Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

CMC and Nurses Union reach agreement on first-time labor contract

05.11.08

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

CMC and Nurses Union reach agreement on first-time labor contract

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

SCRANTON, May 1st- Registered Nurses (RN’s) represented by the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP), which is affiliated with the California Nurses Association (CNA), voted to approve a first-time labor agreement with the Scranton Community Medical Center (CMC).

According to the union, the approximately 410 bargaining unit nurses will receive sizable pay and pension increases. Of the membership that voting on the contract, approximately eighty-two percent voted for the agreement. The contract will expire on December 8th, 2010.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four conducted a secret ballot Representation Election at the medical center on July 19th, 2007. The RN’s voted 209 to 117 to be represented by PASNAP.

The union also represents nurses employed at the Wyoming Valley Health Care System Medical Center on River Street in Wilkes-Barre.

Contract negotiations between officials of the union and the medical center began in September, 2007.
Bill Cruice, PASNAP’s executive director and chief contract negotiator, stated in the April edition of the newspaper, achieving a first-time contract between the parties was slowed because of the “stall tactics” of the CMC labor attorney and chief negotiator Robert Ufberg. Mr. Cruice told the newspaper his negotiating committee was frustrated with Mr. Ufberg’s negotiating tactics that included cancelling meetings.

Mr. Ufberg disagrees with Mr. Cruice’s opinion regarding how long it took before the parties reached an agreement.

“We had to negotiate more than ninety pages. The first meeting was held in September. We just talked at that meeting about the ground-rules. To negotiate a first-time contract in just seven months is incredibly quick,” said Mr. Ufberg.

Mr. Ufberg added that a hospital contract is extremely complex and takes many hours to negotiate. “I bet if you talk to other unions that represent hospital employees, and asked them what would be normal for reaching a first-time contract, you would find out we did great.”

The union held several events to inform the public contract negotiations were moving slower than they would like.

The public campaign included sponsoring advertisements on billboards throughout Lackawanna County and holding a labor rally at Nay Aug Park in Scranton.

Department of Labor announces new prisoner employment re-entry initiative

05.11.08

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

Department of Labor announces new prisoner employment re-entry initiative

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

REGION, April 20th- Pennsylvania is one of 22 states to receive a $130,434 grant that in turn will fund faith-based and community organizations to deliver employment services to prisoners returning to civilian life.

The United States Department of Labor (DOL) announced on April 10th, grants totaling almost $3 million for the “Prisoner Re-entry Initiative.”

According to the DOL, the initiative is designed to strengthen urban communities through an employment-centered program that incorporates mentoring, job training and other comprehensive transitional services benefiting ex-offenders.

“These grants will advance partnerships with local faith-based and community organizations to equip ex-prisoners with basic job skills, couseling and opportunities to earn an honest living in our communities,” said United States Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao.

Ms. Chao is the longest serving cabinet member of President George W. Bush and the wife of Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell.

According to the DOL, the program “has significantly reduced the rate of recidivism by helping non-violent ex-inmates find meaningful employment through the assistance of local faith-based and community organizations.”

Pennsylvania’s criminal justice agency was named as one of 22 states, along with the District of Columbia, to receive post-release services grants. Neighboring states of Ohio and New Jersey will also receive the post-release grants.

Over the next two years, the funds will be used to offer services such as basic skills remediation, job-skills training, couseling and on-the-job training. Job placement efforts will be co-ordinated with local One-Stop Career Centers, businesses, educational institutions and other employment providers.

For more information on the Prisoner Re-entry Initiative visit http://www.doleta.gov/pri.

Building Trade Unions conducting informational picketing in Taylor

05.11.08

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

Building Trade Unions conducting informational picketing in Taylor

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

TAYLOR, May 1st- The retail development under construction on Main Avenue In the Borough of Taylor, Lackawanna County, which will include a Wal-Mart Supercenter store, is being picketed by unionized construction workers.

The site formerly contained multible retail stores including a pizza shop, a bargain store and the building where Lackawanna County housed their voting machines.

The union members are conducting the informational picketing to inform the public their members want to be hired for the construction of the Mal-Mart store and any other building project that may be constructed on the site. It has not been confirmed, but possibly a Home Depot store may be built on the site.

According to Jack Figured, Field Representative of the International Union of Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Union Local 5, the only building trade union that should have been hired for the project so-far, is the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Union Local 542. Local 542 members operate heavy construction equipment.

Before the site can be ready for the construction of the retail center it requires a lot of excavation work including providing backfill of soil in the rear area of the development.

There are sixteen local unions affiliated with the Scranton Building and Construction Trades Council labor federation.

Mr. Figured, Vice President of the organization, told the newspaper members of many of the affiliated construction trade unions are picketing with members of the IUOE to support them for solidarity purposes. He added a Wal-Mart official, who is a local resident, has been given a list of local unionized contractors.

According to Gene Arcurie, Treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 81, his union is participating with the informational picketing and a unionized electrical contractor has not yet been hire for the project. However, Mr. Arcurie indicated the electrical work will not be needed until a later stage of the project.

“I’m hopeful we get hired for the project, but I personally don’t shop at Wal-Mart. They are anti-union, and treat their workers like dirt,” said Mr. Arcurie.

The union protests in Taylor often consist of a large inflatable rat, which is owned by the labor federation.

According to John Gatto, Assistant Business Manager of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) Union District 21, his union is also participating in the picketing and does not yet know if a contractor under contract with the union will be hired for the project.

Pat Andes, President and Organizer of the Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 44 told the newspaper his union is participating with the informational picket line and has personally walked with his fellow union members. “On May 1st, I almost got run over by a nonunion driver,” said Mr. Andes.

Economy shed around 20,000 jobs numbers show

05.10.08

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

Economy shed around 20,000 jobs numbers show

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

REGION, May 2nd- The Center for American Progress and the United States Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary, have different views of the recently released national job estimate numbers.

According to the Center for American Progress, a Washington DC based nonprofit research and educational institute, the job numbers released by the DOL’s Bureau of Labor Statistics boast little good news. The economy in April shed around 20,000 jobs, making the month the fourth in a row that employment fell. Over the past four months, the U.S. economy has lost 260,000 jobs.

Meanwhile, DOL Secretary Elaine Chao stated the job report was good news because fewer jobs were lost last month than expected.

“In today’s better than expected jobs report, both payroll employment and the unemployment rate were essentially unchanged from last month. While we continue to see declines in construction and manufacturing, the service-providing sector of the economy showed an encouraging increase of 90,000 jobs. The economic stimulus checks, some of which have already been mailed out, should help working families cope with the very real short term challenges of the current economy,” said Ms. Chao in a press released e-mailed to the newspaper on May 2nd.

The Center for American Progress stated things are not looking rosy for anybody in the labor market right now. But, for those workers already in a particularly precarious financial situation due to low wages, limited benefits, and high debt, the latest job figures highlight the fact that they are the first ones to feel the severe string of a market downturn, “as tends to be the case when the economy enters a period of downturn” said the institute.

The organization stated the average monthly job growth has been only 0.6 percent between March 2001 and April 2008.

Local construction members not hired for Wal-Mart renovation work at their Dickson City store

05.10.08

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

Local construction members not hired for Wal-Mart renovation work at their Dickson City store

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

DICKSON CITY, April 29th- Unionized construction tradesmen from Northeastern Pennsylvania were not hired for the renovations to the Wal-Mart Supercenter Store in Dickson City in Lackawanna County, and officials of the unions are not happy.

According to Jack Figured, Field Representative of the International Union of Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Union (BAC) Local 5, more than $3 million worth of renovations are being conducted by Wal-Mart at their Dickson City store on Commerce Boulevard.

Mr. Figured is also the Vice President of the Scranton Building and Construction Trades Council labor federation. There are sixteen local construction trade unions affiliated with the organization.

He added the renovation work on the Wal-Mart Dickson City store began in March and will be completed in late spring or early summer.

According to John Gatto, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District 21 Assistant Business Manager, none of his members were hired for the renovation work on the store. “Are guys got nothing,” said Mr. Gatto.

Robert Griffits, District 21 Business Representative, told the newspaper the painting contractor hired for the renovations is Image Builders Inc. from Nixa, Missouri. He stated the company sub-contracted the work to a contractor from Texas which hired out-of-the-area nonunion Mexican workers. Mr. Griffits believes around ten members would have been on the job if a union contractor was hired for the work.
Mr. Griffits stated not one local building trade member was hired for the renovations. “Not one trade was good on the project. I was there looking into it. None of the building trades got hired.”

Mr. Figured added he has personally met with a Wal-Mart official and supplied to him a copy of a list of local unionized contractors.

Dave Williams, Field Representative of the Cement Masons and Plasterers Union Local 592 said retailers should hire local building trade members when constructing new or renovating existing stores.

“Hiring out-of-the-area workers doesn’t do anything for the local economy. I don’t care if you are talking about union or nonunion, they should hire local workers. Workers from another state, or outside of the country, doesn’t help our area, they don’t pay taxes,” said Mr. Williams.

Bakery goods distributor employee alleges NLRAct violations

05.10.08

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

Bakery goods distributor employee alleges NLRAct violations

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

PITTSTON, April 25th- Union member and employee of Weston Bakeries, Capital Road in Pittston, filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleging the distributor of baked goods violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct), but later withdrew his complaint.

According to the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge filed with the NLRB Region Four office in Philadelphia, and obtained by the newspaper through the Freedom of Informational Act, Weston Bakeries employee Bruce Reap alleged the company discharged him in January, 2008, because of his activities as a Union steward and because he made concerted complaints to management about the terms and conditions of employment involving co-workers.

The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union represents approximately 100 workers employed at Weston Bakeries, according to the complaint. Mr. Reap was a member of the union since September, 2007.

After conducting an investigation into the ULP, the NLRB determined there was partial merit in the alleged violations of the NLRAct.

However, Mr. Reap withdrew the charge on April 25th. Therefore, the NLRB will not schedule a hearing on the matter, and have concluded their investigation into the alleged complaint.

Cayman Islands Subsidiary Allows Pentagon Contractor Assisting War In Iraq To Avoid Millions In Taxes (and to cheat workers of legal protections and benefits)

05.09.08

Cayman Islands Subsidiary Allows Pentagon Contractor Assisting War In Iraq To Avoid Millions In Taxes

Think Progress.org link

The Boston Globe recently revealed that two Defense Department contractors operating in Iraq — KBR and MPRI — have avoided paying hundreds of millions of dollars in federal Social Security and Medicare taxes by hiring its employees through “shell companies” based in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

Today, the AP reveals a third contractor assisting the U.S. military’s mission in Iraq that is also dodging Social Security and Medicare taxes. Immediately after winning a DoD contract worth more than $2 billion nearly ten years ago, Combat Support Associates established CSA Ltd. in the Cayman Islands allowing it to avoid paying the taxes and evade scrutiny from the U.S. government:

The subsidiary, CSA Ltd., now employs about 2,000 American citizens in Kuwait, where they support U.S. forces moving in and out of Iraq. Yet as a foreign corporation doing work outside the United States, CSA Ltd. does not pay Social Security and Medicare taxes for these workers.

In fact, according to the AP, “company officials” have acknowledged their immunity from U.S. law, noting that CSA Ltd. “is outside the jurisdiction of U.S. courts, so federal labor rules and anti-discrimination laws don’t apply either.” Indeed, the Globe noted that because of such practices, “workers cannot receive unemployment compensation when their jobs end and may be deprived of other protections under US law.”

But Congress has taken notice of these contractors’ unethical practices. The House passed a bill last month — despite Republican opposition — to “stop federal contractors from using foreign subsidiaries to evade Social Security and other employment taxes.”

In the meantime, companies such as KBR, MPRI and CSA Ltd. continue to avoid paying millions in taxes:

The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates shutting the employment tax loophole would bring in about $846 million in revenue over 10 years. That figure could be higher, lawmakers say, since it’s unclear how widespread use of the opening is.

Indeed, assuming that the American employees of CSA Ltd. make only $30,000 per year (online job ads place salaries much higher), the company would still “owe about $4.6 million in employment taxes.”

Obama picks up 5 superdelegates, union endorsement

05.09.08

Obama picks up 5 superdelegates, union endorsement
By JOAN LOWY,
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Barack Obama all but erased Hillary Rodham Clinton’s once-imposing lead among national convention superdelegates on Friday and won fresh labor backing as elements of the Democratic Party began coalescing around the Illinois senator for the fall campaign.

Obama picked up the backing of five superdelegates, including Rep. Donald Payne of New Jersey, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus who had been a Clinton supporter.

In addition, the American Federation of Government Employees announced its support for Obama. The union claims about 600,000 members who work in the federal and Washington, D.C., governments.

Obama, who won a convincing victory in the North Carolina primary and lost Indiana narrowly on Tuesday, has been steadily gaining strength in the days since.

Clinton also gained a superdelegate.

The developments left the former first lady with 271.5 superdelegates, to 268 for Obama. Little more than four months ago, on the eve of the primary season, she held a lead of 169-63.

In addition to Payne, Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon and two members of the Democratic National Committee from California announced they were supporting Obama.

“The election is over, everybody knows that. Obama has won,” said Vernon Watkins, one of the two.

So, too, John Gage, president of the AFGE.

“Our people, I think, recognize the enthusiasm and vitality behind Senator Obama’s campaign,” he said in a statement.

“After careful consideration, I have reached the conclusion that Barack Obama can best bring about the change that our country so desperately wants and needs,” said Payne, who in a statement said that Clinton is a good friend and he still holds her in high regard. Clinton’s new supporter was Rep. Chris Carney, D-Pa. His congressional district voted overwhelmingly for the former first lady in the Pennsylvania primary on April 22.

Both Obama and Clinton have courted superdelegates in recent days in private meetings at party headquarters not far from the Capitol.

Despite Watkins’ assessment, Clinton has shown no signs she is ready to quit the race. She is heavily favored to win Tuesday’s primary in West Virginia, and is in the midst of a two-day swing through several other states with upcoming elections.

___

Associated Press Writers Jesse Holland and Matthew Daly in Washington and Solvej Schou in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President and Superdelegate announces he supports Senator Hillary Clinton

05.09.08

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

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President and Superdelegate announces he supports Senator Hillary Clinton

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

REGION, May 1st- Democratic party Super-delegate and the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) of Pennsylvania President William George announced on April 30th, his supports Democratic party Presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton over Senator Barack Obama.

“Hillary Clinton has the strength and experience to jumpstart the economy and rebuild the middle class” said Mr. George.

Mr. George told the newspaper before the April 22nd Pennsylvania Primary, which Mrs. Clinton won over Mr. Obama by nine percentage points, that he has served since 1996, when Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey named him, as one of the Democratic Party Super-delegates. The AFL-CIO President was added because of the influence organized labor has in elections, Mr. George stated.

Mr. George said labor unions are divided on support for Senator Clinton or Senator Obama but either Democratic candidate will support organized labor and be better for the working people than the Republican candidate in November.

The two largest unions in the nation have split their support for the two Democratic candidates.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) endorsed Mr. Obama while the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union endorsed Mrs. Clinton. Both unions represent mostly public sector employees and workers employed in nursing and elderly care.

AFSCME is the largest per-capita paying union affiliated with the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.

Bill George was first elected President of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO in 1990. He is a member of the United Steelworkers of America (USW) Union, which have not endorsed either Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton.

Mr. George previously told the newspaper he would likely support the person receiving the most votes in Pennsylvania’s primary election.

“I feel she is our strongest candidate to carry Pennsylvania in November and win back the White House,” added Mr. George.

Wilkes-Barre (PA) Labor Council honors workers killed on the job

05.09.08

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

Wilkes-Barre Labor Council honors workers killed on the job

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

WILKES-BARRE, April 26th- The Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council labor federation held their fourth annual Workers’ Memorial Day observance on April 24th at the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Union Local 542 building, East Main Street in Wilkes-Barre.

The event was attended by around fifty union members, and families and friends of workers who were killed in work related accidents during the past year.

A special tribute was held for union member Martin Anstett of Wilkes-Barre and Eugene Klinges of Hanover who both died during 2007 in work related accidents.

The group conducted a candlelight vigil, which were distributed to those attending by Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council Community Services Committee people and union members, Janice Lohmann and Patty Krushnowski. Ms. Lohmann is a member of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Union Local 13571 and Ms. Krushnowski is a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 1944.

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

A workers special prayer was read by Reverend Patrick Sullivan of Kings College.

Wayne Namey, labor federation Community Services Committee person and United Food and Commerical Workers (UFCW) Union Local 1776 member, read the names of decease workers added to the list in 2008.

For four years the organization has added names to the list of workers killed because of work related injuries including those lost in mine accidents throughout the Wyoming Valley decades ago. The list contains more than 800 names of workers killed on the job.

Pennsylvania State Representative Eddie Day Pashinski, 121st Legislative District, and union member, read a State House Resolution recognizing April 24th as Workers Memorial Day for 2008 in Luzerne County.

Mr. Anstett, a member of Local 163 for 37 years, was killed on June 25th, 2007 in an accident on the Ace Construction Site in Covington Township when he was hit by a van.

Because of the accident, Local 163 Business Manager and Principal Officer Michael Kwashnik, requested by letter on November 1st, 2007, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in Washington review their policies regarding audible backup alarms and or spotters being added on construction sites.

Walter Klepaski, AFL-CIO Labor Liaison for the United Way of the Wyoming Valley, thank everyone that participated in the well attended event.

With Pennsylvania primary over, labor getting ready for November election

05.08.08

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

With Pennsylvania primary over, labor getting ready for November election

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

REGION, May 2nd- With the campaign for 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 Northeastern 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 either Democratic Senator Barack Obama or Senator Hillary Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton defeated Mr. Obama in the April 22nd Pennsylvania primary election by nine percentage points. Both candidates received labor union support.

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 in Northeastern Pennsylvania throughout the summer, dispite 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.

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.

AFL-CIO officials meet with SDACT union to discuss strategy

05.08.08

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

AFL-CIO officials meet with SDACT union to discuss strategy

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

PITTSTON, May 2nd- A meeting was held between officials of the Scranton Diocese Association of Catholic Teachers (SDACT) and the labor community on April 30th to discuss options and strategies regarding the continued struggle between the Scranton Catholic Bishop Joseph Martino and the union .

On April 30th, union officials, including SDACT President Michael Milz, met at the United Food and Commerical Workers (UFCW) Union Local 1776 building on Route 315 in Pittston, and discussed how the labor community can help the teachers union get recognized by Mr. Martino.

Bishop Martino announced the Scranton Diocese Association of Catholic Teachers would not be allowed to represent the teachers of the Diocese, and would implement a “Employee Relations Program,” eliminating the union.

The union represented ten of the fourty-two Diocesean grade schools and nine of the ten high schools before Bishop Martino restructured the system, eliminating the small school boards and creating four regional boards. SDACT previously had contracts with each Board of Pastors that represented each school.

According to Mr. Milz, the Bishop agreed to recognized the union as the employees bargaining unit after the restructuring took place and if the union was successful in obtaining more than a majority of the employees signitures requesting union representation.

However, Mr. Mitz told the newspaper Bishop Martino later said no to the union “card check” program, despite obtaining more than eighty percent of the employees signitures.

At the meeting on April 30th, the Presidents of the two AFL-CIO labor federations in Northeastern Pennsylvania attended. Sam Bianco, President of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council labor federation and Nancy Krake, President of the Scranton Cental Labor Union labor federation were in attendence. The two organizations are affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), in Washington DC.

SDACT is not affiliated with a AFL-CIO member union.

Also attending was Carl Dillinger, Staff Representative of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, Harrisburg; officials of UFCW Local 1776; the United Steelworkers of America (USW) Union Local 15253 and Local 5652; the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Union Local 104; and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 1944.

According to Nancy Krake, discussed was conducting several large public events in the region to show solidarity for the SDACT members. The dates and times are still being formalized.

Bruce Slater: Pro-Labor Congressional candidate in the Pennsylvania 16th District

05.08.08

Labor…

Bruce Slater is a member of the United Steel Workers Union

Since Joe Pitts has been in Congress, he has voted on 137 bills supported by the AFL-CIO. He supported Labor only 7 times for a Lifetime rating of 5 percent.

Issues:
SLATER
PITTS

Increase the Minimum Wage.
YES - Slater
NO- Pitts

Preserve and Protect Social Security.
YES- Slater
NO- Pitts

Provide Health Care for All Citizens.
YES- Slater
NO- Pitts

Support Labor-Friendly Legislation.
YES- Slater
NO- Pitts

Preserve and Extend Worker Safety Protections.
YES- Slater
NO- Pitts

Support Worker Protections in All Trade Agreements.
YES- Slater
NO- Pitts

Support Tax Credits for Child-care for Low-income Wage Earners.
YES- Slater
NO- Pitts

Support Employee Free Choice Act which restricts interference in union organizing.
YES- Slater
NO- Pitts

Support funding over 10 years for farm price supports.
YES- Slater
NO- Pitts

Support legislation to assists workers who lose jobs due to globalization.
YES- Slater
NO- Pitts

Support overtime protection for workers.
YES- Slater
NO- Pitts

Support legislation barring employers from discriminating against potential workers based on their real or supposed sexual orientation.
YES- Slater
NO- Pitts

Support Federal Railroad Safety Act, requiring rail carriers transporting hazardous substances to pass inspection and to provide their workers with supplementary safety equipment.
YES- Slater
NO- Pitts

Support Popcorn Workers Lung Disease Prevention Act designed to help prevent cases of “popcorn lung,” a disorder found in popcorn plant workers.
YES- Slater
NO- Pitts

Support Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act which would strengthen federal workers’ whistleblower rights.
YES- Slater
NO- Pitts

Since Joe Pitts has been in Congress, he has voted on 137 bills supported by the AFL-CIO. He supported Labor only 7 times for a Lifetime rating of 5 percent.

Bruce Slater is a member of the United Steel Workers Union

http://www.slaterforcongress.com/issue05_labor.htm

McCain is Wrong on Collapsing Bridges and the Mafia’s Good Works

05.06.08

U.S. Senator John McCain has said some pretty crazy things on the campaign trail this year. He’s said our troops should stay in Iraq for another hundred years. He’s said many Americans who get health insurance from their employers should pay higher taxes. He said the economy was doing well and that the Bush tax cuts for wealthy Americans should remain permanent.

This week, McCain added two more crazy statements to the list. First, he blamed the collapse of the Minnesota I-35 bridge last year on congressional earmarks. He went on to explain that comment by suggesting that the U.S. Congress was similar to the Mafia. He’s wrong on both counts.

Speaking in Pennsylvania, McCain asserted that earmark funding, the congressional directives often used to target federal funding into the districts of federal appropriators, was responsible for the bridge collapse that caused the deaths of 13 people in St. Paul. “The bridge in Minneapolis didn’t collapse because there wasn’t enough money,” McCain said. “The bridge in Minneapolis collapsed because so much money was spent on wasteful, unnecessary pork-barrel projects.”

Senator McCain then suggested that while some earmarked projects are worthy, the process is corrupting. That’s when he brought up the Mafia: “I’m sure that I can give you a list of projects the Mafia funds, and they would probably be good projects. But I can’t give you a justification for the Mafia. I can’t give you a justification for the corruption that’s been bred, which has sent members of Congress to the federal prison.”

Comparing the funding of public works projects to the good works of the Mafia isn’t just absurd, it’s offensive. Perhaps this explains why other Republican senators think he is “erratic” and “hot-headed.”

Of course, Senator McCain’s campaign against earmarks is noble. We need greater accountability for spending decisions in Washington. But whatever one thinks of earmarks, it is simply nonsense to suggest that pork-barrel funding has something to do with the deadly collapse of the I-35 bridge. While the evidence is still under review, many experts suggest that the bridge fell because of design flaws. Construction funding had nothing to do with it.

Funding did have role to play in the failure to uncover and correct the flaws. For years, AFSCME members in Minnesota and across the country have been warning that public services are under-funded and understaffed. We complained that Minnesota had too few inspectors to examine bridges, and too few maintenance workers to keep up with necessary repairs. We pointed out the critical need for bridge repairs to Governor Tim Pawlenty and the Minnesota legislature, urging them to provide more money to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

All too often our warnings went unheeded, just as our requests for increased federal funding for infrastructure upkeep and repairs were ignored by the Republicans who controlled Congress until last year. Senator McCain was one of those who ignored the need for additional funds. In 2004, for example, he voted against $318 billion to fund new highways and make necessary repairs to our existing roads and bridges. He voted against another highway funding bill in 2004. McCain may say those were wasteful spending bills, but they would have provided billions to states who need the funding to keep our infrastructure from falling apart.

Instead, he supports privatizing public service jobs and outsourcing the public sector. Rather than fund vitally important domestic needs, he supports giving the richest people in our country $350 billion in tax cuts. Rather than fix our highways, he supports spending billions each month on a hopeless war in Iraq. He shares President Bush’s passion for dismantling every program that has ever worked for the American people. Senator McCain is all for funding repairs, but only when these public functions have been put in private hands. Keeping corporate contributors happy has always been a higher priority than keeping our roads and bridges safe.

Senator McCain is happy to blame the disastrous results of Republican inaction on earmarks, but that’s not where the responsibility belongs. He is responsible, as are the other politicians who failed to provide crucial funding for infrastructure upkeep and repairs. Earmarks aren’t to blame. It’s irresponsible Republican legislators like Senator McCain.

http://www.afscmeblog.org/category/budget-and-taxes /

http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=367×10696

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gerald-mcentee/mccain-is-wrong-on-collap_b_99816.html

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EDITOR’S NOTE: I was at the press conference where McCain was spewing this nonsense. It was offensive and just plain absurd!

New Jersey Family Leave Act Shows Value of Building Workers’ Political Strength

05.05.08

New Jersey Family Leave Act Shows Value of Building Workers’ Political Strength

http://www.unionvoice.org/ct/Cpa31_F1jqPI/

New Jersey Family Leave Act Shows Value of Building Workers’ Political Strength

Christine Rampolla, communications director for the New Jersey State AFL-CIO, describes how key lawmakers, who also are union members, moved a paid family leave law through the state legislature, which was signed into law today. The New Jersey experience illustrates the importance of workers building political strength, especially electing union members and other worker-friendly allies to offices at all levels.

Twelve years ago, the New Jersey State AFL-CIO began an effort to pass legislation that would ease the burden of workers struggling to balance the needs of work and family. To build support for a state law similar to the national Family and Medical Leave Act and other pro-worker initiatives, the state federation created the Union Candidate School. Since the program began in 1997, some 495 New Jersey union members have been elected to public office as members of the state Senate and Assembly, county freeholder boards and as mayors, aldermen, committee and council members, fire commissioners and school board members.

Today marks one of the Union Candidate’s greatest victories. Gov. Jon Corzine signed into law the state’s Paid Family Leave legislation. The dedication and courage of our union members serving working families in our state legislature successfully led the charge for the passage of the bill, which provides up to six weeks of paid family leave at two-thirds salary (to a maximum of $524 a week). The measure will be financed by employee payroll deductions that will cost each worker in New Jersey a maximum of 64 cents a week, or $33 a year.

At the Statehouse today, the prime sponsors—Sen. Stephen Sweeney, an Iron Workers member, and Assemblyman Nelson Albano, a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers—joined Corzine, Labor Commissioner David Socolow, New Jersey State AFL-CIO staff, union members and coalition partners for the signing ceremony. Other union members currently serving in the state Legislature who helped pass the bill, include Assemblymen John Amodeo and Tom Giblin (Operating Engineers), Assemblymen Wayne DeAngelo and Joseph Egan (Electrical Workers) and Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and Screen Actors).

Charles Wowkanech, president of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO, hailed passage of the law, saying:

A lot of politicians talk about family values, but then fail to act. It’s refreshing to finally see family values in action, and no legislation is more family friendly than Paid Family Leave. With today’s action, New Jersey joins the rest of the industrialized world—all of which have had this program for decades, in balancing obligations to family and their jobs.

Gov. Corzine and the legislature today sent a strong message that the emergency medical needs of parents for their children and families take precedent. No longer will families have to make the very difficult and often painful decisions of caring for a newborn baby in their first weeks of life or caring for a critically ill family member, or going to work in order to pay the mortgage. I believe that the values of America are better than that, and today, New Jersey continues to lead the way to a more balanced family friendly society.

Gas Tax Nonsense and Fundamental Energy Industry Change

05.01.08

Gas Tax Nonsense and Fundamental Energy Industry Change

The idea being promoted by both John McCain and Hillary Clinton of canceling the federal gasoline tax for the summer is a terrible idea. It fails to address the real issue of runaway fuel prices. It has negative consequences for the safety of our roads and bridges. It is essentially a campaign stunt and distraction. The oil profiteers have already gobbled up any benefit consumers might gain from the cut far in advance of the proposed summer suspension.

Runaway fuel prices are largely the result of market manipulation by speculators and oil companies combined with a “nod and wink” approach to government regulation and law enforcement from the Bush Administration. We need serious government intervention instead of cosmetic window dressing.

Gasoline inventories are rising at the same time that prices are skyrocketing! Oil companies have been intentionally closing refineries to raise prices. The Bush administration has been taking huge quantities off the market by continuing to fill a strategic reserve when the federal government should be releasing the reserve to drive down the prices and breaking the power of speculators.

The federal taxes on fuel are a very tiny percentage of the total price. Gasoline prices rose nationally last month by nearly twice the amount of the federal gas tax. While the suspension of the gasoline tax sounds good, it does nothing but slow the price rise for a couple of weeks while gutting our ability to maintain our roads and bridges.

We already have bridges collapsing and citizens dying. Our transportation safety issue is really important. It is already in a crisis situation without following this irresponsible proposal. We need a huge increase in transportation infrastructure spending by the federal government instead of a dramatic decrease. We need to spend hundreds of billions of dollars over the next few years on rebuilding our national economic infrastructure. We should be training millions of new construction workers by giving our construction unions support for their apprenticeship and training programs. The money has to come from somewhere.

McCain and Clinton are pushing a proposal that is irresponsible and will not even occur under their terms if elected. Neither will be in the White House this summer.

There are some ideas that will help. Aggressive investigations and prosecutions in the oil industry are certainly in order. Illegal price manipulation is likely. Strengthening laws and penalties for market manipulation should be a top priority. All profits derived from illegal market manipulation should be surrendered to the federal government along with huge additional penalties. The law should immediately be changed to make this the standard.

All oil imports should be done through the federal government. The federal government should negotiate the price from a position of strength. Oil companies should not be able to drive up prices by bidding against competitors for imports and using the process as an excuse for price-gouging.

We need a strong “windfall profits tax” on the oil industry. This tax should be used to promote alternative energy and to subsidize the trucking industry fuel costs, which is driving up consumer inflation on other products like food.

Oil refinery closings should only be permitted by the federal government when they do not result in huge price increases. If necessary, the federal government should build their own refineries to supply the American military and feral government vehicles. We should end the Iraq War which is wasting huge quantities of fuel needed by the homeland.

If all else fails, the federal government should consider price controls on fuel and/or nationalizing the oil industry. The oil industry cannot be permitted to control the entire American economy for the benefit of the very, very few.

McCain and Clinton should stop playing politics with the gas tax issue. They should be aggressively pushing for alternative energy solutions like solar, wind, conservation, bio-fuels, Green jobs and technology along with much more federal regulation of the oil companies.

Written by Stephen Crockett (host of Democratic Talk Radio http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio.com and Editor of Mid-Atlantic Labor.com http://www.midatlanticlabor.com). Mail: 698 Old Baltimore Pike, Newark, Delaware 19702. Phone: 443-907-2367.

Feel free to publish at no charge without prior approval.

Pennsylvanians Ask McCain for Health Care Solutions

05.01.08

Pennsylvanians Ask McCain for Health Care Solutions

by Seth Michaels, May 1, 2008

http://blog.aflcio.org/2008/05/01/pennsylvanians-ask-mccain-for-health-care-solutions/

Outside the Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, Pa., union members and members of Working America gathered yesterday to call attention to the nation’s health care crisis and to ask Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to offer a health care plan that really tackles the issues of cost and availability.

Earlier this week, McCain held a press conference on his health care proposal. Unfortunately, this plan just won’t cut it. It would raise taxes but not cut costs, would not cover more people (and will likely lead to less coverage) and would empower predatory insurance companies at the expense of families.

When McCain showed up in Allentown to tout this health care plan, he was met by more than 30 members of the AFL-CIO unions and Working America demanding real solutions that protect working families and improve the health care system. The overwhelming response to the AFL-CIO’s 2008 Health Care for America Survey shows that workers—even those who have insurance—have serious concerns about the cost and availability of health care, and they’re ready to vote on those issues.

Across the country, AFL-CIO union members are learning about the health care crisis and mobilizing to elect a president and Congress who will fix our broken system. Central labor councils have held hundreds of meetings and trainings to educate union leaders and members about the nation’s health care crisis and union members are getting the word out through worksite leaflets, phone banks and door-to-door walks that will take place in communities across the nation this month.

But it seems that McCain isn’t listening to working families when it comes to crafting workable health care solutions. He’s refused to meet with union members talking about the health care crisis—but at his speech yesterday, he was introduced by an old Washington, D.C., insider colleague who’s now a health insurance industry lobbyist. Have his decades in Washington, getting gold-standard federal health care on the taxpayer dime, made him lose touch with the health care needs of working families?

Experts agree that McCain’s health care proposals would not improve the system and could move it in the wrong direction, leading to worse coverage than working families have now.

As Ezra Klein at The American Prospect notes, McCain’s health care plan fundamentally and radically disrupts workers’ ability to get benefits on the job.

McCain would like to take the health-care system…toward an individual market where individuals seek coverage without the protection of large insurers or the government…

McCain believes that Americans use too much health care and he has created a plan that will make care less affordable so millions of Americans will use less.

Jonathan Cohn, an author and health care scholar, says McCain’s plan would not increase coverage and would make the flaws in our health care system worse. McCain’s proposed changes to the tax system would increase taxes for many and could push out millions of workers from job-based health plans.

The result is that a lot of people with medical problems will end up deciding to forgo insurance altogether, figuring that the insurance will make it harder—not easier—to pay their bills. And those people will almost certainly do what most people without insurance do: Pay out of pocket until they’re broke or cut back on their own medical care to save money, even though it could mean worse medical problems (and even higher bills) down the road.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: I was there. McCain knows the working people of the Lehigh Valley are not being fooled!

President of the Lehigh Valley Labor Council Gregg Potter made a great point. When Obama was in the area, he was at the Brew Works in Bethlehem hanging out with steelworkers and working class Pennsylvanians. McCain was in town for a $3,000 per plate fundraiser at an exclusive country club. Potter said it was a few miles apart by geography but light years apart in attitude and symbolism.

We discussed the event on Democratic Talk Radio this morning with a spokesperson from the USW Rapid Response team. In a week or two, you will be able to hear that show on the program archives page on the Democratic Talk Radio website http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio.com .