Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

Observance of injured workers held in Lehigh Valley

05.25.08

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

Observance of injured workers held in Lehigh Valley

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

BETHLEHEM, May 15th- On April 28th Workers’ Memorial Day was observed for workers across the nation who have suffered and died because of workplace hazards.

In the Lehigh Valley, a ceremony was held on Sunday April 27th at the Lehigh Valley Workers Memorial at the Rose Garden, Union Boulevard and 8th Street in Bethlehem.

Since 1989 the labor community have held events across the nation recognizing April 28th, the anniversity date of the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHAct).

According to Peter DePietro, Director of the Lehigh Valley Chapter of the Pennsylvania Federation of Injured Workers (PFIW), over 750 names were read at the local event during the ceremony for workers killed on the job in the Lehigh Valley. After each name John Weiss, Recording Secretary of the Lehigh Valley Labor Council labor federation, tolled a bell.

The Workers’ Memorial was built in 1991 to honor workers killed due to workplace injuries throughout the Lehigh Valley.

Gregg Potter, President of the Lehigh Valley Labor Council, opened the ceremony and Joe Wilfinger, Sergeant of Arms of the labor federation, give the invocation. Mr. DePietro’s Grandson, Nathan DePietro, lead the group in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Mr. DePietro is a retired member of the United Steelworkers of America Union and a former president of the labor federation.

Labor movement vows to heal Democratic Party

05.23.08

Labor movement vows to heal Democratic Party

By Chris King Of the St. Louis American

Link

The American labor movement unequivocally vowed to heal any division in the Democratic Party at the opening session of the 37th International Convention of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists held this morning (Thursday) in Downtown St. Louis.

The senior leadership of the CBTU, the senior leadership of St. Louis Labor and executive leaders from the AFL-CIO and many other powerful international unions all spoke as one vowing to register voters mobilize voters and educate constituents to defeat the republican party in November.

Whether local to St. Louis or international, whether black or white - more than a dozen senior level labor leaders all dismissed any divisions in the democratic party and challenged the Rankin File to actively work to elect a democratic U.S. president.

“You can take a break after November 8th,” said William (Bill) Lucy, beloved president of CBTU.

Other labor leaders who spoke in unison with Lucy include:

- Arlene Holt-Baker, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO and the highest-ranking minority in the American labor movement.

- Henry Nicholas, international vice president of AFSME

- Robert Soutier, president of the St. Louis Labor Council

- Gerald Feldhouse, executive secretary of the Building and Construction Trades Council of St. Louis

- Hugh McVey, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO

Though everyone referred to all their colleagues of brother and sister regardless of race, it is worth noting that Soutier, Feldhouse and McVey are white labor leaders - indeed three of the most powerful labor leaders in heavily unionized St. Louis.

For one morning at least, it was easy to believe that there are no divisions by race or gender in the democratic party and adequate and dedicated leadership is in place to attack any divisions left over from a contentious democratic primary.

CBTU is strongly pushing an Obama candidacy. Obama called into the morning session and even his disembodied voice relayed by telephone drew a standing ovation.

Though some unions including the AFL-CIO have not endorsed Obama openly, the pro-Obama spirit that overwhelms the convention animated even the president of the Missouri AFLCIO.

After apologizing to his boss, Arlene Holdneker - who is an African American woman - Hugh McVey, a powerhouse white labor leader in Missouri, said he must depart from the protocol of neutrality and promise that Barack Obama would be the next president of the United States.

Still to come at the convention, which continues through may 26 is a speech from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a greeting from U.S. Rep Wm. Lacy Clay - who has been pinpointed as the leader of voter registration efforts in Missouri- and a sermon at the Sunday morning worship service by the Rev. Douglas Parham.

Parham has been an outspoken defender of former Fire Chief Sherman George. The St. Louis Branch of CBTU, led by president Lew Moye, awarded Parham and George in their 2007 scholarship dinner.

Though the name of Mayor Francis G. Slay was not spoken this morning with Moye and Parham on the program it is safe to say Slay’s handling of the City’s first ever African America Fire Chief will be a subject of public and private conversations at this historic convention.

The convention sessions are being held at the Renaissance Grand Hotel through May 26th.

Many convention events are open to the public, with advance notice. Email Dwight Kirk at dwight@d-flat.com or call Lew Moye at (314) 495-5635 for more information. Also visit http://www.cbtu.org.

Lehigh Valley MSA unemployment rate unchanged from month before

05.23.08

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

Lehigh Valley MSA unemployment rate unchanged from month before

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

REGION, May 1st- According to labor data provided by the Department of Labor and Industry, the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was unchanged from the previous month at 5.3 percent. The MSA includes Lehigh, Northampton, and Carbon Counties of Pennsylvania and Warren County, New Jersey. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was 4.2 percent.

Of the fourteen MSA’s in the state, the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area has the fifth highest unemployment rate.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 4.9 percent, unchanged from the month before. There are 308,000 Pennsylvania residents without jobs. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted workforce of 6,324,000 with 6,016,000 employed. The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 5.1 percent, increasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month. There are 7,815,000 residents nationally unemployed.

The Johnstown MSA has the highest unemployment rate in the state at 5.9 percent with the Williamsport MSA and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA tied for the second highest jobless rate at 5.8 percent. The Erie MSA has the third highest unemployment rate in the state at 5.5 percent.

The Lebanon MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 3.6 percent. The Lancaster MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in the state at 3.8 percent with the State College MSA the third lowest at 4.0 percent.

The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest civilian labor force, workers between eighteen and sixty-five years old, in Pennsylvania at 415,700. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest civilian labor force in Pennsylvania at 2,959,700 with 144,100 residents not working. The Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest civilian labor force in the state at 1,201,100, with 58,800 residents unemployed.

Within the MSA, Carbon County has the highest unemployment rate at 6.6 percent, increasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous month and increasing by one and five-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before. Carbon County has 2,000 civilians not working within a labor force of 30,800, the smallest civilian labor force in the MSA.

Northampton County has the lowest unemployment rate in the MSA at 5.2 percent, unchanged from the previous month and increasing by one full percentage point from twelve months ago. Northampton County has 7,700 civilians without jobs, and a labor force of 150,100.

Lehigh County has a unemployment rate of 5.5 percent, decreasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous month and increasing by one and three-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Lehigh County has 9,700 civilians not working, the most in the MSA, and a labor force of 174,900, the largest in the MSA.

Unions want to represent workers in the Lehigh Valley

05.23.08

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

Unions want to represent workers in the Lehigh Valley

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

REGION, May 18th- A review by the newspaper shows there were four petitions filed by unions in the Lehigh Valley over the past six weeks with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four in Philadelphia requesting the agency conduct elections to determine if workers wanted to be represented by a union. Three of the four were filed by the same labor organization, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 773 on Hamilton Street, Allentown.

The newspaper requested the information through the Freedom of Information Act during the week of May 12th.

Under NLRB rules, before the agency will conduct a election of employees to determine if they want to be union represented, the petition requesting the election must be supported by at least 30 percent of the workers.

Additionally, a labor organization must receive at least 50 percent plus one of the eligible voting employees in the election before they become the bargaining representative of the workers. The employer can recognize the union as the bargaining representative of the employees without the NLRB conducting an election.

On May 5th, 2008, Local 773 filed two petitions with the NLRB requesting a election be conducted at separate employers in the Lehigh Valley. The union requested the NLRB conduct a election to determine if six employees at BASF, Penn Drive in Allentown, wants the union to represent them.

The union wants to represent all employees working in the positions of production coordinator, labor technician/quality control and plant operator. They all requesting office workers and secretaries be excluded from being able to participate in the election.

The union also petitioned on May 5th for the agency to conduct a election for seven employees of AIM Leasing, Industrial Boulevard in Allentown. The union wants to represent all regular full-time mechanics employed by AIM Leasing at its Breinigsville facility. The union requested all other employees, part-time employees, guards and supervisors be excluded from participating in the election.

The final petition filed by Local 773 is to conduct an election at Phillips Feed and Pet Supply, Siver Crest Road in Bath. According to the petition, filed on May 9th, the union wants to represent around 60 workers of the pet food warehouse. The union wants all warehouse employees including shippers, forklift operators, receivers, pickers, loaders, and laborers to participate in the election. They want all secretarial staff, supervisors and truck drivers excluded from voting.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 375, Liberty Street in Allentown, filed a petition with the NLRB on May 5th to conduct a election at Bollinger Electric Inc., North Madison Street in Allentown.

According to the petition, the union wants around 20 full-time and regular part-time electrical workers employed by Bollinger Electric, a electrical contractor, at their Madison Street facility to participate in the election. Local 375 request all plumbers, office clericals and supervisors be excluded from voting.

How much do you know about John McCain? :Moderate, radical or just plain reckless?

05.23.08

How much do you know about John McCain? :Moderate, radical or just plain reckless?

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

Reprinted from the Lehigh Valley (PA) Labor Council newsletter

Since 2002, Senator John McCain has been President George Bush’s staunchest ally in the Iraq War. But earlier this year, the Republican presidential candidate signed onto another Bush policy: his tax and economic agenda.

“I think it’s very important that we make the Bush tax cuts permanent,” McCain remarked at the MSNBC Republican Presidential debate on January 24. “I voted to make them permanent twice already.…”
Amid record-breaking deficits, fast approaching $9.4 trillion, defunding the government during war may seem risky. In fact, upon closer examination, McCain’s tax proposals border on reckless.

It’s quite a turnaround for the four-term senator, who initially opposed the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts. He argued that the 2003 bill was unwise during a time of war and that both benefited the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.

In a 2004 interview with Tim Russert on Meet the Press, McCain clarified his opposition to the president’s economic policies. “I voted against the tax cuts because of the disproportional amount that went to the wealthiest Americans. I would clearly support not extending those tax cuts in order to help address the deficit.”

Now, caving in to his party’s right-wing base, the Republican nominee appears to have discarded his voice of economic reason and replaced it with extremism.

Who’s behind John McCain?
The following are the top ten contributors to McCain’s presidential campaign to date.

Merrill Lynch
Blank-Rome LLP
Citigroup
Greenberg Traurig, LLP
AT&T, Inc.
Goldman Sachs
Morgan Stanley
JP Morgan Chase & Co.
Credit Suisse Group
Lehman Brothers

The money came from the organization’s PAC, its individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals’ immediate families. Organization totals include subsidiaries and affiliates

Data: Center for Responsive Politics, Opensecrets.org

With Bush’s tax cuts set to expire in 2010, the Arizona senator wants to extend them permanently as well as repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax, double the dependent exemption, raise the estate tax exemption and lower its rate, make permanent the research credit and cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. He also wants to suspend the 18 cents per gallon federal gas tax for the summer.

“These proposals would reduce federal revenues by about $5.7 trillion over ten years if they could be enacted immediately,” wrote Len Burman of the Tax Policy Center. “Under a more realistic assumption that they don’t take effect until October 2009, the cost would be about $5.4 trillion.”

The reduction in essential services would be draconian. “Cuts this size would pare government back to levels not seen since the Eisenhower administration,” concluded Burman.

While McCain is unclear as to what programs would be placed on the chopping block, his fiscal policy could threaten Social Security. The program, says McCain, needs “bold reform – genuine reform – that allows workers to invest some of their Social Security savings, privately, in higher-yielding accounts.”

Finally, the magnitude of McCain’s tax proposals has caused him to scrap his campaign promise to balance the federal budget – meaning that his tax cuts will be deficit-financed and paid for by our children and grandchildren.

Now that’s reckless.

Poison pill: McCain’s healthcare plan

In a recently released television ad, McCain says, “Let’s give every American family a $5,000 refundable tax credit so that they can go out” and buy health insurance.

A remedy for America’s health care ills? Not exactly.

What the senior senator from Arizona failed to mention was that he would pay for the tax credit by eliminating the tax break currently offered to employers for providing health insurance to employees. Workers would be taxed on the value of any employer-paid health benefits, partially offsetting the $5,000 credit for those now covered by such plans. And experts say his plan could eventually force companies to reduce or eliminate health benefits to their rank-and-file.

McCain is against publicly-funded health care, universal health care or health coverage mandates.

In short, rather than providing a cure, his health care plan might make a lot of people sick.

What, me worry?- An anxious week turns into success

05.23.08

What, me worry?- An anxious week turns into success

Reprinted from the Lehigh Valley (PA) Labor Council Newsletter

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

“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, some of which have actually happened.”
Mark Twain

The week ending May 3, 2008 was one of the busiest this Labor Council has experienced in quite awhile. At times I wondered if we could pull it all off. That fact that all our events achieved our goals may be a harbinger of things to come.

We started off on Sunday, April 27 with our annual remembrance of Workers Memorial Day. Once again, labor leaders, politicians, candidates, and concerned citizens, all made the trek to the Bethlehem Rose Garden at 8th Street and Union Blvd. in Bethlehem to mourn for those who lost their lives on the job.

Many thanks go to state Rep. Joseph Brennan who procured a citation from the state House acknowledging Workers Memorial Day. Similar citations were received from Allentown City Council, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, Easton City Council, and Northampton County Council.

Just imagine saying goodbye to a loved one on their way to work, only to find that it would be the final memory you would have of them. This event has played itself out far too often and one more death or injury is simply intolerable. Last year in Pennsylvania, 240 workers were killed on the job. Across the United States, 5703 were killed and over 4.1 million workers were injured.

The untold tragedy is the fact that in Pennsylvania the average fine levied on a company where a serious safety violation has occurred is the paltry sum of $817.00. This is a tragedy unto itself and until politicians wake up to the fact that people are dying while they are performing their jobs, we are doomed to repeat history on a daily basis.

Companies continue to cut corners and costs in every way possible, including safety standards, while at the same time handing out record setting compensation packages for their CEOs. It is a real example of greed and unfortunately, there is no immediate answer in sight. Until we have a worker-friendly White House and National Labor Relations Board, and the President and Congress put teeth back in OSHA, we can expect more of the same.

News Item: Senator McCain appears in Lehigh Valley

Wednesday, April 30, Sen. John McCain took his show on the road to the Lehigh Valley. He made a stop at Saucon Valley Country Club for a fundraising event.

McCain’s visit epitomized the difference in the philosophies of his party and the Democrats. Barely a week earlier, Sen. Barack Obama sat at the BrewWorks and enjoyed a beer with the Fegley family. Sen. Hillary Clinton appeared at Liberty High School to espouse her views on the race for President.

“McBush,” as some call McCain because of his strong support for the President’s policies on the economy and the war, prefers the company of the right wing elite, while the Democratic candidates relate to the working man and woman. It wasn’t that long ago that Bush referred to groups like the Saucon Valley Country Club as “his base.” As you can see, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

McCain’s voting record speaks for itself## he voted against healthcare for children in the SCHIP program and FOR billions in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. He even advocated for legislation that would put final say on care in the hands of HMOs, not patients and doctors. At a time when most voters—Republican and Democrat—agree that we need broad reform to cover more Americans, reduce costs and improve quality of healthcare, McCain’s plan would actually send us backwards on all three counts.

Over 47 million Americans go to bed each night without healthcare, not because they don’t want it, but because they cannot afford it! McCain’s plan is to initiate a $2500.00 tax credit for an individual who buys their own healthcare. If think they will take? Many of the working poor can not simply write out a check for $4800.00 for a year of health insurance. Individuals are left to themselves to purchase healthcare or food or the ever rising gas pump price: which avenue do you think they will take?One of my personal highlights last Wednesday was partnering with the people from Working America. Along with other Labor Council delegates, I joined them in a rally outside Lehigh Valley Hospital while McCain was inside touting his healthcare agenda.

Working America is an impressive group and I look forward to working with them this election season. The labor movement reaches out to ALL workers: We reach out on the job through unions and we reach out in the community through Working America, the AFL-CIO’s community affiliate.

Working America organizes people who don’t yet have a union where they work, signing people in the community up as members. By Labor Day 2008, the organization projects it will have over 400,000 members in Pennsylvania, with nearly one-quarter of those in the Lehigh Valley area. Two-thirds of non-union working families join Working America when they receive a visit, showing how eager working folks are to get active in economic issues.

The labor movement’s top priority this year is fighting for quality affordable health care for all. Union members are fighting, as are community members. To date, 14,000 non-union workers (Working America members) in the Lehigh Valley have signed Working America’s petition for quality, affordable health care.

The numbers Working America brings show the power of organizing union workers on the job, and their non-union neighbors in the community through Working America. We are grateful for their efforts in organizing the unorganized.

News Item: Labor Council Labor Seminar Success

Several months ago, Indiana University of Pa. sent us an offer to apply for a grant that would underwrite the costs of a labor seminar. Suzannjoy Checksfield wrote up a grant request and eventually we were given the go ahead to plan a two-day workshop that would be free of charge to individuals attending.

On May 2 and 3rd, IUP professors Cindy Spielman and James Watta came to the Tri-Boro Sportsmen Club in Northampton and spoke at length on Union Grievances and the importance of Union Stewardship. Over 35 union members attended the workshop and they came away with a lot more than what they walked in with. Each participant was presented with; a Glossary for Useful Labor Relation Terms, the Pennsylvania Labor History Journal, and the Union Steward’s Complete Guide, 2nd Edition, edited by David Prosten.

There was a diverse background of unions in attendance, from Teamsters to Teachers, from Letter carriers to LANTA transit workers. Each member had their own issues, and learned from others as the debate flowed. Education is what builds and strengthens the Labor Movement and this workshop was a first rate example of what can be accomplished when we get motivated and attain some financial assistance. Thanks again to Watta and Spielman, and a special thanks to Suzannjoy who did a stellar job in planning this event and implementing it.

News Item: Lehigh Valley Central Labor Council celebrates 47th Annual Awards Dinner.

Until recently, our annual event was known as the COPE Dinner and was a tradition since the Lehigh County Labor Council was in existence. After the merger between the Lehigh County Labor Council and the Northampton County Labor Council was finalized in 2000, we took the best of both councils and incorporated them into the Lehigh Valley Labor Council. The annual dinner had been going on for some time, so I took the liberty of including the age and making this our 47th Annual Awards Dinner.

On Saturday, May 3rd we hosted nearly 250 people at the Northampton Memorial Community Center in Northampton Borough. We were honored to host state Auditor General, Jack Wagner as our guest speaker and he did not disappoint.

We also publicly thanked Capital Blue Cross for their ongoing support of Organized Labor in the Lehigh Valley. And we gave special recognition to someone who has given so much back to the community over her career…Ellen Redline. It was an energetic and motivated crowd and after some politically charged speaking, we all enjoyed the comedy of nationally known stand-up entertainer, Jimmy Carroll.

The evening could not have been the success it was without lots of hard work. I want to recognize some of the people responsible for the great turnout and smooth operation.

John and Nancy Werkheiser again did a fabulous job providing gorgeous table centerpieces, organizing the slide show and just so many general errands, too many to list. Jim and Nicole Schlener were a huge help as always and Nicole and Dorothy Baran formed an effective one-two punch selling raffle tickets.

Mike Wallery ably manned the ticket area and somehow made heads and tails of the checks and cash, and also listened to me vent. Suzannjoy Checksfield again made the stage look professional with her IATSE talents showing for all to see. And the Mailroom, the area’s only unionized printer, produced the finest dinner booklet that I have seen. Their work was phenomenal and we are indebted to their generosity and talents.

Each member of our delegation and executive board did their own part in persuading their local to buy ads and tickets to their own voluntary efforts. The one underlying theme that was so evident during this frantic week was a TREMENDOUS sense of teamwork and pride. I feel so lucky and honored to serve as your President.

Why Workers Need the Employee Free Choice Act

05.22.08

Why Workers Need the Employee Free Choice Act

http://www.americanrightsatwork.org/employee-free-choice-act/resource-library/why-workers-need-the-employee-free-choice-act.html

The Problem: Employers Silence Workers Who Attempt to Form Unions
Under the current labor law system, employers often use a combination of legal and illegal methods to silence employees who attempt to form unions and bargain for better wages and working conditions. When faced with organizing drives, 25 percent of employers fire at least one pro-union worker; 51 percent threaten to close a worksite if the union prevails; and, 91 percent force employees to attend one-on-one anti-union meetings with their supervisors.

In addition, the system designed to protect workers is severely broken. Laws and enforcement fail to sufficiently protect workers, offering penalties that are too weak to deter violations . For example, an employer found guilty of illegally firing an employee for union activity must only give backpay to that employee—minus whatever he or she earned in the interim. Many employers find the punishment for breaking the law a bargain if firing a pro-union employee scares others from supporting the union. Further, if workers successfully form a union despite such tactics, the employer is allowed to repeatedly appeal the results, which can take years. Such delays weaken union support by inviting more opportunities for employee turnover, harassment, and firings by management.

The Impact: Economic Opportunity Stolen from America’s Working Families
Protecting the right to form unions is about maintaining the American middle class. It’s no coincidence that as union membership numbers fall there are growing numbers of jobs with low pay, poor benefits, and little to no security. More than half of U.S. workers—60 million—say they would join a union right now if they could. Why? They know that coming together to bargain with employers over wages, benefits, and working conditions is the best path to getting ahead. Workers who belong to unions earn 30 percent more than non-union workers, and are 63 percent more likely to have employer-provided health care. Without labor law reform, economic opportunity for America’s working families will continue to erode.

The Solution: Labor Law Reform that Gives Workers a Free Choice and a Fair Chance
A growing, bipartisan coalition of policymakers supports the Employee Free Choice Act, proposed legislation that would ensure that workers have a free choice and a fair chance to form a union. The Employee Free Choice Act would level the playing field by strengthening penalties against offending employers; requiring mediation and arbitration to help employers and employees reach a first contract in a reasonable period of time; and, permitting workers to form a union through “majority sign-up,” a process in which workers present signed authorization cards as demonstration of their choice to belong to a union.

The Results: Employer/Employee Partnerships Are Working at Top U.S. Companies
The provisions of the Employee Free Choice Act mirror successful strategies already in use by industry-leading employers such as Cingular Wireless and Kaiser Permanente. These companies have replaced adversarial relationships pitting employers against workers’ unions with cooperative labor relations models that include voluntary recognition of unions through majority sign-up and fair contracts. At Cingular, for example, over 17,000 employees chose to join the Communications Workers of America in less than a year when the company and union agreed to remain neutral during the organizing drive. The nation’s top wireless carrier and Wall Street darling continues to boost profits and advance a positive labor relations model enabling its union employees to grow.

While many companies would lead us to believe that cutting jobs, slashing wages and benefits, employing temporary and cheap labor, and busting unions are necessary to remain profitable in the global economy, Cingular and others have found another way that works for their bottom lines, their employees, and their valued customers.

Center for Economic and Policy Research study finds unionization substantially increases workers wages

05.22.08

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

Center for Economic and Policy Research study finds unionization substantially increases workers wages

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

REGION, May 18th- According to a new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), a Washington, DC based independent nonpartisan economic think tank, unionization significantly boosts American low-wage workers.

The report, “The Union Advantage for Low-Wage Workers,” was released on May 15th and finds unionization raises the wages of the typical low-wage worker by 20.6 percent. Unions also have a substantial impact on the wages of workers at the middle and top of the wage distribution, but the report found that the effect for low-wage workers was the largest.

For the typical worker in the United States, the earner right in the middle of the national pay scale, unionization raises wages about 13.7 percent, about two-thirds of the impact of unionization on the typical low-wage workers. For the typical high-wage worker, joining a union increased pay about 6.1 percent, or less than one-third of the increase for low-wage workers.

“Unions give the biddest boost to low-wage workers because these are the workers that have the least bargaining power in the labor market. Unionization has a large and measurable impact on the bargaining power, and therefore the wages, of low-wage workers,” said John Schmitt, a Senior Economist at CEPR and the author of the study.

The study found the disproportionate impact of unions on low-wage workers also holds across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. In each state, the union premium was substantially larger for low-wage workers than it was for middle or high-wage workers.

The report analyzed five years of data on sixteen to sixty-four year old workers from the United States Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey for the years 2003 through 2007, the most recent years available.

Over the period covered in the report, 13.8 percent of American workers were either members of a union or covered by a union contract at their workplace. Over the same period, the unionization rate varied from 3.9 percent in North Carolina to 26.4 percent in New York.

Labor Federation conducts annual awards dinner in Northampton

05.22.08

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

Labor Federation conducts annual awards dinner in Northampton

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

REGION, May 5th- The Lehigh Valley Labor Council labor federation held their 47th annual awards dinner at the Northampton Memorial Community Center before more than 200 union members and their families, elected political leaders, political candidates, and Democratic party officials, from throughout the Lehigh Valley on May 3rd.

Lehigh Valley Labor Council President Gregg Potter welcomed everyone that attended and Joe Wilfinger, the Sergeant of Arms of the labor federation, gave the invocation.

Mr. Potter stated he was pleased with the participation of the event and read the names of political community members attending.

Ellen Redline received the annual “William Werkheiser Award.” Ms. Redline is the President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union Local 1435 and a Vice-President of the local labor federation. Local 1435 is affiliated with AFSCME District Council 88, which represents more than 15,000 workers.

Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner was guest speaker and thanked the organization for being invited to address the group. Mr. Potter stated Jack Wagner’s presentation was inspiring and showed his friendship toward labor.

Capital Blue Cross received the “Labor Appreciation Award” from the organization for their continued involvment with the labor community.

The Lehigh Valley Labor Council is affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).

The local organization was created in 2000 when the Lehigh County Labor Council merged with the Northampton County Labor Council. The organization meets on the third Wednesday of the month.

“I want to take a moment to thank everyone who made the labor council dinner such a success,” stated Mr. Potter.

With primary over, labor getting ready for November election

05.22.08

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

With primary over, labor getting ready for November election

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

REGION, May 18th- With the Pennsylvania Primary election now over, the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington DC, is looking now at the November’s general election and beginning their political program in Pennsylvania to better educate union members about Senator John McCain’s labor voting record.

Mr. McCain, the expected Republican Presidential candidate for the fall election, will be challenged by Democratic Illinois Senator Barack Obama or New York Senator Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Clinton defeated Mr. Obama in the April 22nd Pennsylvania primary election by nine percentage points.

The AFL-CIO endorsed neither candidate with many of their affiliated unions split on supporting either Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton. There were national unions that supported candidates other than Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton that withdrew from the campaign earlier in 2008.

The Change-to-Win (CtW) labor federation and the majority of their affiliates endorsed Mr. Obama.

Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO plans to conduct their political program throughout Pennsylvania, including the Lehigh Valley, during the summer, despite the Democratic party presidential candidate is likely not to be known until after the Democratic convention in August in Denver.

The program is intended to inform union members about issues pertaining to the November election and how it will effect them and the working people.

With labor divided and the known Democratic party candidate not likely to be known until late summer, the AFL-CIO plans to conduct their political program and contact union members by mail, phone and door-to-door about Senator McCain’s labor voting record, which they state shows he doesn’t support working people, and why the working people shouldn’t vote for him in November.

On May 17th, the Lehigh Valley Labor Council labor federation affiliated unions conducted their first door-to-door labor walk from the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) office on Airport Road in Bethlehem. The United Steelworkers of America (USW) Union Local 2599 in Bethlehem, which is not affiliated with the local labor federation, also began their political program to inform their members and retirees why Senator McCain does not support the working people and their unions.

According to information provided by the AFL-CIO, Mr. McCain’s voting record shows he helped companies send jobs overseas by voting against protecting steelworkers’ jobs from illegal dumping. He also supports privatizing Social Security, putting retirement at risk, and raising the Medicare eligibility age.

Labor, community rally to pack Atlantic City on June 21

05.21.08

http://www.uaw.org/news/newsarticle.cfm?ArtId=483

Major demonstration to support workers’ fight for fair contracts

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. ## A united labor movement, backed by community supporters, will stage a major demonstration in downtown Atlantic City on June 21, union members announced today.

Thousands of people are expected to attend the labor and community mobilization to back the fight by Atlantic City casino dealers, slot technicians, keno and simulcast employees and other workers for fair contracts. Speakers will include UAW President Ron Gettelfinger and AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.

Since March 2007, casino workers have organized and won six union representation elections at four major Atlantic City casinos: Caesars, Trump Plaza, Bally’s and Tropicana.

Despite overwhelming pro-union majorities and elections that have been recognized by the National Labor Relations Board, casino operators have repeatedly stalled contract talks, and none of the workers who voted for union representation has a signed contract ## yet.

“Atlantic City is a union town, and the casino industry here is a union industry,” said Charlie Wowkanech, president of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO. “Inside every Atlantic City casino, the waiters, the bartenders, the drivers, the maintenance staff, the housekeeping staff ## they all have a union and the protection of a union contract.

“If dealers and slot techs and other workers want a contract, they have the same right. We’re going to make sure the casino operators hear that message loud and clear on June 21.”

Full Story at link at top of story.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: This item was found at the Democratic Underground Labor Forum.

Mine Workers union endorses Obama for President

05.21.08

Mine Workers union endorses Obama for President
by JESSE J. HOLLAND

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/05/21/c_n_102873.html

WASHINGTON — The United Mine Workers of America endorsed Barack Obama for president Wednesday despite his recent defeats in primaries in coal-producing states where many of the union’s members vote.

The endorsement continues organized labor’s swing over to the Democratic front-runner as the primaries wrap up. Obama lost heavily to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in Tuesday’s Kentucky primary and last week’s West Virginia primary.

“Senator Obama shares the values of UMWA members and our families. He understands and will fight for the needs our members have today and the hopes our members have for a secure future for themselves and their families,” union president Cecil E. Roberts said.

The Mine Workers , along with the United Steelworkers union, had originally endorsed former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina. However, Edwards dropped out of the race and threw his support to Obama last week and was immediately followed by the Steelworkers union.

Only one union that originally endorsed Edwards, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, has not subsequently endorsed Obama.

Obama and Clinton, have been courting unions and their blue-collar voters since Edwards dropped out of the race. The Mine Workers, however, was unanimous in picking Obama for its endorsement, Roberts said.

“Senator Obama will fight to preserve American jobs, not ship them overseas in greater and greater numbers,” Roberts said. “Senator Obama will make sure that the nation’s mine safety and health enforcement agency actually enforces the law, instead of coddling mine operators who repeatedly and willfully violate the law.”

The Mine Workers union represents 105,000 active and retired coal miners, mine construction workers, public service employees, health care workers and manufacturing workers in the United States and Canada.

Let’s Be Serious

05.20.08

Let’s Be Serious

By BOB HERBERT

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/20/opinion/20herbert.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

The general election is about to unfold and we’ll soon see how smart or how foolish Americans really are. The U.S. may be the richest country on earth, but the economy is tanking, its working families are in trouble, it is bogged down in a multitrillion-dollar war of its own making and the price of gasoline has nitwits siphoning supplies from the cars and trucks of strangers.

Four of every five Americans want the country to move in a different direction, which makes this presidential election, potentially, one of the most pivotal since World War II.

And yet there’s growing evidence that despite the plethora of important issues, the election may yet be undermined by the usual madness — fear-mongering, bogus arguments over who really loves America, race-baiting, gay-baiting (Ohmigod! They’re getting married!) and the wholesale trivialization of matters that are not just important, but extremely complex.

In his book, “Crunch: Why Do I Feel So Squeezed?,” Jared Bernstein reminds us that the economic expansion from 2000 to 2006 was something less than nirvana for working people. The economy grew by 15 percent during that period, and the official rates of joblessness and inflation were low. But as most of us know, the benefits of that expansion were skewed to the high end of the economic ladder.

Mr. Bernstein, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, writes: “Over the course of this highly touted economic expansion, poverty is up, working families’ real incomes are down and some key prices are growing a lot faster than the average.”

Steven Greenhouse, the labor correspondent for The Times, has also written a book that examines, among other things, the imbalance in the way the benefits from the expansion have been distributed. In “The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker,” he says:

“This is a decade during which the American economy has thrived by many measures, with corporate profits and C.E.O. salaries soaring, yet wages have languished for most workers, and health and pension coverage has grown worse.”

Let the candidates wrestle with this issue of increasing economic inequality, rather than President Bush’s spurious and deeply offensive rant comparing advocates of international diplomacy with those who appeased Hitler and the Nazis.

Let the candidates wrestle with the war without end in Iraq that is not just destroying lives but is taking a toll on this nation’s soul. The war is sapping the resources and energy needed for the hard work of putting the U.S. back on a sound socioeconomic footing.

And the way we are treating the troops belies the pretty words that never get farther than a bumper sticker.

The country that professes to be so proud of its men and women in uniform is playing Russian roulette with their lives by sending them into the war zone for three, four and even more tours. Stop-loss, the involuntary extension of an individual’s term in the military (making them subject to still more combat duty), is another dangerous affront to those who have already given so much.

The Houston Chronicle did a long takeout on Sunday on the suicide in March 2007 of an Army recruiting sergeant, Nils Aron Andersson — just one day after his marriage to Carry Walton. Sgt. Andersson, 25, had spoken of the many horrors that he had encountered in Iraq and was deeply depressed. He shot himself while sitting in his pickup in a parking garage. Distraught, Ms. Walton bought a 9-millimeter handgun at a sporting goods store the next day and killed herself.

Suicides have become a big problem for the military. Combat does terrible things to people. An independent study by the RAND Corporation found that nearly 20 percent of the troops who returned from tours in Iraq or Afghanistan reported symptoms of major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Let the candidates talk about these things. Let them talk about the fact that the Bush administration, which has pushed the troops so unmercifully, opposes a bill (sponsored by Senator Jim Webb and widely supported in Congress) that would expand the education benefits of veterans who have served since Sept. 11, 2001.

Let them talk about health coverage, which is a scandal, and the vanishing American pension. Let them offer competing plans for rebuilding the American infrastructure and creating real employment opportunities for the newest generation of workers. Let them go at it over energy policy.

Forget the foolishness for a change. No Willie Hortons this year. No Swift boats. No attacks on John McCain like the mugging he endured at the hands of the Bush crowd in South Carolina some years ago.

For once, let the election be serious. Show the hacks and the hypocrites the door. Argue substance. And then let the people decide.

The Old Titans All Collapsed. Is the U.S. Next?

05.19.08

The Old Titans All Collapsed. Is the U.S. Next?
By Kevin Phillips
Sunday, May 18, 2008; Page B03

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/16/AR2008051603461.html

Back in August, during the panic over mortgages, Alan Greenspan offered reassurance to an anxious public. The current turmoil, the former Federal Reserve Board chairman said, strongly resembled brief financial scares such as the Russian debt crisis of 1998 or the U.S. stock market crash of 1987. Not to worry.

But in the background, one could hear the groans and feel the tremors as larger political and economic tectonic plates collided. Nine months later, Greenspan’s soothing analogies no longer wash. The U.S. economy faces unprecedented debt levels, soaring commodity prices and sliding home prices, to say nothing of a weak dollar. Despite the recent stabilization of the economy, some economists fear that the world will soon face the greatest financial crisis since the 1930s.

That analogy is hardly a perfect fit; there’s almost no chance of another sequence like the Great Depression, where the stock market dove 80 percent, joblessness reached 25 percent, and the Great Plains became a dustbowl that forced hundreds of thousands of “Okies” to flee to California. But Americans should worry that the current unrest betokens the sort of global upheaval that upended previous leading world economic powers, most notably Britain.

More than 80 percent of Americans now say that we are on the wrong track, but many if not most still believe that the history of other nations is irrelevant ## that the United States is unique, chosen by God. So did all the previous world economic powers: Rome, Spain, the Netherlands (in the maritime glory days of the 17th century, when New York was New Amsterdam) and 19th-century Britain. Their early strength was also their later weakness, not unlike the United States since the 1980s.

There is a considerable literature on these earlier illusions and declines. Reading it, one can argue that imperial Spain, maritime Holland and industrial Britain shared a half-dozen vulnerabilities as they peaked and declined: a sense of things no longer being on the right track, intolerant or missionary religion, military or imperial overreach, economic polarization, the rise of finance (displacing industry) and excessive debt. So too for today’s United States.

Before we amplify the contemporary U.S. parallels, the skeptic can point out how doomsayers in each nation, while eventually correct, were also premature. In Britain, for example, doubters fretted about becoming another Holland as early as the 1860s, and apprehension surged again in the 1890s, based on the industrial muscle of such rivals as Germany and the United States. By the 1940s, those predictions had come true, but in practical terms, the critics of the 1860s and 1890s were too early.

Premature fears have also dogged the United States. The decades after the 1968 election were marked by waves of a new national apprehension: that U.S. post-World War II global hegemony was in danger. The first, in 1968-72, involved a toxic mix of global trade and currency crises and the breakdown of the U.S. foreign policy consensus over Southeast Asia. Books emerged with titles such as “Retreat From Empire?” and “The End of the American Era.” More national malaise followed Watergate and the fall of Saigon. Stage three came in the late 1980s, when a resurgent Japan seemed to be challenging U.S. preeminence in manufacturing and possibly even finance. In 1991, Democratic presidential aspirant Paul Tsongas observed that “the Cold War is over. . . . Germany and Japan won.” Well, not quite.

In 2008, we can mark another perilous decade: the tech mania of 1997-2000, morphing into a bubble and market crash; the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; imperial hubris and the Bush administration’s bungled 2003 invasion of Iraq. These were followed by OPEC’s abandoning its $22-$28 price range for oil, with the cost per barrel rising over five years to more than $100; the collapse of global respect for the United States over the Iraq war; the imploding U.S. housing market and debt bubble; and the almost 50 percent decline of the U.S. dollar against the euro since 2002. Small wonder a global financial crisis is in the air.

Here, then, is the unnerving possibility: that another, imminent global crisis could make the half-century between the 1970s and the 2020s the equivalent for the United States of what the half-century before 1950 was for Britain. This may well be the Big One: the multi-decade endgame of U.S. ascendancy. The chronology makes historical sense ## four decades of premature jitters segueing into unhappy reality.

The most chilling parallel with the failures of the old powers is the United States’ unhealthy reliance on the financial sector as the engine of its growth. In the 18th century, the Dutch thought they could replace their declining industry and physical commerce with grand money-lending schemes to foreign nations and princes. But a series of crashes and bankruptcies in the 1760s and 1770s crippled Holland’s economy. In the early 1900s, one apprehensive minister argued that Britain could not thrive as a “hoarder of invested securities” because “banking is not the creator of our prosperity but the creation of it.” By the late 1940s, the debt loads of two world wars proved the point, and British global economic leadership became history.

In the United States, the financial services sector passed manufacturing as a component of the GDP in the mid-1990s. But market enthusiasm seems to have blocked any debate over this worrying change: In the 1970s, manufacturing occupied 25 percent of GDP and financial services just 12 percent, but by 2003-06, finance enjoyed 20-21 percent, and manufacturing had shriveled to 12 percent.

The downside is that the final four or five percentage points of financial-sector GDP expansion in the 1990s and 2000s involved mischief and self-dealing: the exotic mortgage boom, the reckless bundling of loans into securities and other innovations better left to casinos. Run-amok credit was the lubricant. Between 1987 and 2007, total debt in the United States jumped from $11 trillion to $48 trillion, and private financial-sector debt led the great binge.

Washington looked kindly on the financial sector throughout the 1980s and 1990s, providing it with endless liquidity flows and bailouts. Inexcusably, movers and shakers such as Greenspan, former treasury secretary Robert Rubin and the current secretary, Henry Paulson, refused to regulate the industry. All seemed to welcome asset bubbles; they may have figured the finance industry to be the new dominant sector of economic evolution, much as industry had replaced agriculture in the late 19th century. But who seriously expects the next great economic power ## China, India, Brazil ## to have a GDP dominated by finance?

With the help of the overgrown U.S. financial sector, the United States of 2008 is the world’s leading debtor, has by far the largest current-account deficit and is the leading importer, at great expense, of both manufactured goods and oil. The potential damage if the world soon undergoes the greatest financial crisis since the 1930s is incalculable. The loss of global economic leadership that overtook Britain and Holland seems to be looming on our own horizon.

Kevin Phillips is the author, most recently, of “Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism.”

United Steelworkers Endorse Senator Barack Obama for President

05.15.08

United Steelworkers Endorse Senator Barack Obama for President

Pittsburgh – The United Steelworkers today issued the following statement of endorsement of Senator Barack Obama for President:

http://www.usw.org/uswa/program/content/4622.php

“When the presidential primary contests began last year, our Union felt strongly that because of Senator John Edwards’s deep commitment to working people and because of our shared beliefs, he deserved our strong endorsement. His belief that unfair trade policies must be changed, his commitment to pass the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) to restore workers’ rights to freely choose workplace representation, and his proposal for universal health care were widely shared by our members.

“Today, by virtue of a unanimous vote of our International Executive Board, we find ourselves once again in agreement with Senator Edwards, this time with his decision last evening to endorse Senator Barack Obama. And thus today, the United Steelworkers enthusiastically endorses Senator Barack Obama to be the next President of the United States.

“Senator Obama’s call for a significant change of direction amounts to far more than a compelling rallying cry. It is buttressed by his record of consistent support for workers, by his call for sweeping changes to our health care system, by his unflinching support for Employee Free Choice, and by his insistence that America’s trade policies must, first and foremost, serve the interests of America’s working families.

“Senator Obama has shown his commitment to working families by proposing significant investments in the future of American manufacturing, in the revitalization of our nation’s infrastructure, and in 21st century clean energy technologies that will lead to significant growth in domestic jobs. He is clearly the candidate who can best lead our nation out of the dark period of economic decline created by the Bush administration’s allegiance to Wall Street profiteering at the expense of worker prosperity.

“We share Senator Obama’s call for significant changes to these bankrupt policies, just as we earlier shared Senator Edwards’ And all of us, including we hope Senator Clinton for whom we have the utmost respect, must now do everything we can to ensure that Barack Obama is the next President of the United States. Now is the time for contention and division to cease, and for us to unite behind the changes for which Senator Obama and our members are calling.

“America’s workers cannot afford another four years of rehashed Bush administration policies, another four years in which the National Labor Relations Board shills for corporate misconduct, or another four years of a Secretary of the Treasury who considers it his “job” to bail out Wall Street speculators at the expense of hard working families loosing their homes.

“Nor can those of us who are committed to changing the direction of the country afford any more racial profiling of an election, when either Democratic candidate would be far superior to Senator McCain’s lock-step commitment to four more years of the broken Bush economy and the broken Bush foreign policies.

“We are proud and honored to join Senator Edwards in endorsing Senator Barack Obama to be the next President of the United States. We commit ourselves to working tirelessly for his election and for a new age of cooperation among Democrats, Independents and thoughtful Republicans alike in which working Americans are restored to a place of dignity in society and in the American economy.”

Contact: Marco Trbovich (412) 562-2440; or (412) 760-4335

499th Labor Candidate Victory in New Jersey

05.15.08

499th Labor Candidate Victory in New Jersey

http://blog.aflcio.org/2008/05/14/499th-labor-candidate-victory-in-new-jersey/

New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech describes yesterday’s municipal election victories by union members across the state.

The New Jersey State AFL-CIO is proud to announce the victories of four union members who were elected to public office yesterday, bringing the total number of rank-and-file union members elected to public office in New Jersey to 499 since 1997.

New Jersey residents voted in several non-partisan municipal elections yesterday. It will be the responsibility of these elected officials to enact ordinances and resolutions for governing municipal affairs, approve or amend their annual budget, authorize contracts on behalf of the city and appoint members of local commissions and committees. Residents of these municipalities can rest assured that the union members elected to office in their towns will make these important decisions, while keeping in mind the ideals of our labor movement and how their policies will best impact working families!

To view a recent example of how union members serving their communities at the municipal level can make a change in the lives of workers, look no further than the recent smoking ban in Atlantic City, which will improve the working conditions of tens of thousands of workers at Atlantic City casinos. The ordinance was passed by a City Council that includes a number of union members and graduates of the Labor Candidates Program and was signed into law by Mayor Scott Evans, who is a member and local officer of the Fire Fighters (IAFF).

Council members who have taken part in the Labor Candidates Program support workers’ rights to form unions from a position of leadership and authority and sign onto neutrality agreements with public employees trying to form a union. They also are in a unique position to ensure that municipal properties are built and maintained by union labor, by signing onto project labor agreements that prevent contractors from low-balling bids by undercutting wage levels for skilled workers.

Frequently, these candidates run for office at the local level and gain experience to later run for county or state offices. That was the case with New Jersey Assemblyman John F. Amodeo, who began his political career as a councilman in Linwood and later as assemblyman provided a key vote for passage of the Paid Family Leave legislation through our state Assembly. The bill was signed into law earlier this month.

The New Jersey State AFL-CIO is proud of all the rank-and-file union members who seek election to public office through the Labor Candidates Program. In partnership with the AFL-CIO central labor councils, Building Trades Councils and all affiliated unions, we rejoice in the local victories of the newly elected labor candidates and look forward to celebrating our 500th labor candidate victory with our state’s labor family in November.

Obama makes a $150 billion commitment to “green jobs” American manufacturing

05.14.08

I just saw a press conference Obama held in Michigan. He pledged $150 billion dollars to the creation of “green jobs” in American manufacturing. He stated that this program would create up to 5 million new jobs.

Specifically, he said his Administration would insure that new fuel efficient and alternative energy automobiles would be made in America. He said batteries for electric cars would be manufactured instead of imported.

Mid-Atlantic Labor.com has been calling for the re-industrialization of America since it was founded. We applaud Senator Obama’s statement and program as an essential first start!

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The comments below are from our friends at Labor Radio.

http://www.laborradio.org/node/8555

While Senator Hillary Clinton spent Wednesday hitting the talk show circuit on the heels of her 41 point victory in West Virginia, Senator Barack Obama was hitting the manufacturing circuit in Michigan:

Senator Barack Obama spent Wednesday touring plants in Michigan on Wedenesday and while in Warren, Mich. He laid out his manufacturing plan. The proposal calls for $150 billion for the development of green technology over the next decade which he believes will result in the creation of more than 5 million green jobs and reinforce the country’s infrastructure. Obama used the opportunity to take on his Republican Presidential competitor John McCain. He said McCain doesn’t have a vision for bringing jobs back to Michigan or even creating new ones. Obama said his plan will benefit from the skilled workforce that already exists in the Midwest by offering job training that allows competition in the world economy. McCain’s campaign fired back after Obama spoke calling his manufacturing plan “weak leadership and poor judgment.”

Pennsylvania Union Members Get Ready for the Election

05.14.08

Pennsylvania Union Members Get Ready for the Election

by Seth Michaels, May 13, 2008

http://blog.aflcio.org/2008/05/13/pennsylvania-union-members-get-ready-for-the-election/

Union activists from across the state came together in Philadelphia in recent days for a two-day training session in getting out the vote as part of the union movement’s Labor 2008 political mobilization program.

Members of more than a dozen unions participated in presentations that overviewed key working family issues like health care, the economy and Sen. John McCain’s anti-labor voting record. Attendees engaged in dynamic discussions about effective communication, worksite visits and activist recruitment.

The Philadelphia training is one of a series of Labor 2008 trainings that have taken place around the country in key states like Missouri, Ohio and Colorado.

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Richard Bloomingdale addressed the group, highlighting the significance of the November election and the important role of union voters. He was joined by Philadelphia Council of the AFL-CIO President Patrick Eiding, who thanked participants for taking part.

Jack Fischer, Erie-Crawford Central Labor Council president, said the most important result of the training was inspiration.

I got direction on how to overcome some of the obstacles that prevent people from getting involved.

He added that he plans to go into his office on Monday and make some calls about the May 17 walk coming up this Saturday.

Jake Long, from the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) Local 464, said that while “we’ve got our work cut out for us,” the one thing he knows after the training this week is that he “needs to get started.”

Political mobilization trainings will continue across the state this summer.

225 USW Members Awarded Backpay, Johnstown America Ordered to Recall Laid Off Workers

05.13.08

PITTSBURGH, May 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ ## The United Steelworkers (USW) today said that Arbitrator Clare McDermott this week awarded about 225 members of USW Local 2635 up to a year’s worth of lost wages and ordered Johnstown America Corp. to recall them to their jobs in accordance with their contract.

http://sev.prnewswire.com/transportation-trucking-railroad/20080508/DC2183508052008-1.html

The company laid off more than half of its hourly workforce in Johnstown between April and August of 2007, despite contract language that guarantees employees with 20 or more years of service the opportunity to work or get paid at least 40 hours per week throughout the duration of the current agreement, which expires May 16, 2008.

“The award is clearly a victory for our members and their families,” said USW District 10 Director John DeFazio. “When an employer ignores our contract, we must act to enforce it.”

The USW and Johnstown America are negotiating a successor agreement to the current one.

USW Local 2635 President Denny Conahan said that the company’s efforts to drive down wages and avoid paying employees their rightful pensions has resulted in a pattern of reckless decisions by Johnstown management.

The union supports a separate lawsuit alleging that the rail freight car manufacturer illegally laid off workers in an effort to prevent them from becoming eligible for certain retirement benefits. The district court ruled in favor of the USW members, but the case in currently under appeal.

“We will not back down or go away,” Conahan said, “and until the corporate bosses start obeying the law, living up to their contractual obligations and treating us with the respect and dignity we have earned, we will keep fighting, keep winning and keep costing them money.”

The USW represents more than 850,000 workers in a wide array of industries throughout the United States and Canada.

Website: http://www.steelworkers-usw.org/

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA unemployment rate second highest in Pennsylvania

05.11.08

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

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA unemployment rate second highest in Pennsylvania

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

REGION, April 29th- According to labor data provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Labor and Industry, the region’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 5.8 percent, decreasing by one-tenth of a percentage point 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 4.7 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, unchanged from the month before. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,324,000 with 308,000 not working and 6,016,000 with employment. The national unemployment rate is 5.1 percent, increasing by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month. There are 7,815,000 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 1,800 from the previous month to 278,700. There are 16,100 civilians not working, decreasing by 300 from the month before.

The MSA has the fifth largest labor force in Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force at 2,959,700 with 144,100 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA is second at 1,201,100 with 58,800 without jobs; the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force at 415,700 with 21,900 not working; and the Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force at 283,200 with 11,600 without employment.

Of the 14 MSA’s within Pennsylvania, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA is tied with the Williamsport MSA for the second highest unemployment rate. The Johnstown MSA has the highest unemployment rate in the state at 5.9 percent. The Erie MSA has the fourth highest unemployment rate in the state at 5.5 percent.

The Lebanon MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 3.6 percent. The Lancaster MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate at 3.8 percent, with the State College MSA third at 4.0 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 105,900. There are 5,700 residents in Lackawanna County without employment.

Luzerne County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 6.0 percent, unchanged from the previous month. Luzerne County has a labor force of 158,300, the largest in the MSA. There are 9,400 Luzerne County residents not working.

The unemployment rate in Wyoming County is 5.8 percent with a labor force of 14,400, There are 800 residents in Wyoming County without jobs.