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Workers in Gouldsboro ratify first-time labor agreement

08.13.08

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

Workers in Gouldsboro ratify first-time labor agreement with Veracold Logistics

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

REGION, July 30th- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 229 in Scranton have gained approximately 110 new members by organizing a food distributor in Gouldsboro.

According to Robert Weber, Secretary/Treasurer and Principal Officer of Local 229, workers at Versacold Logistics, located in the Covington Industrial Park, have ratified a first-time five year contract.

Mr. Weber stated the membership rejected the first company-union negotiated contract proposal.
“Over the past eighteen months this campaign experienced several delays and set backs, but the Organizing Committee of Local Union 229, along with the determined employees of Versacold Logistics stuck together and were successful in winning this organizing campaign.”

Mr. Weber told the newspaper the company closed a facility in New Jersey and opened the warehouse in Gouldsboro in mid-July 2006. The New Jersey facility employees were represented by the Teamsters Union. The company operates a cold storage warehouse.

“Negotiating a first time contract proved to be even a bigger obstacle, Versacold insisted that this contract would be on their terms and refused to consider any of the Union’s proposals.”

“With time running out, and with a strike looming, I along with the negotiating committee were determined that we were going to make this company understand that they must take our contract proposals seriously. After numerous negotiating sessions Local 229 was successful in negotiating a five year agreement which provides for significant increases in pay and benefits,” added Mr. Weber.

The company and the union agreed to a “card check” program rather that conducting a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Representation Election.

Mr. Weber said the majority of the workers signed authorization cards and the company recognized Local 229 as the employees bargaining representative.

Employees will receive a $3.00 an hour wage increase over the term of the contract. The contract language contains over-time pay after eight hours of work; guaranteed paid holidays, vacations; secured healthcare and pension benefits; strong seniority language; grievance and arbitration language; union security clause; and, just cause language.

IBT Local 229 has approximately 1,900 active members in and around the Lackawanna County area.

OSHA issues third largest fine in the history of the agency

08.13.08

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

OSHA issues third largest fine in the history of the agency

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

REGION, July 28th- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on July 25th announced the agency issued citations proposing penalties totaling $8,777,500 against the Imperial Sugar Company and two affilliates alleging violations at their plants in Wentworth, Georgia and Gramercy, Louisiana. The fine is the third largest in history of the agency.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace for their employees.

According to the citation, obtained by the newspaper, OSHA initiated the inspections following an explosion and fire on February 7th, 2008, at the Port Wentworth refinery that claimed the lives of 13 employees and hospitalized 40 others. Three employees still remain hospitalized.

OSHA’s inspections of both facilities found that there were large accumulations of combustible sugar dust in workrooms, on electrical motors and on other equipment. The investigation also determined that officials at the company were aware of these conditions, but they took no action reasonably directed at deducing the obvious hazards.

“I am outraged that this company would show a complete disregard for its employees’ safety by knowingly placing them in an extremely dangerous work environment. What is even worse is that a month after the devasting catastrophe in Port Wentworth that claimed the lives of thirteen people, this company had done little to ensure abatement of the combustible dust hazards at its other plant. If OSHA investigators had not inspected and posted an imminent danger notice regarding areas at the second plant, the same thing could have happened again,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Edwin Foulke Jr.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed $5,062,000 in penalties for safety violations at the Port Wentworth refinery and $3,715,500 for safety violations found at the Gramercy refinery. The citations include 108 instances of willful violations related to the safeguards where combustible dust is present. OSHA also has issued ten citations for willful violations, 100 citations for serious violations and four citations for other-than-serious safety and health violations.

Under OSHA rules the company has fifteen business days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. OSHA’s Savannah, Georgia area office staff inspected the Port Wentworth site, while the agency’s Baton Rouge, Louisiana area office staff inspected the Gramercy, Louisiana.

According to the agency’s web-site, OSHA’s role is to promote the safety and health of America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health. The local OSHA office is located on North Wilkes-Barre Boulevard in Wilkes-Barre. Their phone number is 570.826.6538.

Mayor Barletta said he will support labor if elected

08.13.08

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

Mayor Barletta said he will support labor if elected

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

REGION, July 29th- Republican United States House of Representatives 11th District candidate Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta during a interview at the newspaper office on July 24th said if elected in November he would support the working people and their unions. Mr. Barletta is challenging incumbent Democratic Congressman Paul Kanjorski.

Mr. Barletta told the newspaper he does not support privitizing Social Security and said media reports that he favored privitizing the program during the 2002 campaign is wrong. “What I said was if Congress is going to continue to take money out of the trust fund, then people should be able to invest the money, other than in the stock market,” said Mr. Barletta.

Mr. Barletta said he was a member of the Democratic party until the mid-1980’s and change registration during Ronald Reagan’s second term. He said his late father was very active in the Democratic party in Hazleton and once served as party chairman.

He was elected to the Hazleton City Council and served only two years of a four year term because he ran for Mayor and won in 1999.

The city was facing a $1.2 million deficit of a 6.2 million budget. “I worked with the four unions that represent the employees of the city. They agreed to a wage freeze in the first year and we worked together to strengthen things out,” said Mr. Barletta.

Mr. Barletta cut all management salaries by 5 precent and trimmed his own salary by 10 percent. “I felt everyone needed to sacrifice, not just the union workers and the employees of the city.”

He told the newspaper the city could have applied to be put under the authority of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Financial Recovery Act 47 but believed his administration could balance the city finances, which he said they did. Act 47 was enacted in 1987 to help debt strapped municipalities from filing for bankruptcy.

Mr. Barletta believes Act 47 often harms municipality workers by removing language from labor contracts and balancing budgets on the backs of union workers like whats happened in Scranton. Scranton has been under the authority of Act 47 since 1992.

Mr. Barletta said he has a great working relationship with the four unions that represent the workers because he doesn’t just tell the union employees and their leadership what they want to hear. “If I can do something for them I will. However, if I disagree with something I’ll tell them.”

When asked if he supports Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s), which would almost assure union workers will be hired for any major construction project by the city, he stated “I certainly prefer that union labor is used whenever possible, particularly when it comes to projects funded by taxpayer dollars. I believe properly structured PLAs have the ability to help lower the cost of publicly funded construction. But, I do not support mandating the use of PLAs,” said Mr. Barletta.

“Because prevailing wage laws apply to all publicly funded projects at the state and federal levels, unions if they are confident in their own abilities, should embrace the opportunity to compete against non-union shops and prove their critics wrong. Mandating PLAs that force the use of union labor or union membership is not the way to convince the public of worth of union labor,” added Mr. Barletta.

Mr. Barletta stated he has always promoted the use of union labor on projects in Hazleton but, was never asked to sign a PLA by the constrcution unions while being the Mayor of Hazleton.

Mayor Barletta told the newspaper his father operated a unionized construction company in Hazleton until his death in the mid-1990’s. A. Barletta Construction Company was sold by the family after his father passed away and the company’s employees were represented by the United Steelworkers of America (USW) Union. “I worked for the company during summers when school was out. I always got along with the guys.”

He said if elected he will support raising the federal minimum wage and support Davis-Bacon laws.

Mr. Barletta said he has reservations about legislation that would reform federal labor laws involving how union elections are conducted. Under the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) legislation, employers would be required to recoginize unions that receive majority support of employees through a “card check” system.

“I have some reservations and would need to see clear evidence that this proposal would not undermine the integrity of the process,” he said.

He added workers have been hurt by illegal immigation because they work for low wages driving down the wage standard for area workers. The building trades union members are really being hurt by illegal construction workers, Mr. Barletta said.

The newspaper attempted to contact Mr. Kanjorski for comment on this story but his legislative office in Wilkes-Barre and campaign headquarters failed to return our repeated phone messages.

Building Alliances and Voting for Change in 2008

08.10.08

Building Alliances and Voting for Change in 2008

The American nation has an excellent opportunity to change the nature of politics in our country this year. We have a real chance to build lasting alliances that will re-define the political landscape at every level of government and permit us to take back our government by the average citizen.

For decades, the political power of the largest international corporations and the wealthiest of the Super Wealthy have been tightening their grasp on governments in America. They have effectively bought their way to power by giving billions in campaign donations and buying up the media. The effect has been passage of laws that undermine the power of average citizens to control their own economic futures, have an effective voice in government policies and to hear opposing political viewpoints.

It is no accident that most Americans think that their children will not have as high a standard of living as they currently experience. It was economic policy on the national and international levels that forced tens of millions of families to have both parents working to maintain a decent standard of living.

Your rights to sue corporations when they abuse you as a worker, investor or consumer are being stripped away by Republican politicians like George W. Bush, John McCain, Dick Cheney and your allegedly “moderate Republican” member of Congress. The same bunch of Republican politicians are and have been for decades falling all over themselves to pass legislation that ships high-paying jobs with healthcare benefits to Third World nations where the high pay and employer provided healthcare vanishes while corporate profits explode! Yes, Bush, McCain and Cheney love NAFTA, the WTO, CAFTA and the rest of these deals. They have been a goldmine of campaign cash for the Republican Right and the alleged “Republican moderates” in Congress.

By appointing corporate thinking federal judges and government regulators, American workers have seen their rights to form labor unions effectively undermined and often destroyed. The public fiction of “free elections” in the workplace is there for these deceitful Republicans to “defend.” However, in most workplaces, the reality is that these giant corporations make real free elections impossible by intentionally breaking the law (the penalties are a joke), firing pro-union workers, preventing union organizers from talking to workers or distributing material, issuing threats and the like.

The reality of these “free unionization elections” is that they are no more free and fair than the “free elections” in the former Soviet Union, communist China or Nazi Germany! Still, the Republicans vehemently oppose passage of the Employee Free Choice Act which would return effective workplace democracy when it comes to unionization votes. The decline of labor unions has meant the decline of the American Middle Class both economically and politically and corporate forces know it!

An effective labor movement has meant real economic opportunity for tens of millions of working class and poor Americans. Labor unions have been the vehicle for millions of racial and ethnic minorities to join the mainstream, Middle Class majority in experiencing the American Dream. Corporate controlled politicians like Bush and McCain are simply killing that Dream. Will we let them?

The wealthiest of the Super Wealthy control our mainstream media but not our votes. We all should know that racism has an economic purpose. It is the tool most often used in America to get the working class whites and Middle Class majority to put in power politicians who vote against the economic interests of working class and Middle Class whites. Racism is the tool used to divide the non-economic elite majority so that all working class and Middle Class Americans do not demand government policies that provide real economic opportunity for the vast majority. Racism is a sucker bet for all poor, working class and Middle Class Americans!

If all poor, working class and Middle Class Americans vote in favor of their real economic interests, we all will have a very bright future. We can take control of our government. We can return manufacturing jobs to America. We can pass the Employee Free Choice Act and make the right to unionize a Constitutionally protected civil right.

We can have government guaranteed universal healthcare for our citizens like every other industrialized nation in the world. We can restore our rights as workers, investors and consumers. We can replace the corporate clowns, corrupt Republican partisans and right wing fanatics in our government bureaucracy and court system with honest, mainstream Americans.

We can preserve our basic freedoms from those seeking to undermine the Bill of Rights, legal due process and the U.S. Constitution. United as citizens, we can halt unjust political prosecutions like that of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and jail those responsible. We can expose and prosecute all illegal abuses of power by highly-placed, powerful government officials.

We can stop war-profiteers from getting us involved in more unnecessary aggressive wars that get our brave soldiers killed for the private profit of large international corporations. We can make sure that the American people are never lied to in order to launch a war that should never have been started in the first place. We must defeat politicians like John McCain who simply put love to threaten wars all over the world for little or no reason.

We can break the power of Big Oil to price-gouge us at their whim. We can create a real alternative energy economy that will not promote global warming. We can break up the media monopolies, restore the Fairness Doctrine in broadcasting and protect the Internet from corporate control.

We can make our American Democracy work for the little guy! All we have to do as individuals is to reach out to our neighbors and co-workers to educate them on issues and the importance of basic political involvement, like voting against those abusing them and for change in 2008.

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. Email: demlabor@aol.com.

Feel free to publish, post or reprint this column in full without prior approval.

Representative Chris Carney introduces made in America legislation

08.10.08

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

Representative Chris Carney introduces made in America legislation

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

August 3rd- Christopher Carney, Democratic United States Representative 10th Congressional District, introduced the bipartisan “Made in America Act” which will create tax cuts to support American companies that keep their jobs and businesses “made in America.”

Mr. Carney is serving his second year of a two-year term in Washington. He is being challenged in the November 4th election by Republican candidate Chris Hackett, who operates a Luzerne County job agency which specializes in finding nonunion workers for employers.

“We live in the greatest country in the world, and we know that America must stay competitive in the global market. We currently have one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world at thirty-five percent. We need tax cuts for jobs and businesses that are made in America. That is why the made in America Act commissions a study to determine ways to stop our younger generation from leaving our rural areas for larger cities,” said Mr. Carney.

Mr. Carney defeated incumbent Republican Congressman Don Sherwood in the 2006 election despite only around 38 percent of the district is registered Democratic.

Mr. Carney received most of the labor organization endorsements during the 2006 campaign and promised to support labor’s agenda while serving in the House of Representatives.

Voting to raise the federal minimum wage in January 2007 was the first opportunity Mr. Carney had to vote in favor of labor legislation. The House of Representatives voted 315 to 116 in favor of raising the minimum wage.

On July 24th the minimum wage increased to $6.55 per hour. The increase was the second of three provided by the enactment of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007. A third minimum wage increase to $7.25 an hour will become effective on July 24th, 2009.

“I hear from families across northeast and central Pennsylvania that more needs to be done to prevent the brain drain in rural and small town America,’ said Mr. Carney about his introduced legislation.

The Made in America Act reinstates the Research and Development tax credit that expired in December 2007, and makes it permanent.

Mr. Carney voted in favor of passage of the organize union supported “Employee Free Choice Act” (EFCA) in 2007. The legislation would replace how union representation elections are conducted in workplaces with a “card check” system. Congress passed the legislation 241-185 but it failed in the United States Senate.

The legislation will likely be re-introduced in 2009.

UAW facing rough road in unionizing A.C. dealers

08.09.08

UAW facing rough road in unionizing A.C. dealers
By ERIK ORTIZ Staff Writer, 609-272-7253

http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/106/story/225210.html

Published: Saturday, August 09, 2008

ATLANTIC CITY - The United Auto Workers union started its pitch in early 2007 to do what some considered the impossible: organize casino dealers in a city where past attempts had failed.
But despite some notable victories for the Detroit-based union in the past few months, and even a high-profile rally this summer, its bid to help win contracts for dealers has proven to be an uphill struggle - one with no guarantees, observers say.

“It’s clear that the industry does not want dealers to unionize,” said Philip Harvey, a Rutgers University professor of economics and law who studies unions. “It’s cheaper for them to operate without a union contract.”

The UAW has been negotiating dealer contracts with Tropicana Casino and Resort and Caesars Atlantic City, although the union has accused the casinos of dragging their feet. Tropicana and Harrah’s Entertainment, which owns Caesars, have said they are negotiating in good faith.

While the union won separate elections at Bally’s Atlantic City and Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, both properties filed objections with the National Labor Relations Board disputing the results. In both cases, the board certified the results in favor of the UAW. Bally’s and Trump Plaza, however, are now declining to negotiate, UAW officials say.

Trump Plaza spokesman Tom Hickey told The Press in July that the casino “very simply (does) not believe that the union represents an uncoerced majority or that the election results are valid.”
Later that month, Trump Entertainment suffered a setback with its Trump Marina Hotel Casino property when a federal labor judge ruled the casino engaged in “objectionable conduct” during a May 2007 organizing campaign among dealers. The UAW accused the casino of threatening and intimidating employees who wanted to organize and favoring those who were anti-union.

The judge is ordering a second election. But that is likely to be put on hold because Trump Marina plans to appeal, Hickey has said.

Harvey, the Rutgers professor, said appealing and dragging out negotiations is a common tactic by employers.

“From a strategic perspective, engaging in misconduct in election campaigns or in negotiations in contracts makes all kinds of sense,” he said. “The union is saying, ‘We’ll fight for you.’ But what can the union show for it? It might not be the union’s fault, but it erodes the union’s support among employees.”

The UAW and union supporters took to the resort’s streets in June to show renewed solidarity. (While potentially about 3,000 dealers at Trump Plaza, Caesars, Bally’s and Tropicana could gain union contracts, they wouldn’t start paying dues until after their contracts are ratified.)

Meanwhile, negotiating with Tropicana and holding a second election at Trump Marina could prove tricky, as both casinos could transfer ownership over the coming year. Trump Marina is being bought by Coastal Marina LLC, while the Tropicana is to be sold in an auction.

UAW officials said they’ve discussed negotiating a “successor clause” into a contract with Tropicana, which would require any future owner to honor the UAW’s contract terms and recognize the union.

While it’s a potential sticking point, it’s been successfully done before in Atlantic City.

Local 54 of UNITE-HERE, the city’s largest casino union representing service workers, secured a deal with all 11 of the casino properties here for a type of successor clause.

But it took a strike in 2004 against some of the properties to ensure that the clause was included in contract negotiations, said Local 54 President Bob McDevitt.

“It was incredibly difficult,” he said.

E-mail Erik Ortiz:

EOrtiz@pressofac.com

Both Kevin Murphy and Frank Shimkus want union support in November

08.09.08

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

Both Kevin Murphy and Frank Shimkus want union support in November

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

REGION, August 3rd- Both candidates for the Pennsylvania State House 113th Legislative District (Lackawanna County) state they are pro-union and want union members to vote for them on November 4th.

According to Kevin Murphy, who defeated incumbent Democratic Representative Frank Shimkus in the Primary election in the spring, he will support labor’s agenda in Harrisburg if elected. Mr. Shimkus won the Republican nomination by conducting a write-in campaign but is still registered as a Democrat.

He told the newspaper he doesn’t support the privitization of the Pennsylvania Turnpike because union members would likely be hurt. Also, he would support the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage laws, which is important to the members of the building trades unions, and believes the the Pennsylvania Municipalities Financial Act 47 needs to be modified.

Mr. Murphy, a former Scranton City Council member and President of the five-person organization, voted for Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty’s financial recovery plan in 2002 that will result in public service employee lay-offs and strips most protections normal for labor contracts and reduces employee benefits.

Act 47 was enacted in 1987 to help dept strapped municipalities in Pennsylvania from filing for bankrupcy. The legislation was established to offer financial help to the municipalities that have budget shortfalls and stagnant revenues.

The first Recovery Plan created for Scranton was during the James Connors Administration but Mr. Doherty created his own plan which was more damaging to the unions.

Mr. Murphy is a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union Local 2453 and now sees how damaging Mr. Doherty’s plan is to the union members employed in Scranton. “I wouldn’t support it now because Chris Doherty isn’t a good steward of the recovery plan. I apologize to the union employees for supporting Chris Doherty’s recovery plan.”

According to Mr. Shimkus, he volunteered to conduct a Act 47 public hearing and will soon announce where the event will be held. “It’s not if a hearing will be held, it’s when. There will be a hearing, I guarantee that,” said Mr. Shimkus, a member of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Committee.

Mr. Shimkus told the newspaper more money is needed for municipalities so workers won’t be hurt. He said Harrisburg needs to find other revenue to help municipalities balance their budgets.

Representive Shimkus added politically speaking what Mr. Murphy said he would do in Harrisburg for labor he is already doing. Mr. Shimkus is seeking a second term.

Carpenters Union still protesting Wal-Mart construction site

08.09.08

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

Carpenters Union still protesting Wal-Mart construction site

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

TAYLOR, July 30th- The International Brotherhood of Carpenters Union Local 645, Pear Street in Scranton, continues their protest at the future site of a Wal-Mart Supercenter Store on Main Avenue in Taylor Borough in Lackawanna County.

The union held informational picketing at the construction site on July 30th because their members have not yet been hired for the construction of the retail center in Taylor which neighbors the City of Scranton.

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

According to Vern Johnson, Vice President and Team Leader for Local 645, past history shows Wal-Mart uses an invitation only bidders list for their contractors for new store construction.

He said the bidders list usually always is made up of out-of-town and out-of-state contractors. The contractors will bring in an out-of-town workforce that will contribute to the erosion of the area standards that have been set for carpentry craft workers.

Mr. Johnson said the union wants to protest at the Taylor site at least once every week. Local 645 represents carpenters employed within the building and construction industry throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The union protest also consist of a huge sign that states, “Shame On Wal-Mart.”

The development will include a Wal-Mart Supercenter Store and possibly a Home Depot Store.

So far no contractors under contract with any of the sixteen unions affiliated with the Scranton Building and Construction Trades Council labor federation have been hired for the project.

Mr. Johnson stated Wal-Mart has an obligation to the community to see our area labor standards are met for construction work at all of their projects including any future work either new or any remodeling of their stores.

Local Unions affiliated with the Building and Construction Trades Council have also picketed the site which is requiring a lot of excavation work to prepare the area for the building for the retail center.

SEIU to conduct caravan to Republican National Convention

08.09.08

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

SEIU to conduct caravan to Republican National Convention

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

REGION, July 27th- Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) will travel to St. Louis, Missouri; Iowa City & Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Madison, Wisconsin and St. Paul, Minnesota, the site of the Repubican National Convention on August 29th, 30th and 31st, to bring attention to workers issues.

According to Elissa Strauss, SEIU Spokesperson, the SEIU members will be joined by Andy Stern, President of the 2 million member union, and special guests during the caravan to the Republican Convention to highlight the economy and workers concerns. The bus carrying SEIU members will include healthcare workers, security officers and other workers. On September 1st, Labor Day, and the opening of the Republican National Convention, the SEIU will hold a concert in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The union also cited a recent study by the Center for American Progress that found the perspective of workers is largely missing from media coverge.

The union stated this election year, workers are intensely engaged in making centain that their concerns are heard on issues such as: Affordable quality healthcare; wages that can support families; freedom to join unions without intimidation; and retirement security.

In the previous edition of the newspaper a story was published about the study cited by the SEIU, in which showed mainstream media ignores the working people. The newspaper was the only member of the local media, including newspapers, television and radio, in Northeastern Pennsylvania region that cited the study in their news coverage.

The SEIU spokesperson added the unigue interstate tour will offer journalists unprecedented access to workers and SEIU leadership on the bus and at stops along the way. SEIU’s Mobile Action Center (a purple semi-trailer containing twelve calling stations), the SEIU RV (wireless enabled) and a bus will make up the caravan that will move from city to city, picking up workers along the way.

Metropolitan Statistical Area unemployment remains high

08.09.08

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

Metropolitan Statistical Area unemployment remains high

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

REGION, August 2nd- According to labor data provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Labor and Industry, the region’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 5.9 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 4.8 percent.

The MSA’s unemployment rate continues to remain higher than Pennsylvania and the nation. The unemployment rate in the state is 5.2 percent, unchanged from the previous month. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,394,000 with 332,000 not working and 6,062,000 with employment. The national unemployment rate is 5.5 percent, unchanged from the previous month. There are 8,499,000 civilians in the nation without employment.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA civilian labor force, workers between eighteen and sixty-five years old, increased by 100 from the previous month to 282,200 and increased by 3,700 during the previous twelve months. There are 16,800 civilians not working, unchanged from the previous month, within the MSA.

The MSA has the fifth largest labor force in Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force at 2,983,800 with 153,600 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA is second at 1,212,300 with 61,600 without jobs; the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force at 417,700 with 23,200 not working; and the Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force at 287,400 with 12,700 without employment.

Of the 14 MSA’s within Pennsylvania, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the second highest unemployment rate with only the much smaller Johnstown MSA the only region with a higher unemployment rate than the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA at 6.3 percent, increasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the month before. The Johnstown MSA only has a civilian labor force of 69,400. The Williamsport MSA has the third highest unemployment rate in the state at 5.6 percent. The Williamsport MSA only has a civilian labor force of 60,200.

The Lebanon MSA and the Lancaster MSA are tied with the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 4.1 percent. The State College MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in the state at 4.2 percent, with the Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA third at 4.2 percent.

Within the MSA, Lackawanna County has the lowest unemployment rate at 5.7 percent, unchanged from the month before and increasing by one full percentage point from twelve months before. Lackawanna County has a labor force of 107,500 with 6,100 residents without employment, unchanged from the previous month.

Luzerne County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 6.1 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 one year before. Luzerne County has a labor force of 160,300, the largest in the MSA, with 9,800 residents not working, the most in the MSA.

Wyoming County has a unemployment rate of 6.0 percent, increasing by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month and increasing by one and three-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before.

Wyoming County has a labor force of 14,600, the smallest in the MSA, with 800 without jobs, increasing by 100 from the month before and increasing by 200 from twelve months ago.

Obama to AFL-CIO Council: He’s Counting on Union Movement (and report on other Council decisions)

08.08.08

Obama to AFL-CIO Council: He’s Counting on Union Movement

by Mike Hall, Aug 5, 2008

http://blog.aflcio.org/2008/08/05/obama-tells-afl-cio-hes-counting-on-union-movement/

Barack Obama told the AFL-CIO Executive Council he is counting on the union movement’s largest-ever voter mobilization to play a key role in his drive to take back the White House for working families on Election Day.

Speaking via video conference at the council’s two-day meeting in Chicago this morning, Obama pledged his support for the Employee Free Choice Act, new fair trade policies that don’t reward companies for shipping jobs overseas, a major job-creating investment in rebuilding and repairing infrastucture and a new energy economy.

The Executive Council also approved statements covering collective bargaining for federal workers, the growing fiscal crisis for state and local governments, education initiatives, the recent decision by the Air Force to award a multibillion-dollar air tanker contract to a foreign-led partnership and the Bush administration’s recent made-in-secret rule on worker exposure to toxins.

Today’s session focused on the fall elections and Labor 2008, the AFL-CIO’s political mobilization to inform union voters about the issues and candidates—especially the huge differences between the pro-working family Obama and the long-time anti-worker presidential candidate John McCain.

A combination of member-to-member contact at the workplace, the front porch and on the phone—plus communication from local union leaders via mail and newsletters—is designed to move as many union family voters to the polls as possible.

The council heard about plans that put a special focus on key battleground states where union voters make up as much as 35 percent of the electorate. Those key states include Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) addressed the council today. Last night at a special reception and this morning during the meeting, council members heard from several U.S. Senate candidates who are in races to unseat long-time anti-worker incumbents, all of whom voted last year to block the Senate from voting on the Employees Free Choice Act.

The Senate hopefuls, who are working with strong labor backing and working family support in their states, are:

Kay Hagen (D), running in North Carolina against Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R), who has a 21 percent lifetime working families voting record.

Bruce Lunsford (D), running in Kentucky to unseat Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader who has an 11 percent lifetime working families voting record.

Jeff Merkley (D), running in Oregon against Sen. Gordon Smith (R), who has a 24 percent lifetime working families voting record.

Former New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D), running against Sen. John Sununu (R), who has a 10 percent lifetime working families voting record.

Rep. Tom Allen (D), who is running in Maine against Sen. Susan Collins (R) and her 34 percent lifetime working families voting record, was scheduled to appear, but fierce storms in the Chicago area snarled air traffic, and he was unable to appear.

This afternoon, the council approved a statement that addressed the growing fiscal crisis faced by state and local governments. In it, the council noted that many states, with billions of dollars in deficits because of the staggering economy, are cutting vital public services or rising taxes.

These actions not only reduce spending and investment and weaken the safety net at a time when people need more help, but contribute to further contraction of the economy.

Council members called on Congress to act to help the states by increasing federal funds for Medicaid. It also supported a package of stimulus funding for food stamp administration, child support enforcement, expanded unemployment insurance and modernization, employment services, emergency housing needs, education for at-risk and special needs children as well as higher education, and funding for infrastructure improvement and repair projects. It also called for enactment of Medicaid funding legislation now before Congress in two bills, H.R. 5628 and S. 2819.

Airport screeners, also known as Transportation Security Officers (TSOs), continue to be denied collective bargaining rights because of what the Bush administration says are “national security” concerns. The council issued a statement saying that majorities in both the House and Senate voted in 2007 to restore basic workplace rights to the 43,000 TSOs, but a Bush veto threat led to the provision being stripped from the bill. The council says:

The continuation of this systematic denial of fundamental labor and workplace rights undermines collective bargaining rights and workplace protections of all federal workers.

The AFL-CIO calls on Congress to immediately pass H.R. 3212, a bill introduced by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) that grants TSOs the rights of other workers in DHS (Department of Homeland Security) and pledges to oppose other political attempts to use national security fears to curtail the collective bargaining rights of other federal workers.

In another statement concerning the rights of federal workers, the council called for an immediate resumption of contact talks between the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA). In 2006, the FAA walked away from the bargaining table and imposed new work rules that cut pay, eliminated certain rest periods and forces controllers to work overtime and six-day weeks. The deplorable work environment is behind the huge loss of experienced controllers—more than 2,500 have left the agency—and created a massive controller shortage that has put the flying public at risk.

The FAA also is refusing to resume bargaining with workers represented by Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS) and AFSCME. Says the Executive Council:

It should be a priority of this Congress to include, on any moving piece of legislation, language that would require the FAA to return to the bargaining table to negotiate in good faith with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) and submit to neutral, binding arbitration in the event of an impasse. To protect the safety of the aviation system, an overarching change must be made in order to allow all FAA bargaining units to participate in an equitable contract negotiations process.

Council members also called for a wide array of public education and training initiatives and reforms on the national, state and local levels to equip students and workers with the skills needed to compete in the rapidly changing 21st century workplace.

To meet this challenge, our nation needs a cohesive national strategy that links substantial investment in job creation to an improved educational system and significant public resources directed toward skill-development programs. Implementing that strategy will require farsighted presidential leadership; a substantial financial commitment; a new working partnership among stakeholders in labor, business, education and government; and the kind of bipartisan comity that has been absent too long from our national life. Otherwise, the future will not be kind—either to job seekers without skills or to a nation without the will to create the workforce it needs.

Earlier this year, the Air Force created an uproar when it awarded a multibillon-dollar contract for a new generation of air refueling tankers to Northrop Grumman/EADS (the European maker of Airbus) over U.S.- based Boeing Co., threatening 44,000 U.S. jobs. Following a Government Accountability Office investigation that uncovered numerous improprieties that favored EADS, the Air Force is re-bidding the contract. Says the council:

It is a sensible requirement that will help ensure the viability of our industrial base and in this instance, the high-skill, high-wage jobs associated with the aerospace industry.

The council also adopted statements:

Condemning the Bush administration’s made-in-secret proposed rule that could expose workers to higher levels of dangerous chemicals and other toxic substances;

Calling for additional funding for the Bureau of Prisons to provide better safety and security for the 34,000 corrections officers and workers who are being assaulted, injured and even killed at alarming rates;

Urging the Department of Justice and other agencies to block a recent DHL/UPS agreement that threatens the jobs of some 10,000 pilots and other workers at two freight air carriers;

Calling on Congress to pass legislation to strengthen the Social Security Administration and reverse years of Bush administration underfunding that threatens service to and benefits for seniors and people with disabilities;

Urging Congress to end a corporate tax dodge that allows companies to count their multimillion-dollar CEO golden parachute pensions as liabilities against their workers’ pension plans.

Have Americans Forgotten What Unions Have Done for Them?

08.08.08

Have Americans Forgotten What Unions Have Done for Them?

As someone who recently was wrongfully terminated from his job, I’ve been thinking a lot about unions recently.

I’m painfully aware that it is uncool to be seen as “pro union” in many circles these days. Union membership in the U.S. has been declining for years, particularly in the Deep South where I live.
As I sit here unemployed, roughly 11 weeks removed from being fired from my job as an editor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), I can’t help but think how my life would be different if I had worked in a union environment.

In a major investigative story, Raw Story reported that my termination showed clear signs of being politically driven. Specifically, it appears that I was terminated because I write a blog that is critical of the Bush Justice Department, particularly its handling of the Don Siegelman case.

In fact, an audiotaped conversation between me and UAB employee relations director Anita Bonasera pretty much confirms that I was targeted for political reasons……

(Click on link below to read the rest of this article.)

http://www.opednews.com/articles/Have-Americans-Forgotten-t-by-Roger-Shuler-080806-227.html

Voting rights under challenge in key battleground states- Beware!

08.08.08

Missouri Voter Refuses Illegal Demand to Show Photo ID at Poll, Gets Thrown in Jail

A voter was arrested on Tuesday in Missouri after he refused an illegal demand to show photo ID when trying to vote. The Election Integrity advocate had perfectly legal ID, as he’d confirmed with officials before heading to the polls.

The charge (which is inaccurate, since he had perfectly “proper I.D.”): “Did knowingly cause a disturbance/disorderly conduct to wit: acts in a violent or tumultuous manner toward another, placing such person(s) in fear of safety by refusing to show proper I.D. when voting”.

Instead of being allowed to cast a ballot, he went to jail in a chilling Show Me State precursor to November. Though she didn’t get arrested and thrown in jail, a similar incident happened to the Missouri Secretary of State herself during the 2006 election…

FULL STORY: http://www.bradblog.com/?p=6252

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EDITOR’S NOTE: I urge unions everywhere to put election offices on notice in advance of November that vote suppression efforts will not be tolerated and American workers will not be silent when voting rights are denied in their communities!

Business fears election will boost labor

08.07.08

Business fears election will boost labor
By Jordan Fabian

http://thehill.com/business## lobby/business-fears-election-will-boost-labor-2008-08-05.html

Business leaders say a Democratic sweep of the presidency and key Senate contests this fall could lead to major changes in U.S. labor law.

Business has viewed the Senate as a bulwark to bills backed by the AFL-CIO and other labor groups since Democrats took over Congress in 2006. Measures making it easier to form unions and strengthening the rights of workers to sue for discriminatory pay practices have passed the House. But they have not been able to win the votes necessary to move forward in the Senate.

Even if they had, a final bastion remained: President Bush’s veto pen.

Next year, however, the dynamics could change dramatically if Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) wins the presidency and Democrats edge closer to the 60 votes necessary to break a Senate filibuster.

“This is one of the most important elections the business community faces,” said Bill Miller, a senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“If the Republicans lose four or five seats [in the Senate] some of the labor measures probably will succeed over the minority’s wishes,” said Jade West, senior vice president of government relations at the National Association of Wholesalers-Distributors.

West mentioned the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which would allow workers to sue employers over past payment discrimination, and the Paycheck Fairness Act, which increases penalties for employers found to have discriminated against women by paying them less than male workers, as examples.

But the issue business leaders most often mention in worried tones is the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would make it easier for workers to form unions by eliminating a requirement that unions be launched via a secret ballot vote.

A business coalition is already running ads in Maine and Minnesota, where it touts Sen. Norm Coleman’s (R-Minn.) opposition to the bill. Coleman is in a tough contest with Democrat Al Franken, who, like most Democratic Senate candidates, is supporting EFCA.

Even Democratic senatorial candidates in more conservative states, such as Gov. Ronnie Musgrove (Miss.) and Bill Lunsford (Ky.), are supporting EFCA. Their campaigns took in $55,000 and $93,500 respectively from unions over the last five months.

Many observers think winning four or five Senate seats is reachable for Democrats this fall. West, a longtime GOP operative active in Republican campaigns, said Democrats would have to do even better than that to move EFCA next year. West predicts they would need to win eight or nine seats.

Only GOP Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) sided with Democrats in the Senate last year on EFCA, also known as card-check legislation because union members would only have to check a card saying they want to form a union for one to be launched. But other Republicans might face pressure to switch sides if their opposition were seen as the only hurdle to a president signing the bill into law.

“It’s not always the case that we need 60 [Democratic] votes; we often get support from a handful of Republicans,” said Bill Samuel, the AFL-CIO’s director of government relations.

The AFL-CIO recently announced a massive grassroots political mobilization, in which the coalition’s unions will spend more than $200 million on the 2008 elections. The statement said the AFL-CIO will “be engaged in every viable Senate race” during the cycle.

According to Samuel, those races will include the open seats in Virginia, Colorado and New Mexico, along with competitive contests in New Hampshire, Maine, Minnesota and Oregon, where Democrats hope to unseat sitting Republicans. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) are seen as tougher candidates, but Samuel said both states could also be in play.

Samuel said that grassroots efforts, such as neighborhood canvassing and local labor meetings, would focus on the presidential election as well, particularly in the battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

“It’s key to have a president who wants to sign these bills,” Samuel said. “We’ve had just the opposite the past eight years.”

Business groups, meanwhile, are spending millions of dollars on anti-card check coalitions to build grassroots opposition to labor’s push, and are targeting donations in a few key races.

The wholesalers’ political action committee (PAC), for example, has given nearly $100,000 in hard-dollar contributions to GOP candidates, with much of it going to Republicans running for Senate. This includes more than $7,000 to Coleman and more than $6,500 to Bob Schaffer, a Republican running for an open seat in Colorado.

The International Franchise Association, which also opposes EFCA, has given more than $228,000 through its PAC to Republicans in this cycle, compared to just $47,500 to Democrats.

And the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW), an alliance of pro-business groups backed by the Chamber and the National Association of Manufacturers, is running ads about EFCA in Minnesota and Maine.

“We are absolutely concerned what the 111th Congress would do about issues like the Employee Free Choice Act,” Miller said.

The Chamber and CDW are conducting town hall meetings, conference calls and media buys to get out their message about the candidates’ positions on labor legislation, Miller said.

Business and labor groups justified their efforts, saying that these issues, especially EFCA, resonate with voters outside the Beltway. “It’s one of those issues that’s a wedge issue,” West said. “There’s no gray area.”

Both groups tout polls supporting their positions. According to a business poll, 79 percent of likely voters oppose card-check, including 78 percent of Democrats. Business contends its polls show the measure is unpopular in union households and among independents.

An AFL-CIO poll concludes that 69 percent of likely voters support EFCA. It finds that 65 percent of those polled in right-to-work states support EFCA.

“Voters are becoming increasingly aware about the economy. People want to remain comfortably in the middle class,” Samuel said.

Repost: Perriello walks the walk!

08.06.08

Photobucket

Virginia’s 5th Congressional District Democratic candidate Tom Perriello doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk. Rather he puts his signature on it. In this instance, it was a Communication Workers of America’s Million Member Mobilization card in support of the Employee Free Choice Act.

Tom has long been a supporter of Unions, and in fact his great-grandfather was a Glassblowers Union leader. When he began his campaign, Perriello sought out the input of union leaders on the issues important to working families and the conditions of local economies . He continues to ask for their ideas and suggestions.

From personal experience, most politicians don’t mind having the support of labor or the money they receive, but would rather no one knew the union was behind them. That is not the case with Tom. I was invited to speak at the press conference for Perriello’s 7-point Economic R.E.V.I.V.A.L Tour in Martinsville on July 7, 2008.

After 6 terms of Congressman Virgil H. Goode Jr’s “Do Nothing - Aw Shucks” attitude, a win in November by Perriello will be like a breath of fresh air. Ousting the entrenched incumbent may be a reality for Tom and the 5th. Perriello has reached the $1 million dollar mark and is still raising money at an impressive rate. A recent whirlwind fundraising tour brought author John Grisham (The Firm, The Pelican Brief) to south side Virginia. Grisham stumped for Perriello because for 15 years, he has been Tom’s neighbor in Charlottesville.
Perriello’s campaign was recently designated “Red to Blue” by the DCCC, and will now attract national attention and greater financial backing from the Democratic Party.

Bricklayers Endorse Obama

08.06.08

Bricklayers Endorse Obama

by Seth Michaels, Aug 4, 2008

http://blog.aflcio.org/2008/08/04/bricklayers-endorse-obama/

The Bricklayers (BAC) union has endorsed Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) for president.

The BAC Executive Council voted unanimously this weekend to endorse Obama and mobilize the union’s 100,000 members to elect Obama and a worker-friendly Congress in November.

John J. Flynn, president of the Bricklayers, says Obama is the right candidate to create new jobs, rebuild America’s infrastructure and restore workers’ freedom to form unions.

BAC is proud to stand with Sen. Obama, who has stood by working families during his years as a community organizer, as an Illinois state legislator and in the United States Senate. He has the courage, conviction, experience and judgment to bring about the change America needs.

Last month, the AFL-CIO endorsed Obama and launched a new website, Meet Barack Obama, to educate and mobilize union members. This fall, the AFL-CIO is carrying out an unprecedented grassroots mobilization to elect a working family-friendly Congress and president.

Workers Urge Democrats to Focus Platform on Employee Choice, Jobs, Health Care, Trade

08.06.08

Workers Urge Democrats to Focus Platform on Employee Choice, Jobs, Health Care, Trade

by James Parks, Aug 5, 2008

http://blog.aflcio.org/2008/08/05/workers-urge-democrats-to-focus-platform-on-employee-choice-jobs-health-care-trade

In recent decades, corporate power has grown at the expense of ordinary workers, who see the results every day—in exported jobs, stagnant wages, lost pensions and unaffordable health care. And union members have urged the Democratic Party and its nominee, Sen. Barack Obama, to make restoring that balance a major part of the party’s platform, campaign and policy agenda.

The keys to rebuilding the economy, they said, include passing the Employee Free Choice Act and enacting new economic, health care and trade policies that benefit everyone. Speaking before the Democratic Party’s platform drafting committee last Friday, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker said:

We know that at some point the recession will end, but without a restoration of worker bargaining power, we will see a repeat of the last recovery—a recovery that was only experienced by the top 10 percent of income earners.

The single, most important priority for the labor movement next year will be reforming our labor laws to empower workers and allow them to form unions free of harassment, intimidation or fear of firing.

The 2008 Democratic platform must make the important connection between restoring the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively and restoring fairness and balance to our economy. I urge you to include the Employee Free Choice Act as a central plank of the platform.

Holt Baker was one of nine union leaders and rank-and-file workers who addressed the Democratic Party’s platform drafting committee in Cleveland on Aug. 1–2. They all told the committee that a major change is needed in the way the country treats its workers.

With unemployment at its highest level in four years, the need for good jobs is clear. In July alone, the nation lost 51,000 jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Bloomberg reports that the combination of job losses and decreasing property values, stricter lending rules and near-record energy prices have sent consumer confidence levels close to the weakest in 16 years in July.

Misti Wells, a single mother of three from Eaton, Ohio, told the committee she is a “first-hand account of how bad things have gotten.” She took a buyout in 2006 from the General Motors factory where she worked and went back to school. But, degree or not, Wells still doesn’t have a job, her unemployment checks have run out and her landlord can’t afford to keep letting her skip paying her rent.

Says Wells:

My kids will go stay with their dad but I might be sleeping in a cardboard box. And that’s the problem. There’s no help for people trying to help themselves. Every day I spend trying to find a job and there simply aren’t any out there.

Health care is another major issue on the union movement’s agenda. Forty-seven million Americans are without health care insurance. Holt Baker reminded the panel that the AFL-CIO, earlier this year, conducted a health care survey and received letters from more than 27,000 people decrying the lack of coverage and high costs. They also wrote of friends and family putting off treatment for serious diseases because they could not afford to pay. Says Holt Baker:

These letters are a challenge to our country—and they are a special challenge to the next president. Here we are, the richest country in the world. We can find $10 billion a month to spend on a war in Iraq, but we leave millions of our own citizens to fight a war against asthma, cancer, HIV/AIDS and diabetes without even basic health care coverage.

Just ask Bruce Bostick, a retired steelworker from Ohio, who told the platform committee he retired after 30 years at Republic Technologies in Ohio, only to have the company declare bankruptcy and drop his pension of $1,100 a month to a meager $125 a month. He also lost health care coverage. Although he describes himself as in good shape and never having had any life-threatening diseases, he is finding it impossible to locate a health insurance company that will cover him.

Edward Coyle, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, said retirees all across the country are struggling with the skyrocketing costs of health care, prescription drugs, gas, groceries and home heating costs. Older Americans on fixed incomes are bearing the heaviest brunt of our nation’s failed economy. Many seniors worry that they are the last generation that will ever be able to retire after a lifetime of work.

Coyle, who was speaking in his role as chair of the Leadership Council on Aging Organizations, added:

In the growing economic uncertainty of retirement, we urge the Platform Committee to call for strong federal oversight of private pension plans, oversight that protects workers’ retirement savings from the corruption of corporate lawbreakers. Additionally, we urge the Platform Committee to strongly affirm a commitment to Social Security. This includes rejecting the misguided calls by President Bush and Sen. [John] McCain to privatize Social Security.

The nation needs a new direction on trade, the workers said. David Landrum, a 24-year veteran at the General Electric plant in Bloomington, Ind., who says his plant is closing in a year, laid it out straight when he said:

My factory and others shutting down is from bad trade deals, pure and simple. Our good paying and respectable jobs are being sent to Mexico, so that employers can avoid paying decent wages and benefits.

United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard says Landrum’s analysis is right on.

How can we lose more than 3.5 million manufacturing jobs and see more than 40,000 facilities shuttered and ask our citizens to support trade policies that have shipped their jobs overseas? How can we let policymakers tell our children that they should work hard and go to college to get one of the “jobs of the future” when those jobs, increasingly, are being done offshore as our nation’s advanced technology trade deficit with China alone amounts to more than $67 billion?

While the public has increasingly shown its concerns with the direction of our nation’s trade policies, our elected leaders do not stand united on what course to pursue. We must confront the need to reject the status quo approach to trade and adopt a new framework that is pro-worker, pro-trade, pro-growth, pro-equity.

“The Man Who Made Kathie Lee Cry”- Charles Kernaghan speaking at USW Local 10-1 Hall in Linwood, PA

08.06.08

From The Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO

http://phillyunions.com/aflcio

“The Man Who Made Kathie Lee Cry”

Charles Kernaghan is the executive director of the National Labor Committee in Support of Human and Worker Rights. Charles Kernaghan is the world’s foremost expert on sweatshops and child labor. Besides exposing the fact that Kathy Lee Gifford’s WalMart clothing line was made by children in Central American sweatshops, he has also taken on companies like Nike, Gap, Kohl’s, JC Penney, Alcoa, Toyota, Mattel and many others and has forced them to change the ways in which they treat their workers. Also, Kernaghan’s partnership with the USW has helped end human trafficking and 21st century slavery in Jordan for tens of thousands of workers making products for the U.S. marketplace.

“Because of Charlie’ s crusades… we’re beginning to learn the awful truth about workers around the world who are slaving away their lives in sweatshops, who are denied the right to join or form a union in order to fight back a provide a better life for their families.”

## AFL-CIO President John Sweeney

Wednesday August 13, 2008 ## 6 PM

USW Hall Local 10-1

Chichester Avenue, Linwood, PA

Invited Special Guests Include Several Local Elected Officials and Candidates

Directions To Union Hall:

From Philadelphia and North:

Take I-95 South to Exit 2 (Route 452). Make a left at the end of the exit on to Rt. 452 (Market St). Follow Market Street to first traffic light and make a right on to Laughead Ave. At the first stop sign, make a left on to Huddel Ave. On Huddel Ave, go straight through first traffic light at Chichester Ave. Immediately after the light, you will come to a stop sign. Make a left at the stop sign on to Palmer Drive (Palmer Drive is an alleyway). The Union Hall will be the stone building on your right at the end of Palmer Drive.

From Wilmington and South:

Take I-95 North to Exit 1 (Chichester Ave). Make a right at the end of the exit on to Chichester Ave. Follow Chichester Ave to the first traffic light and make a right on to Huddel Ave. Immediately after making the right, you will come to a stop sign. Make a left at the stop sign on to Palmer Drive (Palmer Drive is an alleyway). The Union Hall will be the stone building on your right at the end of Palmer Drive.

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Wednesday, August 13 , 6:00 p.m. at the USW Local 10-1 Hall in Linwood, PA. (Check their website for directions - http://www.pace2-1.org/.

Wal-Mart Wants to Make Sure Its Employees Don’t Vote Democratic

08.05.08

Wal-Mart Wants to Make Sure Its Employees Don’t Vote Democratic

by Tula Connell, Aug 1, 2008

http://blog.aflcio.org/2008/08/01/wal-mart-wants-to-make-sure-its-employees-dont-vote-democratic/

Wal-Mart and all its $13 billion in 2007 profits are quaking. The retail monolith is scared that Democrats will be elected to office this fall—and might pass legislation that would level the playing field for workers seeking to join unions.

The Wall Street Journal http://online.wsj.com/article_print/SB121755649066303381.html reports on Wal-Mart’s corporate tremors today, noting that

in recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart store managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings at which the retailer stresses the downside for workers if stores were to be unionized.

Downsides, huh? Like getting paid enough to support yourself and your family. Or maybe even the real big downside of having affordable job-based health insurance so that the emergency room isn’t the only option when your child has the flu. Because by not paying its employees enough to afford the company health plan, Wal-Mart dumps the cost of health care onto all taxpayers http://www.aflcio.org/corporatewatch/walmart/upload/walmart_tax_memo.pdf , even making it a corporate policy to encourage new hires to use public emergency rooms, according to author Barbara Ehrenreich.

(You can tell Wal-Mart to stop its unfair and immoral workplace intimidation by signing a petition here http://www.unionvoice.org/campaign/wal_mart_petition .)

Wal-Mart has been so intent upon piling up its billions in annual profits, it has created a mini-industry of anti-unionism to ensure it keeps its employees at everyday low wages. So, Wal-Mart is stepping up its efforts to prevent Democrats from being elected this fall, by telling employees http://online.wsj.com/article_print/SB121755649066303381.html that “voting for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama would be tantamount to inviting unions in.” And Wal-Mart employees report feeling pressured to vote for candidates who oppose the Employee Free Choice Act.

Wal-Mart is doing even more arm-twisting workers on their way to the ballot box. Rather than pay its employees a decent wage and provide affordable health care, Wal-Mart is putting mega bucks into front groups that are spearheading a multi-million dollar ad campaign to slam workers, their unions and their efforts to pass the Employee Free Choice Act http://www.aflcio.org/joinaunion/voiceatwork/efca/ .

For instance, Wal-Mart is the largest member of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, one of the main funders of the $30 million anti-union campaign called “Coalition for a Democratic Workplace http://www.americanrightsatwork.org/the-anti-union-network/chamber-of-commerce/coalition-for-a-democratic-workplace-exposed-20080424-557-273.html .”

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney says this latest revelation of Wal-Mart’s egregious meddling into its employees’ voting preferences

goes to show the extent that companies like Wal-Mart will go to maintain the status quo, which allows them to exploit workers to maximize profit. It’s clear the business community intends to spend heavily to protect its interests but working people know this election is about creating real, lasting economic change.

Wal-Mart is ready to use its corporate power as America’s largest private employer to corrupt the political system to safeguard its profits. American Rights at Work has lots of info on Wal-Mart’s actions attacking the Employee Free Choice Act here http://www.americanrightsatwork.org/employee-free-choice-act/latest-updates/wal-mart-mobilizing-against-the-employee-free-choice-act-20080801-605-83-83.html and has a detailed report here http://www.americanrightsatwork.org/wal-mart/wal-mart/wal-mart-rolling-back-workers-wages-rights-and-the-american-dream.html on how Wal-Mart rolls back workers’ wages in an assault on the American Dream. Plus the worker advocacy organization also tracks the front groups behind the Employee Free Choice Act smear campaign, with info here http://www.americanrightsatwork.org/the-anti-union-network/chamber-of-commerce/coalition-for-a-democratic-workplace-exposed-20080424-557-273.html .

Take action now and tell Wal-Mart stop intimidating its employees http://www.unionvoice.org/campaign/wal_mart_petition . Sign the petition here http://www.unionvoice.org/campaign/wal_mart_petition .

USW President Gerard Calls for Democratic Platform to be United on Trade

08.03.08

http://usw.org/media_center/news_articles?id=0044

‘We must confront need to reject status quo approach, adopt new framework’ - USW President Leo W. Gerard

USW International President Leo W. Gerard today presented a series of questions on trade policy at a national hearing of the Democratic National Platform Committee, challenging the panel drafting the document for the upcoming nominating convention to find answers for inclusion.

“These questions revolve around our nation’s international trade policy ## one significant area of debate within our party. While the public has increasingly shown its concerns with the direction of our nation’s trade policies, our elected leaders do not stand united on what course to pursue.

“We must confront the need to reject the status quo approach to trade and adopt a new framework that is pro-worker, pro-trade, pro-growth, pro-equity,” he declared.

Read more about Gerard’s presentation here http://www.usw.org/media_center/releases_advisories?id=0060 . The full text of the USW President’s remarks presented to the Democratic National Platform Committee can be found here http://assets.usw.org/Releases/LeoTradePlatform/gerard_dem-platform-cmte-clev_usw080108.pdf .