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Union member Kevin Murphy challenges Pennsylvania State Representative Frank Shimkus

03.10.08

March 2008 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton, Pennsylvania edition of The Union News

Union member Kevin Murphy challenges State Representative Frank Shimkus

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

REGION, February 27th- Kevin Murphy, a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union is challenging incumbent State Representative, 113th Legislative District, Frank Andrews Shimkus, (Democrat-Lackawanna County), for his seat in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Both men are Democrats and there are no Republican challengers.

Mr. Murphy, a former member of the five-person Scranton City Council, and President of the organization, during a interview at the newspaper office stated he now regrets supporting Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty’s financial recovery plan that council passed in 2002. “I know hindsight is 20/20. But, I wouldn’t support it now because Chris Doherty isn’t a good steward of the recovery plan,” said Mr. Murphy.

Mr. Murphy said Chris Doherty assured him that the recovery plan was just the starting point for contract negotiations and it wouldn’t be used to “pound the unions into the ground.”

“I put too much trust into Mr. Doherty to better manage the plan,” Mr. Murphy added.

He said if Mayor Doherty hasn’t even stuck to the financial perimeters of the recovery plan. “He hasn’t stuck to his own plan by increasing spending but wants the unionized workers to sacrifice. He should negotiate a fair agreement for both the city and the unions. I apologize to the union employees for supporting Chris Doherty’s recovery plan. If I knew they wouldn’t get a pay increase for six years, I would have never voted for it.”

The Pennsylvania Municipalities Financial Recovery Act 47 was enacted in 1987 to help debt strapped municipalities in Pennsylvania from filing for bankruptcy. Act 47 was established to offer financial help to the municipalities that have budget shortfalls and stagnant revenues. There are three municipalities in the region including Scranton, that are currently under the authority of Act 47. Scranton has been under the authority of the legislation since 1992.

The first Recovery Plan created for Scranton was during the James Connors Administration. However, Mr. Doherty created his own plan which strips most protections normal for labor contracts and reduces employee benefits.

The International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Union Local 60, which represents the Scranton Fire Department and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Union Lodge #2, which represents the Scranton Police Department, have been without a contract since 2002. Their contract issue is currently in litigation.

Many general assembly members from Northeastern Pennsylvania support changing Act 47 because while under the legislation municipalities are able to circumvent collective bargaining rights while continuing indefinitely in the program.

Representative Shimkus has refused to speak on the record to the newspaper on whether he supports reforming the legislation.

Mr. Murphy is a liquor store examiner for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and has been a member of the AFSCME Union Local 2453 for more than seven years. “If elected who would know more about the shortfalls of Act 47 than me?” stated Mr. Murphy.

Mr. Murphy added he supports the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage law, which is important to members of the building trade unions, and also is against the privatization of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Scranton Firefighters Union deny politics regarding complaining about Chief

03.10.08

March 2008 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton, Pennsylvania edition of The Union News

Scranton Firefighters Union deny politics regarding complaining about Chief

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

REGION, March 3rd- The International Association of Firefighters IAFF) Union Local 60 President David Schreiber told the newspaper his union is preparing a “fact sheet” that will place dates and circumstances behind the recent criticism of Scranton Fire Chief Tom Davis. Mr. Schreiber stated complaints against Mr. Davis have nothing to do with politics but safety fears for his members. “The Mayor wants everyone to think the criticism has everything to do with politics. That’s nonsense. Our guys are scared for their safety. We are the ones who put our lives on the line and Chris Doherty wants to talk politics,” said Mr. Schreiber.

The Scranton Firefighters Union held a press conference on February 12th to announce the results of a no-confidence vote on Chief Davis by the 149 union member fire department on February 6th.

They cited incidents involving Mr. Davis over the past six years ranging from grave safety concerns to political intimidation to sexual harassment.

In a press release the union cited seventeen examples of incidents that have occured during the six years Mr. Davis has served as Fire Chief. Chris Doherty appointed Mr. Davis after being elected as Scranton Mayor more than six years ago. Mr. Doherty is currently serving his third year of a second four-year term as Scranton Mayor. He has already announced he will seek a third term in 2009.

Following the press conference and the release of the information, Mr. Doherty almost immediately came to the defense of Mr. Davis in the mainstream media newspaper stating if conditions are so bad firefighters can find other jobs. Mr. Doherty told the Scranton Times-Tribune “if people feel I made the wrong decision on Fire Chief Tom Davis, then they can vote me out of office,” he was reported stating in the newspaper. He also suggested the members of the fire department were physically unfit.

Scranton City Council member William Courtright told the newspaper he favors seeking a out-side investigator to review the firefighters claims of ineptness, lack of leadership and disregard for safety made against Mr. Davis by the union.

“In my opinion this isn’t going away. I would like someone or an organization from out-side to look into this,” said Mr. Courtright, the Public Safety Committee Chairman for the City Council.

Mr. Doherty also stated the reason the firefighters have gone public about Mr. Davis is because the union has been without a contract since December 2002 and the employees have not received a pay increase since January 2002.

AFL-CIO 2007 Congressional Voting Records Available

03.10.08

AFL-CIO 2007 Congressional Voting Records Available

by Mike Hall, Mar 10, 2008

http://blog.aflcio.org/2008/03/10/afl-cio-2007-congressional-voting-records-available/

Do you want to know how Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) voted on a move to repeal the federal minimum wage?

Are you interested in Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) vote on a measure to rein in the soaring cost of prescription drugs for seniors and working families?

How about finding out where Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) stood on a bill that would restore the freedom of airport screeners to join a union?

Or maybe you just want to know if your U.S. House member voted with working families last year?

All that information and more about your U.S. senators and representatives is just a click or two away in the AFL-CIO’s final 2007 House and Senate Voting Records http://www.aflcio.org/issues/legislativealert/votes/index.cfm . The congressional scorecards track 19 Senate votes and 24 House votes from the first session of the 110th Congress.

All votes were selected because of their importance to working families. “W” indicates a “wrong” vote that would hurt working families; “R” indicates a “right” vote.

If your representative was part of the new big freshman class that helped Democrats win control of the House after a dozen years of Republican rule, find out if he or she lived up to your expectations. Odds they did. The overall freshman class earned a 94 percent pro-working family voting record in 2007. With longtime congressional observers classifying the new representatives as moderate or middle of the road, that must mean pro-labor and pro-working family issues are mainstream. Just like we’ve always said.

The Voting Record also shows each member’s lifetime record of support for working families. So, for instance, a quick look tells us that McCain has a 16 percent working families voting record, Clinton 94 percent and Obama 98 percent.

You can look up an individual lawmaker’s record or checkout an entire state’s congressional delegation. You also can download the entire 2007 (plus congressional scorecards back to 1996) Voting Record here http://www.aflcio.org/issues/legislativealert/votes/vr_all.cfm.

In the coming months, a regularly updated interim voting record also will be available

For the record, McCain voted for an amendment to H.R. 2 (the minimum wage bill) that would have effectively repealed the federal minimum wage in 45 states, including Arizona (Senate vote #2).

Clinton supported a measure that would have helped lower the cost of prescription drugs by allowing the importation of those vital medicines from Canada and other countries where the drugs sell for a fraction of the prices charged in the United States. When Republicans filibustered the amendment to that bill, Clinton voted to end the filibuster (Senate vote #5).

Obama backed an amendment to 9/11 Commission recommendations (S. 4) that would have restored bargaining rights the Bush administration took away from 43,000 airport screeners at the Transportation Security Agency (Senate vote #3).

Don’t know about yours, but my House member, Rep. James Moran (D-Va.), had a good year in 2007. He was 23–1 for a 98 percent working families voting record. That pulled his life time percentage to 80 percent.

Judge halts hiring of Hershey nurses

03.10.08

Judge halts hiring of nurses

Saturday, March 08, 2008
BY DAVID WENNER Of The Patriot-News

A federal judge has ordered Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center to stop hiring nurses for a new inpatient psychiatric facility scheduled to open in Harrisburg in three weeks.

The new facility is a collaboration between the Hershey Medical Center and PinnacleHealth System. Called the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute, it would have 74 beds and be located at the former Polyclinic Hospital.

Officials said it will be nonunion, although nurses at Hershey Medical Center and Pinnacle are invited to apply. Most Pinnacle nurses are nonunion.

The temporary restraining order followed a request from the Service Employees International Union, which represents nurses at Hershey Medical Center. The union has lodged a challenge in federal court, arguing the new facility is a “successor” to the unionized one, and must abide by contract terms.

Chief Judge Yvette Kane of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania called that argument “sufficiently meritorious” in her temporary restraining order.

Kane scheduled a hearing on the SEIU’s request for a preliminary injunction at 9:30 a.m. March 17 in Harrisburg. If the injunction is granted, the new facility wouldn’t be allowed to open until the dispute is resolved.

Kane said the Hershey Medical Center nurses will suffer irreversible harm if the new facility is staffed before the dispute can be settled through arbitration. The SEIU nurses previously asked Hershey Medical Center to allow an arbitrator to settle the matter.

Dan Bodie, the CEO of the new Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute, on Friday said Kane’s temporary order applies only to Hershey Medical Center.

He said the new psychiatric facility will continue hiring nurses from Pinnacle and outside applicants, but not from Hershey Medical Center. He said enough nurses have applied to staff the facility without using SEIU-represented nurses.

Stephanie Haynes of the SEIU said psychiatric nurses are in short supply, and the ones working at the Hershey Medical Center are highly experienced.

Nurses are concerned that, without staffing levels required by their contract, they won’t be able to provide adequate care in the new facility, she said.

Sean Young, a spokesman for Hershey Medical Center, said he expects the facility to open April 1, and is needed to address a local shortage of beds for people with severe mental illness.

“We deeply regret the impact SEIU’s actions will have on Penn State Hershey nurses who have already made verbal commitments to positions within the institute and who will now not receive formal letters of offer,” he said in an e-mail.

DAVID WENNER: 255-8172 or dwenner@patriot-news.com

Patriot-News link

Electricians’ union leader John J. Dougherty enters race to unseat State Sen. Vincent Fumo in Philadelphia

03.10.08

Union leader enters race to unseat Fumo
By Joseph A. Gambardello

Inquirer Staff Writer

Electricians’ union leader John J. Dougherty took his long-running feud with State Sen. Vincent Fumo (D., Phila.) to a more personal level yesterday, officially launching a campaign to unseat his former ally.
But in an 11-minute speech at a rally at the South Philadelphia rec center where he played as a child, Dougherty did not once mention Fumo by name.

Instead, surrounded by children from throughout the First Senate District, he spoke about the need for change and vowed he would revise state gun laws so that Philadelphia could regulate weapon sales on its own.

He even questioned legislation to limit gun sales to one a month, saying, “What the heck do you need a gun a month for?”

“I’m looking forward to that fight,” Dougherty, 47, said to cheers of about 400 people - mostly members of various labor unions - packed into Edward O’Malley Athletic Center in Pennsport.

Dougherty had planned to hold the rally Tuesday, but postponed it after Fumo was hospitalized Sunday night with a heart attack.

Dougherty, the business manager of IBEW Local 98 known as “Johnny Doc,” was once close with Fumo, but they have been at odds for years.

Two other candidates - grassroots activist Anne Dicker and Center City lawyer Larry Farnese - also are seeking the Democratic nomination for the First District seat Fumo has held for 30 years.

The district stretches from the International Airport to Fairmount to the west and Port Richmond on the east side, with Center City and all of South Philadelphia in between.

Much of the talk yesterday was about the neighborhood where Dougherty grew up and still lives. Several speakers at the rally said it had been transformed through his efforts.

There also was talk of support and money - and with Dougherty and Fumo expected to slug it out with TV and radio ads, building trades leader Pat Gillespie told the rally the challenger got a big boost earlier in the day when his campaign raised $250,000 at a union breakfast meeting.

Gillespie said unions outside the city also were expressing a desire to help.

During the rally, the campaign screened a television ad that shows Philadelphians talking about the need for change and Dougherty being the man to make it happen.

While Dougherty did not mention Fumo by name, he said he decided to run while attending a coffee klatch in Point Breeze and being told “they haven’t seen a senator in 20 years.”

Speakers, including his daughter, Erin, repeatedly mentioned how Dougherty’s history showed that he would work for the people, “not himself,” a veiled reference to Fumo, who is facing trial in September on federal fraud, conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges.

Prosecutors allege the powerful senator used his state staff and funds from a neighborhood charity to support an opulent lifestyle.

The only speaker to mention the incumbent’s name was City Councilman Bill Green, who said Dougherty was “tougher than Fumo and more honest than Lincoln.”

Candidate Farnese, in the meantime, called on Dougherty to release documents relating to FBI searches of his home and union in 2006.

Dougherty has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Asked about the FBI investigation after the rally, Dougherty said, “There’s nothing hanging over my head.”

“I’ll tell you what . . . I’ve been subpoenaed for 15 years, being a labor leader. It’s a tough environment when you’re aggressive and take on big business,” he said. “I’ve always fought for the little guy - and I’ll continue to fight for the little guy, even if it means 15 more years of subpoenas.”

Philadelphia Inquirer link
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Contact staff writer Joseph Gambardello at 215-854-2153 or jgambardello@phillynews.com.