Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

Are you making at least $20 an hour?

04.22.08

http://www.laborradio.org/node/8374

By Doug Cunningham

The percentage of hourly workers earning at least $20 an hour in the U.S. is down to just 16 percent. In 1979 it was 23 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That middle-class blue collar wage is essential to sustaining America’s middle class. The hourly wage decline is the worst in manufacturing, which is seeing a 60 percent drop in the number of workers earning at least $20 an hour.

Hold the Date - May 3! Union theater in Philadelphia, PA!

04.21.08

Dear CLUW Members:

See below this message from CLUW Board Member and TAUP/AFT VP Joyce Lindorff on a rare opportunity to see our own history presented on stage. April Logan, TUGSA, and CLUW Board member, will be featured prominently in the show, and CLUW was a big supporter of this organizing drive. CLUW is also a cosponsor of this effort, so let’s have a great turnout to support the project and the beneficiaries from UNITE/HERE.

See you there, May 3, 7:30, Temple U.

In Solidarity,
Kathy Black

We are thrilled to announce that on May 3 TAUP will present “Organizing Abraham Lincoln,” by award-winning playwright Lonnie Carter and AFT organizer/collaborative playwright, Rich Klimmer. Based on the experience of organizing TUGSA at Temple, the play tells the story of graduate teaching assistants organizing at the imaginary Abraham Lincoln University. Many of the actual Temple organizers will be there for a discussion with the audience following the show. Director Mahayana Landowne and the cast of actors will be traveling in from New York. This will be a fantastic union evening and celebration of Lonnie, Rich and our own TUGSA organizers. We are working with Actors’ Equity on actors’ fees, and also with Unite Here on making this a benefit for the families of the fired Embassy Suites housekeepers.

ORGANIZING ABRAHAM LINCOLN
Award-Winning Play about Organizing Graduate Teaching Assistants
by Lonnie Carter and Rich Klimmer
Directed by Mahayana Landowne
Saturday, May 3 at 7:30 pm
Rock Hall, Temple University
1715 N. Broad St., Philadelphia
For information: 215-204-7641
Sponsored by the Temple Association of University Professionals
General Admission at the door: $15, $5 for Students, Seniors and Unemployed
Benefit for Unite Here/Fired Embassy Suites Workers
_______________________

USW Says Trade Issue Key to Presidential Choice

04.21.08

http://www.foxbusiness.com/article/usw-says-trade-issue-key-presidential-choice_569562_1.html

Friday, Apr. 18 2008

PITTSBURGH, April 18, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ ## Senators Obama and Clinton Offer Thoughtful Responses; McCain Refused, Fails to Respond

In an open letter to United Steelworker (USW) members posted today on the union’s web site (http://www.usw.org ), International President Leo W. Gerard encouraged members to make their choice for president based on thoughtful responses from Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to a letter on crucial trade issues sent to them, as well as Senator John McCain.

Senator McCain refused to respond to the letter or to participate in a recent forum held in Pittsburgh by the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), of which the USW is a founding member.

“We are providing the full text of their responses to you ## without editorial comment,” Gerard wrote, “because we believe that each member and their families, as well as others who are concerned about America’s economic future, should determine for themselves which candidate will chart the new course America must embark upon. The status quo must be rejected.”

Letters sent to all three candidates, as well as the responses from Senators Clinton and Obama are available on our web site at http://usw.org

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)

Teamsters Mobilize in Pennsylvania for April 22 State Primary

04.19.08

Streetinsider article link

PHILADELPHIA, April 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ ## Hundreds of Teamsters are mobilizing in Pennsylvania for get-out-the-vote efforts across the state in advance of next week’s primary. The 1.4 million-member International Brotherhood of Teamsters has endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for president.

Staff and volunteers are reaching out to Pennsylvania’s 83,000 Teamsters at job sites, at home, by phone, e-mail and mail, urging them to vote next Tuesday. Jobs, the economy and the nation’s failed trade policies are the top concerns for Pennsylvania Teamsters, and staff and volunteers are talking with them about Obama’s positions on these and other issues affecting working families.

Teamster members are available for media interviews, and reporters are invited to cover voter mobilization efforts across the state.

WHO: International Brotherhood of Teamsters

WHAT: Member voter mobilization efforts in Pennsylvania

WHEN: Leading up to Pennsylvania’s April 22 primary

WHERE: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, elsewhere in state

VISUALS: Teamsters visiting job sites, knocking on doors, phone banking

CONTACT: Philadelphia: Leigh Strope, 202-497-7766, lstrope@teamster.org
Pittsburgh: David White, 202-439-1904, dwhite@teamster.org

SOURCE International Brotherhood of Teamsters

Hamilton Honored in Philadelphia as Irish-American Labor Leader of the Year

04.19.08

http://www.foxbusiness.com/article/hamilton-honored-philadelphia-irishamerican-labor-leader-year_569561_1.html

Bill Hamilton, President of Teamsters Joint Council 53 and President of Local 107 in Philadelphia, is being honored Saturday, April 19, 2008, as the Irish-American Labor Leader of the Year by the Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 40 in Philadelphia.

Hamilton will be presented the award at a dinner recognizing the contributions made by the Irish to the American labor movement.

Hamilton is a graduate of Cardinal Dougherty High School in Philadelphia. He became a Teamster in 1966 working at Spector Motors. He also served in the Army as a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division, and spent 13 months in Vietnam. After his return and discharge, he went to work for McLean Trucking, where he was elected shop steward.

In 1990, Hamilton was appointed as an organizer for Local 107 and later elected as business agent. He held that position until 2000, when he was elected President of Local 107. In 2003, Hamilton became an officer of Joint Council 53, and was elected President in 2007.

Program Schedule for Democratic Talk Radio

04.19.08

UPCOMING SHOWS (times are Eastern)
On May 8, we have Ron Ennis who is Editor of the Lehigh Valley (PA) Labor Council, AFL-CIO newsletter and an American Postal Workers Union activist on the show. He is a great writer on union and political topics.

Tentatively have Cindy Sheehan scheduled for May 1 at 8:35am. About her Congressional run against Pelosi. We have Steve Raysely , who is the Steelworkers (and PACE) Rapid Response Coordinator for eastern Pennsylvania, in the studio for the entire show.

April 24th in studio whole show: Dennis Hower, VP of Teamsters Local 773 http://www.teamster773.org/hower.html & Allentown City Council President Michael D’Amore.

April 17th we had Pennsylvania State Representative and candidate for Pennsylvania Treasurer Jennifer Mann on the first half of the show. Brad Friedman from Brad Blog http://www.bradblog.com/ was on at 8:40am.

April 10th- Sam Bennett http://www.bennett2008.com/ , Democratic Congressional candidate in the 15th District (Lehigh Valley) and Joe Long, Chair of the Northampton Democratic Party, Chair of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Democratic Caucus and retired UAW organizer were are guests on this show.

April 3rd- Joe Long (see April 10th for bio) was in the studio for the whole show. We were joined by IBEW National Rep. Paul Simon at 8:35 for the end of the show.

Democratic Talk Radio will have Jack Wagner, Pennsylvania State Auditor; Gregg Potter, President of the Greater Lehigh Valley Labor Council, AFL-CIO; Larry Cohen, President of the Communications Workers of Americaand; Paul Tucker, Editor & Publisher of the Union News newspapers in eastern Pennsylvania on future shows.

We hope to soon announce the appearances of several talk radio show hosts (Rick Smith and Jerry Pippin have agreed to appear) and at least two other Presidents of very large international unions. Keep checking back for details!

I forgot to mention that Sam Lathem, President of the Delaware AFL-CIO and Senator Joe Biden have both agreed to be future guests. We are still working on a schedule for them.

Unionized Atlantic City casino dealers still lack contracts

04.17.08

Unionized Atlantic City casino dealers still lack contracts

http://money.excite.com/jsp/nw/nwdt_rt_top.jsp?news_id=ap-d903fn2g0&

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Union, yes. Contract, no. That’s the reality right now in Atlantic City, where dealers at four casinos have won elections allowing them to form unions over the past year. But none of the unions has succeeded in getting a contract with any of the gambling houses.

The euphoria that followed a wave of organizing success among Atlantic City’s 11 casinos has given way to frustration at the slow pace of contract talks. Because of that, a group of workers, elected officials and labor officials held a rally Wednesday to call on the casinos to bargain fairly with the unions.

“We played by the rules, won an election, and wanted to deal fairly and squarely” with management, said Aneil Patel, a dealer at Caesars Atlantic City for 14 years. “But the company still doesn’t get it. That’s why we are stepping up this fight.”

Chun Zhu, a dealer at Bally’s Atlantic City for three years, said he came to this country from China 20 years ago confident that if one played by the rules in America, he would be rewarded.

“But rather than work with us to make Bally’s better, they found millions of dollars to hire consultants to fight us,” he said. “We deal the cards that make their profits.”

So far, the United Auto Workers union has won representation elections at Caesars, Bally’s, the Tropicana Casino and Resort, and Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino.

It lost elections at Trump Marina Hotel Casino and the Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort.

The UAW plans to try to organize workers at all 11 casinos here. Talks with Caesars have been going on for more than a year; Bally’s and Trump have not yet started negotiations.

“It’s not unusual for it to take this long,” said David Krenkel, an Ocean Township labor lawyer. He said federal law requires both sides to bargain in good faith, showing a willingness to listen and work toward an agreement.

Alyce Parker, a spokeswoman for Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., which operates four casinos here including Bally’s and Caesars, said the company and the union had agreed not to discuss contract talks with the media.

The Casino Association of New Jersey, the industry’s trade group, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Among the chief issues the union is seeking to negotiate are salary increases, job security, more full-time jobs and better health care coverage for part-time workers.

The talks come as Atlantic City’s casinos are smarting from their first-ever down year in 2007, when revenue declined by 5.7 percent from the previous year, due largely to competition from newly opened slots parlors in neighboring states.

Further complicating matters is the uncertain status of the Tropicana, whose former owner, Columbia Sussex Corp., was stripped of its casino license in December, forcing the property to be sold. A new buyer is being sought, making it difficult for interim management to conduct meaningful negotiations.

And next Wednesday, the City Council is set to pass a total smoking ban for the gambling floors at all 11 casinos, which has casino executives predicting additional revenue declines. It would take effect Oct. 15.

Unionizing dealers has been a decades-long goal in Atlantic City. In late 1982, dealers at what was then called Bally’s Park Place voted to form a union, but they were unable to reach agreement with the company on a contract and went on strike the following May.

That work stoppage proved disastrous, falling apart after three days and ending with Sports Arena and Casino Employees Local 137 waiving its right to act as bargaining representatives for the casino’s dealers.

This time will be different, organizers vowed.

“What these casinos know is you can go anywhere in the country and build something, and have it non-union,” said Roy Foster, president of the Atlantic/Cape May Central Labor Council. “But not in our house. Build it union and maintain it union or get the hell out of town!”

Honoring Workers on Workers Memorial Day

04.16.08

by John Werkheiser, UFCW #1776
Executive Vice-President, Lehigh Valley Labor Council

Each day, on average, over 15 people die on the job in the United States. Over 12,000 sustain injuries. This is why workplace safety is a responsibility we all must share.

The list of names that we read each Workers’ Memorial Day at our annual ceremony will grow again this year. Our commitment to fighting for legislation to protect all workers, including those in the public sector will continue.

Recently, legislation was introduced by some of our Lehigh Valley state representatives to address the issue of a public worker’s OSHA protection. We hope to draw attention to this legislation at our annual ceremony, which will be held as follows:

Date: Sunday, April 27, 2008

Location: Bethlehem Rose Garden Band Shell
Eighth Avenue & Union Boulevard
Bethlehem, Pa.

Time: 1:00 PM

Our ceremony will begin with remarks at the Band Shell followed by the reading of the Lehigh Valley Worker Fatality list and the “ringing of the bell”. Coffee and cake will be served after the program in the adjacent log cabin.

Please honor all our fellow workers who have lost their lives on the job by attending and showing your support to make workplaces safer for all workers.

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Reprinted from the Greater Lehigh Valley Labor Council newsletter.

A margin of one: Make your vote count on April 22 & November 4

04.16.08

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

“The freeman, casting with unpurchased hand,
The vote that shakes the turret of the land.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894), Supreme Court justice, Poetry: a Metrical Essay.

Our nation’s electoral history is studded with close, contentious elections having profound political consequences. Had Alexander Hamilton lobbied for fellow New Yorker Aaron Burr rather than Thomas Jefferson in the deadlocked 1800 presidential election, the Louisiana Purchase might never have taken place and the Mississippi River would have marked our western border.

Had one voter for every precinct in the country switched to Richard Nixon in 1960, the story of Vietnam and civil rights might have been written differently.

And had (a highly questionable) 537 votes in Florida, a statewide difference of five 1/1000th of one percent, shifted to Al Gore in 2000, it’s likely that the enormous lost of life and treasure in Iraqi would never have happened.

Each November, Americans cast their ballots knowing that their vote could be the margin of victory for a candidate who can change their lives, their communities and their country.

Even elections closer to home can have a widespread impact. Below are three Pennsylvania elections decided by a handful of votes.

In the 2006 congressional mid-term elections, Patrick Murphy, a Democrat, challenged incumbent Bucks County congressman, Michael Fitzpatrick. Murphy, an Iraqi War veteran, narrowly defeated his Republican opponent by a margin of 1518 out of 249,794 votes cast, representing a difference of just one-half of one percent.

Soon after his inauguration, Murphy led the House in passing legislation (H.R. 1591) that set a timetable to remove all U.S. combat troops from Iraq beginning in March 2008. The phased redeployment was set to be complete by September of this year, but President Bush’s threatened veto and the narrow congressional support for the measure halted its passage.

On January 3, 2004 state officials declared Republican Susan P. Gantman the winner over Democrat John J. Driscoll for a state Superior Court seat. Described as the closest election in the state’s history since the Civil War, a federal judge halted ten weeks of recounts which eventually gave Gantman a 28-vote margin out of roughly 2.3 million cast.

Superior Court justices hold 10-year terms and hear most appeals from the Court of Common Pleas, which is the original jurisdiction for all civil and criminal actions and proceedings. The Superior Court justices also entertain, hold hearings on, and decide applications for wiretapping and electronic surveillance.

Finally, the area’s only labor-backed candidate to win the Lehigh Valley’s congressional seat in the past 30 years nearly suffered a defeated in his first re-election campaign.

Democrat Paul McHale, facing a Republican takeover of Congress in 1994, barely edged out Jim Yeager by a mere 471 votes out of 143,675 cast, a difference of just one-third of one percent.

In August 1993, McHale’s support for President Clinton’s first budget (H.R. 2264), which barely passed in the House 218-216 with not a single Republican vote, ushered in an economic boom that lasted for the remainder of the decade. Later in the year, McHale voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement (H.R. 3450).

During the 2000 Florida recount between George Bush and Al Gore, mathematician John Allen Paulos remarked, “Whatever happens, the margin of error is greater than the margin of victory or defeat.” Your vote on April 22 and November 4 could be the margin that changes history.

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Reprinted from the Greater Lehigh Valley Labor Council newsletter.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: The writer of this article will be our in studio guest on Democratic Talk Radio on Thursday, May 8th from 8:05am until 9am. It will broadcast on WGPA SUNNY 1100AM and can be heard live on the Internet from the station website. The show will later be available on the Program Archive page at http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio.com

Black & white: Ed O’Brien examines his two contrasting congressional races separated by 9/11

04.16.08

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

Political wisdom teaches that freshmen lawmakers are most vulnerable in their first re-election campaign.

In 2000, that axiom didn’t seem to sway Lehigh Valley Democrats to challenge Pat Toomey, the area’s Republican congressman who won the seat two years earlier.

In Part II of our interview with Ed O’Brien, the former steelworker Ed O’Brien

official and congressional candidate talks about his two distinctly different races against Toomey and the lessons to be learned going into the 2008 presidential election.

What made you think you could win in 2000?

Honestly, after (Roy) Afflerbach’s defeat in 1998, I didn’t think I would be the Democratic candidate. I wish my wife, Shirley, was here. She would tell you that I didn’t give it a thought.

However, I noticed that no one else wanted to come forward and take on Toomey. I started contacting possible challengers in September, maybe as late as October, 1999.

It was clear that no one was interested in a congressional campaign, so I started to think about it. I talked with the Steelworkers District #10 Director Andrew “Lefty” Palm, who was very supportive and said he would speak to George Becker, then president of the union. I also spoke to State Rep. T.J. Rooney, who also liked the idea of my candidacy. But they all agreed with me that no announcement would be made until after I discussed it with Shirley.

In December, Shirley and I went to the Sun Inn, in downtown Bethlehem, to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Shortly after our arrival, the restaurant experienced electrical problems and the lights went out.

As we began our meal by candlelight, I said to my wife, “What would you think if I said to you I’m thinking about running for Congress?”

“You’re thinking of running for Congress?” she said looking at me somewhat surprised.

“This time I’m serious.”

“But what does it entail?” she asked. Before I could answer, she asked me the same question you just did: “Do you think you could win?”

I started laying out to her the advantages I had going up against Toomey. First, the economy was strong and that favored Vice-President Al Gore, who would eventually become the Democratic presidential candidate. I also believed that Gore would win in November 2000.

Second, Toomey was an absentee congressman. Unlike his Republican predecessor, Ritter, he wasn’t going around and visiting the district. And, unlike Ritter, he didn’t return any federal dollars to the district.

You mean in the form of “pork?”

Yes. Toomey didn’t believe in it. But Ritter did and used it, like many of his congressional colleagues, to show his concern for his district’s needs. As a result, Toomey’s name recognition in the area was low, giving me a good chance to unseat him.

After I presented all the reasons why I thought I could win, Shirley replied, “Well, honey if you want to do it.”

Within days things fell into place. I had the support of Peter Angelos, owner of the Baltimore Orioles and attorney for asbestos claims in our area. His financial assistance was critical to my campaign.

Becker was great, too. “Obie, the Steelworkers will do everything we can for you,” he said as he began making calls to other labor leaders. Soon afterward, he brought in Chuck Roche, from the Rubber workers, to help my campaign raise money from the other unions.

As my campaign began to unfold, I contacted the area’s Democratic leaders to see if anyone had second thoughts and would enter the race. None did, but they all wished me the best. I suspected that some thought I didn’t have a chance.

Soon after my run for Congress was publicly announced, I was able to raise over $100,000 – thanks to Peter and Chuck.

By early 2000, I made the first of many trips to Washington D.C. to speak to groups that might support my race. The ability of my campaign to raise $100,000 so quickly sent a message to them that I was a serious contender and, naturally, that got them interested.

What happened at the April 2000 Workers’ Memorial event at the Rose Gardens in Bethlehem?

Prior to the Workers Memorial event in April 2000, Toomey and I had never met face to face. So, John Werkheiser, then president of the Lehigh Valley Labor Council, and I had an idea.

Toomey came to the labor gathering as an invited guest and speaker. I was sitting down behind him scheduled to speak after he gave his comments.

As soon as Toomey was finished, I got up to speak. Pointing to him, I told the crowd of his lousy record in support of OSHA and other important safety bills.

When the event was finished, he came over to me and said, “I’ll see you on the campaign trail.”

“You can count on it,” I shot back.

Politicians often say they don’t follow polls, but aren’t they important?

You better believe it. One of our first polls involved name recognition. Despite all the years as a labor leader in the Lehigh Valley – you could see how people don’t pay attention – my name recognition was somewhere around 18 or 19 percent. However, Toomey’s wasn’t great for an incumbent – only in the 40s.

Better yet, polls indicated his “favorables” – how voters viewed him – were below 50 percent.

Knowing that the majority of Valley voters either didn’t know him or viewed him unfavorably made me believe I could knock him off.

As the campaign wore on though, there were factors that weighed in against me. Tim Holden, a Democrat incumbent in Berks & Schuylkill counties, had a tough challenger. And Democrat Pat Casey, who narrowly lost in 1998 to Don Sherwood in the northeastern 10th District, was in a rematch with the Republican.

Consequently, both the Holden and Casey races would draw money and resources to their campaigns and away from mine. You might say I was like the fifth wheel on the wagon.

Despite the financial challenges, I was still able to raise in excess of $250,000 by Primary Election Day. Going into the summer, I felt positive about my chances.

Another example of the importance of polls came just weeks before the November election. Rep. Jack Murtha (D-12th) informed me that he could help my campaign if I could show him a poll with Toomey less than 10 points ahead.

Murtha, a former Vietnam veteran and well-respected by the military, had contacts in the defense industry. These donor-rich contributors might help if I could show I was closing in on my opponent.

Three weeks out from Election Day, I was down by only seven points. Perhaps because the poll was too late, and certainly because of the close congressional races in neighboring districts, I didn’t receive the critical financial help in the final stretch that might have taken me over the top.

If the campaign had an infusion of another $140,000 in the days leading up to the election, I would have done a last- minute mailing to rural and suburban voters and Independents. That’s what ultimately hurt me. Still, in the end, my vote total approached 104,000. The only Democrat in the past 30 years to receive more was Paul McHale in his 1996 re-election win.

You also came closest to ousting an incumbent Lehigh Valley Republican in the past 30 years.

Yes, that’s true.

So you must have been hopeful when you decided to run again in 2002.

I was and I had every intention of running after my narrow loss because I believed it would take two elections to unseat Toomey. But my decision to run again was one of the toughest decisions I ever had to make.

I was already committed when the events of September 11, 2001 unfolded. I knew that tragedy would change the dynamics of my second attempt because voters would naturally rally around the President and his party.

In December 2001, “Lefty” Palm called me in Harris-burg to tell me that he was being moved up in the union and that I would have the opportunity to take his place as the union’s District #10 director. It was an extremely tempting offer because it was something I had aspired to for many years.

But I was committed to do this again – not only for myself, but for the people of the 15th congressional district.

Most importantly, though, I wanted to do this for labor. The labor unions had given me so much that I felt that I owed them.

As a union official, I had witnessed a sharp rise in plant shutdowns and bankruptcies in the previous 10 years. It was painful to see hardworking people lose their healthcare and pensions. I thought I could make a difference for those who lost so much if I won my congressional race. I could be their voice down in Washington D.C., because I knew Toomey didn’t represent them.

While the mood of the country swayed toward the President, the experience of 2000 made Toomey aware that I was a serious contender. He and his campaign were not going to underestimate me a second time and, therefore, were more aggressive in their fundraising and spending.

After the 2002 defeat, Chuck Rocha told me that Toomey’s re-election drive cost in the neighborhood of $5 million, in both “hard” and “soft” campaign contributions. That’s how serious Toomey took my second attempt.

This enormous sum allowed him to begin campaign ads against me as early as May 2002. His first ad, which seemed to constantly run for weeks, had people say, “Why is Ed O’Brien lying about Pat Toomey’s record?”

Union voters may not understand how important money is in campaigns. Nor do they understand how misleading campaign ads can be.

Perhaps, the most difficult experience I had in both my contests had nothing to do with money. It occurred in the 2002 contest when a steelworker president from the Philadelphia area was featured in a Toomey ad. The ad was effective and received local press coverage. On the night of his victory, Toomey even thanked him.

People from his local couldn’t apologize to me enough because they were embarrassed by this guy. It really bothered me that my 35 years of union service was being publicly disparaged by another union official.

As a union official, you had a strong background in healthcare for steelworkers. During your two congressional runs, what healthcare issues took center stage?

In the summer of 2000, I went with Tom Bullock, my campaign fundraiser, before the Lehigh County American Medical Association. I began to make my pitch to them, including my thoughts about the patient’s bill of rights legislation that had recently been introduced into Congress.

“We’re not worried about that,” some of the doctors said. “We’re worried about the lawyers.” For many of these doctors, tort reform was their chief concern.

In 2002, the Northampton County American Medical Association hosted a dinner and debate between Toomey and me.

After our opening statements, physicians and members of the association began asking us questions. I sensed that my answers swung some over, but finally I couldn’t stand it anymore. Nearly all the questions focused on tort, tort, tort.

“You know what?” I said to the audience. “I just sat here for 45 minutes answering questions. And I keep hearing him,” as I pointed to Toomey, “saying the same thing as you.”

Exasperated, I finally remarked, “All you’re doing is talking about tort reform and condemning lawyers that defend victims. I haven’t heard anything about patients.”

You’ve worn two hats: one as a labor leader and the other as a congressional candidate. First, what do union voters need to understand about a candidate running for office?

A lot of union people are spoiled and in many cases rightfully so. Hey, it was my job to spoil the workers that I represented as much as I could.

But the problem is that too many union members don’t understand how politics ties into their way of life. Hey, you hear it all the time: “I don’t want to get involved.”

My answer to them always was, whether you like politics or not, it’s the basis for our society. It starts with their township supervisors voting on zoning laws to city councilmen changing the local tax code. And they certainly don’t understand what the judges do.

What many union members do understand, and this may not surprise you, is if you try to screw with something about guns. They understand that very, very well.

But until it hits them in the head they have no understanding and don’t seem to care.

By then it’s too late!

It is too late. Unions put more money into people’s hands and it certainly gave them a better life. We improved their quality of life, in some cases, to the point where they forgot what the issues were and they forgot what they should have stood for. We made them rich and, in turn, many of them lost their sense of values.

Was I shocked when I ran for Congress and saw all the union members not registered to vote? Hell no!

You wrote an article in 2006, Ron, when Charles Dertinger ran for the 15th seat. It stated that had every Lehigh Valley union member been registered to vote in 2000, I would have easily defeated incumbent Pat Toomey. It was right on point.

Were some of these union folks sleeping or what? Here was a guy, Pat Toomey, whose set of values was so far from their own.

I would think that union members today are becoming more educated because of the Lehigh Valley Labor Council’s activities, such as this newsletter, shining a light on working people’s issues.

We still have some educating to do. (laughs)

Well, some union members you’ll never be able to reach. To have one of their own – not necessarily an Ed O’Brien or a Charles Dertinger – who spent years in the labor movement serving their fellow members, yet not being registered to vote or vote for someone like my opponent, well, it was totally ludicrous.

I don’t know if the Man from up above could come down and educate them.

But to get back to your point about union members failing to act until it is too late, they become educated when they start to hurt. I saw it in so many industries over the years; people have to really hurt before they become educated and begin to respond.

What do candidates, particularly Democrats, need to understand about union voters?
Well, that union voters aren’t just going to vote Democrat because they are Democrats. They’re not going to listen to their pandering about what they’re going to do.

What some Democratic politicians have to understand is that there are certain values that we in the labor movement will not give up. We have always been the champion for working family issues and the Democrats have to understand that. Our vote isn’t just theirs because their opponents, the Republicans, don’t do anything for us. Democrats have to prove to us that they are deserving of our vote.

The region has seen a loss of thousands of unionized jobs – at Bethlehem Steel, Agere (formerly known as Western Electric), Mack Trucks, etc. – in recent years. Consequently, it seems the wage floor has collapsed and $10-$15 per hour warehouse jobs are the norm. With the area’s large unionized employers in retreat, if not out of business, how challenging is it to organize remaining workplaces?

I remember when I first started organizing, the old organizers told me the steelworkers’ union wouldn’t look at unionizing a worksite unless it had at least 200 workers. Then the 1980s arrived and if you found three street people you could organize, you’d begin a campaign.

There were a couple of other things that occurred in the 1980s that shifted the balance of power increasingly toward management. First, when President Reagan fired the air traffic controllers in 1981, it gave the green light to big business to take a hardnosed approach to workers.

Second, by bringing in replacements to fill the control towers, Reagan also gave business the go ahead to use strikebreakers, something that was rarely done before.

In the past, newly organized workers could go on strike to force a company back to the bargaining table for a first contract. After 1981 though, workers were afraid they would be replaced if they went out on strike. They had no leverage and companies were free to ignore them and begin the process of busting the workers’ union.

Finally, the introduction of two-tiered wage scales was detrimental to unionizing. Too often they became a permanent part of the workplace. You had to renegotiate to remove them, which companies never wanted to do. And it created resentment among workers who were doing the same job but receiving different wage levels.

In my lifetime, I’ve learned how companies exploit their employees. While it has been extremely challenging for workers in recent decades, I think it will change.

I’m going to be 64 years old. There still isn’t a day that I don’t think about all the things that happened with my union, all the things I did with the union. I don’t regret one second of it, not at all.

I still feel so bad for people who lost their jobs, lost their benefits – so many things just in our area. Durkee, Sarco, Fuller, and of course, Bethlehem Steel – one company after another. And these were just steelworker shops.

Maybe the kids who are in high school or starting out in college, after witnessing what their parents endured, will gravitate to labor unions, because unions are the only effective tool to combat exploitation. I hope to God I see it.

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Reprinted from the Greater Lehigh Valley Labor Council newsletter.

At the creation: Chris Snyder, area’s first labor coordinator, left a lasting legacy

04.16.08

by Gregg Potter, CWA #13500
President, Lehigh Valley Labor Council

“Real prosperity can only come when everybody prospers.” Eleanor Roosevelt

In 2006, a young man was introduced to me and I was advised that he would be the new Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Area Labor Federation representative for our region. That young man’s name was Chris Snyder. His recent announcement that he was leaving his post as our ALF representative for a job with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local #1776, leaves me with mixed feelings. But despite his short two year stint, he was long on accomplishments as our area’s first ALF coordinator.

When Chris was first hired, there were immediate comparisons between him and the formerly incomparable Ben Waxman, who led our area’s Labor 2004 Election campaign. Could Chris do what Ben did?

Ben brought renewed respect to labor with his tireless work efforts. Could Chris duplicate those efforts? Could this “young” newcomer to labor possibly understand the turmoil that we had endured prior to his arrival? Doesn’t he realize that we just experienced a potentially fatal split in the AFL-CIO with the “Change to Win” unions effectively seceding? Doesn’t he understand that the Lehigh Valley Central Labor Council just experienced a near meltdown? This whole “ALF” thing was totally foreign and how would this work? Who was this guy anyway?

Soon after Chris entered our fold, many calls were made to Ben and other AFL-CIO officials from various CLC members. The same questions were raised.

Some veteran leaders went out of their way to be extremely rude to Chris hoping that he would somehow go away. He didn’t. Chris took control and began the difficult task in transforming the opinions of several labor leaders, myself included.

Chris worked tirelessly in getting to know the key individuals in our Labor Council and, despite some setbacks, won them over. Although Ben is a great friend and labor leader, Chris’s work and success to me was much more impressive and important in his newly developed role for the ALF.

Effective communication is a critical tool for any labor leader to be successful. Chris excels in this area. I received several e-mails and voice mail messages each day, sometimes two and three times a day. While some leaders don’t care for the extra information, I thrived on it. Chris was always letting me know of the progress he made with a previously uninterested local. He was quick to let me know what labor leaders I could count on and what leaders needed more coaxing.

He shared with me the successes that other CLCs experienced. He is the consummate team player. Not once did he complain about the issues that he had no control over. Chris took on the task as ALF coordinator and, as he is always fond of saying, “hit the ground running.”

Chris worked hard with Schuylkill County Central Labor Council President Anne Kurtek. He helped them develop into an extremely progressive, effective CLC. This Council was close to losing their charter and now they are extremely active and are an important part of the Northeast Pennsylvania ALF. This success is due to the tireless work of Anne Kurtek, her CLC and the support of Chris Snyder.

The Five County Central Labor Council was nearly disbanded early in Chris’s career with the ALF. Chris helped to mobilize locals into rejoining the CLC and late last year a new executive board was elected with Pete Rickert as President. They are also on a roll!

In 2006, the Lehigh Valley faced the difficult task of trying to elect Bob Casey to replace the Senate GOP’s number three leader, Rick Santorum. We also were trying to elect a union member for the 15th Congressional District, Charles Dertinger.

Chris knew that Sen. John Kerry lost Monroe, Wayne, and Pike counties by only a few votes in 2004. He understood the importance of these critical areas for the 2006 Labor Election campaign and the large number of union members from New York and New Jersey who lived in these counties.

Chris communicated with locals in New York and New Jersey and was able to leaflet locals and coordinate targeted calls and mailings to some key gated communities in these underserved counties. In part, due to Labor and Chris Snyder, the Democratic Party was able to win convincingly in these counties in 2006.

Last year witnessed several union organizing challenges in the Lehigh Valley, which Chris played an important role in. The APWU was attempting to organize DHL workers; SEIU was organizing Pocono Medical Center and negotiating for a first contract. CWA was attempting to organize nearly 600 LifePath workers. There was on again, off again attempts at T-Mobile. Our plate was extremely full, yet Chris was always available to help.

In between organizing efforts, Chris helped to lobby legislators in Scranton with the crucial Act 47 rulings. Chris assisted in getting legislators to sign on to the Employee Free Choice Act in Allentown and other municipalities in his region. He also was extremely effective in convincing some legislators to sign on to ban forced mandatory overtime for healthcare workers.

He has affiliated many locals that are now paying the all important per-capita. Several of those locals have produced excellent delegates and they are helping the CLCs grow. Chris has gained the respect of many seasoned veterans in local labor and the ones that don’t give him his proper due are frankly making a huge mistake.

Chris developed the Delegate’s Guide for new delegates to CLCs across Pennsylvania. This guidebook explains the expectations of delegates to our Central Labor Councils. This is an idea that has been floated around for a long time and Chris took the bull by the horns and once again, “got the job done.”

Chris faced a lifetime’s worth of adversity in a very short time and came out a winner. Very quietly, Chris Snyder has turned from a labor and political novice to a force to be reckoned with.

Northeast Pennsylvania ALF Director Dave Antle is keenly aware of the effectiveness that Chris brings to the table. As far as I am concerned, any successors to this position start with cloning Chris Snyder.

UFCW Local 1776 also was keenly aware of the strength that Chris brings to the table. He was recently hired as a Business Agent for Local 1776 and will be leaving his ALF position shortly. Although I will miss the day to day contact with Chris, we will certainly be interacting in the future. My hopes are for Chris to assume a position on our Executive Board when elections roll around.

Chris helped to make my first term as President of the CLC that much easier. His work ethic, energy, and friendship are things that I will never forget. He is a true asset to the AFL-CIO and our Labor Council. I am very proud to call Chris Snyder my friend.

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Reprinted from the Greater Lehigh Valley Labor Council newsletter.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: I know both the writer and subject of this article. Gregg Potter’s very high opinion of Chris Snyder is completely shared by me! UFCW Local 1776 made a really good move by hiring him. He will make a great addition to their already very talented team.

Clinton picks up union endorsement of Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association

04.16.08

Clinton picks up union endorsement

By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has won the endorsement of a union representing plasterers and cement masons in the construction industry.

The 45,000-member Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association timed its announcement for Clinton’s speech Wednesday before the AFL-CIO’s Building Trades National Legislative Conference.

Union President Pat Finley said in a statement that Clinton has the ability to turn around the economy and rebuild the middle class.

Finley said, “She has a clear record fighting for working families, and is the strongest candidate to go toe-to-toe with John McCain in November.”
___
On the Net:
http://www.hillaryclinton.com

IBT members ratify contract with K&B Shamrock Trucking

04.16.08

April 2008 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

IBT members ratify contract with K&B Shamrock Trucking

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

REGION, March 31st- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 401 in Wilkes-Barre members employed at K&B Shamrock Trucking Inc. ratified a new four year contract agreement with the trucking company. K&B operates a facility in Pittston Township.

According to Patrick Connors, Secretary/Treasurer, Business Representative and Principal Officer of Local 401, the union represents twenty-six K&B employees which includes their trucks drivers.

“Negotiations went smooth and professional,” said Mr. Connors. He stated there was only one meeting between the union and management with Mr. Connors heading the negotiating team for Local 401. “It was a marathon meeting, lasting around six hours,” said Mr. Connors.

Mr. Connors said the contract agreement was well received by the membership because working conditions language was improved under the pact.

The membership voted to approve the contract on March 11th, fifteen for the agreement to nine against. “We addressed the members priorities in wages, personal days, health care benefits, longevity and Saturday work.”

Under the new contract driver pay rates increases 3 1/2 percent each year of the contract. In the first year of the agreement, wages will increase fourty-four cents per hour. In the second year the hourly wage will increase by fourty-six cents per hour, in the third year hourly wages will increase by fourty-seven cents per hour and in the fourth yerar of the contract hourly wages will increase by fourty-nine cents per hour.

The drivers will be earning $14.51 in the final year of the contract which will expire on March 31st, 2012.

The wage progression for new employees increases, which includes employees currently in progression, under the new agreement.

Saturday flat wage rate will increased $85.00 each of the first two years and $90.00 the third and fourth year of the agreement.

Also, after fifteen years of service the workers will receive four weeks of paid vacation and a additional personal day after ten years of service for a total of three days.

Bereavement leave is improved under the pact to include three days for the death of grandchildren and step-parents and the contract will add one day of bereavement for the death of a sister-in-law or brother-in-law.

Union bulletin board language was added under the pact along with a new successor employer clause intended to provide security to the workforce should the company be sold.

Mr. Connors added the employees health and welfare benefits was also improved under the new agreement with the company paying sixty percent of the cost of the employee.

“I think we got a good contract for the membership,” said Mr. Connors.

Local 401 represents IBT members from Pittston into lower Luzerne County which includes factory workers, warehousemen, government employees, truck drivers, department of public works employees and United Parcel Service workers.

PASNAP Union members protest lack of contract at CMC

04.16.08

April 2008 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

PASNAP Union members protest lack of contract at CMC

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

REGION, March 31st- Registered Nurses (RN’s) employed at the Community Medical Center (CMC) in Scranton held a rally at Nay Aug Park, on March 29th, across the street from the medical center, to protest the failure of reaching a first-time labor agreement between the nurses union and hospital officials.

The Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) Union has been negotiating with CMC since September, 2007 attempting to achieve a labor agreement. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four conducted a election at the facility on July 19th, 2007 to determine if the RN’s wanted to be represented by PASNAP. The employees voted 209 to 117 to be represented by the union. There are approximatley 420 Registered Nurses in the bargaining unit.

Around 125 CMC nurses, labor community members, and elected officials attended the rally. The event was held to show union solidarity and protest the hospital administration’s failure to reach a agreement with the union.

According to Bill Cruice, PASNAP’s chief contract negotiator, achieving a first-time contract between the parties has been slowed because of the “stall tactics” of the CMC labor attorney Robert Ufberg.

Mr. Ufberg is often hired when a employer wants to keep a labor organization from representing their workers or wants to be “uncooperative” with the union.

Mr. Cruice stated his negotiating committee have become frustrated with Mr. Ufberg’s negotiating tactics that includes cancelling meetings.

Colombia: No Rights, No Trade

04.15.08

Colombia: No Rights, No Trade
By John Sweeney

Last Sept. 27, 16-year-old Andres Damian Florez Rodriguez was on his way home from school when he was forced into a van by three armed men. Andres is the son of Jose Domingo Florez, a leader of the Coca-Cola bottling union in Santander. The assailants drove along, beating the boy while they received radio instructions. Then they gave him a message to convey: “Tell your papa that we won’t rest until we see [the union leaders] quartered in pieces.”

On March 22, Adolfo Gonzalez Montes, a member of the Barrancas local Union of Coal Miners, was found dead in his home, tortured and shot, after his union received death threats during a union conflict.

On March 9, Carlos Burbano, vice president of the National Hospital Workers’ Union in Colombia, was murdered in San Vicente del Cagu?n after leading a local peace march. His corpse was found in the city dump, his face disfigured with acid. He was one of four Colombian trade unionists killed in a single week. Their deaths were not random crimes in a dangerous country. Rather, the Colombian government has falsely denounced union activists as guerrilla sympathizers, opening the door for paramilitary groups’ death threats.

And these assassinations are not anomalies. Seventeen unionists have been murdered since Jan. 1 ## up 70 percent over last year at this time ## according to the National Labor School, a respected nongovernmental organization.

Against this backdrop, President Bush has sent the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement to Congress for ratification, over the opposition of the Democratic congressional leadership. What, then, is the fundamental test of globalization? Is it corporate profits alone?

Globalization and trade should lift up and promote democratic societies. They should empower the many and lift the poor. They should create a fundamentally better world.

That is at the heart of an emerging and hopeful new consensus on trade.

For decades trade rules have protected business interests but offered few enforceable protections for workers’ rights and human rights. Millions of good jobs have been shipped away from the United States, while living and environmental standards have been eroded in our trading partner countries. That is why we have fought to guarantee labor and environmental standards in our trade agreements.

But now the Bush administration’s determination to ram through this agreement with Colombia before it has the capacity to uphold the rule of law threatens all the progress that has been made.

It’s of little use to include a paper commitment to respect “freedom of association” when workers who organize and speak out for economic freedom ## and their families ## face an implicit death sentence. That is why working people in Colombian and American unions are united in opposition to ratification of this agreement.

President Bush and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe are pulling out all the stops to persuade Congress to approve the trade deal in this session. The Bush administration has mobilized its Cabinet to lead congressional delegations on sanitized field trips to Colombia. The Colombian government is reportedly spending more than $100,000 a month to lobby for the agreement.

The editorial pages of virtually every major American newspaper have weighed in with unusual intensity. They have heaped praise on the Uribe administration’s self-described successes and vigorously excoriated “bogus” claims about violence against unionists.

In fact, human rights groups say extrajudicial murders of civilians by the Colombian armed forces on Uribe’s watch are increasing. Growing evidence ties high-level members of the Colombian government to violent right-wing paramilitary groups. And, as noted above, Uribe administration officials have repeatedly ## and falsely ## labeled union leaders and human rights activists as guerrilla sympathizers, endangering their lives.

Supporters of the Colombia agreement have mocked statistics published by leading international human rights organizations, which show that more than 400 Colombian unionists have been murdered during Uribe’s tenure. The rate of impunity remains at roughly 97 percent, even taking government statistics at face value, and nearly half of the convicted assassins are not even in custody.

Colombia claims to be taking steps to reduce the violence. That’s good. But so far, it has done too little. And it has failed to bring its labor laws into compliance with international labor standards or enforce them effectively.

How many murders are “acceptable”? How many is too many? I can’t answer those questions with a number other than zero.

And I know this: Unless working people can exercise their right to lift their families out of poverty and exploitation, trade cannot strengthen democracy or advance a better world. And until they can exercise their fundamental human rights without fear that they will end up in a garbage dump, or their teenage son will be picked up at gunpoint, there should be no trade agreement with Colombia.

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John Sweeney is President of the AFL-CIO.

Bill Would Extend Unemployment Insurance for Long-Term Jobless

04.15.08

Bill Would Extend Unemployment Insurance for Long-Term Jobless

by Mike Hall, Apr 11, 2008

http://blog.aflcio.org/2008/04/11/bill-would-extend-unemployment-insurance-for-long-term-jobless

Earlier this year, the AFL-CIO pushed hard for Congress to extend unemployment insurance (UI) benefits beyond the normal 26 weeks as part of a stimulus package to address growing joblessness and a nose-diving economy.

President Bush indicated that extending UI benefits was veto bait for the bill and said unemployment wasn’t high enough to justify an extension. It was dropped from the bill.

Yesterday, Maurice Emsellem, policy co-director for the National Employment Law Project (NELP), told the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support that the Bush administration’s “claim that the unemployment rate is not high enough to justify an extension of jobless benefits” fails to recognize that the rate has become a lagging indicator of economic recovery. Thus, waiting to extend benefits until after the unemployment rate increases further is akin to closing the door after the recession horse has already left the barn.

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), the subcommittee chairman, and Rep. Phillip English (R-Pa.) introduced a bill (H.R. 5749) this week that would provide up to 13 weeks of extended unemployment benefits in every state and 13 additional weeks in states with high unemployment. Says McDermott:

Congress should tell these people that help is on the way…We should extend unemployment benefits now. It’s the right thing to do for workers and their families, and it’s the right thing to do for our economy. We have almost twice as many long-term unemployed workers compared to the beginning of the last recession, and nearly all of the economic indicators are telling us the employment picture will get even worse in the coming months.

In the past three months, the U.S. economy has shed more than 160,000 jobs (more here, here and here), and most analysts expect the trend to continue. McDermott noted that in the past 12 months, 1 million workers have been added to the jobless rolls and some 3 million are expected to exhaust their UI benefits before finding work in 2008. Figures show that long-term unemployment is growing faster than in previous economic downturns or recessions. Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), told the subcommittee:

Long-term unemployment is unusually high given the current unemployment rate….The fact that a much a higher portion of the unemployed have been unemployed long-term, shows that the unemployment rate alone is insufficient in capturing how difficult it is in today’s labor market for many people to find a job.…Immediately extending unemployment benefits is not only the right thing to do for the families of the long-term jobless in this demonstrably slow and slowing labor market; it is also very smart economic policy.

UI benefits not only give a hand to jobless workers, their families and communities—it is one of the quickest and most effective economic stimulus tools available. Says Emsellem:

Extended jobless benefits immediately boost the economy (by a factor of $2.15 for every dollar of benefits circulating), while also providing targeted relief to struggling homeowners and those communities hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis.

Congress now has a fundamental choice that will significantly influence the nation’s economy and these struggling families—whether to further delay extending jobless benefits, thus causing more economic hardship, or act now to provide the economic boost that the unemployment system was intended to deliver to prevent a more serious economic downturn.

Unions successful in organizing workers employed within the healthcare industry including locally

04.15.08

April 2008 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Unions successful in organizing workers employed within the healthcare industry including locally

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

REGION, March 18th- The number of representation petitions filed and elections held across all industries declined in 2007, according to data from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

However, unions were successful in organizing healthcare industry workers the data shows.

Unions won 72 precent of representation elections conducted by the NLRB in healthcare in 2007, versus a union win rate of 62 percent in non-healthcare industries.

The data shows the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) had a 79 percent win percentage, the California Nurses Association (CNA) had a 80 percent win percentage and various state nurses associations had a 83 percent win percentage in 2007.

The CNA represents nurses at the Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre and the Community Medical Center (CMC) in Scranton. Registered Nurses (RN’s) of the CMC voted in July 2007 to be represented by the California Nurses Association in a NLRB Region Four in Philadelphia representation election.

The states with the highest number of representation petitions filed in healthcare in 2007 include California, Illinious, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Washington. Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon and Puerto Rico were the states and territories with the largest percentage increase in representation election petition filings.

Meanwhile, on March 29th, RN’s at Cypress Fairbanks Medical Center Hospital in northwest Houston Texas, voted 119 to 111 to affiliate with the California Nurses Association in a representation election conducted by the NLRB. The union became the first in Texas to win union collective bargaining rights.

The union won the right to bargain for nearly 300 RN’s at the hospital.

The CNA has grown by more than 375 percent during the past ten years. The union has gained more than 30,000 new members since 2001 and has 80,000 members in all fifty states.

Two Quebecor World employees file charge against union

04.15.08

April 2008 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Two Quebecor World employees file charge against union

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

HAZLETON, April 1st- Two employees of Quebecor World Hazleton Inc., Humboldt Industrial Park in Hazleton, filed a charge against the union that represent employees of the company with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four in Philadelphia.

According to the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge, filed with the NLRB on March 14th, 2008, and obtained by the newspaper through the Freedom of Information Act, Quebecor World employees John Wersinger of Hazleton and James Menichini of Pittston, allege the Graphic Communications Conference/International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 735-S, of violating the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct). Local 735-S represents approximately 200 employees of the company, which operates a printing plant at the site in Hazleton.

According to the complaint, the charging parties allege the current bargaining agreement between the company and the union contains a “union security” clause that requires all bargaining unit employees to join the union or meet certain financial obligations to help in the cost of representing those employees that refuse to become a union member. The monies is collected from the employees pay-check by the employer.

The workers allege, that during the past six months, the union has unlawfully enforced the unionism clause by demanding that they pay agency fees without providing them with adequate notice of their rights, and an adequate opportunity to object to the collection expenditure of agency fees equal to full union dues.

Specifically, the employees allege the union has failed or refused to provide adequate disclosure for itself to the two union objectors, “including an independently audited allocation of its and all of its affiliates’ expenditures into chargeable and nonchargeable categories,” states the ULP.

The parties request as relief, the union be ordered to cease and desist from collecting monies and refund, with interest, all fees collected by the union the past six months.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Mid-Atlantic Labor believes that these two workers are exploiting their fellow employees. All the other members pay dues in order to get union representation and benefits. These two want a free ride. They want others to pay for representing them. They should look for employment elsewhere. If I worked with them, I would tell them that they are “As@&%#$s” and they should quit.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Metropolitan Statistical Area jobless rate remains high

04.13.08

April 2008 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Metropolitan Statistical Area jobless rate remains high

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

REGION, April 2nd- According to labor data provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Labor and Industry, the region’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 5.7 percent, unchanged from the previous month. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), includes Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wyoming Counties. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was 4.6 percent.

The MSA’s unemployment rate continues to remain higher than Pennsylvania and the nation. The unemployment rate in the state is 4.9 percent, increasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous month. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,345,000 with 313,000 not working and 6,032,000 with employment. The national unemployment rate is 4.8 percent, decreasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous month. There are 7,381,000 civilians in the nation without employment.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA civilian labor force, workers between eighteen and sixty-five years old, decreased by 2,400 from the previous month to 279,100. There are 16,000 civilians not working, unchanged from the previous month.

The MSA has the fifth largest labor force in Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force at 2,958,500 with 140,900 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA is second at 1,199,100 with 58,400 without jobs; the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force at 416,800 with 21,500 not working; and the Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force at 283,900 with 11,500 without employment.

Of the 14 MSA’s within Pennsylvania, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the third highest unemployment rate. The Johnstown MSA has the highest unemployment rate in the state at 5.9 percent and the Williamsport MSA has the second highest at 5.8 percent. The Erie MSA has the fourth highest unemployment rate in the state at 5.3 percent.

The Lancaster MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 3.7 percent. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate at 3.8 percent, with the State College MSA third at 3.9 percent.

Within the MSA, Lackawanna County has the lowest unemployment rate at 5.4 percent, decreasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the month before. Lackawanna County has a labor force of 106,100, decreasing by 1,100 from the previous month. There are 5,800 residents in Lackawanna County without employment, increasing by 1,100 from twelve months ago.

Wyoming County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 6.0 percent, unchanged from the previous month and increasing by eight-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before. Wyoming County has a labor force of 14,400, decreasing by 200 from the month before. There are 900 residents in Wyoming County without jobs.

The unemployment rate in Luzerne County is 5.9 percent, increasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the month before. Luzerne County has a labor force of 158,500, the largest in the MSA, and decreasing by 800 from the previous month. There are 9,400 Luzerne County residents not working.

Teen Works Board of Directors vote to support six youth projects in the Lehigh Valley

04.13.08

April 2008 Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Teen Works Board of Directors vote to support six youth projects in the Lehigh Valley

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

ALLENTOWN, March 15th- On March 11th the Teen Works Board of Directors held a meeting at the United Auto Workers of America (UAW) Union Local 677 building on Mack Boulevard in Allentown. At the meeting, the organization voted to help fund six community projects being conducted by area teens or school groups from throughout the Lehigh Valley.

Unions from throughout the Lehigh Valley contribute funds that is donated to area teens that are involved with a project to help the region. The program is a agency of the Greater Lehigh Valley United Way.

School students ask the Teen Works Board of Directors for financial help to conduct a community project in the Lehigh Valley. Under the program teen(s) must first complete an application for the financial help.

Boy Scout Troop 8 member Zachary Grim of Slatington received $700.00 from the organization to help him collect and repair used bikes so they can be sold to raise funds for the Boys and Girls Club of Allentown.

The organization again voted to provide funds for the Illick’s Mill restoration project. The Mill is being restored by students in the Bethlehem Area School District. The project received $1,000.00, the most that can be donated by the organization.

Boy Scout Troop 131 member Jordon Laliberte of Macungie also received $1,000.00 by the group for his project at the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor Trail in Bethlehem. His project is to build and install benches on the trail.

Boy Scout Troop 5 member Timothy Siegfied of Emmaus received $1,000.00 to help fund his project of building a handicap accessible ramp to the stage at Waldheim Park in Allentown.

The fifth community project to receive funding from the organization was to help fix the garden beds and provide landscaping at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Easton.

Boy Scout Troop 31 member Frederick Rath of Riegelsville received $450.00 from Teen Works for the project.

The sixth project to receive funding is a project being conducted by a teen group in Hellertown. The Young Artist’s Exhibit group, which is made up of 10 to 12 teenagers, received $640.00 from the organization to help high school artist display their work and raise funds to benefit the Heller Homestead Park in Friedensville.

Teen Works received thanks from Boy Scout Troop 54 member Carl Wandersee of Phillipsburg for providing him funds to purchase books for the Phillipsburg Library. His letter was published in the March 12th edition of the Easton Express-Times newspaper expressing thanks for the organizations “very generous cash donation.”