Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

Radio LabourStart

04.20.09

Radio LabourStart.

Here is an interesting labor talk radio link! Click on logo.

John Morgan joins the Democratic Talk Radio line-up as a co-host

04.19.09

John Morgan joins the Democratic Talk Radio line-up as a co-host

John is best known as the genius behind the Pennsylvania Progressive website http://thepennsylvaniaprogressive.com/.
John is very dedicated to healthcare reform. He will add a great depth of knowledge on this subject to our program.

In addition, he is a political consultant with a very deep knowledge of Pennsylvania politics.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA unemployment rate the highest in state at 8.6 percent

04.19.09

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

MSA unemployment rate the highest in state at 8.6 percent

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 1st- According to labor data provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Labor and Industry, the region’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 8.6 percent, increasing by seven-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) includes Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wyoming Counties. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was 5.4 percent. The last time the region had a unemployment rate this high was April 1994.

The MSA’s unemployment rate continues to remain higher than Pennsylvania and the nation. The unemployment rate in the state is 7.5 percent, increasing by five-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,455,000 with 483,000 not working and 6,455,000 with employment. The national unemployment rate is 8.1 percent, increasing by five-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month. There are 12,467,000 civilians in the nation without employment.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA civilian labor force, workers between eighteen and sixty-five years old, increased by 200 from the previous month to 285,300 and increased by 4,600 during the previous twelve months. There are 24,500 civilians not working within the MSA, increasing by 2,000 from the previous month, and increasing by 9,200 from twelve months before.

The MSA has the fifth largest labor force in Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force at 3,003,200 with 231,800 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA is second at 1,226,000 with 84,800 without jobs; the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force at 424,700 with 34,400 not working; and the Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force at 288,700 with 19,700 residents without employment.

Of the 14 MSA’s within Pennsylvania, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA is tied with the much smaller Williamsport MSA for the highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania. The Johnstown MSA only has a civilian labor force of 69,100, with only the Altoona MSA at 65,000 and the Williamsport MSA at 60,100 with a smaller civilian labor force in Pennsylvania.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.5 percent. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in the state at 6.7 percent with the Lancaster MSA third at 6.8 percent.

Within the MSA, Lackawanna County has the lowest unemployment rate at 8.0 percent, increasing by five-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month and two and eight-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before. Lackawanna County has a labor force of 108,300, decreasing by 100 from the month before and 1,400 during the past twelve months. There are 8,700 Lackawanna County residents without jobs, increasing by 700 from the previous month and increasing by 3,100 from twelve months ago.

Luzerne County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 8.9 percent, increasing by seven-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month and increasing by 3 and three-tenths of a percentage points from one year ago. Luzerne County has a labor force of 162,500, increasing by 400 from the month before and increasing by 3,100 during the previous twelve months. There are 14,500, increasing by 1,200 from the previous month and increasing by 5,600 from one year ago, residents in Luzerne County not working.

Wyoming County has a unemployment rate of 8.5 percent, increasing by eight-tenths of a percentage point from the month before and increasing by 3 percentage points from one year ago. Wyoming County has a labor force of 14,600, unchanged from the month before and increasing by 200 during the past year. There are 1,200 Wyoming County residents not working, increasing by 100 from the previous month and increasing by 400 from twelve months ago.

There are 252,100 total nonfarm jobs in the MSA, decreasing by 1,600 from the previous month and decreasing by 6,800 from twelve months before. The total nonfarm jobs count for the MSA is the lowest for the area since reporting 255,200 jobs in May 2004.

Teamsters Union members at Pepsi ratify new contract

04.19.09

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

Teamsters Union members at Pepsi ratify new contract

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

SCRANTON, March 25th- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 229, North Main Avenue in Scranton, members employed at Pepsi Bottling Group Inc., 3015 North Main Avenue in Scranton, ratified a new four year contract agreement with the company. The membership voted 38 for the agreement to 7 against.

According to Robert Weber, Secretary/Treasurer and Principal Officer of the 229, the new pact was reached after 11 months of tough negotiations.

The union represents 51 workers including all truck drivers and warehouse personnel at the facility which is a warehouse and distribution center for Pepsi products.

The pact includes a wage increase of $1.70 over the life of the contract, with the first year wage increase being paid retroactive. The previous contract expired on March 31st, 2008.

The membership will also receive increases in pension contributions, sick and accident pay as well as increased entitlements to their personal holidays and sick time.

“Throughout the negotiations the Company continued to remind us of the current poor economic conditions and was determined to negotiate a final contract with numerous concessions. The Committee did not give in. They stuck to the important issues and the final result was one that they can be very proud of. It is a contract without any concessions and one that benefits all of the members,” stated Mr. Weber.

Statistics show unemployment rising in all 50 states

04.19.09

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

Statistics show unemployment rising in all 50 states

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

REGION, March 18th- Data released by the United States Department of Labor (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics confirm that the recession has led to higher unemployment in every state across the nation. Since the recession began, employers have laid-off 4.4 million workers and a record 12.5 million workers are now unemployed. Every state and the District of Columbia have unemployment rates that are higher than a year ago.

Michigan has the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 11.6 percent, followed by South Carolina at 10.4 percent, Rhode Island is third at 10.3 percent, and California is fourth at 10.1 percent.

Twenty-nine states have lost at least 2 percent of their total jobs since their employment level peaked in 2007 or 2008, during the height of the economic recovery of the 2000s. Nonfarm payroll employment decreased in fourty-two states, increased in seven states as well as the District of Columbia, and was unchanged in one state, Vermont.

High unemployment has led to substained high numbers of applicants for unemployment benefits nationwide. The four-week moving average, the weekly average number of new applicants for unemployment benefits over the previous four weeks, continues to be at highs not seen since the recession in the early 1980s.

Many unemployed workers are finding that getting a new job is increasingly difficult. Nearly one in four unemployed workers, 23.1 percent, have been out of work and searching for a job for at least six months, up from less than one in five, 17.3 percent, a year ago. And 3.4 million workers over the past year ran out of unemployment benefits before they found a new job.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed by Congress and signed by President Obama included more than 7 billion in incentive funding for states to modernize their unemployment insurance systems. Nearly every state is now debating how to change their systems to cover more unemployed workers.

Researchers estimate that these reforms will increase the number of workers, especially low-wage workers, eligible for benefits by at least 500,000. Fifty-five percent of workers unemployed over the past twelve months have not received any unemployment benefits

COBRA expanded to help job losers with health benefits

04.19.09

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

COBRA expanded to help job losers with health benefits

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 22nd- The United States Department of Labor (DOL) announced changes to the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).

Under the COBRA legislation, most group health plans must give employees and their families the opportunity to temporarily continue their health group health coverage when coverage would otherwise be lost for reasons such as termination of employment, being laid-off, divorce or death.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) signed into law by President Obama on February 17th, 2009, made available a premium reduction and the additional election period as part of the administration’s stimulus package.

“Our action today gives workers and their families useful information on their rights to receive the COBRA subsidy and makes it easier for employers and plans to meet their notice obligations. Given the current economic situation facing dislocated workers and their families, it is very important that individuals do not lose their group health coverage,” said Alan D. Lebowitz, deputy assistant secretary of labor for the DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA).

The DOL has developed four model notice packages that will enable group health plans and employers to provide notice on the availability of premium reductions and additional election opportunities under COBRA.

• A general notice to be given to qualified beneficiaries covered by plans subject to the federal COBRA at the initial COBRA election opportunity.

• An abbreviated general notice, which may be furnished to individuals who elected and are still covered by COBRA.
• An alternative notice to be sent by issuers of group health insurance coverage subject to state continuation coverage laws.
• A notice of extended election periods for eligible individuals who declined or discontinued COBRA coverage.

Each package contains a summary of the premium reduction provisions, questions and answers, and forms to use in requesting the premium reduction (and Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act coverage, if not already enrolled).

The four model notice packages are available for download from EBSA’s dedicated Web page at http://www.dol.gov/cobra. The web page contains additional frequently asked questions to help dislocated workers, their families and their employers understand the requirements.

DOL’s secretary Hilda L. Solis stated under ARRA, these programs are vitally important to the economic well-being of people who lost their jobs. “American workers and employers are the most productive in the world. With the labor and capital markets under financial stress, the Obama Administration is working to provide relief to American families. In February, the President signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to create jobs, provide training opportunities for new jobs, extend unemployment benefits and help relieve the burden of health benefits,” stated Ms. Solis.

The ARRA provides a 65 percent tax subsidy for the cost of health benefits, making them more affordable for the unemployed and their families. Under the program millions of individuals, including those who previously declined, will be eligible to receive a subsidy on their premiums for up to nine months.

CEPR study shows unemployment rate worse than reported by media

04.19.09

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

CEPR study shows unemployment rate worse than reported by media

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 1st- A new report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) shows the current unemployment rate is higher than conventionally measured and is already at roughly the same level as the high reached in 1982, the year with the highest unemployment rate since World War 2.

The CEPR of Washington, DC, is an independent, nonpartisan think tank that reports and studies most important economic and social issues.

The report, adjusts the current unemployment rate to account for demographic and statistical differences that lower the unemployment rate today by 1.4 percentage points, relative to the official unemployment rate in 1982. After the adjustments, the current unemployment level rises to over 9.5 percent, a level that is close to the 1982 average of 9.7 percent.

The report notes that the population today is substantially older than it was in the early 1980s, which has the effect of lowering the unemployment rate than older workers because the young change jobs more frequently and are more likely to move in and out of the labor force. In 1982, about 22 percent of the labor force was between the age of 16 and 24; in 2008, 16 to 24 year olds were only 14 percent of the labor force. As a result, the age of the typical U.S. worker has risen from 35 in 1982 to about 42 today. Adjusting for this aging of the population raises the unemployment rate in 2009 by 1.2 percentage points.

“After accounting for these demographic and statistical difference, today’s unemployment rate rises to 9.5 percent, already on a par with the worst recession since the Great Depression,” said John Schmitt, CEPR Senior Economist. “The unemployment rate is bad news, but the unemployment picture is even worse than it looks.”

Lehigh Valley Labor Council endorsements

04.17.09

Good morning,

Last evening the Lehigh Valley Labor Council endorsed several candidates facing competition in the primary election.

Northampton County Executive; AnnMcHale

Northampton County Council Charles Dertinger

Northampton County Council Deborah Hunter

Northampton County Council Lorraine Pasquali

Northampton County Council William Wallace

Northampton County Council Walt Garvin

Lehigh County Commissioner District 1 Jean McNeil

Lehigh County Commissioner District 5 Hillary Kwiatek

In unity & solidarity,

Gregg Potter

President, Lehigh Valley Labor Council

Senator Arlen Specter won’t support EFCA in 2009

04.15.09

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

Senator Arlen Specter won’t support EFCA in 2009

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

REGION, April 2nd- The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington, DC is mobilizing union members and their families requesting them to contact Pennsylvania United States Republican Senator Arlen Specter and ask him to change his mind and support the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)/Card Check legislation.

EFCA would allow employees to sign authorization cards seeking union representation and recognizing the union when a majority of cards are signed.

However, under the legislation if thirty percent or more of the employees sign authorization cards requesting for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to conduct an secret ballot election the agency will do so.

The law if passed would also establish a system of mediation and arbitration that would apply to an employer and union that are unable to agree on their first contract.

The legislation passed the House of Representatives in 2008 but failed in the Senate. Mr. Specter supported the legislation in 2008 but on March 24th, announced he would not support the passage of EFCA in 2009 but would reconsider when the economy returns to normalcy.

The legislation is expected to be re-introduced in 2009 and President Obama stated he would sign the measure should it reach his desk.

According to Rod Muchnok, AFL-CIO National Field Representative, the labor federation is requesting for union members and supporters of the EFCA to sign petitions that will be presented to Senator Specter asking him to reconsider and support the legislation in 2009.

For the EFCA to pass the United States Senate and become law at least sixty votes will be needed. It is likely Mr. Specter and at least one of the two Republican Senators from Maine will need to vote for the legislation. Without Mr. Specter, the chances of passage of the law in 2009 becomes less likely.

The United States Chamber of Commerce and several business groups, including Wal-Mart and McDonald’s Restaurants, have spent millions of dollars in advertising and lobbying to defeat the legislation.

Mr. Muchnok told the newspaper, the AFL-CIO is also mobilizing union members in Maine.

Building Trades Unions protest the hiring of low wage paying contractors for Kildare’s Pub

04.15.09

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

Building Trades Unions protest the hiring of low wage paying contractors for Kildare’s Pub

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

SCRANTON, March 28th- Members of unions affiliated with the Scranton Building and Construction Trades Council labor federation conducted informational picketing in front of Kildare’s Pub to protest the hiring of nonunion contractors to build the restaurant that did not pay their workers the area standard which includes a fair living wage, and either providing or making payments for health care and pension benefits.

Union members stood in front of Kildare’s Pub, located on Lackawanna and Jefferson Avenues in downtown Scranton on March 14th and March 17th, and distributed leaflets to possible customers requesting them not to patronize Kildare’s.

According to Warren Faust, Business Agent for the International Association of Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 44, the protest was successful in turning away customers or both the days the union members were in front of Kildare’s. “They had a lot of extra beer they didn’t sell because people stayed away,” said Mr. Faust.

In the previouse edition of the newspaper it was reported members of the International Brotherhood of Carpenters Union Local 645 held a information picket during February in front of Kildare’s while the restaurant was under construction.

Kildare’s owner David Magrogran, a Philadelphia area Chiropractor, moved the restaurant from the Shoppes at Montage in Moosic to property owned by businessman Jerry Joyce.

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.

Rick Schraeder, President of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 81 said he is very disappointed his members were not hired for the project. Local 81 members are employed within the electrical construction industry. “The owner wanted the place built as cheap as possible. Why then should the working people go there.”

Mr. Simpson, who is also President of the Scranton Building and Construction Trades Council, told the newspaper he is concerned projects planned by Mr. Joyce in Scranton could also be constructed by nonunion workers rather by members of his union and those affiliated with the labor federation.

Jack Figured, Field Representative of the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC) Union Local 5, stated without question the picketing turned away patrons and hopefully sent a message that Scranton doesn’t like out of town owners hiring contractors that pay their workers substandard wages that undercuts the wage standard of the entire community.

Mr. Simpson said it is impossible to work things out when phone calls and letters are ignored. “Sometimes taking it to the public is our only recourse.”

Unions at USPS processing center in Wilkes-Barre hold informational rally wanting to save facility from closing

04.15.09

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

Unions at USPS processing center in Wilkes-Barre hold informational rally wanting to save facility from closing

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

WILKES-BARRE, April 5th- The unions that represent workers at the United States Postal Service (USPS) processing center on South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre held a information rally April 4th in front of the facility protesting the possible closing of the center.

The workers, represented by the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 175, the National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPMHU) Branch 308 and the National Association of Lettters Carriers (NALC) Union Branch 115, were joined by other union members and supporters which held signs and gave out leaflets.

The USPS have indicated they are conducting a five-month feasibility study that will determine if the agency should move the operation from Wilkes-Barre to a facility in Scranton or the Lehigh Valley.

The USPS stated the discussion of moving the mail processing is in response to the 30 percent decline in first class mail over the past decade. The USPS is asking the public for their input of moving the mail processing center out of Wilkes-Barre.

The Gallup Organization, the largest survey company in the nation, is conducting a customer satisfaction survey for the USPS.

John Kishel, President of Local 175, told the newspaper the workers are hopefull with community support the unions can convince the USPS to keep the facility operating. However, he believes the USPS have already made up their minds to close the processing center. “They are just going through the motions. But, we can only hope we can change their minds.”

Luzerne County Judicial candidates requesting labor support

04.15.09

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

Luzerne County Judicial candidates requesting labor support

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 2nd- There are seventeen candidates in the race for the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas and the newspaper over the past several months have been contacted by the majority of them all indicating they would like the support of the labor community.

In the previous edition of the newspaper, several of the candidates interviews were published and more conversations with other candidates will be contained in this edition.

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

Mary (Molly) Hanlon-Mirabito is represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 401 in Wilkes-Barre.
She is employed by Luzerne County as a assistant public defender. Ms. Hanlon-Mirabito, a life long resident of Forty Fort, is one of three Local 401 members seeking to become a member Judge of the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas.

Her husband Michael is a professor at Marywood University and her late father Thomas, who died on March 22nd, was a union member also represented by the IBT while employed at Kay Wholesale Drug Company. Her mother, Norita, was a member of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) while employed as a registered nurse (RN) before retirement.

Patrick Connors, Secretary-Treasurer and Principal Officer of Local 401, stated Local 401 organized the assistant public defenders 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.

Mr. Connors stated the union endorses the candidacy of his members and believes they all possess the necessary experience, education and integrity the job demands.

He added he would like the labor community to also consider supporting Tina Polachek Gartley, who is requesting the support of organized labor and her interview was published in the previous edition of the newspaper.

Judge Joe Musto is already serving on the bench of Luzerne County after being appointed by Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell on June 29th, 2008 but must win one of the two seats available in 2009 to continue to remain on the bench. He presently serves in the Family, Orphans and Civil Divisions of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County.

Mr. Musto resides in Duryea with his wife Fortunata and told the newspaper he would like the support of the labor community for the May 19th primary election.

William H. Amesbury is a life long resident of Wilkes-Barre and serves as a Magisterial District Judge for the South Wilkes-Barre, Rolling Mills and Mayflower sections of the city. Since taking office in 2001, Mr. Amesbury’s office has received over 35,000 cases.

Mr. Amesbury stated he understands the working people, being raised in a working class neighborhood and would like the support of the labor community.

Mike Mitz, President of the Scranton Association of Diocese of Catholic Teachers (SADCT) Union said he is personally supporting Mr. Amesbury candidacy. “I’ve known him forever, he is a great person.”

Department of Labor hiring new wage and hour investigators

04.15.09

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

Department of Labor hiring new wage and hour investigators

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 22nd- The U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis announced the Department of Labor (DOL) will hire new investigators to make sure workers are paid proper wages by their employers.

“As secretary of labor, I am committed to enduring that every worker is paid at least the minimum wage, that those who work overtime are properly conpensated, that child labor laws are strickly enforced and that every worker is provided a safe and healthful environment,” said Ms. Solis.

“The department’s Wage and Hour Division has already begun the process of adding 150 new investigators to its field offices to refocus the agency on these enforcement responsibilities. In addition, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the agency will hire 100 investigators to ensure that contractors on stimulus projects are in compliance with the applicable laws. The addition of these 250 field investigators, a staff increase of more than a third, will reinvigorate the work of this important agency, which has suffered a loss of experienced personnel over the last several years,” added Secretary Solis.

She assured the DOL is the voice for working families and is dedicated to ensuring compliance with federal laws to protect workers in the nation.

Under recovery package unemployed workers to get extention

04.15.09

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

Under recovery package unemployed workers to get extention

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 2nd- Paul Kanjorski, the Democratic United States House of Representative for the 11th Legislative District, provided details for how the recovery package will extend emergency unemployment insurance through December 2009. The extention will help an additional 3.5 million jobless workers.

Originally set to expire at the end of March, the extension will continue to help many individuals and families that have been out of work as a result of the national economic situation. The recovery package also increases weekly unemployment compensation for 20 million jobless workers by $25.00 per week.

“As unemployment rates continue to increase, it is clear that the federal government needs to provide greater assistance to those out of work and struggling. The recovery package is expected to create or save 3.5 million jobs throughout the country, including 7,800 in my Congressional District, but this will take time. To ensure that jobless workers are able to support themselves and their families, the recovery package also extends and increases unemployment insurance to provide some immediate relief to many of the people forced out of their jobs as a result of the poor economy,” stated Mr. Kanjorski, which legislative district includes Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton.

The United States Department of Labor recently announced that Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate reached 7 percent, and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) unemployment rate reached over 8 percent, the highest along the 14 MSA’s in the Commonwealth. Many unemployed Pennsylvanians now qualify to receive an additional 13 weeks of emergency unemployment insurance, bringing the total amount to 59 weeks.

Unemployment insurance is temporary income who are unemployed through no fault of their own. Regular unemployment insurance is a state funded program that provides up to 26 weeks of benefits. Emergency unemployment insurance is a federally funded program created in 2008 to provide additional benefits of up to 20 weeks of benefits, and an additional 13 weeks of benefits for those living in states with high unemployment. Pennsylvania jobless workers now qualify to receive the additional 13 weeks.

Mr. Kanjorski stated the increase of $25.00 per week in unemployment compensation payments for jobless workers will be included in individuals weekly unemployment checks or provided separately on a weekly basis. No action is required by unemployment insurance recipients to receive the extra $25.00 per week.

Pennsylvania unemployment offices notify individuals who have exhausted their regular benefits to make them aware of their potential eligibility for emergency unemployment benefits. Once eligible individuals apply, they should receive extended benefits with very little or no gap in coverage.

While some of the people have begun receiving payments as recently as the first week in March, it could take some time for other unemployment insurance recipients to receive their payments. If recipients experience a delay, the first payment provided will cover all of the weeks between the first payment received and the date Pennsylvania starts distributing the $25.00 payments.

To qualify for these unemployment insurance benefits, unemployed workers must be determined eligible for unemployment benefits by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

To learn more details about the unemployment insurance extension and increase in the recovery package, contact the Pennsylvania Department of Industry’s Scranton office which services Northeastern Pennsylvania at (570) 496-2332.

Philadelphia building trades endorse Judge John Younge for PA Superior Court

04.12.09

Philadelphia building trades endorse Judge John Younge for PA Superior Court
Unions cast unanimous support for candidate at special spring meeting, add momentum

http://www.judgejohnyounge.org/news.html#3_30

PHILADELPHIA, March 5, 2009 – Pennsylvania Superior Court candidate Judge John Younge won unanimous endorsement from the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO after a special meeting held this week.

“Judge Younge is the type of person that people who work for wages would like to have on the superior court,” said Pat Gillespie, business manager of the council. “He has always been oriented toward working people, in the law he practiced and the kind of judge he is presently.”

Judge Younge is proud to be the choice of hardworking Pennsylvanians like members of the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO.

From plumbers and painters, steamfitters to sprinkler fitters, roofers to cement masons, electricians to rod setters, iron workers to sheet metal workers, union leaders across the city coalesced behind Younge’s candidacy, joining with the laborers’, who endorsed Younge statewide last month.

“This is a powerful endorsement and adds to our momentum,” Younge said. “I am excited that this campaign is winning the support of so many hardworking Pennsylvanians who are interested in advancing a strong judiciary for the Commonwealth.”

He is seeking to ascend from the Court of Common Pleas to one of the projected three slots on the appellate court. Voters first selected him as a judge in 1995 and chose to retain him in 2005.

Prior to joining the bench, Younge operated a community-based private law practice, later transitioning to the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority. He served for 10 years there, rising to the rank of deputy executive director and general counsel. A graduate of Boston University and the Howard University School of Law, Younge is a candidate for a master’s degree in judicial studies from the National Judicial College, an internationally-recognized institution for advanced judicial education.

As a judge, Younge has experience overseeing cases of immense complexity in both civil and criminal cases. In its recommendation for his candidacy, the Pennsylvania Bar Association stated that Younge’s “fairness and judicial demeanor are uniformly praised.”

The state Superior Court hears any and every appeal from the trial court level ## unlike the state Supreme Court, which only hears cases that provide direction or set precedent.

The endorsement came during a monthly meeting of the trades unions on Wednesday.

“There are a lot of aspirants out there. You want to make sure the person you are backing gets a head start,” Gillespie said.

“At campaign time, everyone has the story of how they are for people who work for wages. The difference is that Judge Younge walks the walk, not just talks the talk,” he added.

Primary elections will be held Tuesday, May 19.

Judge John Younge hailed as the choice of Laborers’ in Pennsylvania

04.12.09

Judge John Younge hailed as the choice of Laborers’ in Pennsylvania
Union leaders across Commonwealth endorse bid for Pennsylvania Superior court

http://www.judgejohnyounge.org/news.html#2_16

HARRISBURG, February 16, 2009 – Endorsements for Common Pleas Court Judge John Younge’s candidacy for the Pennsylvania Superior Court are picking up speed, with the state’s Laborers’ Union locals and district councils backing Younge.

“I’m humbled by the unconditional support of these working men and women who have pledged to help me ensure justice for all of Pennsylvania – my reason for running,” Younge said. “It doesn’t matter how much you have or how much you don’t, justice, under the law, is assured to every citizen. That is a cornerstone of my judicial philosophy, and hopefully I will get the chance to apply it on the appellate level.”

Younge is seeking to ascend to one of the projected three slots on the appellate court. Voters first selected him for the Court of Common Pleas in 1995 and retained him in 2005.

As a judge, Younge has experience overseeing cases of immense complexity in both civil and criminal cases. In its recommendation for his candidacy, the Pennsylvania Bar Association stated that Younge’s “fairness and judicial demeanor are uniformly praised” – a perspective shared by Laborers’ leaders.

“We feel comfortable he is a person who understands the needs of working class families,” said Paul A. Quarantillo, president and business manager of the Laborers’ District Council of Western Pennsylvania. “It’s important to have that perspective at every level, to make sure we have people on the bench who are not biased toward big business or wealthy individuals, just because.

“For the sake of fairness – whether it is the on the state Supreme Court, Superior Court, Common Pleas or district magistrate level – we need people who understands people who get up every day and make a living with their hands, and respect them for it,” Quarantillo added.

The endorsement comes from the following:

Mid-Atlantic Region, Laborers’ International Union of North America
Laborers’ District Council, Metropolitan Area of Philadelphia & Vicinity and its affiliates
Laborers’ District Council of Eastern Pennsylvania and its affiliates
Laborers’ District Council of Western Pennsylvania and its affiliates

“In Judge Younge, we have a winning candidate, one who can deliver justice for all Pennsylvanians,” said Ryan Boyer, business manager of the Laborers’ District Council, Metropolitan Area of Philadelphia & Vicinity. “This is a man who is sincere, competent and more than capable of handling the job. So we will work hard to elect him to the state Superior Court, because his perspective is needed there.”

In addition to these unions, the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee members overwhelmingly voted to endorse Younge’s candidacy last month. Primary elections are May 19.

Philadelphia Fire Fighters Endorse Judge John Younge for PA Superior Court

04.12.09

Philadelphia Fire Fighters Endorse Judge John Younge for PA Superior Court
IAFF Local 22, representing some 4,000 members, offers unanimous support

http://www.judgejohnyounge.org/news.html

PHILADELPHIA, April 9 – A set of Philadelphia heroes offered Pennsylvania Superior Court candidate Judge John Younge unanimous endorsement on Wednesday.

The International Association of Firefighters Local 22 hailed Younge as an ideal choice for the appellate bench, citing his fairness, reputation and commitment to justice, said Brian McBride, president of the local.

“When our people charge into burning buildings, we don’t look around to see how much they make, what they drive or even where they live. We just do our job, because what we do saves lives,” McBride said. “That’s the kind of attitude we need on the bench, and that’s what you get with Judge Younge. He looks at the facts. He’s fair about things. And he delivers justice, plain and simple.

“So we’re proud to support him. Now it’s our job to get him on the state Superior Court, because we need someone of his character and commitment to people and the rule of law. And we’re going to do all that we can to get him there,” McBride added.

Younge is seeking to ascend from the Court of Common Pleas to one of the projected three slots on the appellate court. Voters first selected him as a judge in 1995 and chose to retain him in 2005.

Prior to joining the bench, Younge operated a community-based private law practice, later transitioning to the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority. He served for 10 years there, rising to the rank of deputy executive director and general counsel. A graduate of Boston University and the Howard University School of Law, Younge is a candidate for a master’s degree in judicial studies from the National Judicial College, an internationally-recognized institution for advanced judicial education.

As a judge, Younge has experience overseeing cases of immense complexity in both civil and criminal cases. In its recommendation for his candidacy, the Pennsylvania Bar Association stated that Younge’s “fairness and judicial demeanor are uniformly praised.”

The state Superior Court hears any and every appeal from the trial court level ## unlike the state Supreme Court, which only hears cases that provide direction or set precedent.

IAFF Local 22 represents some 4,000 current and retired first responders – from fire fighters to paramedics to officers of the Philadelphia Fire Department. The endorsement follows a running list of organizations, advocacy groups and political figures supporting Younge’s bid for the appellate bench. Those range from Gov. Ed Rendell to the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers to the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, among others.

“I could not be more pleased than having earned the unqualified support of genuine heroes,” Younge said. “It is empowering to know that people of all backgrounds, from across the Commonwealth, are not only attracted to this campaign, but are actively working toward our victory. We’re heading toward the finish line, and picking up speed.”

Primary elections will be held Tuesday, May 19.

Déjà vu all over again: 1977 labor bill forerunner of EFCA

04.10.09

Déjà vu all over again
1977 labor bill forerunner of EFCA

Ron Ennis, American Postal Workers, #268
Editor, Lehigh Valley Labor Council

Senator Arlen Specter’s announcement last month that he will not support the Employee Free Choice Act was disappointing to Pennsylvania workers. Adding to their dismay was the irony that he had supported identical legislation two years earlier.

But for long time union leaders and students of labor history, the ongoing controversy surrounding the organizing bill is eerily reminiscent of a similar congressional struggle over 30 years ago. Echoes of the Labor Reform Act of 1977 resonate three decades later.

The outcome of the Reform Act HR8410 forewarned the Reagan Revolution and the subsequent years of legislative setbacks for workers. Moreover, the battle for its passage serves as an omen for union activists should enactment of the Employee Free Choice Act fail. (see Chart #1)

Both legislative initiatives proposed expedited union representation elections and stiffened penalties against employers. The 1977 measure awarded double back pay for workers illegally fired, while the 2007 version trebled the award.

Two provisions were dropped during congressional negotiations over the Labor Reform Act. One proposal, similar to the chief article in the Free Choice Act, was to certify a union as the bargaining agent when 55 percent of the workers to be represented signed union recognition cards. This was dropped when supporters decided that expedited elections would achieve the same result.

The other discarded measure sought repeal of Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act, the right-to-work provision. In 1977, 20 states had laws banning union shop contracts and labor leaders had long sought its repeal since its passage in 1947. But after gauging congressional opinion on Section 14(b), labor-friendly lawmakers removed the proposal and planned to re-introduce the repeal in a separate bill later in the year.

Like today’s Free Choice bill, lobbying against the Labor Reform Act was ferocious long before its report from the House Education and Labor Committee in September 1977. When the bill passed the House on October 6 by a margin of 257-163, business leaders intensified their determination to defeat the measure in the Senate.

To gain the 60 votes necessary to end a certain Republican-led filibuster, senate sponsors of the Reform Act offered compromises in an attempt to satisfy their fence-sitting colleagues and business groups. But labor leaders, knowing that their opponents wouldn’t even accept a watered down bill, avoided major concessions to win over undecided senators.

In a replay of the 2007 Free Choice Act, movement on HR8410 was obstructed for five tumultuous weeks before coming to a vote.

Twenty days of intense debate on the Senate floor and six attempts to overcome the filibuster could not move the legislation forward. Workers came closest to victory on June 14, 1978 when the Senate fell two votes shy, 58-41, of ending debate. “The death of the bill,” wrote the Congressional Quarterly afterward, “was the most stinging humiliation for the unions in (the 95th) Congress…”

“Business groups were particularly effective in bringing out small business representatives,” the Congressional Quarterly added. “Senators were impressed when small business men who seldom lobbied for anything came to Washington to express their concerns.”

In addition to the fierce opposition to the Labor Reform Act from business groups and conservative politicians, union organizations suspected that President Carter’s endorsement of the issue was tepid. The relationship between the rank-and-file and the Democratic administration had chilled prior to the Senate vote when Carter had invoked the Taft-Hartley’s emergency powers provision to crush the United Mine Workers national coal strike in March 1978.

Amid the parallels between the two legislative struggles, two points underscore the prospects for the Employee Free Choice Act. The 1977 labor bill died in a filibuster-proof Senate at a time when twice the percentage of the nation’s workforce was unionized. The lessons of that epic event over 30 years ago may be a signal to union activists that they will have to escalate efforts to pass their long awaited bill.

Chart #1

1977 2009
President Jimmy Carter(D) Barack Obama(D)

Congress 95th 111th

House Democrats (292) Democrats (254)
Republicans (143) Republicans (178)
There are three vacant House seats in the 111th.

Senate Democrats (61) Democrats (58)
Republicans (39) Republicans (41)
The 95th Congress was the last session where a party had a filibuster-proof majority. The current session is still undeclared in the Minnesota senate race.

Union density 24.1 percent 12.4 percent
(nationwide)

Bill # HR8410 HR1409
S2467 S560

Bill name Labor Reform Act Employee Free Choice Act

House action Passed 257-163 pending

October 6, 1977
The 110th House passed EFCA (HR800) 241-185 on March 1, 2007. With a larger Democratic majority in the current House, it’s expected that EFCA will pass again.

Senate action Filibustered 58-41 pending
June 14, 1978

Blueprint for EFCA
Arguments for Free Choice Act made 30 years ago

Shortly after Jimmy Carter became president in 1977, labor groups negotiated with the White House and leading congressional supporters to develop an agenda for revising the nation’s labor laws. The outcome of these talks resulted, in part, in the Labor Reform Act of 1977.

Ray Marshall, Secretary of Labor under Carter, held a press conference on July 18 to formally endorse the measure. His statement, issued over three decades ago, is exceptionally relevant to the debate over today’s Employee Free Choice Act.

[For a full text of the Labor Reform Act and Marshall’s press conference, visit http://www.library.cmu.edu/Research/ Archives/Heinz/HJH_Bio.html. Scroll down the bottom of the page and click onto H. John Heinz III archives.]

“As you know, the President will send legislation to Congress today on labor law reform. This is an important step because it marks the first comprehensive effort to reform our basic labor laws in thirty years.

It is also a bill that I care about deeply, and I think it will be one of the major domestic accomplishments of the Carter Administration.

This legislation will have three major goals. It will strengthen the remedies available to the National Labor Relations Board to enforce existing labor laws; it will improve the operations of the National Labor Relations Board to make it more efficient, equitable and predictable regulatory agency; it will strengthen the collective bargaining rights of the American workers.

It is no secret that the NLRB has not been working effectively. The basic problem is the statute rather than the administration of the Board.

The NLRB has been hamstrung be a series of procedural difficulties that have caused long delays in settling the cases that come before it. Since passage of the Wagner Act of 1935, it has been the policy of the United States Government that American workers have the right to bargain collectively. This is a fundamentally important right. But it is a right that has little tangible meaning if it can be eroded by long protracted delays before the NLRB.

One should not have to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees and wait many months to exercise a basic right like the right to collective bargaining.

Legal delays always favor the side that can afford better and more expensive lawyers.

We don’t believe in interfering directly in collective bargaining, but we do believe in making the process as equitable as possible for both sides. This is one of the major goals of labor law legislation.

Many people will call this a labor bill. I don’t think that is a totally accurate statement. Business also suffers from long delays while the NLRB decides its cases, and business as well as labor will benefit from the reforms that will lead to a more smoothly functioning NLRB.

It is important to remember that the NLRB is a regulatory agency, and one of the priorities of the Carter Administration is to make all our regulatory agencies work as quickly and as fairly as possible.

This labor law reform package must also be seen as part of the Carter Administration’s commitment to regulatory reform. Nothing in this bill will make union membership mandatory for anyone. But it is vital that American workers have the choice of whether they want to belong to a union.

The delays and the weaknesses of the NLRB’s enforcement powers have, in effect, denied this right to thousands of American workers.

This is an inequitable situation. And this is one of the reasons why I consider labor law reform to be such an important issue.

The Carter Administration does not regard today’s message as the last word in labor law reform. This is a complex area and more changes may very well be needed. We intend to keep exploring other ways to make our laws work better for both labor and management.

We intend to work closely with Congress in the months ahead on these and other possible changes. We also intend to consult as widely as possible with both labor and management groups on the shape of other possible reforms.

I recognize that these labor law reforms will not be popular with everyone. Industrial relations have been an area of continuing controversy for more than a century, and I don’t expect these passions to disappear overnight. But our message today is clear: We think this is a good bill. It is a bill we will be able to look back on with pride.”

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Article reprinted from the April edition of the Lehigh Valley Labor Council newsletter.

Lehigh Valley Labor Council Education Committee announces the third annual Labor Education Seminar

04.10.09

Labor seminar April 24-25
Registration deadline is April 17th

The Lehigh Valley Labor Council Education Committee announces the third annual Labor Education Seminar to be held Friday, April 24 and Saturday, April 25, 2009 at the Tri-Boro Sportsman’s Club in Northampton, Pa.
We are continuing our theme, Unions in the 21st Century, this year’s seminar is entitled, “Why We Fight – Where we’ve been, where we’re going and how we get there.”
The seminar starts with registration on April 24 at 5 PM to 6:30 PM. Dinner will be served 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM prior to the Friday evening session. Our Saturday class will begin promptly at 9:00 AM.
The seminar is free to member affiliates of the Lehigh Valley Labor Council; however there is a $25 registration fee. Registration forms are available online at the Council’s website lehighvalleyclc.org.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Article reprinted from the April edition of the Lehigh Valley Labor Council newsletter.

Specter’s flip-flop: Pennsylvania senator reverses position on Employee Free Choice

04.10.09

Specter’s flip-flop
Pennsylvania senator reverses position on Employee Free Choice

Gregg Potter, Communication Workers #13500
President, Lehigh Valley Labor Council

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
Anne Frank

Tuesday, March 24, 2009 began as any normal day, but in the late morning hours, a dramatic change shook the labor world. Senator Arlen Specter announced that he would vote AGAINST the Employee Free Choice Act and would vote against cloture, (to cut off debate) effectively leaving labor without the needed 60th vote to prevent a filibuster. The bill in its current state is in danger of becoming a dead issue in the U.S. Senate.

Besides Senator Specter, there are some others who are finding it convenient to forget their prior support. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who backed the bill in 2007 said, “This is not the time or the place for card check.” “To continue to attempt to bring up something that has already worked its way into being so divisive and distracting is unproductive.”

I am sorry to disappoint and or offend the Senator, but Labor is NOT going away on this issue.

Some congressional representatives are now asking a question: Is there another way to help out organized labor? Compromise is certainly an option that will be reviewed and revisited many, many times before this legislation comes to a vote. To date, few really expect a true compromise, given how far apart both sides are.

President Barack Obama has said he will leave himself open to more moderate alternatives in order to gain more broad support. It is going to get real interesting, real fast.

Specter wrote that “his vote cannot be bought.” Ironically, on March 27, 2009, Pennsylvania’s senior senator sent out an e-mail advising that he was the recipient of the Spirit of Enterprise Award, given each year by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Last year in particular, Congress had to make some tough choices,” wrote Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber, “and Senator Specter clearly demonstrated his commitment to the economy and keeping America competitive in an ever-changing global market. The Chamber is proud to present Senator Specter with the Spirit of Enterprise Award on behalf of businesses large and small.”

The timing was just too coincidental, but the fact remains, Specter changed his mind on THE critical issue for unions everywhere.

To be fair, Senator Specter has left some “wiggle room” on the issue, with the exception of card check. He outlined 12 suggested revisions to the National Labor Relations Act. Some would even out the playing field, yet others would still tilt dramatically towards the interests of business.

Here are his suggestions:

(1) Establish a timetable: Require that an election must be held within 10 days of a filing of a joint petition from the employer and the union.

(2) This one would hurt## Adding an unfair labor practice if A) an employer or union official visits an employee at his/her home without prior consent for any purpose related to a representation campaign; B) an employer holds employees in a “captive audience” speech unless the union has equal time under identical circumstances; an employee or union engages in campaign related activities aimed at employees within 24 hours prior to an election.

(3) Authorizing the NLRB to impose treble back pay without reduction for mitigation when an employee is unlawfully fired…this is already part of the bill.

(4) Authorizing civil penalties up to $20,000.00 per violation on an NLRB finding of willful and repeated violations of employees’ statutory rights by an employer or union during an election campaign.

(5) Require the parties to begin negotiations within 21 days after a union is certified. If there is no agreement after 120 days from the first meeting, either party may call for mediation by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. This would take away the arbitration for a first contract that is so badly needed.

(6) On a finding that a party is not negotiating in good faith, an order may be issued establishing a schedule for negotiation and imposing costs and attorney fees.

(7) Broaden the provisions for injunctive relief with reasonable attorneys’ fees on a finding that either party is not acting in good faith.
(8) Require a dissent by a member of the Board to be completed 45 days after the majority opinion is filed.

(9) Establish a certiorari-type process where the Board would exercise discretion on reviewing challenges from decisions by an administrative law judge.

(10) If the Board does not grant review or fails to issue a decision within 180 days after receiving the record, the decision of the administrative judge or regional director would be final.

(11) Authorizing the award of reasonable attorneys’ fees on a finding of harassment, causing unnecessary delay or bad faith.

(12) Modify the NLRA to give the court broader discretion to impose a Gissel order on a finding that the environment has deteriorated to the extent that a fair election is NOT possible.

This turnaround took many in organized labor by surprise and it now represents a wake up call. The AFL-CIO has sent staff to the field in Pennsylvania, notably Ben Waxman, who was the Labor Election 2004 coordinator for our region. We feel that Specter can still be worked with and we are taking a proactive approach. We will maintain a physical presence at events that he attends. We will commence on an unprecedented campaign to speak to union members and Working America members in an attempt to mobilize them to contact Senator Specter.

We will be making phone calls to the Senator, day and night and he will be receiving a multitude of letters in the next four weeks. We will be traveling door to door in order to energize our movement. We will be holding press events in order to gain public support. Big Business has mobilized like never before and they have succeeded in bullying Senator Specter.

Labor, however will not let the actions of one Senator deter us from reaching our destiny. Many union leaders say that we can still get six senators by amending the bill in committee, but without undermining its fundamentals.

Senator Specter also issued a stark warning. “The business community has to look at the potential for my not being there after 2010.” He also amended part of last week’s statement, in which he had said he might support card check in the future if lesser reforms do not work. He said in an interview that was intended only to encourage serious labor reform and that he would never vote for card check.

Keith Smith, director of employment policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, said his group is asking its members which reforms they might accept. Clearly, this is the number one topic for labor and business and something will have to give. It is our affirmation that the bill goes through as written, with no modifications. Whether that holds true, remains to be seen.

There are many companies spending valuable resources, “educating” their employees about the evils of joining a union. We must challenge their misinformation campaign.

On page three of your newsletter, I’ve listed how you can reach Specter. We will need all of our members to engage in conversation with friends, neighbors and co-workers. We will need them to contact Senator Specter by mail, fax and by phone. This must commence immediately and not stop until he changes his mind. We have come too far not to succeed. This is our time!!

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Article reprinted from the April edition of the Lehigh Valley Labor Council newsletter.