Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

President Obama signs several pro-labor Executive Orders

03.28.09

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

President Obama signs several pro-labor Executive Orders

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, March 15th- President Obama signed several Executive Orders benefiting organized labor that will have an immediate impact on private businesses that provide goods and services to the federal government. In some cases, Executive Orders of President Bush are being rescinded and replaced in whole or in part by these new Executive Orders.

Two of the Executive Orders include the encouraging of federal agencies to mandate “Project Labor Agreements” (PLA) on large scale construction projects involving federal monies.

A PLA is a collective bargaining agreement between a union and contractor covering work done on a specific project. These agreements are limited to the specific project. Under these PLA’s, the general contractor and all subcontractors must sign the agreement. However, by referencing the local area craft construction collective bargaining agreement, usally to designate wages and fringe benefits to be paid, PLAs may raise issues relating to whether the contractor has entered into a collective bargaining relationship broader than the project that is subject to the PLA. In view of the anticipated surge in federal construction projects as part of the stimulus legislation, this Order likely will result in a massive expansion of the number of employees covered by Project Labor Agreements.

A second Executive Order signed by President Obama requires each government contractor to post a notice to their employees advising them that federal labor guarantees their “full freedom of association, self organization, and designation of representatives of their own choosing, for the purpose of negotiating the terms and conditions of their employment or other mutual aid or protection.” This Executive Order rescinds President Bush’s that required contractors to post a notice advising employees of certain rights they had regarding the use of union dues monies.

The United States Chamber of Commerce in Washington DC, stated President Obama’s Executive Order hinders free speech and rights of employees. “We are disappointed with President Obama’s executive order, the purpose of which is to interfere with an employer’s ability to communicate with its employees about whether they should be represented by a union,” said Randel Johnson, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a statement to the newspaper.

More complaints filed against PPL by IBEW Local 1600

03.28.09

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

More complaints filed against PPL by IBEW Local 1600

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, March 6th- The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 1600, Grange Road in Trexlertown, filed additional complaints with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four in Philadelphia alleging PPL Corporation violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

In the previous edition of the newspaper, it was exclusively reported the union filed three Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges in January with the NLRB alleging the Allentown based electric 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 National Labor Relations Act.

“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.

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.

Unfair Labor Practice case number 36518 states the “Employer failed to provide requested information needed by a representative of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 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.

James T. Caffrey filed the complaint on behalf of Local 1600.

According to the two complaints filed on January 5th, 2009, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 1600 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 newspaper has learned the union filed three more complaints on February 9th, 2009 with the NLRB alleging labor law was violated by PPL management.

“The above named Employer, by and through its agents has failed and refused to provide to the Union despite a request for relevant information. In particular, the Employer has failed and refused to provide a contract with a subcontractor so that the Union can investigate to determine whether or not a violation of its collective bargaining agreement has occurred,” states ULP case number 36584, and obtained by the newspaper through the Freedom of Information Act. The employer representative to contact on the ULP is David Ling.

ULP case number 36586 alleges Mr. Caffrey was disciplined because of comments made by him during a grievance meeting. The “Employer disciplined a union steward, James Caffrey, for comments made during a collective bargaining agreement mandated grievance complaint meeting at which time Mr. Caffrey was acting in his capacity as a union steward. In addition, various Managers and Supervisors have advised Mr. Caffrey that he is “under a microscope” and that he is otherwise being watched and his activities being scrutinized,” states the Unfair Labor Practice.

Case number 36587 states the “Employer unilaterally assigned supervirors to perform bargaining unit work without mandatory collective bargaining, and in total disregard of Article 8.12(a) of the parties collective bargaining agreement.

Should it be found the NLRAct 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.

Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA’s unemployment rate highest since December 1992

03.28.09

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

MSA’s unemployment rate highest since December 1992

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, March 11th- According to labor data provided by the Department of Labor and Industry, the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased by four-tenths of a percentage point to 7.5 percent, the highest rate for the region since December 1992. The MSA includes Lehigh, Northampton, and Carbon Counties of Pennsylvania and Warren County, New Jersey. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was 4.9 percent.

Of the fourteen Metropolitan Statistical Area’s in Pennsylvania, the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area has the fifth highest unemployment rate.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 7.0 percent, increasing by six-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month. There are 450,000 Pennsylvania residents without jobs, increasing by 16,000 from the previous month. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted workforce of 6,446,000 with 5,995,000 employed. The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 7.6 percent, increasing by four-tenths of a percentage point from the month before. There are 11,616,000 residents nationally unemployed.

The Williamsport MSA has the highest unemployment rate in the state at 8.3 percent. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA and the Johnstown MSA are tied for the second highest unemployment rate in the state at 8.0 percent, with the Reading MSA having the third highest unemployment rate at 7.6 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.3 percent. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in the state at 6.1 percent, with the Harrisburg/Carlisie MSA and the Lancaster MSA tied with the third lowest unemployment rate at 6.2 percent.

The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest civilian labor force, workers between eighteen and sixty-five years old, in Pennsylvania at 424,100, increasing by 3,900 from twelve months ago. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest civilian labor force in Pennsylvania at 3,002,500 with 213,300 residents not working. The Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest civilian labor force in the state at 1,228,800, with 80,200 residents unemployed. The Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest labor force in Pennsylvania at 288,200, with 18,000 residents unemployed.

Within the MSA, Carbon County has the highest unemployment rate at 9.1 percent, increasing by six-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month and increasing by three and three-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Carbon County has 2,900 civilians not working, increasing by 200 from the month before and increasing by 1,100 from twelve months ago. Carbon County has a labor force of 31,800, the smallest civilian labor force within the MSA.

Northampton County has the lowest unemployment rate in the MSA at 7.3 percent, increasing by four-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month and increasing by two and three-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before. Northampton County has 11,300 civilians not working, increasing by 700 from the month before and increasing by 2,700 from one year ago. Northampton County has a civilian labor force of 154,000.

Lehigh County has a unemployment rate of 7.7 percent, increasing by seven-tenths of a percentage point from the month before and increasing by two and seven-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before. Lehigh County has 13,700 civilians without jobs, the most within the MSA, increasing by 1,300 from the month before and increasing by 4,800 from a year ago. Lehigh County has a labor force of 178,900, the largest in the MSA.

Manufacturing jobs decreased by 600, 1.6 percent, from the month before to 37,300 and decreased by 2,900 from twleve months ago. There are 334,000 nonfarm jobs in the MSA, decreasing by 9,100 from the previous month and decreasing by 4,500 from twelve months ago.

International Association of Machinists Union becomes bargaining representive of IronTiger Logistics employees

03.28.09

April 2009 Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

International Association of Machinists Union becomes bargaining representive of IronTiger Logistics employees

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

MACUNGIE, March 18th- The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) Union District 1 in Philadelphia was recognized as the representative for the purpose of collective bargaining for workers of IronTiger Logistics Inc. in Macungie Township.

On March 9th, 2009 the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four Regional Director Dorothy Moore-Duncan in Philadelphia received a correspondence from Thomas Jones Jr., a Attorney at Law from Excelsior Springs, Missouri, which represents the employer, stating the IAM has been recognized effective March 4th, 2009 as the collective bargaining representative of the employees. The employer has a facility located at 3203 Orchard Road in Macungie Township.

The bargaining unit includes all yard workers, shop workers, utility workers and drivers. Excluded from the bargaining unit are all confidential employees, office clerical employees, supervisors and guards as defined in the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

A copy of the letter was sent to John Hummel, Vice President of Terminal Operations of IronTiger Logistics Inc.

Union buster Starbucks reportedly joins group seeking compromise on Employee Free Choice Act

03.22.09

http://www.examiner.com/x-2071-DC-Special-Interests-Examiner~y2009m3d21-Union-buster-Starbucks-reportedly-joins-group-seeking-compromise-on-Employee-Free-Choice-Act?cid=examiner-email

by Ron Moore

The Associated Press is reporting that Starbucks Corp. and other companies are exploring alternatives to a bill that would make it easier for workers to unionize, but the idea of any compromise drew the wrath of business groups lobbying furiously to defeat the measure.

Officials at the coffee giant would not discuss exactly what alternatives to the Employee Free Choice Act the companies are considering, but confirmed late Friday that the company is “engaged in dialogue” on the topic.

“We have had conversations with like-minded companies and are open to exploring alternative solutions to the legislation as it is currently written,” Starbucks spokeswoman Deb Trevino said.

A person familiar with the discussions said the other companies exploring alternatives include food seller Whole Foods Market Inc. and retailer Costco Wholesale Corp. The person spoke only on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.

The article quotes Stefan H. Gleason, vice president of the anti-union corporate front group the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, who called Starbucks’ position “totally unacceptable.”

“There can be no compromise whatsoever on the card-check bill,” Gleason said. “For any company to cut a deal with big labor is to support passage of card check.”

Whole Foods spokeswoman Libba Letton said the companies have been talking about “finding fair alternatives” to the current bill.

The Employee Free Choice Act allows workers to negotiate with their employer after a majority approve through a card check vote. Workers have the option to conduct a second vote before negotiating; currently that choice is given only to employers. Only after a good faith agreement is reached and approved in a secret ballot vote do the worker have a union.

Starbucks has a history of union busting and recently fired a union activist who attempted to speak with CEO Schultz about working conditions.

Citizens’ Forum on Saving Municipal Services in Philadelphia

03.22.09

by John Oliver Mason

Arch Street United Methodist Church, at Broad and Arch streets in Philadelphia, was the scene of a public forum on cuts in city services and fair means of taxation, on Thursday, March 12, 2009.

The forum was sponsored by Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks and the Coalition for Essential Services. Members of the coalition include the Coalition to Save the Libraries, AFSCME District Councils 33 and 47, SEIU Local 32BJ, Asian Americans United, Fire Fighters Union Local 22, Media Mobilizing Project, Lutheran Settlement House, Philadelphia Student Union, Kensington Welfare Rights Union, Public Citizens for Children and Youth, Jobs With Justice, Green Party of Philadelphia, Health Care for America Now, Philadelphia Unemployment Project, Coalition of Labor Union Women, and ACT-UP Philadelphia.

Marc Stier, State Director of Health Care for America Now, opened the program, and spoke of the Obama administration and leaders in the House and Senate in Washington coming out for a national health care program for all Americans this year; “But it’s still going to be very difficult,” Stier added, as such a program will face “enormous opposition from the insurance companies. They’re gearing up the same kind of campaign they did fifteen years ago (during the Clinton administration) to try to stop health care reform.”

Stier announced that on Saturday April 4th, Health Care for America Now of Pennsylvania will do a joint event with Health Care for America Now of New Jersey; they will hold a rally near the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, with members from other parts of the state, like Allentown and Scranton, and march across the bridge and meet with activists from New Jersey, “symbolizing,” said Stier, the fact that “health care hangs on a thread, and suspended over a ravine.”

Gloria Gilman, chair of Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks, spoke of the group’s origins from the 2004 presidential campaign. “We realized,” she said, “there’s a lot of energy for organizing in Philadelphia, that people were ready to try to take back their government, and to take back some control over their lives.”

Of the coalition to preserve city services, Gilman said, “This is an effort that we have joined with many other organizations, and we’re now (at) over thirty-five organizations.” The coalition, she added, was formed “to insure that Mayor (Michael) Nutter and City Council don’t cut essential services to the residents of this city, and that if we need to find additional revenues, there are ways to do it that don’t impinge too much on any particular group,” especially low-income people.

Sharon Ward, Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (a branch of the Keystone Research Center), gave a power-point presentation on the effect of budget cuts on municipal services. The Center, she said, “is organized on public principles. One, is that facts matter. We believe that it’s important to understand what’s in the budget, and they understand state tax policy and local tax policy in order to (effect) change. Second is that we believe government is not the enemy. Government in fact is absolutely necessary, and public services are necessary, not just for our quality of life, but also for our economy. It’s critical to remember that without education, and police and fire services, and many other services that are funded here or at the state level, we wouldn’t have economic growth. If we don’t fund these things adequately, we wouldn’t have jobs.”

In her power-point presentation, Ward showed the Philadelphia city budget for the current fiscal year “as it was supposed to be…Most of the revenue that comes in to support our services comes from our tax dollars, about 72 percent.” She spoke of the wage tax, the property tax, the business privilege tax, and how much money each tax generated. “The business privilege tax,” she added, “actuality generates more revenue for the city than the property tax does, it has for some time.” Half the tax dollars, Ward said, “is spent on public safety and on health.”

Ward also spoke of the projected city budget deficit, adding that most states and large cities in the country have budget deficits. “A lot of what we heard over the past six months,” she added, “in the state or city, is that our budget deficits are related to overspending. Well, virtually every state has a deficit. It’s a revenue problem, not a spending problem. The rich states and the poor states, generous states and parsimonious (stingy) states, have budget deficits. We’re in a recession, tax revenues are down, we can’t support ourselves.”

Tax cuts, Ward added, contributed to the budget deficits, and in Philadelphia, as in other cities, “Prison costs are going up, (city employee) pension costs are going up because the city’s pension fund, just like your 201K, has lost a significant amount of its value, and the city has to put more money in to cover” its pension costs.

As for the idea that tax cuts are the way to economic growth, Ward said, “There’s a lot of economic literature on tax cuts, particularly on cities and states. The cost of taxes is a very small percent of the operating cost of most businesses.” And, she added, “There’s a lot of evidence that if you implement a tax cut, and then cut services, you actually lose jobs, you don’t gain jobs.” Also, she added, “If you cut a dollar in taxes, you’ll never make a dollar back in additional revenue from job creation or anything else. Generally, it costs you money to cut taxes. Most economists think that for every dollar you make in tax cuts, you get back anywhere between thirty and fifty cents.”

Gregory Benjamin, head of the Coalition to Save the Libraries, spoke afterwards, saying, “I think you need to understand the significance of people power, because for so long, the government has basically been telling people what’s going to happen in their neighborhoods. What happened with the movement (to keep open) the libraries was neighbors got together and said, ‘No, not this time, no, not this way.’”

Benjamin noted that because of neighborhood activism, the libraries that were slated to close stayed open. “The libraries didn’t close,” he added, “because the people organized, they came together, and they made sense.” People need libraries, said Benjamin, to use the computers and further their education.

Towards the end, participants broke up into groups according to council manic district, to plot strategy on how to influence their city council members.

Small Business Leaders Show Support for Employee Free Choice

03.20.09

Small Business Leaders Show Support for Employee Free Choice

by Seth Michaels, Mar 17, 2009

http://blog.aflcio.org/2009/03/17/small-business-leaders-show-support-for-employee-free-choice/

Across the country, it’s not just union members and community allies who support the Employee Free Choice Act and workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain. Many business owners also realize the Employee Free Choice Act will lead to an economy that’s stronger and sustainable in the long term, and more than 250 business leaders have endorsed the Employee Free Choice Act.

Many small business owners and entrepreneurs understand that everyone benefits when there’s greater purchasing power among America’s workers and a well-trained, motivated and productive workforce.

Check out this report from Sara Wallenfang of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, who attended a community meeting at a Milwaukee job training center, where local business leaders talked about why they support the Employee Free Choice Act.

Pat McKenna, the owner of Union Copy Centers Inc., says his company and his state have prospered thanks in part to unions. He hopes the Employee Free Choice Act passes to give more workers the ability to bargain for the fair treatment they deserve.

Darren Horndasch, the president of Wisconsin Vision, has more than 200 employees and says having a union in his workplace has helped him retain qualified employees and provide strong customer service.

I think our single biggest competitive advantage is having strong employees who understand, who look at it as a career, who take the training very seriously.

In addition, he says, it’s important to the future of employees to ensure good wages and benefits across the industry by giving more workers the ability to form unions and bargain.

We have to maintain a good working middle class. If we don’t have a strong working middle class, my business isn’t going to exist.

Jim Maples, the owner of Vinton Construction, says as a small business owner it’s critical that he can work with the Operating Engineers to get his workers access to health coverage and retirement savings. Working with a union, he says, helps relieve a burden that otherwise would make it hard for him to hire workers.

These business owners don’t buy the spin from big corporations that are trying to fight the Employee Free Choice Act. They know an economy that workers for everyone is a stronger, healthier economy.

On the Hill, Fire Fighters Push for Bargaining Bill

03.20.09

On the Hill, Fire Fighters Push for Bargaining Bill

by Mike Hall, Mar 17, 2009

http://blog.aflcio.org/2009/03/17/on-the-hill-fire-fighters-push-for-bargaining-bill/

Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other congressional leaders told more than 1,000 members of the Fire Fighters (IAFF) yesterday that legislation protecting the freedom of firefighters in all states to join unions and bargain for a better life will be approved and signed into law.

Today, IAFF members are on Capitol Hill shoring up support for that bill and other vital working family legislation as part of the union’s 2009 Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.

In his opening remarks, IAFF President Harold Schaitberger said that it has been 74 years since the National Labor Relations Act—which covers private-sector workers, but not firefighters and other first responders and public employees—became law.

We’re not going to allow our members to wait any longer. We’ve waited long enough. It’s time for passage of our collective bargaining bill. It’s been 74 years that we’ve been waiting on the outside looking in for that federally guaranteed right.

More than 20 states do not fully protect the bargaining rights of firefighters and other first responders. Two states—Virginia and North Carolina—prohibit public safety employees from collectively bargaining. Said Biden:

The Public Safety Cooperation Act, blocked by the last administration, will pass this time and the president will sign it. He will sign it with pride.

The bill would protect the collective bargaining rights of tens of thousands of firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians and other public safety officers. Last year, the bill passed the House, but Republican senators were able to block Senate consideration. The legislation guarantees first responders:

The right to join a union.
The right to have their union recognized by their employer.
The right to bargain collectively over hours, wages and terms and conditions of employment.
A fact-finding, mediation or arbitration process for resolving an impasse in negotiations.
Enforcement of these rights, and of written contracts, through state courts.
Schaitberger also stressed that the IAFF will bring its strength and influence to bear in the fight for the Employee Free Choice Act to restore the freedom of workers to join unions and bargain for a better life.

Turning to the economy, Schaitberger said the economic crisis is forcing cities and states to drastically cut budgets, threatening public safety.

The results are in small towns like Greenfield, Ohio, and in the largest cities like New York City, our members are faced with furloughs, layoffs, brownouts, shutting down companies and closing stations. Without an enormous influx of resources, the budgets that provide the very foundation for our nation’s public safety would likely be raided.

Now is not the time to allow the frontline of our nation’s homeland defense to be weakened.

Biden said the Obama administration is committed to getting firefighters the equipment, training and additional staffing they need to do their jobs.

We’ve already increased funding for stations, equipment, better training, more protective clothing….We’re committed to increasing funding for SAFER, which will go directly to fire departments so they can hire more trained firefighters to work by your sides—and this is important—retain the firefighters who are in danger, of being laid off.

Click here http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-by-the-Vice-President-to-the-International-Association-of-Firefighters-at-their-2009-Legislative-Conference/ to read Biden’s full remarks and here http://www.iaff.org to watch Schaitberger’s and Pelosi’s remarks, as well as those of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Homeland Security Department Secretary Janet Napolitano, who also spoke to the delegates.

Postal employees rally in Wilkes-Barre to keep mail processing center on South Main Street

03.18.09

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

Postal employees rally in Wilkes-Barre to keep mail processing center on South Main Street

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

WILKES-BARRE, February 28th- Workers of the United States Postal Service (USPS) which work at the Wilkes-Barre mail processing center on South Main Street held an information rally during the day of February 26th in front of the facility.

The workers, represented by the American Postal Workers Union (UPWU) Local 175 and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPMHU) Branch Local 308 held signs and gave out leaflets protesting the possible closing of the processing center and moving the work to a facility in Scranton.

According to John Kishel, President of Local 175, which represents 240 postal service workers that process mail including clerk personnel and maintenance workers at 24 USPS facilities including the South Main Street site, his union is mobilizing to inform the public that moving the operations from Luzerne County to Lackawanna County would delay mail delivery. Local 175 represents USPS workers employed at the Wilkes-Barre facility and surrounding communities. APWU Local 101 in Scranton represents mail processing workers employed in and around Lackawanna County. If the mail processing center is closed the workers would be able to be transferred to other USPS facilities which may include outside Pennsylvania.

The USPS announced they will conduct a five-month feasibility study that will determine if the agency should move the operation from the Wilkes-Barre site to Scranton. The USPS stated the discussion of moving the mail processing is in response to the decline in first class mail. Over the past decade, first class mail volume has declined with the use of electronic communications. The USPS stated they will ask for community input as part of their study.

The union is circulating petitions, collecting signitures which requests for the mail processing operations to remain in Wilkes-Barre. “We the undersigned residents of Wilkes-Barre and surrounding communities do not want the Postal Service to move any mail operations out of the Wilkes-Barre Processing and Distribution Facility to Scranton or any other processing centers. Such a move would affect service to customers and businesses while negatively impacting the City of Wilkes-Barre and surrounding community,” states the petition.

Mr. Kishel, a 22 year member of the union and serving as Local 175 President for the past two years, told the newspaper if the processing is moved to Scranton, the Wilkes-Barre postmark would also be lost.

Bill Smith, NPMHU Local 308 Branch President told the newspaper his union represents 45 workers employed at the South Main Street facility. Mr. Smith stated should the mail processing and distribution operations be moved to Scranton, mail that is currently being processed in Wilkes-Barre will need to be re-routed to Scranton and then back to Luzerne County for delivery, which will delay home delivery.

Employees of Guardian vote to remove union shop authority

03.18.09

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

Employees of Guardian vote to remove union shop authority

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

NANTICOKE, February 15th- The employees at Guardian Eldercare, Old Newport Road in Nanticoke, voted by around three-to-one in a secret ballot election to remove the union shop authority which will allow workers not to pay dues to support the union.

In the previous edition of the newspaper, it was exclusively reported, a License Practical Nurse (LPN) employed at Guardian Eldercare, filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four in Philadelphia requesting the withdrawal of union shop authority and the removal of obligation to pay dues to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Pennsylvania Healthcare Union in Harrisburg, formerly called SEIU 1199P.

According to the petition, obtained by the newspaper through the Freedom of Information Act, Rebecca Distasin of Nanticoke and a LPN employed at the nursing home and long term elderly facility, filed with the NLRB on December 19th, 2008 stating at least 30 percent of the union membership in the bargaining unit covered by the labor contract agreement between Guardian Eldercare and the SEIU wanted the union removed from representing the employees. The petition states there are 82 employees in the unit.

The National Labor Relations Board conducted an election at the employer and the workers voted to remove the union shop authority, often called a “union security” clause, which will allow employees not to support the union with the paying of union dues.

Under NLRB rules, employees can not petitioned the agency to conduct an Decertification Election, in which the employees vote in a secret ballot election to remove a labor organization for the purpose of collective bargaining, until the labor agreement is scheduled to expire. Therefore, Ms. Distasin could not file a Decertication Petition until December 2009 or later. The contract agreement between the parties expires on December 31st, 2009.

Under National Labor Relations Board rules, a petition requesting the withdrawal of union shop authority must be filed within the month of the anniversary date of the expiration of the contract agreement.

The petition states the union represents LPN’s, nurses aids, housekeepers, dietary, laundry workers, activities and maintenance employees.

Owner of Kildare’s Restaurant hires nonunion workers

03.18.09

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

Owner of Kildare’s Restaurant hires nonunion workers

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

SCRANTON, February 17th- The United Brotherhood of Carpeneters and Joiners of America Union Local 645, Pear Street in Scranton, protested the hiring of a nonunion contractor for not paying their workers the area standard which includes a fair living wage, and either providing or making payments for health care and pension benefits.

Members of Local 645, held a information picket in front of the construction site of Kildare’s Pub on Lackawanna Avenue in downtown Scranton on February 17th protesting the hiring of Jack Locker Construction Company of Madison Township. Kildare’s owner David Magrogran, a Philadelphia area Chiropractor, is moving the restaurant from the Shoppes at Montage in Moosic to property owned by businessman Jerry Joyce on Lackawanna Avenue.

According to Drew Simpson, Northeast Coordinator of the Greater Pennsylvania Regional Council of Carpenters, which Local 645 is affiliated, the union attempted to have a meeting with Mr. Magrogan to discuss his members being hired for the project but he would not respond to several letters sent to him.

Mr. Simpson stated the first letter to Mr. Magrogan was sent to him on December 30th, 2008 at his Chiropractic office in Brookhaven, Pennsylvania.

The correspondence stated Local 645 members are the best educated work force in the area, constantly conducting upgrade training so the members are up to date with the lastest technology in the industry.

“I would be very interested in meeting with you to discuss our signatory contractors that with the use of our members will complete your project on time and on budget,” Mr. Simpson wrote in the December 30th, letter. “We have a state registered Apprenticeship Program that encompasses four years of training while the apprentices are in the field working and learning,” the letter continues.
Local 645 represents Carpenters Union members throughout eighteen counties of Northeastern Pennsylvania including Luzerne and Lackawanna. The union has 1,100 active members.

Carpenters and Joiners Union jurisdiction includes concrete foundations, metal studs, drywall acoustical ceilings, doors, hardware, flooring and finish trim work and millwork, among other work states Mr. Simpson.

In the January 29th, 2009 letter to Mr. Magrogan, Mr. Simpson stated his union was aware John Locker Construction was contracted to build the restaurant and Local 645 has a labor dispute with the company because the employer does not pay prevailing wages to all of their employees.

Mr. Simpson told the newspaper he was concerned projects planned by Mr. Joyce in Scranton could also be constructed by nonunion workers rather by members of his union.

AFSCME wants fired detention center employees rehired

03.18.09

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

AFSCME wants fired detention center employees rehired

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 2nd- The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union District Council 87 Director David Antle send a letter to Luzerne County President Judge Chester Muroski and to the Luzerne County Commissioners demanding the employees that were represented by the union before the Luzerne County Detention facility was closed and laid-off on December 31st, 2002 be rehired and made whole as a result of the actions of Judges Ciavarella and Conahan. District Council 87 represents AFSCME members throughout nine counties of Northeastern Pennsylvaniaand has their office located in the Borough of Dunmore in Lackawanna County.

According to the letter obtained by the newspaper from Mr. Antle, the correspondence was sent to Mr. Muroski, Commissioners Maryanne Petrilla, Stephen Urban and Gregory Skepenak, on February 18th, 2009.

“As I am sure you are aware, AFSCME District Council 87 represented the employees who worked at the Luzerne County Juvenile Detention Center before it was closed by the County on December 31st, 2002. Needless the say, we have read with great interest all of the articles that have appeared within the last month regarding the activity of Judges Ciavarella and Conahan and their involvement in the closing of the Luzerne County Juvenile Detention facility.

Prior to the closing, AFSCME representatives met with Judges Ciavarella and Conahan along with Luzerne County Juvenile Detention facility. At that time, the Union was advised by Judges Ciavarella and Conahan that they controlled where children were to be sent for detention as well as the protocol used for the delivery of children to detention. Based on that power, they had made a determination that they would close the Luzerne County Juvenile Detention facility and send children to another facility. Needless to say, we are all aware of the fact that those children were sent to PA Child Care, a private facility in which Judges Ciavarella and Conahan, had a pecuniary interest.

As a result of the actions of Judges Ciavarella and Conahan to close the Luzerne County Juvenile Detention facility, all of the employees that AFSCME represented at that facility, lost their jobs and all of the benefits that went along with being an employee of Luzerne County. This resulted in financial loss of wages to these employees, and a loss of healthcare benefits, seniority rights and pension rights all of which they enjoyed as employees of Luzerne County.

In light of the fact that purported rationale for closing the facility was completely false, AFSCME demands that all bargaining unit employees employed at the Luzerne County Juvenile Detention facility who lost their jobs as a result of the actions of Judges Ciavarella and Conahan, be immediately offered reinstatement with Luzerne County and amde whole for any damages they may have suffered.

Luzerne County has spent millions of dollars to incarcerate juvenile offenders in private facilities. Clearly, this is a function that not only could be done by county employees, but should have been done by county employees. The privatization of this work has cost the citizens of Luzerne County millions of dollars and has resulted in unimaginable harm. Clearly, this is work that should be done by Luzerne County employees in a facility that is maintained and controlled by Luzerne County.

I am prepared to meet with you to discuss how to remedy the situation and return the work to Luzerne County and to make the employees whole for the damages they have incurred as a result of the actions of Judges Ciavarella and Conahan,” Mr. Antle states in the letter.

Healthcare union files complaint against nursing home

03.18.09

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

Healthcare union files complaint against nursing home

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

HAZLETON, February 5th- The SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania Union, which is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Washington, DC, filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four in Philadelphia alleging the Mountain City Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center has violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

According to the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge filed on February 5th, 2009 and obtained by the newspaper through the Freedom of Information Act, the Union alleges the employer, which operates the facility on West 27th Street in Hazelton, violated Section 8, subsections (1) and (5) of the NLRAct.

“Employer is refusing to bargain collectively with the representatives of the employees,” states the ULP.

Also, the union alleges the employer is interfering with, restraining, or coercing employees in the exercise of their rights guaranteed in Section 7 of the NLRAct.

The complaint states there are approximately 293 workers employed at the nursing home.
The employer representative to be contacted is Lisa Tessitore, indentified on the complaint as the Mountain City Nursing and Rehabilition Center Administrator.

Union Organizer Carlos Rivera filed the Unfair Labor Practice charge on behalf of the union, which office is located on North 2nd Street in Harrisburg.

Region to receive federal grants from recovery package

03.18.09

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

Region to receive federal grants from recovery package

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, February 28th- House of Representative Paul Kanjorski, 11th Legislative District, announced under the recently passed recovery package counties and cities in Northeastern Pennsylvania will receive over $3 million in federal Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). The funding was allocated by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development as a result of the recovery legislation passed severel weeks ago.

“It is rewarding to see that funding from the recovery package is already being allocated to help communities in Northeastern Pennsylvania. CDBG’s have been an integral part of providing assistance to the area, and once again, this funding will help with job expansion and development and aid in providing services to residents. I supported the recovery package because I strongly believe that we had to take quick action to help Americans who are struggling and help spur job creation. These grants will pave the way towards achieving this goal in Northeastern Pennsylvania,” said Mr. Kanjorski.

Mr. Kanjorski stated Community Development Block Grant’s are important tools for helping local governments tackle serious challenges facing their communities.

The funding will be distributed to the respective counties and cities to enable local governments to undertake a wide range of activities including creating jobs through the expansion and retention of businesses, and providing affordable housing and needed services.
Municipalities receiving the CDBG grants must use the funds within 120 days.

Overall, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania received Community Development Block Grants totaling $12,434,921. The majority of the grant will be distributed to designated counties and cities throughout the state.

Mr. Kanjorski announced the following municipalities within the 11th Congressional District will receive CDBG funds:

• Luzerne County - $1,344,366
• City of Scranton - $916,485
• City of Wilkes-Barre - $519,156
• City of Hazleton - $255,058

Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council announces several programs to get members involved with their unions

03.15.09

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

Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council announces several programs to get members involved with their unions

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

WYOMING VALLEY- The Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council labor federation announced the organization will conduct several programs intended to get union members involved within the labor community.

According to Sam Bianco, President of the labor federation, which has a office on East Main Street in Wilkes-Barre, the organization will conduct Union and Community Activist Network (UCAN) training on Saturday May 2nd at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 401 office on South Washington Street in Wilkes-Barre.

The course is intended to help local unions prepare their membership to become “activist” and educate them on labor issues.

On April 18th, the labor organization will conduct their annual “Unions in the Community Girl Scout Patch” workshop at the United Food and Commerical Workers (UFCW) Union Local 1776 building on Route 315 in Pittston Township.

At the workshop Girl Scouts will have an opportunity to learn about the positive accomplishments and contributions that female and male workers have made through their unions in obtaining such things as child labor laws, safe working conditions, fair wages, and equal pay for equal work by women. They will also learn about the role music played in the labor movement, current careers for women, and engage in a fun filled scavenger hunt (with prizes) to recognize union made products.

Also, the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council have sent to their affiliated local unions an application for the George Meany Boy Scout Award.

The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) in Washington DC allows each labor council to present one Meany Award annually.

Local affiliated unions are encouraged to make an effort to try to idenify any members actively involved in scouting and submit an application. The winning recipient will be honored by the labor council and the Northeast Pennsylvania Boy Scouts Council at their annual awards program in November.

Human Resource manager group forecast major hiring drop

03.15.09

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

Human Resource manager group forecast major hiring drop

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 2nd- According to the Society for Human Resourse Management’s (SHRM), Alexandria, Virginia, employment report, hiring will drop substantially in both manufacturing and private service sectors compared to this time in 2008.

The Leading Indicators of National Employment report forecast a 36 percent drop in service sector hiring compared to this time last year. This is the worst drop in the survey’s four year history.

In the manufacturing sector, 3.1 percent of Human Resource (HR) professionals said they would decrease new-hire compensation while 2.3 percent said they plan to increase salary and wage packages. This is the second month in the Leading Indicators of National Employment history that has recorded manufacturers’ net total venturing into negative territory.

The Leading Indicators of National Employment report is released on the third Friday following the conclusion of the week containing the 12th of the month. The index describes the same time period referenced approximately one month later in the Employment Situation Report issued by the United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in Washington DC.

The index is based on a monthly survey of human resource professionals at more than 500 manufacturing and 500 private service sector companies. Together, these two sectors comprise more than 90 percent of America’s private sector employment.

The organizations index of manufacturing employment expectations plunged 65.5 points compared with one year ago. Specifically, 44.3 percent of human resource managers surveyed plan to trim payrolls while 14.2 percent plan to hire. The minus 30.1 percent difference between the two marks a major drop from one year ago when the net was a positive of 35.4 percent.

Payroll vacancies include exempt salaried, and nonexempt, hourly, workers and are steep as reflected in survey responses. Human Resources managers report a 36.0 point drop in exempt job vacancies and a 36.1 point decrease in nonexempt job vacancies.

Those who do secure employment will face new hire compensation rates that are growing more showly than at this time one year ago, say the Human Resources managers survey.

The index shows service sector employment expectations fell 33.8 points. A breakdown of responses from Human Resource managers show that 22.3 percent plan to reduce staff while 26.3 percent plan to hire.

Payrolls show a 5.4 point decrease for exempt job vacancies and a 1.0 point fall in nonexempt hiring vacancies.

New hire compensation for job seekers who find service sector employment is expected to improve slightly with 11.3 percent of Human Resource managers reporting an increase in compensation packages for new hires while 1.2 percent report a decrease.

For those Human Resources professionals actively hiring, filling jobs with top talent is much easier than past years given a large number of qualified people unemployed and actively seeking work.

HSHRM is the world’s largest association devoted to Human Resources management. Representing more than 250,000 members in over 40 countries, the organization was formed in 1948 and has more than 575 affiliated chapters and serves the needs of Human Resource professionals and the HR profession.

Luzerne County Judicial candidates seeking labor support

03.15.09

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

Luzerne County Judicial candidates seeking labor support

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

LUZERNE COUNTY, March 5th- As of presstime fifteen individuals have announced they are candidates for the race for the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas and the newspaper was contacted by some indicating they would like the support of the labor community.

Because of the number of the candidates that have contacted the newspaper, it is necessary their discussions with us be published over the next several editions.

The candidates are wanting to win one of the three open seats on the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas. The primary election will be held May 19th with all of the candidates expected to cross-file on both party tickets. The general election is November 3rd, 2009.

Two of the candidates being discussed today are union members, both represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 401 in Wilkes-Barre.

According to Attorney Joe Sklarosky, Jr., a trial lawyer for the past fifteen years, he began practicing law in 1994 and works as a Luzerne County assistant public defender. IBT Local 401 has represented the public defenders office of Luzerne County since 2003.

Mr. Sklarosky’s father is a member of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) Union Local 130. His grandfather was a lontime member of the Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen (BAC) International Union Local 30 with both of the grandfathers members of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) Union.

His wife, Megan Kennedy Sklarosky, great-grandfather, Thomas Kennedy, was president of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), succeeding John L. Lewis in 1960, serving as president until 1963.

The Sklarosky’s live in Mountaintop with their three children.

Meanwhile, Richard Hughes graduated Law School in 1986 and joined his father in a law practice that his father established in 1946, immediately following service in War World II. They practice law together until his father died in 1991.

Mr. Hughes is also a assistant public defender of Luzerne County, appointed by the Honorable Correale Stevens in 1988. He left the office five years later and after practicing law for 21 years, returned to the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office in January 2008.
Mr. Hughes lives in Mountaintop with his wife Ruth and his three children.

“For several years I was the part-time staff attorney for the Hazleton office of legal services, a non profit organization that provides legal counsel free for the poor. This position gave me wonderful opportunity to fight for people’s rights in areas of the law in which few get to practice,” said Mr. Hughes.

According to Pat Connors, Secretary-Treasurer and Principal Office of Local 401, the union endorses the candidacy of his members and believes they all possess the necessary experience, education and integrity the job demands. “Teamsters Local 401 is proud to endorse these union members and ask everyone in the labor community to support them in their quest to bring respect and dignity to the office of Judge and to the County,” Mr. Connors told the newspaper.

Mr. Connors stated Local 401 organized the assistant public defender office in 2003 and the employees are currently working under the terms and conditions of the first contract agreement. The contract is a five-year agreement.

Tina Polachek Gartley is requesting the support of the labor community and has been practicing law since 1991. The central focus of her career is family law and protecting the rights of survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.

In 1996, Mrs. Gartley became the first Stop Violence Against Women (S.T.O.P.) grant prosecutor in the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office. As a S.T.O.P. grant prosecutor, she handled all aspects of the criminal prosecution of sexual assault and domestic violence crimes from inital investigation through the trial, sentencing and the Megan’s Law hearings that determined whether the defendant would be listed as a sexually violent predator.

Mrs. Gartley is married to Scott Gartley and is the mother of three sons residing in Plains Township.

Kevin McHugh, Business Manager of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers, Local 489 in Yatesville, told the newspaper his union endorsed Attorney Thomas Marsilio for Luzerne County Judge.

Mr. Marsilio told the newspaper he is honored to be endorsed by the union and is hopeful union members would support his candidacy.

Scranton Police Union official requesting labor support

03.15.09

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

Scranton Police Union official requesting labor support

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

SCRANTON, February 26th- Bob Martin, President of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Union Lodge #2, which represents approximately 159 members of the Scranton Police Department, sent a letter to members of the labor community stating he would be more than happy to come to union meetings and explain that the labor contract Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty has proposed would destroy their union.

“I am writing to ask for your help and support in a long and hard fought labor dispute with Mayor Christopher Doherty and his administration. We have been without a cost of living adjustment since 2001 with the only relief being a possible court award of a 7.5 percent salary increase for the period of 2002 through 2007 (less than 1.5 percent a year). However, along with that increase state courts have given Scranton unbearable management rights, effectively allowing them to make unilateral changes that have destroyed our contract and devastated police families,” states the letter obtained by the newspaper from Mr. Martin, who is also a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Union (IBT) Local 229 with a withdrawal card. Mr. Martin was a IBT member while employed by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and later worked for Consolidated Freightways in Mount Pocono.

“This is not entirely about us. Mayor Doherty has allied with state officials to break every municipal union contract in the state. Their goal is to break these contracts under the guise of “Act 47,” Pennsylvania’s Financially Distressed Act, by imposing so-called “Management Rights” to eliminate many of our rights, including seniority and bidding rights. As we all know, once they have accomplished this, there is virtually no union left. Make no mistake: This is a statewide movement,” adds Mr. Martin.

Mr. Doherty is seeking a third four-year term as Mayor of Scranton in 2009. Four years ago, he defeated fellow Democrat Gary DiBileo in the Primary Election and again in the November General Election after Mr. DiBileo was successful in winning enough write-in votes of the Republican party members. Mr. DiBileo announced he will again challenge Mr. Doherty for the Democratic nomination in 2009.

Both the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Union Local 60, which represents around 143 members of the Scranton Fire Department and FOP Lodge #2 have been without labor contracts with the City of Scranton since December 2002. The union members have not received a wage increase since Janaury 2002.

According to David Schreiber, President of IAFF Local 60, under Mr. Doherty’s contract proposal, 38 firefighters would be eliminated. Currently under contract language, the fire department should have 150 members, a decrease of 50 from several contracts before.

Mr. Schreiber said Mr. Doherty has not shown how the fire department could be run with only 112 firefighters, but has indicated closing some of the neighborhood firehouses will be neccessary.

He believes cutting the department by 38 firefighters will put Scranton citizens in harms way. Scranton is the third largest municipality in Pennsylvania at 26 square miles, trailing only Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Also, most of the building construction of homes within the city is wood and built prior to World War 2.

“I ask for your help and support, because you know that this kind of anti-union descent can spread like wild fire during these hard economic times. Our opposition believes Pennsylvania should be a right to work state. In these hard economic times and the pressure on every union in the country to make concessions, we all need to stand together to protect our livelihoods and our families. We need to unite and remove these politicians from office.

If you would like, I would be more than happy to come to your union meeting and explain our plight in person and present our plan. My phone number is 570-499-3358. I hope to hear from you soon,” continues Mr. Martin’s letter.

Although the letter was intended to be read only by members of the labor community, when contacted by the newspaper Mr. Martin expressed he had no problem with a story being published about the correspondence.

Utility Workers Union files complaint against water company

03.15.09

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

Utility Workers Union files complaint against water company

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, February 11th- The Utility Workers Union of America Local 537, Mountain Top, filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four in Philadelphia against Pennsylvania American Water Company (PAWC) alleging the public utility violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

According to the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge obtained by the newspaper through the Freedom of Information Act, the Union alleges the employed has refuse to bargain over working condition changes.

“Since on or about December 1st, 2008, the employer has refused to bargain collectively with the charging party, which charging party is the certified collective bargaining representative of the employer’s production and maintenance employees, in that on said date the employer unilaterally eliminated vested working condition, namely the right of certain employees to drive company vehicles to and from their homes and their work place at the beginning and the end of their work shifts, without first bargaining with the charging party regarding the same,” states the ULP.

The complaint states the union represents 140 PAWC workers.

Catholics support Employee Free Choice Act

03.13.09

Catholics support Employee Free Choice Act

by Ron Moore

http://www.examiner.com/x-2071-DC-Special-Interests-Examiner~y2009m3d11-Catholics-support-Employee-Free-Choice-Act?cid=examiner-email

The Catholic Church is a consistent supporter of the labor movement ethic of justice and dignity as well as the principle of community. Catholics United has unveiled a Catholics for Working Families campaign to help pass the Employee Free Choice Act, a law designed to protect workers who want to form a union from employer retribution. The initiative is supported by Pax Christi USA and Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice. Catholics United plans to launch a radio and print advertising campaign in key states to rally Catholic support behind the Employee Free Choice Act.

“The Catholic Church teaches that all workers have a fundamental right to make their own decision whether to bargain collectively with their employer,” said Joseph Fahey, professor of religious studies at Manhattan College and chair of Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice. “Current U.S. labor laws, however, provide inadequate protection to those who try to exercise this right to form a union. By creating a more democratic process for forming unions and imposing stiffer penalties on employers who retaliate against their workers, the Employee Free Choice Act will modernize our nation’s labor laws and offer greater protection for workers who choose to organize.”

Catholics United asserts that support for workers’ rights is a bedrock principle of the Catholic social tradition, the body of Church doctrine that concerns Catholics’ responsibility to create a just and equitable human society. As CEOs make record salaries and bonuses, working families continue to struggle. Catholic social teaching demands that workers earn wages that can support the full development of families. Pope Leo XIII wrote his 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum – generally regarded as the inaugural document of the Catholic social tradition – in order to address the vast discrepancies in wealth and power between employers and their workers that had arisen in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. The encyclical clearly articulates the Church’s support for vulnerable workers and their families:

“Let the working man and the employer make free agreements, and in particular let them agree freely as to the wages… If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accepts harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford him no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice.” (Rerum Novarum, § 45)

“Catholic teaching is unequivocal in its support of the right to organize,” said Chris Korzen, a former union organizer and executive director of Catholics United. “I have seen firsthand how far unscrupulous employers will go to prevent their workers from exercising this right, by waging campaigns of fear and intimidation in the workplace and even firing workers who support the union. The Employee Free Choice Act will remedy these abuses by creating a fairer and more democratic process for forming unions.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have specifically condemned the sort of employer-sponsored anti-union campaigns that current U.S. labor law fails to prevent. “No one,” they wrote in 1986, “may deny the right to organize without attacking human dignity itself. Therefore, we firmly oppose organized efforts, such as those regrettably now seen in this country, to break existing unions and prevent workers from organizing.”