Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

Using this site

08.25.07

Please send all email to demlabor@aol.com about events you want placed in the Labor Event Calendar. Anything in Delaware, DC, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey or Pennsylvania… but will include some outside the region.

Please do not attack other unions or union activists on my site.

Please register if you wish to comment often. Send me an email with a little bio if you have time. There are different levels of users and background will help me rate your level. For most users, your level will rise over time. The top level permits direct use without approval of posts.

If you union has a website, we would like to add a link to it. We hope you will add us to your links.

Thanks,

Stephen Crockett

Helping the Mine Workers in Utah

08.25.07

I received this forwarded email from Harry Gravell (Sprinklerfitters 669 Business Agent and President of the Delaware Building Trades Council). He received it from LU 669 Organizer Kelly Oveson. I thought we should share it with all union activists. Our hearts and prayers go out to all those families!

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I write this e-mail as I prepare to travel south to my Hometown of Huntington, UT. Where I will pay respects and say goodbye to a life long friend. Dale “Bird’ Black and I have known each other since our birth. Our Mothers were pregnant with us at the same time and they as well, have remained very close friends for over 70 years. Bird and I grew up together and shared a lot of memories and had many wild times in our youth. Last Thursday, showing his true character, Bird gave the ultimate sacrifice while trying rescue his co-workers trapped in the Crandall Canyon Mine, near Huntington.
I write this not as a request of sympathy for me, but rather for your prayers and thoughts for Dale’s family as well as all the others who have lost those near to them in this horrible tragedy. Utah’s coal country communities are very small and tight knit. It would be hard to find anyone down there who has not been impacted by this.
The International Vice President for the UMWA District 22, (He is also the Mayor of Helper, UT) Mike Dalpaiz, has put together a fund for the families of the victims of this mine disaster. We are asking that you donate anything you can for the wives and children of these fallen miners.

Donations can be made at any branch of Wells Fargo Bank, payable to “Helper Crandall Canyon Fund”
or you can mail your donations to:
Helper Crandall Canyon Fund
C/O Debbie Jones
P. O. Box 547
Helper, UT 84526

Thank you in advance, for your thoughts, prayers and generousity.
God Bless you, Kel

Organized Labor Is Alive and Well (In Pennsylvania)

08.25.07

Organized Labor Is Alive and Well (In Pennsylvania)

Organized labor is alive and well in Pennsylvania! Despite much of the prevailing gloom about the future of the labor movement in media pundit circles, the hopeful future of organized labor was apparent during a recent visit by this writer to the Lehigh Valley region (Allentown, Bethlehem, Northampton) of eastern Pennsylvania.

Much of the doom and gloom over the future of unions in America comes from the decline in the percentage of American workers represented by unions. Some pundits see the decline as resulting from a lack of energy by the workers seeking to unionize their places of employment and the union leadership. Some of these pundits are intentionally seeking to malign the union movement by spreading corporate disinformation. Others are just poorly informed.

The decline in union numbers really has two mutually related roots. They are changes in laws, government regulations and government enforcement efforts that tilt the union election system heavily in favor of the companies fighting their workers. The second is unfair trade policies. The first issue can easily be corrected by passing the Employee Free Choice Act. The second issue will require extensive efforts to renegotiate or repeal all so-called free trade agreements passed since (and including) NAFTA.

My trip to the Lehigh Valley started with the annual Lehigh Valley Central Labor Council dinner in Northampton. Over 315 union activists, political figures and civic leaders attended the event. Among the union locals that were represented include; UFCW Local 1776, USW Local 2599 and 412, IBEW Local 375 and 1600, Laborers Local 1174, AIM Local 917, PSEA, AFSCME District Council 88, and Local 1435, Teamsters Local 773, Berks County Labor Council, Schuylkill County Labor Council, CWA District 13 and Local 13500, IAFF Local 735, SEIU/PSSu Local 668, USW District Council 1, APWU, IUPAT Local 1269, NALC, Allentown Firefighters, ATU and OPEIU 277.

Elected officials attending included; Pennsylvania AFL-CIO president Bill George, Keynote speaker and Pennsylvania Representative Joseph Preston 24th District, Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski and State Senator Lisa Boscola. Pennsylvania State Representatives, Jennifer Mann, Bob Freeman, Steve Samuelson and Joe Brennan were in attendance and recognized by all involved.

Allentown City Councilman Mike D’Amore, Northampton Mayor Tom Neehock. Northampton and Lehigh County Democratic chairs, Joe Long and Rick Daugherty, Salisbury Township Treasurer Linda Minger , Lehigh County Commissioner Kurt Derr were among the local dignitaries at the CLC event. Northampton County Councilwoman Ann McHale, Northampton County Councilman Charles Dertinger, Northampton County Councilman Lamont Maclure, and Lehigh County Sheriff Ron Rossi were there and recognized from the podium.

Mike D’Amore became on of my new political heroes when I learned that he is trying to get the Allentown City Council to pass a resolution supporting the Employee Free Choice Act. I hope his example of political courage is copied by local politicians from coast to coast!

Other political figures in attendance included political candidates like Allentown City Council hopefuls Peter Schweyer, Mike Donovan and David Jones. Christine Donohue, candidate for superior court judge, attended. Siobhan “Sam” Bennett candidate for 15th Congressional district was working the crowd. IAFF member Rich Gawlik who is a candidate for Lehigh County Commissioner was well-received. Court of Common Pleas candidates, Michelle Varricchio, Tom Lonardo and Glenn Clark, Superior Court candidate Jim Lynn and Bethlehem City Council hopeful Willie Reynolds were campaigning vigorously during the event.

No doubt this writer has unintentionally overlooked some of the notables who should have been mentioned. The large attendance proves that organized labor is not dormant in the Greater Lehigh Valley. The long list of political figures shows that organized labor is politically important in Pennsylvania.

At the event, Ron Achey was presented with a lifetime achievement award for community service. Ron serves as the Labor AFL-CIO liaison for the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley.

Dale Krasley of UAW Local 677/Mack Trucks was presented with the William Werkheiser Community Services award. It was obvious that he was a favorite of all the local unionists present.

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Bill George gave an excellent, short speech that impressed the audience greatly. It was easy to tell that the crowd was very supportive of President George. George noted that Pennsylvania was having more Worker Memorial Day ceremonies that weekend than every other state in the nation.

He was followed by Pennsylvania State Representative Joseph Preston, who drove in from the western part of the state (Pittsburgh area). Joseph Preston gave an amazing speech. He was able to speak from the heart and shared personal experiences as a union worker and son of a union worker in the steel industry. He talked about worker safety and those who had died on the job. Preston spoke eloquently about how financial decisions by large corporations often place profits over the safety and lives of American workers. He spoke against unfair trade practices and unfair tax structures. Preston brought the applauding crowd to their feet!

It was a great night that spilled over into a very moving tribute to workers killed on the job in the Greater Lehigh Valley the next afternoon at the Lehigh Valley Workers Memorial. This was another Lehigh Valley Central Labor Council event.

The Lehigh Valley Central Labor Council Executive Vice President John Werkheiser and Pete DePietro jointly serve as Chairmen of the Lehigh Valley Workers Memorial Board. Lehigh Valley CLC President Gregg Potter and Recording Secretary John Weiss serve on the board as well. The Workers Memorial Day ceremony was held at the Bethlehem park were the Lehigh Valley Workers Memorial is permanently on display.

At the ceremony, Superior Court Judge Jack Panella was the keynote speaker. He gave a passionate and moving speech about his own family. He spoke about his late father who had a heart attack on the job and had great difficultly getting workers compensation. He passed away shortly after getting his first check.

This writer cannot even begin to recount the tale like Judge Panella. I was so moved that I immediately called my co-host on Democratic Talk Radio, Al Lawrence. We scheduled an interview with Judge Jack Panella which will soon be available on our website at http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio.com . I would like to see Panella in the US Senate!

After the speeches, many of those unionists and political figures present read the names of those who were killed on the job. John Weiss rang a bell after each name was read. He unfortunately rang the bell 784 times this past Sunday for workers who have died on the job in the Lehigh Valley. Each reader placed a flower on the Workers Memorial.

It was a sad ceremony. It was a beautiful ceremony. I thought about all those hurting families there and the thousands more across our nation. I thanked God that we have a vibrant union movement fighting to reduce the number of families that have to feel such pain and loss.

The union movement is alive and well in Pennsylvania. It is fighting vigorously for a better future for all working Americans!

Written by Stephen Crockett (co-host of Democratic Talk Radio http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio.com and union activist). Mail: P.O. Box 283, Earleville, Maryland 21919. Phone: 443-907-2367. Email: midsouthcm@aol.com .

Feel free to publish without prior approval at no cost.

Organized Labor (and You) Can Defeat Republican Corporatism

08.25.07

Organized Labor (and You) Can Defeat Republican Corporatism

Progressive Internet activists, local Democratic Party stalwarts and reformists of all stripes need to unite under the leadership of organized labor to take back our government and economy from the Republican-Corporate alliance. The coalition should include efforts to win elections, change trade policies and unionize workplaces all over America.

The labor union movement has the resources to change the direction of American politics if firmly and actively supported by allies outside organized labor. No other institution in America understands the serious threat that Bush Republicanism poses to a Middle Class American lifestyle and American Democracy as well as American labor unions.

Corporations have totally captured the modern Republican Party and corrupted it thoroughly. The so-called Christian Right has fallen victim to the same corrupting influence of Corporate money. The infection is spreading in Republican circles, as demonstrated by Ralph Reed, Conrad Burns, Jack Abramoff, Katherine Harris and many others. Conservatism has been completely destroyed as a coherent ideology and replaced by a “Greed Is Good” creed.

Corporations have been buying up media, blocking campaign financing reform, using outsourcing to undermine the American Middle Class, blocking minimum wage increases, denying the American public access to universal health care, curtailing consumer ability to hold corporations responsible for abuses in courts of law and crippling workers rights to unionize. The Bush Republicans are actively promoting this anti-American and un-Christian set of political activities completely.

They are additionally making it more difficult for American youths to gain a college education. Workplace safety rules and regulations have been weakened. This has directly resulted in the deaths of American workers in our mines, factories, highways, etc. We have been price-gouged for gasoline, home heating oil, prescription drugs, electricity, insurances, loans and more.

Americans simply cannot afford to leave Corporations to completely set all the rules controlling our economy and government. The personal impact on ourselves and our families has been devastating!

We need to fight back. Our best hope of victory is to unite under labor union leadership. Bloggers, community activists, local political leaders, civil libertarians, environmentalists, writers and all other reformers bring vital skills and broader societal connections that make victory, under union leadership, more likely.

We can all contact unions to help start more union locals in our community. We can rally community support for the political agenda of local unions. We should support unions in their collective bargaining efforts and lobbying. Local Democratic groups should routinely work with local union leaders.

Nationally, we should vote based on issues instead of emotional nonsense and fear promoted by the Bush Republican machine. We should promote boycotts of Corporations who try to break unions, abuse consumers or send American jobs outside our national borders to exploit cheap labor (or weaker environmental laws.)

Americans must demand that modern Corporations take their role as good citizens seriously. Corporations must not abuse workers, consumers, small investors or taxpayers. Corporations who fail to act in the national interest should be controlled by legislation and government regulation.

Politicians who ally themselves with the Corporations are the enemy and should be defeated at the polls. Organized labor can be counted on to be in the forefront of the effort. Will you be an active ally?

Written by Stephen Crockett (co-host of Democratic Talk Radio http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio.com ). Mail: P.O. Box 283, Earleville, Maryland 21919. Phone: 443-907-2367. Email: midsouthcm@aol.com .

Feel free to publish at no charge without prior permission in your newspaper, newsletter, website or blog.

Employee Free Choice Act and Republican Disinformation

08.25.07

Employee Free Choice Act and Republican Disinformation

Republicans opposing the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act are lying up a storm to swing public opinion against the proposed law. Their primary attack claim is that the bill denies workers a free, fair election by secret ballot. Unfortunately, there is nothing free or fair about the current system of voting on unionization. The law is tilted heavily in favor of company power and against the workers.

I have been involved in an unsuccessful attempt to unionize a business. I saw disturbing examples of intimidation and unfair tactics that the Employee Free Choice Act would have prevented.

Companies are able to hold “captive audience meetings” to argue against unionization. They are legally able to include certain workers and exclude others. Attendance is mandatory for some and prohibited to others. They are held on company time.

Workers trying to unionize are not able to meet on company property without permission of the company. Strong union supporters are usually excluded from “captive audience meetings” so the company position is the only one heard by the workers forced to attend. Sometimes illegal threats or statements are issued at these meetings when the company feels certain that workers attending them will not report them to the federal government.

The burden of proof by law regarding illegal tactics by companies in complaints filed with the National Labor Relations Board definitely tilts toward the company. Most companies fail to see violations of labor laws by anti-union “so-called worker committees” (often comprised of quasi-management employees) while pro-union workers are threatened frequently with being fired if suspected of engaging in pro-union activities. The anti-union “so-called worker committees” can operate on company time (which is illegal) without much fear. While most companies will deny knowing about such activity, it seems likely that these companies often secretly organize these anti-union “so-called worker committees” and direct their operations. In almost every case, the company has complete knowledge of their activities.

Supervisors will often threaten employees when no witnesses are present. Threatened workers are often afraid of reporting the threats or do not know the procedure for reporting them. These threats are illegal but very difficult to prove. The company can fire pro-union workers during the election process to intimidate other workers even if the federal government or courts eventually get their jobs back. In the meantime, the union vote will often go against unionization out of fear.

The company will sometimes threaten to close the business or move it if the workers vote for a union. This is illegal but it does happen. It is very difficult to prove. Illegal activity by the company is difficult to prove in part because many companies make rules against bringing recording devices or cameras into the work area. This also makes it difficult to document unsafe working conditions. Workers can lose their jobs trying to document violations of labor or safety laws by the company.

Union organizers and union officials do not have access to company property during the election cycle to discuss the benefits of unionization. They are not supplied with phone numbers of employees although the companies do have that information.

If you distribute any union materials including union pledge cards on company property during working hours, you can and usually will be fired. Pro-union workers are often warned about this even when they are not actively involved in the distribution of pledge cards or materials just to intimidate them from speaking up for unionization.

The current union election system is not fair or free. It is much like the “free elections” held in Communist countries or other dictatorships. The Republicans and their large corporate masters are being completely dishonest in the way they frame the issue and describe the current situation.

Republicans falsely claim that workers are intimidated into signing union pledge cards. This is so rare as to be almost non-existent. The intimidation is almost entirely on the side of the companies. Companies are in a position of power over workers. Co-workers are simply not in a similar power situation. Only the company is really in the kind of power position to intimidate workers.

Criminal behavior influencing union votes is almost always on the side of the company. The Employee Free Choice Act is designed to stop this criminal behavior and all intimidation of workers. The legislation says that if a majority of workers sign pledge cards in favor of unionizing the union will be automatically recognized by law. It is majority rule. It eliminates the opportunity for the company to block the majority desire for unionization by using illegal tactics and intimidation.

A vote against the Employee Free Choice Act is a vote in favor of the current rigged system. It is a vote in favor of company intimidation and illegal company behavior. It is a vote against the workers.

Democrats overwhelmingly support the Employee Free Choice Act. In the House vote, only 2 Democrats voted against the legislation. 13 Republicans voted for the Employee Free Choice Act. The final vote was 241 in favor and 185 against.

Some Senate Republicans may attempt to block a vote on this legislation. If they do, every working American should vote against them. If any Democrat joins them, they should be defeated at the next election. Workers should contact their Senators immediately and let them know their vote on this legislation will determine your vote in the next election.

It has been reported that Cheney has pledged that Bush will veto the Employee Free Choice Act. This is the best reason I can think of for voting Democratic in the 2008 Presidential Election if Bush vetoes this pro-worker legislation.

The Employee Free Choice Act is a vote for worker rights. A vote against it is a vote against worker rights no matter how the Republicans spin it.

Written by Stephen Crockett (co-host of Democratic Talk Radio http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio.com ). Mail: P.O. Box 283, Earleville, Maryland 21919. Phone: 443-907-2367. Email: midsouthcm@aol.com . Feel free to publish or distribute without prior approval.

Stephen Crockett is a member of the National Writers Union (UAW Local 1981) and the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU). He is an associate member of the United Steelworkers (USW).

C.L.E.A.N.- Community, Labor, Environmental Action Network

08.25.07

C.L.E.A.N.- Community, Labor, Environmental Action Network

The best ideas emerge unexpectedly from the grassroots in seemingly unlikely places. One of those ideas is an organization called C.L.E.A.N. which stands Community, Labor, Environmental Action Network. The story behind the creation of this group is both enlightening and interesting. The concept is very sound. I hope C.L.E.A.N. chapters will eventually be in every state.

C.L.E.A.N. resulted from a Delaware UFCW Local 27 organizing drive. While organizing, the UFCW realized that workers were being exposed to dangerous chemicals in the work environment. As they explored the worker safety issue, they realized that adverse health effects impacted workers, their families and the surrounding community. As a result, the UFCW reached out to other unions, churches and community groups to build a coalition. C.L.E.A.N. was born. The growth has exploded in just 4 months.

Among the unions and other groups who have joined in Delaware are A. Philip Randolph Institute, AFSCME Local #640, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 842, Christiana Presbyterian Church, Sprinklerfitters Local 669 , Delaware Ecumenical Council on Children and Families, Delaware State AFL-CIO, Community Services , Democratic Talk Radio , Interfaith Coalition Building Block for Wilmington, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees- Local 284, IBEW Local 313, LIUNA Local 1029, LIUNA Local 199, Methodist Action Program, OPEIU Local 277, Pacem in Terris, Progressive Democrats for Delaware, St. Paul’s Church, 23rd RD Committee, UAPP Local #74, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 27, USW, District 4, Voices Without Borders and Young Democrats Movement. C.L.E.A.N. is actively seeking new member organizations.

Here is their story. While looking into the connection between worker safety and the health impacts of pollution in the larger community, the UFCW discovered some shocking facts. Below are just a few examples:

The rate of asthma among adults in Delaware is 11.7% while nationally it is 10.8%. In the most populous county in Delaware (New Castle), the American Lung Association graded them F for pollution.

Delaware’s 1999-2003 overall cancer incidence rate was 5.3% higher than the national estimate. There were a shocking 20,793 cases reported during this period.

919 total cases of urinary bladder cancer were diagnosed among Delaware residents during 1999-2003. A 1195 study found that “A total of … 21% to 27% of bladder cancers are estimated to be related to occupational exposure.”

Luckily, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) in Region 2 had many top notch leaders, organizers and staffers on the job when these facts came to light. UFCW Regional leadership under Director Alvin Vincient, Jr. and his Executive Assistant Pat Burgwin had long emphasized the need for unions to reach out to the community and get more involvement in organizing drives.

Fortunately, UFCW Local 27, under the enlightened leadership of President Buddy Mays and Organizing Director Tim Goins, placed union resources at the disposal of the larger community in order to get C.L.E.A.N. started. Buddy Mays truly understands the significance of the problem. He stated, “We realize that the problems are not just local issues. The problem is a national one. Employers often knowingly place the health of both workers and the community at risk by exposing them to dangerous chemicals. It is our obligation and civic duty to expose these situations when we discover them.”

In Delaware, the UFCW had help from the International in the form of organizers Gina Swinea and Courtney Foley working closely with UFCW Local 27 Business Agent Donna Smits. As a member of the Delaware State AFL-CIO Executive Board and head of the UFCW political effort in Delaware, Donna Smits helped broaden the coalition by identifying and recruiting key players in labor, politics and community organizations.

Samuel Lathem, President of the Delaware State AFL-CIO stated that they “are fully in support of the C.L.E.A.N. effort and applauds the UFCW for their lead role in getting the group started. The Delaware State AFL-CIO wants to work with allies in the larger community on a variety of issues.”

Delaware State AFL-CIO Executive Director and state legislator Gerald Brady was an early supporter. Courtney Foley said, “Gerald Brady was very instrumental in getting labor onboard.” She cited many other leaders, both inside and outside organized labor, as very helpful including President of the Delaware Building Trades Council Harry Gravell, Executive Director of the Interfaith Coalition Building Block of Wilmington Ed Klinge, Mark Brunswick from A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) and Reverend Dr. Greer of the Ezion Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church to name just a few.

Courtney Foley was given primary responsibility for building the coalition because of her deep background in community organizing. Although still very young, this young lady from Mississippi has extensive experience. She started her efforts organizing on behalf of Congressman Jim Moran in Virginia. In 2005, she worked for Paul Hackett in the Ohio Congressional special election that received so much national attention. She was working for Sherrod Brown in 2006 in his successful bid to become a US Senator from Ohio.

Early in 2007, Foley was helping in New York with SEIU in their successful public relations effort to stop a proposed billion dollar cut in health care that politicians in Albany were pushing. In New York, she realized “how powerful and important the faith-based community can be in rallying public support to promote progressive change.”

While the original mission statement of C.L.E.A.N. reads:

It is the mission of C.L.E.A.N. to promote a safe and healthy environment for families in Newark and the surrounding areas.

Objectives
To increase the awareness of toxic substances being used in local industries and their effects on workers and the environment
To protect the welfare of workers and residents from the dangers of toxic and carcinogenic substances
To educate and empower the workers and families of Newark
To hold local industries accountable for the abuse of safety and environmental regulations
To facilitate change in regulatory safety statutes

The organization is already becoming active statewide in Delaware. Gina Swinea stated, “If C.L.E.A.N. is successful in Delaware, the UFCW would look into expanding the coalition into other states.” She went on to state that the coalition grows daily as more partner organizations take leadership roles in the coalition.

In addition to worker safety and environmental issues, the organization can be expanded into other areas were labor and community groups can work together. In Delaware, one of these expanded areas of interest is a pre-apprenticeship training program which is a part of the South Wilmington Special Area Management Plan (SAMP).

“In a system of positive and progressive movements occasionally one such initiative distinguishes itself above the others due to its diverse yet comprehensive approach and profound impact. This year that program is C.L.E.A.N. (Community, Labor, Environmental Action Network)”, said Gerald Brady. This writer agrees completely!

Readers should contact Courtney Foley by calling her at 1-800-809-4303 ext. 12 or emailing her at cfoley@ufcw.org for details about C.L.E.A.N. Ask about the “Clean-up Delaware Day” project and other future activities. Please visit their C.L.E.A.N. website at http://www.cleanindelaware.blogspot.com.

Written by Stephen Crockett (co-host of Democratic Talk Radio http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio.com ). Email: midsouthcm@aol.com . Mail: P.O. Box 283, Earleville, Maryland 21919. Phone: 443-907-2367.

Feel free to publish without prior approval at no cost.