Skyline of Richmond, Virginia




Two more Steelworker (USW) locals have endorsed HR 676, single payer healthcare legislation introduced by Congressman John Conyers (D-MI).

In Pennsylvania, Local 10-1, which represents 700 oil workers at Sunoco’s Philadelphia refinery, has unanimously endorsed HR 676, reports Jim Savage, President of Local 10-1.

In Rumford, Maine, 800 paper mill workers in USW’s Local 900 have also endorsed the Conyers bill.


HR 676 would institute a single payer health care system in the U.S. by expanding a greatly improved Medicare system to every resident.

HR 676 would cover every person in the U. S. for all necessary medical care including prescription drugs, hospital, surgical, outpatient services, primary and preventive care, emergency services, dental, mental
health, home health, physical therapy, rehabilitation (including for substance abuse), vision care, chiropractic and long term care. HR 676 ends deductibles and co-payments. HR 676 would save billions annually by eliminating the high overhead and profits of the private health insurance industry and HMOs.

HR 676 currently has 88 co-sponsors in addition to Conyers. Co-sponsors and bill text are here:

HR 676 has been endorsed by 383 union organizations in 48 states including 95 Central Labor Councils and Area Labor Federations and 32 state AFL-CIO’s (KY, PA, CT, OH, DE, ND, WA, SC, WY, VT, FL, WI, WV, SD, NC, MO, MN, ME, AR, MD-DC, TX, IA, AZ, TN, OR, GA, OK, KS, CO, IN, AL & CA).

For further information, a list of union endorsers, or a sample endorsement resolution, contact:

Kay Tillow
All Unions Committee For Single Payer Health Care## HR 676
c/o Nurses Professional Organization (NPO)
1169 Eastern Parkway, Suite 2218
Louisville, KY 40217
(502) 636 1551
## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## -

EDITOR”S NOTE: It is because of USW leaders like Jim Savage that I became of an associate member of the Steelworkers’ union. Even if you are not currently working in a union shop, you can join the associate member program at USW. If interested, please send me an email at and I will send you a sign-up link. It is inexpensive.

If you are lucky, you might get an opportunity to meet some local USW leaders like Jim Savage in Linwood (Pennsylvania), Bill Sharp in Coatesville (Pennsylvania), John Shinn in New Jersey, Mike Bass or Ken Gomeringer in Delaware, Jerry Green in Allentown (Pennsylvania), etc. From the International President to the shop stewards of the smallest local, there is no finer union in America. I am proud to be an associate member of such a great organization.


Stephen Crockett

Editor, Mid-Atlantic
Co-host, Democratic Talk Radio

Labor-friendly Talk Radio in Delaware and Pennsylvania


Labor-friendly Talk Radio in Delaware and Pennsylvania

By Stephen Crockett (OPEIU, UAW & USW)

This writer first became aware that working people in Delaware had friends on the airwaves doing talk radio when Brian McGlinchey, Regional Director of Government Affairs for the Laborers’ (LIUNA), introduced me to Dana Garrett. Along with Marian Peleski, Dana Garrett hosts the popular Progressive Voices program on WVUD 91.3 FM on Mondays between 7:30pm and 8pm.

WVUD is the University of Delaware station that can be heard in most parts of New Castle County. The station offers live streaming on the Internet which can be heard anywhere an Internet connection is available. The program deals with local, national and international issues from a progressive perspective. Listeners can participate by emailing the show when it is being broadcast at

Because Dana Garrett is an excellent talk radio show host with a strong pro-labor record, he has just been added as the third co-host of my national Democratic Talk Radio program. Democratic Talk Radio is headquartered at the UAW Local 1183 complex in Newark, Delaware. It will be on the air in Jacksonville, Florida at WZNZ 1460 AM and will soon be available in the greater Allentown, Pennsylvania area. Both stations likely to carry the program stream live on the Internet.

All Democratic Talk Radio programs will be archived on our website programs page at and can be streamed live or downloaded for Podcasting. Democratic Talk Radio is currently negotiating for live broadcasting in Delaware with several stations.

Many Delaware unions are closely connected with larger labor entities in Pennsylvania. Two important labor-friendly talk radio shows in that state are available over the Internet.

The Rick Smith Show is based in the Harrisburg market. Rick Smith is active with the Teamsters and Vice-President of the International Labor Communications Association. His website is

Labor to Neighbor is broadcast out of Philadelphia. The Labor to Neighbor Radio Show is heard Tuesdays at noon. The hosts are Patrick J. Eiding and Janet H. Ryder. Patrick J. Eiding is the president of the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO. Janet Hammond Ryder is the vice president of labor participation for both the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO and the United Way of Southeastern PA. Their website is

Utility Workers Back Obama


Utility Workers Back Obama

by Seth Michaels, Feb 26, 2008

Today, the Utility Workers (UWUA) endorsed Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) for president.

The Utility Workers union represents 70,000 active and retired workers in the gas, water, electrical and nuclear industries. It is the fourth AFL-CIO affiliated union to endorse Obama.

D. Michael Langford, the national president of the UWUA, said Obama’s policies on energy were what made him stand out in a strong field.

Sen. Obama understands our issues, supports our goals and will do what is right for utility workers, our families, our communities and our country. We join him in his fight for change in America that will put working people first.

We have been fortunate to have an exceptional field of Democratic candidates who have all pledged to help fix the problems facing working people. There is a consensus that we must raise wages, create fair trade, protect pensions and restore workers’ rights. However, we believe that Senator Obama also shows exceptional leadership in the area of energy independence.

Obama also has been endorsed by the Boilermakers (IBB), the Plumbers and Pipe Fitters (UA) and the Transport Workers (TWU), which initially gave an endorsement to former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.).

Two other unions that endorsed Edwards, the Mine Workers (UMWA) and United Steelworkers (USW), have not announced any plans to endorse another candidate in the 2008 presidential election.

Twelve unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO have endorsed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.): AFSCME, AFT, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), the Bricklayers (BAC), the Letter Carriers (NALC), the Machinists (IAM), the Office and Professional Employees (OPEIU), the Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), the Sheet Metal Workers (SMWIA), TCU/IAM, the Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and the United Transportation Union (UTU).

The IAM and IUPAT endorsements of Clinton in the Democratic primaries were accompanied by endorsements of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in the Republican primaries.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the UAW have announced they will not make endorsements during the primary season. The Fire Fighters (IAFF) union, which endorsed Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), has not announced a new endorsement.

In August, the AFL-CIO Executive Council said it would not yet make an endorsement for a 2008 presidential candidate, freeing AFL-CIO unions to endorse candidates for the caucuses and primaries. The AFL-CIO will continue the Working Families Vote 2008 campaign to help elect a worker-friendly Congress and president.

The next contests in the 2008 presidential election will be held on March 4. Primaries are set for Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont and Texas.

Pennsylvania Governor Rendell again pushing to privatize turnpike


March, 2008 Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Governor Rendell again pushing to privatize turnpike


REGION, February 14th- The mainstream media and conservative Republicans aften called two-term Pennsylvania Democratic Governor Edward Rendell a liberal because they say he believes in big government, however unions that represent employees of the commonwealth thinks otherwise.

In 2001 when Mr. Rendell, the former Mayor of Philadelphia, was seeking to become the Democratic party nominee for Governor most of the labor community supported his opponent Pennsylvania Auditor Robert Casey Jr.

The United Food and Commerical Workers (UFCW) Union, which represents the employees of the Pennsylvania State Wine and Spirits Stores, was concerned he would attempt to privatize the liquor stores putting their members jobs in harms way and supported Mr. Casey.

Mr. Rendell defeated Mr. Casey in the primary election and went on to defeat Republican Mike Fisher in the general election.

In 2006 Mr. Rendell defeated Republican candidate for Governor Lynn Swann to receive a second four-year term.

In the fall of 2007, Mr. Rendell announced his intention to close Mayview State Hospital in Allegheny County and privatize 200 forensic jobs held by union members at the remaining state hospitals.

The Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association (PSCOA) Union, represents more than 9,500 guards employed in twenty-six state correctional institutions and forensic units across the commonwealth, and disagrees with Mr. Rendell’s plan. Under the plan Mayfield will be closed by the end of 2008 and the inmates will be transferred to Torrance State Hospital in Blair County.

The union contends the forsensic units are secure buildings inside a state hospital that houses violent convicted criminals.

The union believes the privatizing of the forensic jobs is the beginning of an attempt by the Rendell administration to privatize the entire state correction system.

According to PSCOA President Donald McNany, private companies must balance expenses against revenues, profit and loss pressure have no place in the state prison system.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union believed in late 2007, they were successful in defeating Governor Rendell’s plan to privatize the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The IBT represent employees of the roadway and fears to sell or lease the turnpike would put their members jobs in peril.

The Teamsters represent around 2,200 maintenance workers, supervisory and professional workers and toll takers. There are three local unions around the state that repressent those workers. The union has represented the workers since 1971.

IBT Local 77 is headquartered in Fort Washington and represents turnpike workers throughout southeastern and northeastern Pennsylvania including the Lehigh Valley. Local 250 represents workers in the western part of the state including the Pittsburgh area. IBT Local 30 represents around 100 assistant foremen, accountants, engineering technicians, surveying technicians and some supervisors. Local 77 represents more than half of the workers represented by the Teamsters.

The union is worried a private firm would prefer lease arrangements because of the steady flow of income the turnpike generates. However, they fear when costs start to rise and profits get squeezed, the companies could readily break existing labor contracts and pension agreements by firing older workers and replacing them with younger workers with cheaper wages and smaller benefit packages.

After Mr. Rendell announced his intention to sell or lease the turnpike the Teamsters immediately began to lobby legislators in Harrisburg to convince them the idea was bad for Pennsylvanians and their members.

The union mobilized members to speak to elected representatives to voice their concerns for the plan. In late 2007, the union believed enough state representatives and senators were convinced Mr. Rendell’s plan was a short-term financial fix for Pennsylvania. The state would get a large amount of revenue up front, then lose revenue over the years from the local toll income, the union said.

Over several months members of the union made telephone calls and sent letters to the elected representatives and the IBT believed they convinced enough of them leading-up to the holiday recess to table the issue. However, Mr. Rendell recently re-introduced the privatizing issue.

During the 2001 campaign several labor unions would not endorse Mr. Rendell, even after he became the Democratic nominee.
They include two of the largest labor unions in Pennsylvania and represent employees of the commonwealth. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Both unions also represent employees of the City of Philadelphia which had a poor relationship with Mr. Rendell while he was mayor.

Mr. McNanny said the state can’t put a price on the safety of the community when it comes to mentally ill violent criminals.

“The Rendell administration thinks it can. Their plan is to outsource officers of our state-run lockdowns for the criminally insane to the lowest bidder. These dangerous criminals belong in the hands of Pennsylvania’s trained forensic officers who’ve done the job successfully for decades,” said Mr. McNanny.

CWA Union files Unfair Labor Practice charge against the recently organized Lifepath Inc.


March, 2008 Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

CWA Union files Unfair Labor Practice charge against the recently organized Lifepath Inc.


REGION, February 10th- The Communications Workers of America (CWA) Union Local 13500 has filed a charge against Lifepath Inc. alleging the employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

Lifepath Inc. is a group home operator with approximately 29 facilities throughout the Lehigh Valley. The company cares for mentally and physically disabled persons.

The Communications Workers of America was successful in organizing Lifepath Inc. employees in 2007. On September 18th, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four in Philadelphia conducted a election to determine if employees of the company wanted to be represented by the CWA. The employees voted in a secret ballot election 166 for union representation to 138 against. Under NLRB rules a labor organization needs at least fifty percent plus one of the eligible employees to vote in favor of the union before they can become their collective bargaining representative.

The voting location for the Lifepath workers in the Lehigh Valley was on High Point Boulevard in Bethlehem. Each group home had around three eligible to vote employees for a total of around 467.
The union filed the petition on August 7th, 2007 and won the right to represent all full-time and regular part-time Pathlife Inc. employees including support counselors, bus drivers, instructors, instructional assistants, team leaders, and supported living specialists.

According to the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge filed on January 30th, 2008 and obtained by the newspaper through the Freedom of Information Act, on December 7th, 2007, the union alleges the employer terminated union member and employee Amie Kutz because of her membership in and activity on behalf of the Communications Workers of America. It is alleged Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act was violated by terminating Ms. Kutz.

The employer representative named on the complaint is Pathlife Inc. Human Resources official Missy Maxwell.

The NLRB will investigate the alleged violation of the NLRAct cited in the charge and if the agency finds merit in the complaint a hearing will be scheduled on the matter.

Secretary Treasurer of CWA Local 13500 Karen Sparks filed the complaint on behalf of Ms. Kutz. The charge states there are currently 500 workers employed by the company.

Union-busting charges concerning Scranton Diocese Association of Catholic Teachers


Received by email:

Bishop Joseph F. Martino of the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, is attempting to break the union which has represented Diocesan lay teachers for 30 years.

More information can be found on the union’s website and blog at

For additional information, please contact, Mike Milz, President, Scranton Diocese Association of Catholic Teachers, 570-822-2660 or 570-881-5259.

Stealing the political playbook


Stealing the political playbook

Ron Ennis, Lehigh Valley Postal Workers
Editor, Lehigh Valley Labor Council

Partisanship in Congress, on the rise since the 1980s, is at record levels, according to a recent report from the Congressional Quarterly. While Republicans have historically been more “party bound,” Democrats have now matched the GOP’s voting unity.

“Democrats on Capitol Hill are relying more on what has been the GOP political playbook,” reported the Congressional Quarterly last month, “staying in step and sometimes getting tough with those who miss the boat.”

Party unity votes are defined as votes in either chamber of Congress that split the parties, a majority of voting Democrats opposing a majority of voting Republicans. Votes on which the parties agree or on which either party divides evenly, are excluded.

Historical Party Unity
Low point

Senate / House
Democrats 51% (1968) /Democrats 58% (1970)
Republicans 56% (1970) / Republicans 60% (1970)

High point
Democrats 89% (2001) /Democrats 92% (2007)
Republicans 94% (2003) / Republicans 91% (2003)

Data: Congressional Quarterly

So why didn’t the Democrats change the course in the Iraq War and alter domestic policy? Bush threatened to veto much of the platform Democrats campaigned on in the 2006 mid-term election. “The new Democratic majority,” said the Congressional Quarterly, “just did not have the strength in numbers to fulfill many of the promises they made in campaigning to win the 2006 midterm election.”

Name calling- Forget the labels. Check the records.


Name calling
Forget the labels. Check the records.

Ron Ennis, Lehigh Valley Postal Workers
Editor, Lehigh Valley Labor Council

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me.” So goes the playground adage.

In politics, name-calling can make a campaign. Sen. John McCain is frequently called a “moderate” lawmaker. Lehigh Valley congressman Charles Dent is usually described as a “middle of the road” legislator. And Sen. Barak Obama is often referred to as an “agent of change.”

In the pages of your News & Views, we ignore the labels, and instead, look at the records of those seeking public office. Over the years, we’ve notice that the labor records of some political contenders fall short of the image they try to convey to union voters.

Crunching the latest numbers from the AFL-CIO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Congressional Quarterly, we review the records of this year’s crop of candidates. We’ll leave the name-calling to someone else.

Figure #1

Lifetime labor votes % labor votes
U.S. Senator Right-wrong correct
Barack Obama (D-IL) 27-1 96
Hillary Clinton (D-NY) 75-6 93%
Arlen Specter (R-PA) 194-126 61
John McCain (R-AZ) 35-176 17
Rick Santorum (R-PA) 17-114 13
Robert Casey (D-PA)* 33-1 97

* Sen. Casey’s vote totals are for 2007. All others are for 2006 and prior years.

First, let’s examine how the labor voting records of key U.S. senators stack-up against one another. The vote totals (Figure #1) include up to the 109th Congress, which ended in December 2006.

Clearly, Sen. McCain’s support for labor is more in line with the voting record of former Sen. Rick Santorum. And the man who defeated Santorum in 2006, Bob Casey, has a labor record that working families can cheer.

Like Casey, Senators Clinton and Obama have also demonstrated a sensitive ear to union workers. Their support mirrors Pennsylvania’s junior senator.

In Figure #2, the chart examines the records of McCain, Clinton, Obama and Specter with those of six retiring GOP senators on legislation important to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Established in 1912, the Chamber is the nation’s largest corporate lobby representing over three million businesses. It ranks members of Congress for key business votes, set out in its annual publication, How They Voted. These votes include favoring business tax cuts, repeal of trade restrictions, increased immigration and defeat of wage and worker safety legislation.

The table demonstrates that McCain’s support for business is almost as strong as his retiring GOP colleagues.

The six senatorial retirements also bring opportunity for working families to support pro-labor candidates. As the chart illustrates, all six departing senators had poor labor records.

Figure #2

% Chamber votes % labor votes
U.S. Senator correct* correct*
Hillary Clinton (D-NY) 42% 93%
Barack Obama (D-IL) 45 96
Arlen Specter (R-PA) 63 61
John McCain (R-AZ) 80 17
Trent Lott (R-Miss.) n/a 10
Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) 96 12
Pete Domenici (R-NM) 84 20
John Warner (R-VA) 89 17
Larry Craig (R-Idaho) 93 12
Wayne Allard (R-CO) 93 8

* Includes the 109th Congress, which ended December 2006.

Another important measure in this year’s presidential race is how often a candidate votes in support of policies set by President George Bush. With questions mounting over his handling of Iraq and the economy, particularly the housing market and credit meltdown, it’s important to look at the support lawmakers gave to the president’s positions.

Presidential support is defined as votes in support of Bush, which were publicly announced in a press conference, statement or executive decision (Figure #3).

Figure #3

Senate Support for Bush’s position (2001-2007)
U.S. Senator 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
H. Clinton (D-NY) 33% 33% 53% 39% 69% 50% 35%
B. Obama (D-IL) - - - - 33 49 40
A. Specter (R-PA) 87 89 89 88 85 76 63
J. McCain (R-AZ) 89 77 92 91 90 91 95
R. Santorum (R-PA) 97 96 99 100 95 90 -
R. Casey (D-PA) - - - - - - 44

The loyalty Republicans have shown for Bush’s policies is evident in the above chart. In the 109th Congress, only Maine senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins differed more from the Bush administration than Specter.

Turning our attention to area House members in Figure #4 and #5, we see a pattern that emerged with the U.S. senators: Republicans frequently ignore the concerns of workers, while remaining faithful to the president’s policies.

The 2006 election of newcomers Patrick Murphy and Chris Carney plainly shows that union voters wanted change in their respective districts. The defeat of incumbents Michael Fitzpatrick and Don Sherwood was a victory for the rank-and-file over the interests of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

U.S. House* Lifetime labor votes** % labor votes**
Pennsylvania Right-wrong correct
J. Gerlach (R-6) 17-40 30%

P. Murphy (D-8)*** 31-2 94
M. Fitzpatrick (R-8) 15-14 52
J. Greenwood (R-8) 15-111 12

C. Carney (D-10)*** 31-2 94
D. Sherwood (R-10) 19-80 19

P. Kanjorski (D-11) 252-16 94

A. Schwartz (D-13) 28-1 97
J. Hoeffel (D-13) 67-2 97

C. Dent (R-15) 10-19 34
P. Toomey (R-15) 5-62 7
P. McHale (D-15) 53-9 85

T. Holden (D-17) 147-12 92

* Representatives in italics are no longer in office.
** Includes the 109th Congress, which ended December 2006.
*** Elected in Nov. 2006. Totals are from 2007 Congressional session.

As Bucks County’s congressman, Murphy is the only member of Congress who has served in Iraq. Because of his experience, he led fellow House members to consider changing America’s direction in Iraq. “Our troops have done their job,” he said last February. “Now it’s time to bring them home.”

Rep. Allyson Schwartz, who represents Northeast Philadelphia and part of Montgomery County, carries the tradition of support for middle class Americans from her predecessor Joe Hoeffel. Her expertise is healthcare. As a Harrisburg senator for 14 years, she was instrumental in creation of the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program.

The 11th and 17th congressional districts are served by two solid labor advocates, Paul Kanjorski and Tim Holden respectively. Consequently, the Chamber gave Kanjorski a lifetime voting score of 31 percent. Holden received a 54 percent rating.

However, the 6th and 15th congressional districts are represented by corporate interests: Jim Gerlach in the former, Charles Dent in the latter. As of 2006, the Chamber noted that Jim Gerlach voted their way 93 percent of the time.

It should also be mentioned that Gerlach’s 2006 re-election was the second closest Republican victory, by percentage points, in a district whose voters gave Sen. John Kerry the nod for president in 2004. Aware of his vulnerability, he opposed Bush 31 percent of the time in the 109th Congress, 8th highest among GOP lawmakers.

Exactly 30 years ago, the 15th District was the scene of one of the biggest congressional upsets that year. In 1978, long-time incumbent Democrat Fred Rooney was unseated by Republican Don Ritter. The election signaled the beginning of the Reagan Revolution.

Since then, anti-labor lawmakers have nearly owned this congressional seat. Only Paul McHale’s six-year tenure, from 1993-1999, broke the string of union labor congressional defeats.
The 15th District is comprised of 326 voting precincts and is one of only seven House seats in the entire nation that voted for Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004, but retained a Republican for congressman.

The current legislator, Charles Dent, is an improvement for labor over his predecessor Pat Toomey. But Dent remains staunchly pro-business, receiving a 90 percent score from the Chamber at the end of 2006. Although “the two part ways on some social issues,” wrote the Congressional Quarterly, “Dent’s record will largely echo Toomey’s on economic issues.”

Some conclusions can be drawn from the above charts. Republican senators, with the exception of a few like Sen. Specter, rarely lend their votes to organized labor. This presents an obstacle for labor’s top legislative goal: passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. With Republicans rarely deviating from one another and almost unanimous in their opposition to the EFCA, it’s imperative that union workers widen the crack between the two parties in Congress if labor’s legislative priority has any hopes of survival.

Figure #5

House Support for Bush’s position (2001-2007)
U.S. House* 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
J. Gerlach (R-6) - - 91% 76% 69% 69% 45%

P. Murphy (D-8) - - - - - - 9
M. Fitzpatrick (R-8) - - - - 61 65 -
J. Greenwood (R-8) 79 82 81 71 - - -

C. Carney (D-10) - - - - - - 16
D. Sherwood (R-10) 93 89 93 84 87 85 -

P. Kanjorski (D-11) 47 42 31 27 39 36 10

A. Schwartz (D-13) - - - - 21 27 8
J. Hoeffel (D-13) 36 38 15 24 - - -

C. Dent (R-15) - - - - 78 80 49
P. Toomey (R-15) 93 88 93 94 - - -

T. Holden (D-17) 40 60 49 48 52 56 13

* Representatives in italics are no longer in office.

So, who is a moderate? On labor issues, the voting records of most GOP lawmakers suggest that few, other than Sen. Specter, take a balanced approach to worker rights. And it can be argued that if you’re pleased with the conduct of the Iraq War, the direction of the economy, and the state of America’s healthcare, then vote Republican. GOP aspirants, such as McCain and Dent, have generally supported Bush’s positions in the past and will continue his policies after he leaves the White House.

And who is an agent of change? It’s an accurate depiction of many Democrats, including Senators Clinton and Obama. Most offer a new direction for labor and the economy, a course reversal in Iraq and a commitment to solving the nation’s healthcare crisis. “Those who perceive a big difference between Obama and Clinton,” said the Congressional Quarterly, “are looking at something other than their Senate votes.”

In this presidential year, your News & Views will focus on the records of your area lawmakers. We’ll leave the mudslinging to someone else.

News from the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO


Gimme a break
Harrisburg lawmakers urged to support meal and rest period labor bills

from the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO

Pennsylvania has no law that requires meal periods or rest breaks for all employees in the commowealth. But two bills in the state House, Employee Rest Period Act (HB 1756) and Employee Meal Period Act (HB1757) could change all that.

The Rest Period bill would ensure employees get a 15-minute uninterrupted rest period for each four hours worked. The Meal Period proposal would give workers a 30-minute period during work shifts of 7 ½ or more consecutive hours. Neither bill would require employers to pay employees for time used for required breaks, unless an agreement already is in place that would provide payment for such.

Several other states, such as New York, Connecticut and West Virginia, currently have similar legislation on their books.

The bill was sponsored by state Rep. John Galloway of Bucks County and was introduced to the House Labor Relations Committee, chaired by Rep. Robert Belfanti, Jr., last July.

Labor gains made in 2007
Union membership rose statewide

from the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO

Union membership in Pennsylvania increased by 85,000 to 830,000 in 2007, according to new figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall union density in Pennsylvania increased from 13.6 percent to 15.1 percent last year, reversing a trend of decline in recent years and leaving Pennsylvania with a union density higher than the national average.

Much of the growth last year was due to the increase in the number of workers joining or forming unions, reflecting an increased commitment by unions to help workers organize, especially in growing industries.

The growth in union membership comes at a time when workers say they want and need unions more than ever. A large part of workers who formed unions last year did so outside the National Labor Relations Board process, showing yet again that it is time for Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act to reform our nation’s broken labor laws and help rebuild our ailing middle class.

The State of the “Labor” Union 2008


Labor organizing on upswing

Gregg Potter, CWA #13500
President, Lehigh Valley Labor Council (Pennsylvania)

“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”
John Fitzgerald Kennedy

In what may prove to be the best news for Organized Labor in years, the AFL-CIO recently announced that union membership in the United States increased by over 311,000 new members to 15.7 million in 2007!

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this represents the largest single-year increase in union membership since 1979!! Overall union density increased slightly from 12.0 percent to 12.1 percent last year, reversing a trend of decline in recent years.

“Today’s numbers show working people are pushing to form and join unions in order to improve their lives, despite record levels of resistance from employers,” AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said. “They know that a union card is the single best ticket into the middle-class, especially in today’s economy.”

These numbers represent a springboard into what could be the best organizing in years if and when the Employee Free Choice Act passes muster from a new Congress and president. Last year, the House passed the EFCA by a wide margin, but just missed in the Senate. President Bush was adamant about vetoing this legislation and others that would benefit working families in general, and labor unions in particular. This is truly encouraging news and provides more of an incentive to elect a working family/labor friendly president this fall. Here are some interesting numbers about the latest report:

 The Labor movement continues to diversify. More than 200,000 women gained a voice on the job last year, and women now account for 44 percent of all union members, representing a record high.

 Private sector union membership grew by 133,000 in 2007, and density grew in the private sector for the first time since 1979. The growth in density was in part due to a combination of increased membership and slow employment growth.

 The largest increase in union membership was health services, where unions added 142,000 members, a .09 percent increase in density from 2006 to 7.9 percent

 The manufacturing sector continues to be hit hard due to job loss caused in part by bad trade deals and policies. More than 3 million good, middle-class supporting manufacturing jobs have been lost since 2003. Manufacturing employment dropped by 93,000.

Organizing campaigns in most areas of the country gained momentum last year. Locally, the Lehigh Valley boasted of several large victories at Pocono Medical Center, Cedarbook Nursing Home, and LifePath. There were several other smaller, but just as important victories, by SEIU, AFSCME, IBT, and IBEW. Nationwide, there have been several important victories for union organizers.

• 40,000 childcare workers in Michigan joined AFSCME and the UAW
• 40,000 Cingular/ATT wireless employees joined the CWA.
• 20,000 childcare workers in New York joined AFSCME and the AFT.
• 6,000 casino dealers joined the UAW in New Jersey and Connecticut.

Of particular note is that the majority of workers who won union elections last year did so outside the stagnant NLRB process.

Part of our success is that the average worker has seen the light, and trust in their employer has diminished as good paying jobs continue to cross our country’s borders. No longer can you expect to start a job and retire at the same location. The dream of collecting a pension and bargaining for health care benefits are dissipating at an alarming rate.

Still, the rate of compensation for CEOs continues to rise at a staggering pace. In 1980, the average CEO pay was about 42 times that of the average blue-collar worker. In 2006, CEO pay skyrocketed to 364 times that of the average worker, by far the largest gap in the industrialized world.
If our inner cities are to rebuild into any shape of what they once were, it is incumbent upon us to build the middle class. The facts are clear. Federal monies have been shifted, and cities can no longer depend on state or federal dollars to come their way. Cities need to build the tax base so people can get away from multi-unit dwellings and graduate to single home ownership.

With the ongoing mortgage crisis/scandal, this will prove to be a formidable task, but is attainable with the proper formula. The first ingredient to this mixture is passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. Research from Peter D. Hart Research Associates shows that the public support of unions is at an historic 25-year high## 65 percent approve of unions as opposed to only 25 percent who disapprove.

Our goal as union leaders and members is to continually educate our membership about the continued benefits of belonging to a union. The work does not stop when the membership votes Union Yes## , rather the work begins. This involves proper orientation, ongoing training in our key facets of political education, community services, and yes, organizing.

In a sales atmosphere, the standard phrase is “always be closing.”—We must adapt this philosophy to our own and maintain constant reinforcement to our members. “Always educate our members.” This is truly our year, and with your help, we can make it happen!!!

News Item: Tragedy in Kuhnsville Pa.

When an ambulance arrived at the Best Western Hotel in Kuhnsville on Friday January 18, 2008, emergency workers and hotel officials thought they were dealing with nothing more ominous than the flu. No one realized that Philip D. Prechtel, 63, was suffering from exposure to carbon monoxide, and that the poison gas was already sickening other guests and killing him.

Prechtel, a retired PPL engineer, was in town to witness the christening of his grandchild when tragedy struck. This man came to town to view a wonderful part of his life and left in a casket.

Officials said that workers for the non-union Martin Plastering Contractors were repairing stucco on the exterior and had rigged an unsafe tent to block the wind. This rigging caused gases to back up into the basement and the guest rooms and rose to hazardous levels. Obviously this action was not done maliciously, but the facts remain that unsafe working conditions caused the death of one, and sickened nine others. This can not be tolerated at any level. Legislation in Allentown City Council will hopefully put a stop to unsafe working conditions at construction sites within the city limits. Let’s hope area lawmakers take the lead and institute their own that protects workers and innocent bystanders, like Philip Prechtel.

News Item: Bowl for Kid’s Sake

Sunday March 2, 2008 is Bowl for Kid’s Sake at Jordan Lanes. Last year we hosted a record of 22 teams that raised over $12,000.00. Big Brothers/Big Sisters Lehigh Valley lost over $102,000.00 from United Way this year and need our help desperately. If anyone is in need of forms, kindly contact me at 610 360-9491, or go on line at and download your own. If you wish to bowl and don’t have a full team of five, please contact me and I will fit you in. The minimum donation is $75.00 per person and we are hoping members will solicit friends and family rather than relying on your local for the minimum. Let’s make this the best year ever!!

Finally, you may have noticed a difference in the quality of the printing and paper used for our News and Views. Special thanks go to The Mail Room for their generosity and ongoing support of this Central Labor Council. As the only unionized printer in the Lehigh Valley, they have proven themselves to be important friends of Organized Labor here in the region. Thank you!!

Green, the Color of Good Jobs


Green, the Color of Good Jobs
by Tula Connell, Feb 23, 2008

This is a crosspost from Firedoglake.

The union movement is turning green. Not with envy, but with an escalating sense that the nation must work to address climate change and that we must be part of the effort to create good jobs that also are green jobs.

Last December, an unprecedented delegation of unionists traveled to Bali, Indonesia, for the U.N. climate change conference. Of the 90 union delegates, more than 20 were from North America.

Roger Toussaint, president of Transport Workers (TWU) Local 100 in New York, was one of them. He explained the need for union involvement this way:

We have to rise to the challenge of climate change by making it a key priority for our unions. A trade union agenda, rooted in the organized strength of workers and day-to-day engagement in affected communities, can help transition our society to a low-carbon future. This will bring “green” employment in such areas as public transportation, which is critically important now and in the years ahead.

I firmly believe all leaders of America’s working people must take immediate steps to familiarize themselves and their organizations with the issues involved and figure out the obligations of their appropriate job sectors. Nationally, the union movement must take the lead in shaping policy and legislation needed in this area. We need meaningful engagement and decisive action. We are on borrowed time, but the chance to make our mark on the process is there for the taking.

Earlier this month, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney addressed the Investor Summit on Climate Risk where he said investors, workers and government must come together to create a stable climate and a strong global economy that creates good jobs.

The global economy cannot prosper unless we secure a stable climate and sustainable sources of energy. Global warming means global depression, food and water shortages and drowned cities. I have stood in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward and seen that future.

Al Gore also spoke at the one-day meeting, sponsored in part by the United Nations Foundation and including more than 450 investor, financial and corporate leaders, who together control more than $20 trillion in investment capital.

Next month, unionists will take part in the “Good Jobs, Green Jobs: A National Green Jobs Conference,” to share best practices about revitalizing our manufacturing sector, driving green building, promoting safer chemicals and realizing the economic benefits of global warming solutions. We will be joined by environmental and public health advocates, policymakers, business leaders and others who will launch a nationwide discussion on the benefits of a new green economy. The location of the March 13–14 conference at Pittsburgh’s David Lawrence Convention Center highlights the group’s commitment: It’s the only entirely green convention center in the country.

Unions increasingly are taking concrete steps toward making the connection between good jobs and green jobs. Here are just a few examples.

The United Steelworkers (USW) and the Sierra Club have formed a “blue-green alliance” to work for good jobs and a clean environment. The alliance is focusing on three issues: global warming and clean energy, fair trade and reducing toxics. USW President Leo Gerard says the union movement’s vision of addressing global warming challenges global policies that allow corporations to make huge profits by buying and trading the rights to emit carbon “without ever addressing the basic inequalities in our global economy.”

The USW also recently released a report, DuPont and Greenwash, the first in its series of “Greenwashing” reports. The report notes that while DuPont touts its environmental image, its products are likely to dramatically impact global warming as greenhouse gases when they are disposed and used. It also finds the emissions from those products could be enormous, possibly canceling out or exceeding DuPont’s touted reductions in greenhouse gases from its facilities. The USW report says the company refuses to disclose the climate impact of those products.

Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) President Warren George has called on policymakers to invest in mass transit systems to reduce greenhouse gases:

We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, or create new infrastructure from scratch (although the infrastructure needs a lot of work). The machinery is in place. We the skilled workers are in place. All we need is the political will to provide the funding and the insight and incentives.

In November, the AFL-CIO—together with the Apollo Alliance––convened a meeting of workers’ pension trustees and money managers to discuss opportunities in clean-energy technologies. Through the Apollo Alliance, the AFL-CIO and some affiliated unions such as USW, seek to create jobs with a public investment in sustainable energy such as hydrogen fuel systems and related transportation, construction and manufacturing.

The Oregon AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions have been engaged in moving an agenda of renewable energy and good jobs by coordinating the activities of the Oregon Apollo Alliance. In October, Oregon AFL-CIO convention delegates passed resolutions on climate change and jobs and set up a task force of affiliated union leaders to help examine its impact on our members and implications on its policy work.

Last year, the AFL-CIO endorsed the Low Carbon Economy Act of 2007. Introduced by Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the bill set a goal of reducing the nation’s carbon emissions by at least 60 percent by 2050.

Electrical Workers (IBEW) President Edwin Hill said the legislation offered an effective approach to address climate change while allowing our economy to grow.

The fact that this bill is the only climate change legislation that also addresses the problems of international participation in emissions control makes it unique.

The AFL-CIO Energy Task Force last year issued a report which said in part:

It is time for our nation to take bold steps to meet the 21st century challenges related to energy policy. We believe our nation should embrace a balanced approach that assures abundant, affordable energy supplies, creates good-paying jobs for American workers, improves the environment and reduces our dangerous dependence on foreign oil.

In focusing on our core issue, family-supporting jobs, we in the union movement provide unique insight into an as-yet little explored facet of addressing climate change. There’s still much work to be done, and part of that involves educating our members.

Barbara Byrd, secretary-treasurer of the Oregon AFL-CIO, was among our U.S. union delegation to Bali. As Byrd notes:

We recognize the Western states will be enacting far-reaching policies in the next few years, and we believe the union movement must be at the table to debate with other stakeholders how best to craft climate change legislation.

We will need to educate our own members as well, sothey will not only understand the complicated technical issues, but also so they will feel the urgency that drives the work of the labor delegates in Bali.

But we’ve taken big steps forward—concrete action as well as countering what USW President Gerard accurately describes as the myth of incompatibility between unions and the environment.

Says Gerard:

We need to put an end to the lies, the myths, the hysteria that say you can have either a clean environment or good jobs. You can have both, or you have neither.

Change to Win Endorses Sen. Barack Obama for President


Fired Up, Ready to Go: Change to Win Endorses Sen. Barack Obama for President

Link to the original story at Change To Win

In a few minutes, we will make the official announcement to the media that Change to Win is endorsing Senator Barack Obama for President of the United States.

Here are some excerpts from the remarks that Change to Win Chair Anna Burger will be delivering at the announcement:

Our members and the 40 million workers in our industries are real people who work hard picking the crops, stocking the shelves, preparing and serving our food, building, cleaning and guarding the skyscrapers of our big cities. They drive our buses and trucks.

They care for the sick and elderly and help us raise our children. They are the infrastructure of our society

For them, this election is about changing America to win a better future for our children.

We want a president who shares our vision and is committed to a practical program to translate that vision into action.

Action that will fix what happens at work by:

-Protecting the right of workers to have a voice in their workplaces
-Health care for every man, woman and child in America
-Fair trade policies to promote job growth
-Creating good jobs through rebuilding and expanding our nation’s infrastructure

Most importantly, we want a president who shares our dream and unites Americans in building a movement for change. ….a movement with the power to turn that dream into reality.

Today, Change to Win is proud to endorse Senator Barack Obama.

I’ll be posting a copy of our official statement and links to other resources shortly. In the meantime, here’s the video of Senator Obama’s address to our Second Biennial Convention last September, if you didn’t catch it then…

And if you want to embed the speech in your blog, there’s an embeddable highlight reel available on YouTube.

UPDATE (2:23PM): Here’s our press release, and here’s the complete text of Anna Burger’s remarks from the announcement. Oh, and if you’re with the media, we have downloadable high-resolution (300dpi) photos of Senator Obama addressing our second biennial convention last year for your use too.

UPDATE (4:55PM): Coverage from the New York Times’ politics blog, The Caucus ## “Change to Win Gets Behind Obama”:

Its member unions represent 175,000 workers in Ohio alone. Nationwide, the group represents more than five million workers. And now Change to Win, a coalition of seven unions, is jumping on board the Barack Obama bandwagon…

To maximize the help they can give Mr. Obama, Change to Win officials said the leaders of the service employees, Teamsters, food and commercial workers and Unite Here are planning to be in Ohio at the same time next week to campaign with Mr. Obama.

The coalition’s leaders praised Mr. Obama’s positions on many issues, although they added they were also pleased with Mrs. Clinton’s and Mr. Edwards’s positions on the issues.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Please click on link at top of this post to click on embedded links in the original story at Change To Win.

Negotiations between Unions and Verizon break down


March, 2008 Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Negotiations between Unions and Verizon break down


REGION, January 25th- Contract negotiations between the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Union, the International Brotherhood of Electricial Workers (IBEW) Union and Verizon Communications has broken down with no new meetings scheduled.

In the December edition of the newspaper, it was reported negotiations between officials of the CWA, the IBEW, and Verizon were underway in Washington, DC, for a successor agreement more than nine months before the contract was to expire.

The company approached the unions about conducting early contract negotiations. The current five-year contract agreement is scheduled to expire on August 2nd, 2008.

According to Don Engleman, CWA Local 13000 Unit 34 Vice-President, the unions terminated negotiations with Verizon when no progress was being made between the parties.

CWA Local 13000, Local 13500 and the IBEW represents workers of Verizon in the region. All three contracts have common expiration dates with the CWA negotiating for both units and the IBEW was negotiating with the company for their unit.

CWA Local 13000 represents workers that repair, install, and maintain phone lines while Local 13500 represents Verizon’s business office employees. Both are affiliated with CWA District 13 in Philadelphia.
The company requested early negotiations because they wanted contract concessions in what they pay toward employees and retirees health insurance benefits.

However, according to the CWA, if the company wanted to discuss concessions in health-care the union wanted something in return. The union wanted “in writing” an understanding that the nonunion Verizon Wireless employees would become represented by the CWA without conducting a election through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

According to the union, Verizon broke their earlier promise to allow the nonunion Verizon Wireless employees to sign union authorization cards to become CWA members. If the union was successful in gaining the signatures of the majority of the wireless division employees, stating they wanted union representation, they would become CWA members.

The union wanted the issue resolved during negotiations, but the two parties were unsuccessful in reaching an agreement.

The CWA believes Verizon has suppressed its employees right to form unions and improve their working conditions. The company has segregated its union employees into Verizon Telecom, while creating the non-union lower-paying divisions with Verizon Business and Verizon Wireless.

Representation issue between UFCW and Rite Aid Pharmacy may not be settled until new contract is obtained


March, 2008 Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Representation issue between UFCW and Rite Aid Pharmacy may not be settled until new contract is obtained


REGION, January 27th- The disagreement between the United Food and Commerical Workers (UFCW) Union Local 1776 and Rite Aid over whether former employees of Eckerd Pharmacy should be union represented may not be settled until a successor agreement is achieved.

In the spring of 2007, Rite Aid Pharmacy announced they purchased the Eckerd and Brooks Pharmacy chains and would intergrate the stores into their own, becoming the third largest drug store chain in the nation with more than 115,000 employees.

Throughout Southeastern, Central and Northeastern Pennsylavnia, UFCW Union Local 1776 represents Rite Aid Pharmacy employees. Previously Eckerd Pharmacy and Brooks Pharmacy employees were nonunion. The union represents Rite Aid clerks, pharmacy cashiers, technicians and shift supervisors.

Prior to the sale there was approximately fifteen Eckerd stores and eight Rite Aid stores in Lehigh and Northampton Counties.

The company has retired the Eckerd Pharmacy name and replaced it with the Rite Aid Pharmacy brand name, resulting in some stores being closed because of repetition.

Local 1776 has three separate contracts with Rite Aid. Rite Aid employees in the Philadelphia area are covered under one contract while the employees of the Reading area are covered under another and the employees of Northeastern Pennsylvania are covered under the third contract. The Reading and Northeastern contracts will expire in September 2008 and the Philadelphia area contract will expire in June 2008. Lehigh Valley employees are represented by the Northeastern agreement.

According to John Rusak, UFCW Local 1776 Representative, although the union contract language clearly states the former Eckerd store employees should be union members, it may not be resolved until a new contract is negotiated.

Mr. Rusak said when nonunion workers are transferred to a unionized store, the employee does become a member of the bargaining unit.

William Epstein, Communications Director of Local 1776, told the newspaper the union does not know how many former Eckerd workers should be union represented.

U.S. Department of Labor looking for entries for award that helps employment efforts for workers with disabilities


March, 2008 Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

U.S. Department of Labor looking for entries for award that helps employment efforts for workers with disabilities


REGION, January 30th- The United States Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao has called upon nonprofit organizations, small businesses, corporations and individuals that have demonstrated exemplary and innovative efforts in advancing the employment and workplace environment of people with disabilities to submit entries for the 2008 Secretary of Labor’s New Freedom Initiative Award.

According to the Department of Labor (DOL) in Washington DC, the “New Freedom Initiative Award” celebrates innovative efforts to advance accessibility to the workplace for Americans with disabilities.

“The New Freedom Initiative Awards ceremony is an opportunity to showcase worthy organizations that are welcoming Americans with disabilities into the workplace,” said Ms. Chao on the Department of Labor web-site.

The annual award recognizes public-private partnerships and programs that have had a positive impact on the employment of people with disabilities through access to assistive technologies, the use of innovative training, and hiring and retention techniques.

The program also recognizes organizations, businesses and individuals that develop comprehensive strategies to enhance the ability of Americans with disabilities to enter and advance within the workforce.

The initiative was created in 2001 and contains a “comprehensive set of proposals designed to ensure that Americans with disabilities have the opportunity to learn and develop skills, engage in productive work, make choices about their daily lives, participate fully in their communities and realize their full potential as citizens,” stated the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP).

The agency stated the deadline for receipt of nominations is May 30th, 2008. The agency’s Division of Policy Communication and Outreach can be reached at 202.693.7880.

The Department of Labor stated the ODEP is leading a federal response to the underemployment of people with disabilities. In collaboration with other government agencies, public and private employers, and additional stakeholders, ODEP facilitates the development and implementation of innovative policies and practices necessary to achieve a fully inclusive workplace.

The DOL’s Office of Disability Employment Policy’s work primarily falls into three categories; employers and workplace; workforce systems; and employment related supports, which includes education and training, health care, reliable transportation, affordable housing and assistive technology.

Secretary Chao is the longest serving cabinet member of President George W. Bush. She is also the wife of Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell.

UNITE/HERE members find employment in Mt. Pocono


UNITE/HERE members find employment in Mt. Pocono

REGION, February 12th- Around fifteen workers represented by the UNITE/HERE Pennsylvania, Ohio and South Jersey Joint Board Union, Hamilton Street in Allentown, have been offered jobs at the Liz Claiborne warehouse facility in Mt. Pocono.

In December 2007, the company announced they would close their facility in Breinigville which employed approximately 250 UNITE/HERE members in early 2008.

Liz Claiborne is undergoing a makeover which includes reducing its holdings to fewer but more powerful clothing brands with names like Juicy Couture and Lucky Brand Jeans.

The New York based apparel maker announced in late summer of 2007 they would eliminate up to nine percent of its workforce while restructuring. The company is downsizing because of financial problems.

The company is considering whether to sell, license of shut down sixteen brands of clothing. UNITE/HERE represents Liz Claiborne workers across the nation including a warehouse in Mt. Pocono and the facility they are closing in Breinigville.

According to Jocelyn Lunney, Union Representative of UNITE/HERE, during negotiations with the company over the effects of the closing of the Breinigville facility, it was agreed some of the workers being laid-off would be offered employment in Mt. Pocono.

Ms. Lunney told the newspaper there was only fifteen job openings available at Liz Claiborne’s Mt. Pocono facility. The union represents approximately 390 workers at Mt. Pocono.

March, 2008 Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

DOL releases amount of court-ordered union fund restitutions


March, 2008 Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

DOL releases amount of court-ordered union fund restitutions


REGION, January 11th- The United States Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) in Washington DC, recently released its criminal enforcement data for Fiscal Year 2007.

The Office of Labor-Management Standards is the federal law enforcement agency responsible for administering most provisions of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) of 1959.

The agency’s criminal enforcement program includes investigations of embezzlement from labor organizations, extortionate picketing, deprivation of union members rights and fraud in union officer elections.

In cases where racketeering and/or organized crime are involved the OLMS works with the Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General, which is the lead agency in those cases.

The agency’s civil program collects and publicly discloses unions’ annual financial reports, conducts compliance audits of labor unions and seeks civil remedies for violations of union officer election procedures.

According to the agency, court-ordered restitution of union funds has risen in each year since 2001. In 2001 the amount of restitution was just under $2 million while the amount for 2007 was over $32 million. Criminal case processing was up in 2007 by 10 percent since 2001 and convictions of embezzlement of union funds was up 16 percent during that period.

The Department of Labor also reported an increase of union audits during the period because of the increase of staffing during the Bush Administration. A new unit with the mission of increasing OLMS audit presence in international unions, as well as assisting local unions in meeting disclosure requirements was also established.

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Labor-Management Standards Don Todd, stated on the Department of Labor internet site that union members deserve nothing less than a agressive investigation into union fund embezzlement.

The agency’s public disclosure internet site contains union annual financial reports and recent enforcement actions and can be reviewed at

University of Maryland Graduate Student Employees Fighting for a Union


University of Maryland Graduate Student Employees Fighting for a Union

by Mike Hall, Feb 15, 2008

AFL-CIO Blog link

More than 40,000 college and university graduate student employees have joined unions in a dozen states. Now, graduate student employees at the University of Maryland are fighting to form a union and are working hard to win passage of a bill in the state Legislature granting them collective bargaining rights.

These are the folks who teach a lot of the undergraduate classes, grade the papers and do much of the same work as full-time teachers, all while they are taking their own graduate classes and writing dissertations and theses.

But officials on the College Park campus are aghast the graduate student employees might actually want a voice on the job. They are trotting out the same old tired arguments our friend Craig Smith at Free Exchange on Campus says makes him feel like Bill Murray in the movie “Groundhog Day.”

Some of those arguments were trotted out in a recent [Washington, D.C.] Examiner article. Smith challenges them at FACE Talk—AFT’s higher education blog for adjunct, contingent faculty and graduate student employees.

It’s the same story day after day—the same arguments, time after time….First you got the boss weighing in with the usual they aren’t employees line:

University officials oppose the legislation, arguing that graduate teaching assistants are students, not employees.

“It’s an educational relationship with the university, not an economic relationship,” said Patrick J. Hogan, lobbyist for the University System of Maryland.

Smith forcefully deconstructs the Examiner’s arguments and then graduate employee Laura Moore boils it down this way:

If we stop working, we stop getting paid. That’s an employer-employee relationship.

Moore is president of the Graduate Student Government at the University of Maryland and Organizing Committee member of the Maryland Teachers and Researchers.

Click here to read Craig’s full post.

Tell Congress: Say ‘No’ to Colombia Trade Deal


Dear Stephen,

President Bush is using his final months in office to push for a
U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. But the Colombian government
hasn’t done enough to protect the lives and rights of its

An AFL-CIO delegation traveled to Colombia last week to hear
firsthand the dangers faced by Colombian trade unionists. The
group came to some troubling conclusions.

AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Emerita Linda Chavez-Thompson
found that “there has been too little real progress in ending
the brutality that trade unionists face in Colombia.” And not
only do trade unionists have to operate in this climate of
fear## the Colombian government has continued its policy of

Balanced trade agreements must guarantee the right to organize,
lift the lives of workers in both countries and prevent
exploitation. But this can’t happen in a country where workers
who try to organize are killed.

Click here to tell Congress to oppose the U.S.-Colombia trade
deal until the lives and rights of Colombia’s union members are

Last year, 40 trade unionists were murdered, and Colombia’s
government hasn’t done enough to stop the killings.

Meanwhile, only about 1 percent of Colombian workers have union
contracts. “It is the lowest rate in the hemisphere and among
the worst in the world,” said Larry Cohen, president of the
Communications Workers of America (CWA). “They are killing the
unions, not just the union leaders.”

Colombian union leaders are opposed to a trade deal with the
United States. These courageous advocates for workers’ rights
want the Colombian government to take strong action to stop the
violence against trade union members and end the government’s
assaults on unions.

Please tell Congress to oppose a trade deal with Colombia until
the lives and rights of Colombian workers are protected:

In solidarity,

Working Families e-Activist Network, AFL-CIO

P.S. Please tell your friends to help stop a U.S.-Colombia trade

Boilermakers Executive Council endorses Senator Barack Obama


Article on Boilermakers website

The International Executive Council of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers, AFL-CIO, proudly offers its unanimous endorsement, on behalf of our 65,000 members and their families, for Senator Barack Obama as president of the United States of America. We believe that Barack Obama represents our nation’s best opportunity to begin rebuilding our leadership standing in the world community and to regain our economic footing here at home.

Barack Obama, like our good friend Senator John Edwards, stands with those who are the heart and soul of our great country . . . those who clock in early and often work late, those who build and maintain our industries and our infrastructure, those who make America great through their simple daily contribution to our economy and our way of life . . . among them, Boilermaker members.

Barack Obama is the best answer to America’s need for a leader who can unite our nation
Clearly, we have been offered the finest field of superbly qualified candidates that we could have hoped for in this primary process. Senator Edwards, Senator Biden, Senator Dodd, Governor Richardson, Senator Clinton and all of those who have spoken their hearts in this campaign have contributed greatly to America’s debate and our decision. But one stands out now.

In our view, Barack Obama is the best answer to America’s need for a leader who can unite our nation and who can truly inspire us again with a message of hope and promise for fundamental change in our government’s policies and the working relations of our two political parties.

Throughout this campaign, we have seen Barack Obama touch an electorate like no other has in decades. The youth of our nation are alight with excitement for the change he represents and the hope he instills, as are other citizen groups across the country. We, too, are simply inspired and full of hope in what we have seen and heard from Barack Obama. It is time to join the movement.

With great enthusiasm and with great honor, I offer the endorsement of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers, AFL-CIO, for the candidacy of Senator Barack Obama to serve as the next president of the United States of America.

Newton B. Jones – International President