Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will create or save 143,000 Pennsylvania jobs


The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will create or save 143,000 Pennsylvania jobs by the end of 2010. The jobs will come from smart investments in the future of Pennsylvania including.

 Children
$99.5 million Child support enforcement
$ 42 million child tax credit
$60 million childcare access and quality improvement

$565 for Pell grants
$22 million for Head Start
$460 million for students with disabilities

 Rebuilding and Repowering America
$343 million in transit
$460 for energy conservation
$1 billion in highway funding
$225 million for clean water

$536.1 million in unemployment insurance
$792 million in food stamps
$4 billion for health care for low-income families and seniors
$680 million in aid to seniors and disabled veterans

Labor and the media: On air with labor radio host Steve Crockett


Labor and the media
On air with labor radio host Steve Crockett

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

Steve Crockett is a busy guy. The radio talk show host had just traveled through a January storm the night before his Thursday morning program when he sat down with the News & Views. His weekly show, Democratic Talk Radio, is a Steve Crockett magnet for labor activists, progressives and Democrats.

The success of Crockett’s show is largely attributable to his friendly manner and his passionate interest in labor issues and civil liberties. He is a member of the National Writers Union (United Autoworkers, Local #1981) and the Office and Professional Employees International Union, Local #277.

The News & Views caught up with Crockett in his hotel lobby to talk to him about labor and the media.

News & Views: What makes your program different than the other talk radio shows?

Primarily, it’s the message and who we represent. Right wing talk radio represents corporate forces. Their message is that labor unions are bad, workers should not be able to act collectively and there should be neither consumer nor environmental protection laws. Everything I don’t believe in, they believe in.

How did you get into the business as a radio talk show host?

I started Democratic Talk Radio because of the role right-wing radio played in stopping the recount vote in Florida during the 2000 presidential campaign between Al Gore and George Bush. As you know, it was a judicial coup d’ etat orchestrated by the U.S. Supreme Court that stopped the recount.

I asked myself after the ruling was handed down, what’s it worth to me as a working class guy to live in a free country? And the answer was everything.

So, I started out in Fayetteville, Tenn., Al Gore’s old House district, and over the next five years spent $30,000 of my own money to get the message out about the corporate forces taking over America.

Eventually, I had a show that was nationally syndicated on i.e. America Network, which was backed by the United Autoworkers. It folded at about the same time as Air America went into production.

My current show, Democratic Talk Radio, started on April 3, 2008. It’s broadcast from Bethlehem every Thursday morning at 8:05 am on WGPA-1100AM.

You could have taken your talents anywhere. Why did you set up “shop” in the Lehigh Valley?

Politically, it is a very exciting area. It’s a swing congressional district in a swing state.
You’ve had quite a few guests on your current program.

I’ve had Gregg Potter, Labor Council president, Jerry Green and Leo Gerard from the steelworkers, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO president Bill George, Wendell Young IV, president of the Food & Commercial Workers Local #1776, Fran Friel, president of the Penna. Postal Workers, Dennis Hower, vice-president of the Teamsters Local #773, congressional candidates Ed O’Brien, Charles Dertinger and Sam Bennett, Allentown City mayor Ed Pawlowski, Northampton County Democratic chair Joe Long and many other local and statewide political officials.

I’ve also had some bloggers, book authors and political figures from outside our listening area on the show. You can be sure that I’ll keep the program interesting. The problem that we have is that we have only one hour per week.

I should also mention my co-host on the program, Dana Garrett. He writes for the blog Delaware Watch and is a co-host on another radio program called Progressive Voices, which is aired from the campus of the University of Delaware on WVUD. Very intelligent guy.

What makes an interesting guest on a radio show?

Primarily, an interesting person with a story to tell. It certainly helps if they can articulate a passion and a commitment to a cause greater than themselves

Since you’ve talked to quite a few labor leaders, what are some of the concerns they have in common?

Of course, the Employee Free Choice Act stands out as the number one issue. With the decline of unions has come the decline of the middle class and weakened our democracy.

Free trade is a topic discussed frequently on our show. Finally, the healthcare crisis rounds out the top three themes that engage our guests and callers.

How is your show funded?

It was the Laborers’, Local #1174 that gave us the start up money to put Democratic Talk Radio on the air. They have been great sponsors from the beginning.

The other sponsor that has been so critical to the success of the program is the Mail Room, the Lehigh Valley’s only unionized printer.

We’ve also received support from other union locals, Democratic Party organizations and law firms.

Financing was a struggle in the beginning. I paid for almost half of the air time, not to mention my two hour drive from my home in Maryland.

Sponsorship is always welcomed and I ask anyone interested in supporting our program to contact me at or 443-907-2367.

Do you think labor organizations do enough to get their message out?

No! Quite simply, no.

But I do think they are trying more, especially here in Pennsylvania. Rick Smith, a Teamster, has a phenomenal weekend show entitled United for Progress, which is broadcast out of Carlisle, Pennsylvania. And Charles Showalter, a member of the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, hosts a great show in the Pittsburgh area called The Union Edge.

What should union leaders be doing, though? Rick Smith, Charles Showalter and you are getting the message out.

Union leaders should not be afraid to talk to journalists. Part of it is that the internationals should give their local leaders some leeway to talk to the media.

Everyone should realize that they may be misquoted sometimes. And learn to live with that to some degree. We also need to train our guys on message control and how to talk to the media.

Some union leaders have told me that they’d never talk to the papers.

Absolutely. And the reason is because they are frequently misquoted.

Unfortunately, if you don’t talk to them, then the only side the public will hear is the other side. I believe it is better to get a slightly distorted version of your side than nothing at all.

I have found that reporters are fairly friendly, although that may not be the case with the owners of the paper. In today’s print media, reporters are not as aware of working class issues as they use to be because of the increased professionalism of journalists and journalism schools.

Years ago, most of your reporters came from working class families and working class backgrounds. And every major urban area had a labor newspaper.
Today, they are almost all gone. I think it is fantastic that you have in the Lehigh Valley The Union News published by Paul Tucker. It’s amazing that Tucker’s publication exists because very few places have a labor press. Contemporary journalists don’t understand blue-collar concerns, although they might be sympathetic to white-collar issues.

Of course, I think we should go on radio more. We need to finance our own media in order to do a permanent campaign just like the other side does. Whether it’s Tucker’s Union News or Democratic Talk Radio, unions need to support labor media.

What new media projects are you working on?

Oh, there are so many! (chuckles)

Well, just give me two or three.

My most immediate project is helping to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. For example, I’ve used Facebook to network with other activists. I think the legislation is so important.

Longer term, I’d like to create a national advertising agency for the benefit of labor organizations and progressive groups with the goal of building our own media.

We are also working on getting Democratic Talk Radio into the Philadelphia market. You have some phenomenal pro-labor candidates coming out of the Lehigh Valley who need greater exposure outside of the area if they are to be successful statewide. And the Labor Council does some great work that should be recognized beyond the Lehigh Valley.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Article reprinted from the February 2009 edition of the NEWS & VIEWS (Lehigh Valley Labor Council AFL-CIO newsletter).

IBEW Union Local 1600 files multible complaints against PPL


February 2009 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

IBEW Union Local 1600 files multible complaints against PPL


REGION, January 15th- The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 1600, Grange Road in Trexlertown, filed multible complaints with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four in Philadelphia alleging PPL Corporation violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The newspaper learned the union filed three Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges in January with the NLRB alleging the electic utility company violated the NLRAct.

According to a complaint filed on January 2nd, 2009, and obtained by the newspaper through the Freedom of Information Act, the Union alleges the company violated Section 8, subsections (1) and (5) of the NLRAct.

“On or about October 9th, 2008 and thereafter, the above named Employer has refused to bargain collectively with IBEW 1600. The unilateral implementation of a new Tailboard Sheet is a change in wages, hours and working conditions. The subject matter on the Tailboard Sheet was a mandatory subject of bargaining,” states the ULP.

The employer represenative named to be contacted on the Unfair Labor Practice charge is John A. Fogarty, indentified as the Vice President of Distribution Operations. Attorney Ira Weinstock filed the charge on behalf of the union.

On January 5th, 2009, a union member of Local 1600 filed two ULP’s with the NLRB alleging the company violated the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act.

ULP case number 36518 states the “Employer failed to provide requested information needed by a representative of IBEWLocal 1600 to investigate grievance number 08LE043. The original request was made in writing on September 12th, 2008. A second request was made on November 18th, 2008. Several verbal reminders were provided in between written requests,” states the complaint.

The employer representative to contact on the ULP is Kent Senior, however, he position is not indentified. James T. Caffrey filed the complaint on behalf of Local 1600 and his position is also not indentified.

According to the two complaints filed on January 5th, 2009, the union represents 3,535 employees of PPL.
ULP case number 36519 was also filed by James T. Caffrey. The complaint alleges PPL management personnel is proforming union bargaining unit work.

The “Employer is assigning management personnel to proform bargaining unit work. Employer has failed to provide information to an IBEW Local 1600 representative for complaints and grievances pertaining to that work. The requested information is needed to investigate the complaints and grievances,” states the Unfair Labor Practice charge.

The National Labor Relations Board after receiving a complaint will investigate the charge(s) and if they find merit in the ULP(s), a hearing will be scheduled.

Should it be found the National Labor Relations Act was violated the agency could seek monetary fines or other remedies to rectify the situation and make any employee whole for his/her loss of wages and or benefits.

A employee does not need to be a union member or be represented by a labor organization to file a complaint against his/her employer with the NLRB.

Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center nurses approve new three year labor agreement


February 2009 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center nurses approve new three year labor agreement


REGION, January 30th- Registered Nurses (RN’s) employed at the Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center, East Mountain Boulevard in Bear Creek Township, will continue to be the highest paid nurses throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania thanks to a new labor contract agreement between the parties.

According to Lisa Williams, spokesperson for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Pennsylvanaia Union, formerly 1199P, which represents more than 20,000 employees in hospitals, nursing homes, home care and state owned facilities in Pennsylvania, the union membership by more than ninety percent voted in favor of approving the pact.

The union represents approximately 400 registered nurses employed at the medical center. The previous contract agreement expired on January 27th, 2009. The new three-year pact will expire January 27th, 2012.

On Janaury 22nd, the union conducted a news conference at the Woodlands Inn and Resort on Route 315 in Plains Township, which included labor leaders, political officials and community leaders, to address what priorities the union wanted to address during contract negotiations.

“I got in to nursing because I love taking care of people in their time of need. This contract will help nurses do the job we love even better. We’ll have a greater ability to advocate for our patients and make sure that we have the time we need to spend with each patient based on their condition,” stated Kristy Cuba, a RN in the emergency department at the Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.

Highlights of the pact include:

•language that requires staffing levels are based on patient acuity
•language that establishes work area-based councils to give staff nurses a stronger voice in staffing ratios
•nurses will receive improved support for education
•wages will increase by 2.9 percent each year of the contract