by 4,900 from the previous reporting period, which was approximately released four-week before. Non-farm jobs have rose by 3,400 from twelve months before to 360,200, the DOL data indicates.

The MSA includes Lehigh County, Northampton County and Carbon County of Pennsylvania.

Most industry sectors within the MSA gained jobs during the past twelve months with Leisure and Hospitality gaining the most increasing by 3,000 during the period. Transportation, Warehousing and Utilities jobs have increased by 1,200, the second largest job gainer.

Government jobs have continued to lose jobs in the Lehigh Valley over the past twelve months with Local Government jobs losing the most by declining by 600 to 35,600. Federal Government jobs dropped by 100 during the period while Local Government Educational Services decreasing by 500 jobs over the past twelve months to 22,600.

Overall, the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has a labor-force of 427,000 with 24,200 without employment. There are 403,600 MSA civilians with employment, improving by 4,000 from twelve months before.

There are 36,700 manufacturing jobs within the MSA, rising by 1,100 from the previous report and increasing by 400 from this time last year. Within the sector there are 21,800 durable goods jobs and 13,900 non-durable jobs.

Food services and drinking places posted a large gain over the previous report, gaining a new record high level.

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.

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.

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.

Northeastern Pennsylvania CLUW Chapter to hold yard sale

10.11.15

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

Northeastern Pennsylvania CLUW Chapter to hold yard sale

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, July 1st- The Northeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the Coalition of Union Women (CLUW) will hold a yard sale on Saturday July 18th at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union District Council 87, O’Neill Highway in Dunmore, building. The event will be held between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm.

People can donated items for the yard sale at the AFSCME building on July 15th and July 17th.

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 and the yard sale is the first opportunity for the organization to raise funds.

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.

The organization met on Wednesday May 27th at the AFSCME building to select officers which included a President, Vice President, Treasurer and three Trustees.

The group at the meeting also decided how much affiliation dues will need to be paid for any person wanting to be a CLUW member.

At the meeting no challenges were made to any of the nominated people selected therefore, those nominated were elected and have began serving.

Ms. Matoushek request that people look around their homes for items that could be donated.

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.

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.

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.