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Misinformation rampant on workers’ free choice act

02.24.09

Misinformation rampant on workers’ free choice act
Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Will Congressman Charlie Dent, attorney George Hlavac, the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce and corporate America ## just to name a few ## tell the truth about the Employee Free Choice Act!

Dent says the act will take away the secret ballot vote. Hlavac says the union decides how the employees vote. Corporate America says it cares about workers.

Here is the truth about the Employee Free Choice Act. The act does not take away the secret ballot vote. If 30 percent of the employees decide they want a secret ballot, they receive it. The employees decide, not their employer or the union! Dent and Hlavac are wrong!

Corporate America cares about the workers? Since when? Sending their jobs to Mexico, China or some Third World country? Eliminating health care, pensions and other benefits? Yeah, they care about their workers. Please!

If you want a voice in the workplace, support the Employee Free Choice Act and ask Dent, Hlavac and others to read the bill and stop spinning the issue for corporate America!

James S. Schlener

Bethlehem

Letter from Jim Schlener, IAFF Local 735, UFCW 1776 and V.P. Lehigh Valley Labor Council. Jim is Chair of the Bethlehem City Democratic Committee. Reprinted from The Express-Times.

http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/opinion/index.ssf?/base/news-1/1235451902327370.xml&coll=3

Congressman Charles Dent (R-PA 15th) Speaking against Employee Free Choice Act generates 250 protesters on cold February afternoon

02.24.09

Over 250 people participated in an informational picket a Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce luncheon “roundtable discussion” against the Employee Free Choice Act on Thursday, February 19, 2009. Labor union representatives asked to be included in the program to present the other side. They were refused. The event was held in the Ole Bethlehem Hotel on Main Street in Betlehem, Pennsylvania. The crowd on the sidewalk was around ten times larger than the Chamber group inside.

The Congressman slipped into the event by a side door. At several points, protestors chanted, “outsource Dent!.”

Protesters included 43 union organizations, The Controller of Northampton County Stephen Barron, Pennsylvania State Representative Joe Brennan, Allentown City Democratic Chair and former Congressional candidate “Sam” Bennett, Lehigh County Democratic Chair Rick Daugherty, Northampton County Democratic Chair Joe Long, Moravian College Democrats, Moravian Students for A Democratic Society, Bethlehem City Democratic Committee, Lehigh Valley Democratic Coalition and many other groups. The protest lasted nearly 3 hours. Hundreds of flyers giving details about the real truth concerning the Employee Free Choice Act were distributed.

Gregg Potter, President of the Lehigh Valley Labor Council was a key organizer. The Lehigh Valley Building Trades turned out in force.

Richard Bloomingdale, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer, joined Stephen Barron on Democratic Talk Radio earlier that morning during a program about the Employee Free Choice Act and the demonstration planned later that day. Democratic Talk Radio is a pro-labor radio show that broadcasts on Thursday mornings from WGPA SUNNY 1100AM in Bethlehem. Democratic Talk Radio endorsed the protest and participated in the picketing.

The Morning Call newspaper ran front page stories on the protest the morning of the event and the day after. Local television (Channel 69) covered the event. The picketing generated many other favorable news stories and helped educate voters in Pennsylvania concerning the details and importance of the Employee Free Choice Act.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Below is a note from Gregg Potter, President of the Lehigh Valley Labor Council on the event.

Good afternoon,

Attached is a piece from the Allentown Morning Call that appeared on today’s front page. There is also an accompanying video that gives perspectives from Congressman Dent and Labor. I want to personally thank the 43 locals and over 250 members who came out to protest the actions of Congressman Dent.

I am listing the locals who attended, and if I omit you, I apologize. It was a rather hectic day.

I want to publicly thank Bill Newhard and the Lehigh, Northampton, Pike & Monroe County Building Trades Council for their incredible participation. You all made this happen! Keep up the great work!!

AFSCME 1435, Northeast Pa. Area Labor Federation, UAW 677 Retired, Catholic School Teachers Union, CWA 13500, 13000, District 13, PSEA, UFCW 1776, USW 2599, 547, SOAR, 10-86, 807, Roofers 30, SEIU 32BJ, 1199, SEIU/PSSU 668, Airline Pilots Assoc.

Road Sprinklers 669, Insulators 23, IBEW 1600, 375, 607, 143, 1319, 229

Carpenters 600, Bricklayers 5, 30, Sheetmetal Workers 19, UNITE HERE, OPIU 277, National Writers Union, Plumbers 690, IUPAT 703 and 1269, IUPAT District Council 21

Glaziers 252, Bethlehem Firefighters, APWU National and 268, Lehigh Valley Labor Council, also, special thanks go to Rep. Joseph Brennan, Northampton County Controller, Stephen Barron, the Moravian College Democrats, Lehigh County Democratic Chair, Rick Daugherty, Northampton County Democratic Chair, Joe Long, Nancy Tate, of the LEPOCO Peace Center, LVDC and also Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan for stopping by during the Chamber event.

Labor was fortunate enough to gain front page space two days in a row in the Morning Call, and there is a follow up article scheduled for this Sunday.

Thanks again for all those who participated!! You all made me very proud to be union!!

In unity & solidarity,

Gregg Potter

President, Lehigh Valley Labor Council

610 360-9491

http://www.mcall.com/news/local/all-a1_5chamber-q.6790432feb20,0,7960884.story

Senate Confirms Hilda Solis as Labor Secretary

02.24.09

Senate Confirms Hilda Solis as Labor Secretary

by Mike Hall, Feb 24, 2009

http://blog.aflcio.org/2009/02/24/senate-confirms-solis-as-labor-secretary/

Hilda Solis is the new secretary of labor. After Republicans backed away from an expected filibuster and agreed to stop their weeks of delaying tactics, the Senate this afternoon approved Solis’s nomination by an 80-17 vote.

Says AFL-CIO President John Sweeney:

The confirmation of Rep. Hilda Solis is a huge victory: Finally, Americans will have a secretary of labor who represents working people, not wealthy CEO’s. It is also a historic moment as Rep. Solis becomes the first Hispanic secretary of labor.

The delay of Rep. Solis’s nomination for partisan and ideological reasons was overcome by the grassroots support of millions of Americans who are struggling and desperately need a secretary of labor who will be their voice.

In today’s vote, 56 Democrats and 24 Republicans voted for confirmation. All 17 votes against were cast by Republicans. Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) did not vote.

Solis, a Democratic member of the U.S. House from California, was announced in December as President Obama’s choice to lead the Department of Labor, and her confirmation hearing took place Jan. 9. However, Big Business groups and some far-right Republican senators loudly complained about Solis’s long record of support for working families and unions and delayed the confirmation vote until today.

After a scheduled Feb. 12 vote was postponed because of Republican objections, the union movement created a Facebook page, Americans for Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor to build some e-roots support for Solis. Nearly 2,000 people signed on.

During the floor debate today, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) said Solis’s working family background—both her mom and dad were blue-collar union members—gives her a real connection to the problems and trials those families face—something those on Capitol Hill might not be as close to. Dodd said:

We may be aware, but do we really understand? None of us are facing losing our jobs, our homes, our retirement security….We need a secretary of labor who understands what working families are going though.

During the past eight years, the Department of Labor has moved away from protecting employees to protecting employers and weakened the right to organize….I don’t believe that’s its role, and neither does Congresswomen Solis. It is essential that the Department of Labor recommit itself to protecting the rights of workers.

Sweeney said:

She understands that the Employee Free Choice Act is critical to rebuilding our economy because working men and women deserve the freedom to choose whether to form a union without employer harassment and intimidation.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said that in the past eight years, the voices of working families “haven’t been heard enough” and the voices of corporations and the powerful have been far too loud at the Labor Department.

President Obama, with the selection of Hilda Solis as secretary of labor, has given working families a voice back. Throughout her career, she has been a forceful advocate for working men and women.

In the U.S. House, Solis earned a 97 percent AFL-CIO working family voting record.

Before her election to Congress in 2000, Solis served in the California legislature, first in the Assembly and then in 1994 becoming the first Latina elected to the state Senate.

Solis’s confirmation is a boon for all of America’s workers and is supported by a range of groups nationwide. Says Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club:

Hilda Solis was a champion for workers’ rights, a champion for the environment and a tireless advocate for environmental justice during both her service in California and in the Congress.

In his statement, Sweeney added:

Rep. Solis is uniquely qualified to help struggling families through these difficult economic times because she knows firsthand what they are going through. She grew up in a working class family and understands what programs our nation’s workers need the most.

She will fight to improve skills development and job-creation programs, including development of “green collar” jobs. She will work to assure that workers get the pay they have earned and that they work in safe, healthy and fair workplaces. She’s ready to address the retirement security crisis and will work hard to protect every worker from job discrimination, regardless of race, sex, veteran status or disability.

From the Field: the Grassroots Fight for Employee Free Choice

02.24.09

From the Field: the Grassroots Fight for Employee Free Choice

by Seth Michaels, Feb 19, 2009

http://blog.aflcio.org/2009/02/19/from-the-field-the-grassroots-fight-for-employee-free-choice/

This week at the Virginia AFL-CIO’s annual legislative conference, attendees wrote letters to their members of Congress in support of the Employee Free Choice Act. In Colorado, 55 religious leaders representing a wide array of faiths, cities and backgrounds sent a letter in support of the Employee Free Choice Act to Colorado’s U.S. House and Senate delegation. They asked for elected leaders to support workers’ freedom to bargain for a better life. In Raleigh, N.C., workers spoke out at a rally about the need for the Employee Free Choice Act.

You can read about grassroots actions like these at the new national Employee Free Choice Act Blog, where you can hear from workers and local union leaders, find out about events in their area and get the facts about what lawmakers representing your state are saying about the Employee Free Choice Act.

State federations in Arkansas, Colorado, Nebraska, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin have set up blogs to follow the fight for the Employee Free Choice Act, and more states will set up blogs soon. These blogs also will be updated regularly with photos and videos highlighting local efforts in support of the Employee Free Choice Act.

The biggest challenge to passing the Employee Free Choice Act is overcoming the national corporate disinformation campaign—and the best weapon is people power. Union members and activists working at the local level will be vital in creating the impetus needed to restore the freedom to form unions and bargain for a better life, and these state blogs are a great resource to find out more about this campaign.

The Employee Free Choice Act earned the support of bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress in 2007 but was blocked by a filibuster in the Senate. This year, with more pro-worker senators and a supportive White House, the freedom to form unions and bargain is closer than ever to realization—but it will require a broad national campaign to fight corporate lies, promote workers and hold elected leaders accountable. Check out the new Employee Free Choice Act blogs to find out more.

Pennsylvania Steelworkers Deliver 1,000 Letters for Employee Free Choice

02.24.09

Members of United Steelworkers Local 2599 in Allentown, Pa., delivered more than 1,000 letters to Sen. Arlen Specter (R) http://www.unionvoice.org/ct/-7a31_F1YcDD/ ## who in 2007 voted to break a Republican filibuster against the Employee Free Choice Act## urging him to back the bill this year. The special delivery is part of a nationwide grassroots mobilization. Read more grassroots news on the new Employee Free Choice Act blog
http://www.unionvoice.org/ct/J1a31_F1YcDZ/ .
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Pennsylvania Steelworkers Deliver 1,000 Letters for Employee Free Choice

by Seth Michaels, Feb 23, 2009

Last week in Allentown, Pa., members of Steelworkers (USW) Local 2599 paid a visit to Sen. Arlen Specter’s office to deliver more than 1,000 letters from USW members around the state, asking Specter to support the Employee Free Choice Act.

Jerry Green, president of Local 2599, led a group of USW members to Specter’s office in Allentown to present the letters in support of what Green called “a very important bill” to protect workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain. (Watch video.)

Wendy Davis of Allentown-area WFMZ-TV says Specter “could play a crucial role” in passing the Employee Free Choice Act, noting that in June 2007 he voted in favor of breaking a Republican filibuster against the Employee Free Choice Act.

The filibuster succeeded that time in blocking a Senate vote on the bill, but now with a larger pro-worker majority in the Senate, the Employee Free Choice Act has a far better chance of coming to a vote and being enacted into law, and Specter’s continued support will be critical.

That means he’ll keep hearing from constituents, like the hard-working men and women of Local 2599, who support workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: You should go to the first link at top of article to connect to the video clip at the original site. USW Local 2599 President Jerry Green along with his union brothers and sisters at that local have been working really hard on the Employee Free Choice Act for years. They deserve greater public recognition for their hard work.

International Brotherhood of Teamsters Union Local 773 wins union election

02.24.09

March 2009, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

International Brotherhood of Teamsters Union Local 773 wins union election

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

MACUNGIE, January 23rd- The International Brotherhood of Teamters (IBT) Union Local 773, Hamilton Street in Allentown, won the right to represent 137 workers of First Student Inc. employed as bus drivers, mechanics, and washers in Macungie Township. All other employees, guards and supervisors were excluded from participating in the election.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four in Philadelphia conducted the Representation Election on January 23rd at the company’s facility on Route 100 in Macungie.

According to the NLRB, 75 First Student Inc. employees voted to be represented by the union with 49 voting against. Under NLRB rules, a labor organization must receive 50 percent plus one of the eligible voting employees to become their bargaining representative.

In the previous edition of the newspaper it was exclusively reported Local 773 filed a petition with the NLRB on December 23rd, 2008. Local 773 requested the agency conduct a election to determine if the employees wanted the union to represent them for the purpose of collective bargaining.

USW members at Victaulic Company granted Trade Assistance

02.24.09

March 2009, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

USW members at Victaulic Company granted Trade Assistance

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

LEHIGH VALLEY, February 15th- Jerry Green, President of the United Steelworkers of America (USW) Union Local 2599 was notified by the United States Department of Labor’s (DOL) Employment and Training Administration Division of Trade Adjustment Assistance in Washington DC, approximately 260 laid-off workers of Victaulic Company, Forks Township, are eligible for employment assistance under the DOL’s Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program.

Under the Trade Act of 1974, the Department of Labor conducts an investigation into why workers lose their jobs and if found they were eligible for the job assistance, the DOL will provide grants to help them find a new career path. The assistance is provided if DOL finds workers jobs were loss to imports by foreign countries.

Under the program, laid-off workers may receive job search allowances, relocation allowances, case management, and other helpful re-employment services including receiving funds for training and school education.

Mr. Green stated the union filed a petition with the DOL to receive trade assistance on behalf of the laid-off workers at Victaulic and the agency began their investigation into the matter on October 21st, 2008.

Local 2599 represented approximately 520 workers at the Victaulic Company Forks Township facility in the beginning of 2008 but due to lay-offs the past twelve months more than 260 workers are without jobs, with it unknown when or if the workers will be recalled.

Local 2599 is located on East Lehigh Street in Bethlehem and in October, 2008 had 1,600 active members throughout the Lehigh Valley. However, because of lay-offs due to the economic slowdown at Victaulic, which manufactures pipefitting systems, and other employers the union represents, at least 400 of USW members are currently laid-off.

The union has two contracts with the Victaulic Company. The union represents approximately 120 workers employed at the Victaulic Company facility in Alburtis Township.

Mr. Green stated the union has also filed with the DOL to receive TAA for laid-off members employed at Prior Coated Metals in Allentown. Almost half of the 38 USW members employed at Prior Coated Metals have been laid-off.

The union conducted a mass information and directional meeting for the Victaulic Company Forks Township workers on February 17th at the USW building in Bethlehem. The meeting was attended by officials of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Career Link Center.

The Victaulic workers also qualified to receive DOL’s Alternative Trade Adjustment Assistance (ATAA) program. The program encourages qualified effected older workers, 50 years old or older, to quickly obtain full-time employment by providing a wage subsidy in lieu of training and income support under the program.