Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

Labor movement vows to heal Democratic Party


Labor movement vows to heal Democratic Party

By Chris King Of the St. Louis American


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 or call Lew Moye at (314) 495-5635 for more information. Also visit

Lehigh Valley MSA unemployment rate unchanged from month before


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

Lehigh Valley MSA unemployment rate unchanged from month before


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


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

Unions want to represent workers in the Lehigh Valley


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?


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
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,

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


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.