Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

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.

USW members at Follett Corporation ratify new labor pact

10.11.15

JULY 2015, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

USW members at Follett Corporation ratify new labor pact

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Annual NALC National Food Drive to be held on May 9th

03.02.15

MARCH 2015, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Annual NALC National Food Drive to be held on May 9th

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, February 22nd- The annual National Association of Letters Carriers (NALC) Union Food Drive will be held this May.

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. The food drive in 2014 was the tenth consecutive year in which at least 70 million pounds of food was collected.

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 neady throughout the nation.

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 Lehigh Valley Labor Council labor federation, which is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, will again participate in the annual event. Branch 274 represents most of the NALC members in the region.

Trucking companies who employees are represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) often volunteer their equipment to haul the collected food to area food banks, pantries and shelters.

The NALC has approximately 200,000 active members. They began the drive in 1991 and while it was not held in 1992 the NALC members have collected food items every year since. Around 1500 NALC Branches participate nationwide.

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

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

The NALC request that postal costumers not put food items with expired dates by their boxes because those will only be discarded.

Fast-food franchise operators fearful of worker protest and calling for wage increases and possible unionization

01.15.15

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

Fast-food franchise operators fearful of worker protest and calling for wage increases and possible unionization

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 5th- Fast-food franchise owners lead by the International Franchise Association, a group of approximately 17,000 fast-food restaurant owners and operators, have began to release information and business profits hoping to convince their employees and the public at-large that most of the franchise owners which includes McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, Subway and others are just small business-people and can not afford to pay their workers much above the federal minimum wage.

The national campaign by fast-food workers, mostly at McDonald’s Restaurants, to push for higher wages is continuing.

Recent worker protests throughout the nation, including in Philadelphia, marked the one-year anniversary of the fast-food workers effort to raise their wages. Organizers stated that the protests were held in more than 150 cities throughout the nation.

In the spring of 2014, a new labor organization was formed to attempt to organize fast-food workers throughout the United States.

The New York City based “Fast Food Workers Committee” Union filed with the United States Department of Labor (DOL), in Washington DC to be recognized as a labor organization that wants to represent workers employed within the fast-food industry.

The Union comes into existence after reports indicated that some McDonald’s franchise owners violated the Federal Fair Standards Act (FLSAct) or have paid their workers through debit cards, which required the employees pay bank penalties for transactions.

In February, the DOL announced that former McDonald’s franchisee Cheubg Enterprises LLC, based in Middletown, Pennsylvania, agreed to pay more than $205,900 in back wages and liquidated damages to 291 employees.

A investigation by the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division found that the company violated the minimum wage and overtime provisions of FLSAct at the company’s six locations in central Pennsylvania.

Investigators from the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division in Wilkes-Barre investigated the complaint and found the violations of the FLSAct.

The trade group recently released information that stated only six percent of their affiliated members operate or own more than 100 separate franchise businesses. Also, the organization stated almost fifty percent operate just one. However, fewer than fifty percent of all franchise owners are affiliated with the organization and the trade group did not include nonaffiliated franchise owners in their data.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is supporting a national campaign called “Fast Food Forward” which includes calling for McDonald’s and other fast-food restaurants to pay their workers a “living wage.”

The “Fast Food Forward” stepped-up their campaign to raise the wages of fast-food workers and other employees of companies that pay their workers the minimum wage or just above, during the last quarter of 2014.

The workers pay and benefits, or lack of it, has turned into a national news story with worker strikes and protests, often resulting in fast-food workers being threatened or disciplined for their legally protected activity.

The nationwide worker protest at fast-food restaurants and demonstrations have resulted in workers and protesters also being arrested.

“Fast Food Forward” is being supported and sponsored by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and has provided manpower and financial help to the organization in its quest to raise the workers wages and become represented by an labor organization.

The International Franchise Association has created a web-site and hotline phone number to help counter the worker protest and wage increases demands.

A review of the web-site by the newspaper indicated that the trade group is fearful and warns their members because of the escalating worker protest, labor union involvement it the employees cause, state minimum wage law increases clearly made to target their affiliated members, and the attempt of the newly formed labor organization to organize their workforce which would likely increase wages and create new working conditions under a collective bargaining agreement for their workers.

Pennsylvania minimum wage falls below surrounding states, raising federal level becomes unlikely

12.02.14

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

Pennsylvania minimum wage falls below surrounding states, raising federal level becomes unlikely

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, November 5th - With the election season over and the Republican party being successful in strengthening their ability to have legislation passed through both sides of the Pennsylvania General Assembly by gaining seats in both chambers of the legislature, raising the minimum wage for state workers becomes even more complicated and unlikely.

The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington DC supports increasing the federal bench-mark to $10.10 an hour, which President Obama has proposed.

The current minimum wage, which covers most workers employed within many industries excluding some retail and service establishments and farms and also employ students at wages of no more than 15 percent below the minimum with proper certification, is $7.25. The federal minimum wage has not been raised since 2009.

Some states have tired of waiting for the Republicans in Washington to support an increase and have began raising their bench-mark wage above the federal wage.

Maryland, New Jersey and New York have increased their minimum wage above the federal level, while Republicans in Harrisburg have successfully blocked raising the minimum wage in Pennsylvania, currently the same as the federal level of $7.25 an hour.

There are 19 state’s and the District of Columbia that have a higher minimum wage than the federal standard. New Jersey’s minimum wage increased in January to $8.25 an hour.

However, in Pennsylvania raising the wage has been blocked by Republican legislators and their business supporters. Republican Governor Tom Corbett, who lost to Democrat Tom Wolf on November 4th denying him of a second four-year term, made it clear he did not support raising the benchmark. Mr. Corbett stated the higher was would harm Pennsylvania’s economy despite that the wage in surrounding states is higher.

But, according to data released by the Department of Labor in July, job growth in the 13 states that have increased their minimum wage has been more robust than states that have not. Average job growth in states that have increased the benchmark was 0.85 percent this year while in states that have not increase their wage was 0.61 percent.

Mr. Wolf made it clear he would support rasing the benchmark and before his victory stated he will push for the increase if elected.

Meanwhile, on October 10th the United States Conference of Mayors urged Congress to raise the wage to $10.10 and mobilized existing support from mayors across the county who favor the increase.

More than 70 mayors signed the a letter supporting the raising of the federal minimum wage.

Raising the wage would give approximately 28 million across the county a wage hike.

Members of the right-wing pro-business groups recently stated, without facts, that minimum wage increares are “Union lifesavers.”

They argue that raising the wage enables labor union organizers to approach a nonunion employer struggling to pay the new wage and assist them in unionizing their workers by signing a “neutrality agreement” in return for the union will then use collective bargaining waiver within the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct) to allow the employer to pay less than the minimum. The action would be against the law and would subject the labor organization to legal ramifications. The measures will increase the minimum wage in San Francisco to $15 an hour by 2018.

On November 4th voters overwhelming approved raising the minimum wage for workers in the Bay Area of California. Voters passed two initiatives in Oakland and San Francisco by huge margins that will increase the wages for 190,000 workers in that area.

With the Republicans gaining enough seats in the United States Senate that will allow them to hold the majority beginning in 2015 for at least the next two years, it is extremely unlikely the federal benchmark will be increased.

Some Republicans back increasing wage in their home states

09.30.14

OCTOBER 2014, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Some Republicans back increasing wage in their home states

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, September 20th- During this mid-term election year some Republicans throughout the nation have backed the raising of the minimum wage while legislation supported by President Barack Obama lies in Washington likely to die because most federal members of the GOP will not support it.

The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington DC, has made it clear it does support raising the federal minimum wage to the bench-mark of $10.10 an hour, which President Obama proposed in his “state-of-the-union” address earlier this year.

The current minimum wage, which covers most workers employed within many industries excluding some retail and service establishments and farms and also employ students at wages of no more than 15 percent below the minimum with proper certification, is $7.25. The federal minimum wage has not been raised since 2009.

The AFL-CIO has been lobbying Washington legislators and organizing rallies supporting the raising of the federal minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSAct).

Many states have increased their minimum wage above the federal bench-mark including New Jersey, Maryland and New York. However, anti-worker Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett has made it clear he does not support increasing the wage. He has been lobbying fellow Republicans to not support the increase of the hourly wage, stating the higher wage would harm Pennsylvania’s economy.

There are 19 state’s and the District of Columbia that have a higher minimum wage than the federal standard. New Jersey’s minimum wage increased in January to $8.25 an hour.

Meanwhile, in five states that Republicans control, including Alaska, Arkansas, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Illinois, GOP legislators have voiced their support for raising the bench-mark in their states but not to $10.10 an hour.

Those five states have measures up for a vote and the bench-mark would be increased from their current wage between $1.25 an hour, such as South Dakota, to $2.00 an hour, such as Alaska.

In 2014, 13 states have so-far increased their bench-mark above the federal minimum wage and those states have added jobs faster than those that did not raise the wage.

A recently release report by the Congressional Budget Office projected that a higher minimum wage of $10.10 an hour would cut 500,000 jobs throughout the nation but the report also stated that more than 16.5 million American workers wages would be increased, producing an overwhelmingly positive impact for the economy.

Minimum wage increase fight to begin again in fall

08.23.14

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

Minimum wage increase fight to begin again in fall

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, July 22nd- The labor community will again continue to push for a increase in the federal minimum wage in the fall after legislators return from their summer recess.

The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington DC supports increasing the bench-mark to $10.10 an hour, which President Obama has proposed.

The current minimum wage, which covers most workers employed within many industries excluding some retail and service establishments and farms and also employ students at wages of no more than 15 percent below the minimum with proper certification, is $7.25. The federal minimum wage has not been raised since 2009.

The AFL-CIO has been lobbying Washington legislators and organizing rallies supporting the raising of the federal minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSAct).

Some states have tired of waiting for the Republicans in Washington to support an increase and have began raising their bench-mark wage above the federal wage.

Maryland, New Jersey and New York have increased their minimum wage above the federal level, while Republicans in Harrisburg have successfully blocked raising the minimum wage in Pennsylvania, currently the same as the federal level of $7.25 an hour.

There are 19 state’s and the District of Columbia that have a higher minimum wage than the federal standard. New Jersey’s minimum wage increased in January to $8.25 an hour.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett does not support increasing the wage and has been lobbying fellow Republicans to not support the increase of the hourly wage, stating the higher wage would harm the economy.

Meanwhile, according to data released by the Department of Labor on July 18th, job growth in the 13 states that have increased their minimum wage has been more robust than states that have not. Average job growth in states that have increased the benchmark was 0.85 percent this year while in states that have not increase their wage was 0.61 percent.

Increasing the minimum wage has got a boost from a unlikely source with Wal-Mart Stores officials stating they would not oppose the increasing of the benchmark past the $7.25 an hour.

The nation’s largest retailer has 1.3 million employees and currently has 5,000 workers earning the federal minimum wage.

But, Wal-Mart officials have made it clear that while the retailer stated it would not oppose the raising of the benchmark it also does not support increasing it.

Minimum wage increase fight to begin again in fall

07.28.14

AUGUST 2014, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Minimum wage increase fight to begin again in fall

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, July 22nd- The labor community will again continue to push for a increase in the federal minimum wage in the fall after legislators return from their summer recess.

The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington DC supports increasing the bench-mark to $10.10 an hour, which President Obama has proposed.

The current minimum wage, which covers most workers employed within many industries excluding some retail and service establishments and farms and also employ students at wages of no more than 15 percent below the minimum with proper certification, is $7.25.

The AFL-CIO has been lobbying Washington legislators and organizing rallies supporting the raising of the federal minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSAct).

Some states have tired of waiting for the Republicans in Washington to support an increase and have began raising their bench-mark wage above the federal wage.

Maryland, New Jersey and New York have increased their minimum wage above the federal level, while Republicans in Harrisburg have successfully blocked raising the minimum wage in Pennsylvania, currently the same as the federal level of $7.25 an hour.

There are 19 state’s and the District of Columbia that have a higher minimum wage than the federal standard. New Jersey’s minimum wage increased in January to $8.25 an hour.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett does not support increasing the wage and has been lobbying fellow Republicans to not support the increase of the hourly wage, stating the higher wage would harm the economy.

Meanwhile, according to data released by the Department of Labor on July 18th, job growth in the 13 states that have increased their minimum wage has been more robust than states that have not. Average job growth in states that have increased the benchmark was 0.85 percent this year while in states that have not increase their wage was 0.61 percent.

Increasing the mimimum wage has got a boost from a unlikely source with Wal-Mart Stores officials stating they would not oppose the increasing of the benchmark past the $7.25 an hour.

The nation’s largest retailer has 1.3 million employees and currently has 5,000 workers earning the federal minimum wage.

But, WalMart officials have made it clear that while the retailer stated it would not oppose the raising of the benchmark it also does not support increasing it.

The federal minimum wage has not been raised since 2009.

Increasing the minimum wage debate continues across nation

07.02.14

Increasing the minimum wage debate continues across nation

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, June 20th- Raising the federal minimum wage debate continues with the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington DC supporting increasing the bench-mark to $10.10 an hour, which President Obama has proposed. However, some cities, such as New York, Seattle, Chicago and Sans Francisco, have pushed for a higher wage in the cities than their state’s minimum wage.

In late April, the Senate Republicans in Washington DC did what they promised to do, block an increase of the federal minimum wage. The federal minimum wage has not been raised since 2009. The current minimum wage, which covers most workers employed within many industries excluding some retail and service establishments and farms and also employ students at wages of no more than 15 percent below the minimum with proper certification, is $7.25.

The AFL-CIO has been lobbying Washington legislators and organizing rallies supporting the raising of the federal minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSAct).

Some states have tired of waiting for the Republicans in Washington to support an increase and have began raising their bench-mark wage above the federal wage.

Maryland, New Jersey and New York have increased their minimum wage above the federal level, while Republicans in Harrisburg have also blocked raising the minimum wage in Pennsylvania, currently the same as the federal level of $7.25 an hour.

There are 19 state’s and the District of Columbia that have a higher minimum wage than the federal standard. New Jersey’s minimum wage increased in January to $8.25 an hour.

Several legislative bills have emerged that would increase the Pennsylvania minimum wage in 2014 but the bills will likely not see any action because Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett does not support increasing the wage and has been lobbying fellow Republicans to not support the increase of the hourly wage, stating the higher wage would harm the economy. The legislators begin their summer recess at the end of June.

On April 30th, the Minimum Wage Fairness Act was unsuccessful in gaining the 60 Senate votes needed to proceed that would have raised the wage to $10.25 an hour. The vote was 54 for to 42 against allowing debate on the measure.

Meanwhile, some Republican controlled states have passed laws that prohibit state minimum wages from being higher than the federal bench-mark. In 2014, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 14 states have either passed or introduced bills that bans raising their minimum wage above the federal level, all controlled by the Republican party.

Organized labor supporting raising federal minimum wage

05.19.14

MAY 2014, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Organized labor supporting raising federal minimum wage

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, April 16th- The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington DC, have began to rally support for the raising of the federal minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSAct).

The current minimum wage, which covers most workers employed within many industries excluding some retail and service establishments and farms and also employ students at wages of no more than 15 percent below the minimum with proper certification from the Department of Labor, is $7.25.

The AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka recently attended a pro-minimum wage increase rally in New Jersey, and Philadelphia stating that increasing the federal minimum wage would be good for workers and the community where they work. The AFL-CIO has participated in rallies with a bus with the slogan painted in blue with the words on its side “Give America a Raise.”

Meanwhile, New Jersey and New York have increased their minimum wage above the federal level, in Pennsylvania the wage remains at $7.25 an hour. The federal minimum wage has not been raised since 2009. President Obama wants to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

On April 7th, Pennsylvania neighboring state Maryland voted to raise their minimum wage above the federal standard. Maryland lawmakers voted to gradually raise the wage to $10.10 an hour. The pro-business, anti-worker Maryland legislators were able to delay the full phase-in of the $10.10 minimum wage until 2018. Pennsylvania will have a lower minimum wage than three of it’s neighboring states, Maryland, New York and New Jersey. Maryland was the fourth state in the nation to approve wage increases above the federal standard in 2014.

Currently, there are more than 20 state’s and the District of Columbia that have a higher minimum wage than the federal standard. New Jersey’s minimum wage increased in January to $8.25 an hour.

Several legislative bills have emerged that would increase the Pennsylvania minimum wage in 2014 but the bills will likely not see any action because Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett does not support increasing the wage. Pennsylvania Senator Christine Tartaglione (Democrat-2nd Legislative District) and Minority Caucus Secretary, has introduced a bill that would increase Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

The United States economy has lost almost 6 million manufacturing jobs since 2000 while the American worker productivity increased during the time and many of the lowest paid workers are employed by large companies that have given huge raises to their executives after they recovered from the great recession but most have been reluctant to increase their workers wages.

__________________

EDITOR’S NOTE: Delaware has increased the state minimum wage above the Federal rate this year with the strong support of organized labor.

A Union Plan to Guarantee Funding of Public Libraries in New York City

03.21.13

By GREGORY N. HEIRES

www.thenewcrossroads.com
http://www.thenewcrossroads.com/2013/03/17/a-plan-to-guarantee-steady-funding-for-new-york-citys-cash-strapped-libraries/

The Great Recession has brought years of service cuts and downsizing to revenue-starved public library systems throughout the United States.

In New York City, supporters are looking to put an end to the budget battle that occurs every year over library funding, which has plummeted by $67 million, or 22.1 percent, over the past four years.

District Council 37, the largest union of municipal workers in the city, recently launched a campaign to fight for a funding floor for the city’s cash-strapped three public library systems.

The union is calling for legislation that would require the city to dedicate 2.5 percent of its property tax assessments to public libraries.

“Having a permanent funding stream would free the library systems, staff and patrons from annual round of budget cuts and restorations that now take place and provide a more stable delivery of services to communities citywide, which are using public libraries at an increasing rate,” said Executive Director Lillian Roberts of District Council 37. DC 37 has four union locals that represent library workers—ranging from custodians, security guards, maintenance employees and clerks to technical and information assistants, and librarians—in the city’s five boroughs.

“Adequate funding to keep the gates of knowledge open to one and all should be a major priority for our elected officials, now and for the future,” said New York Public Library Guild Local 1930 President Valentin Colon.

But as library advocates press for stable financing, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed budget would allocate just $193 million to libraries—an astounding $106 million below the current funding. The billionaire mayor’s yearly budget cuts have led his critics to contend that defunding libraries will be one of his legacies after he finishes his third and last term this year.

What are some of the consequences of the inadequate funding over the years?

The front-line library staff is down significantly since 2002. Since then, the number of workers in the library systems has declined 20 percent.
Libraries have been forced to reduce their services to an average of five days a week, down from six in 2008.
The three-library systems face $1.5 billion in construction needs. Queens has deferred $647 million in maintenance projects in its 67 branches.
· Tight budgets have forced libraries to curtail spending on books and other material. In recent years, such spending in Queens has dropped from $15 million to $5 million.
New York City libraries are typically open 43 hours a week. Libraries in Chicago and Boston are open for 50 hours. Despite its well-known financial troubles, Detroit manages to operate its libraries 45.2 hours a week.
Meanwhile, as they have struggled with Bloomberg’s austerity in recent years, libraries continue to be enormously popular with residents.

Circulation is up by 59 percent in the three library systems over the past decade. Attendance of library programs has increased 40 percent.

More people are going to the libraries, which have provided crucial support to the city’s unemployed during tough economic times. In fiscal year, 2011, more than 40.5 million patrons visited the city’s 206 public library branches.

Branch libraries became safe havens—homeless shelters, job search centers, a place to charge cell phones, facilities with heat and hot water and food distribution centers–in communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy in October.

“Libraries represent hope and opportunity for millions of New Yorkers,” said Jimmy Van Bramer, chair of the New York City Council’s Cultural Affairs and Libraries Committee, who accompanied the union when it announced the “baseline” funding proposal on the steps of City Hall on March 13. “They are an essential city service and must be fully funded. A $106 million cut to libraries is irresponsible and, if enacted, those cuts would prove devastating.”

“Dedicating 2.5 percent of existing property tax levies to funding public libraries would offer a way out of this bad situation and set up public libraries with stable budgets for the future,” said Eileen Muller, president of Brooklyn Library Guild Local 1482.

Supporters of the proposed legislation say that the measure would do more than guarantee a funding floor.

“All three library systems have experienced funding cuts totaling tens of millions of dollars in recent years, but cuts aren’t their only financial obstacle,” concludes a recent report, “Branches of Opportunities,” by the Center for Urban Future, a think tank in New York City devoted to public policy issues. “In many ways, the lack of security afforded by the city’s budget process has been at least as big a problem.”

The steady funding would put an end to an annual “budget dance” in which a lot of energy and resources are devoted to fighting for restorations.

The precarious funding creates anxiety among workers–who each year wonder whether they will lose their jobs–and makes long-term planning for services and capital improvements difficult.

In the face of budget uncertainty, Brooklyn Public Library and New York Public Library, which services Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, have looked to selling off properties.

Queens Library Guild Local 1321 President John Hyslop said, “Legislation providing a stable source of consistent and adequate public library funding would allow library staff in all three systems to provide all the services our customers expect; to plan for new and innovative library services; to assure our customers have a vast array of materials, programs and services; and to feel secure in their profession.”

Cuthbert Dickenson, president of Quasi-Public Employees Local 374, which represents maintenance, custodial and security workers, said, “Every year we have uncertainty related to the budget, but public libraries are part of the educational fabric of New York City and they need stable funding so the young, the old and the in-between can visit, do research and benefit from library services in clean, attractive and well-maintained facilities.”