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New study points to effectiveness of Project Labor Agreements

04.30.09

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

New study points to effectiveness of Project Labor Agreements

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, April 19th- A new study commissioned by the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University affirms the fact that Project Labor Agreement (PLA’s) do not discriminate against employers and workers, do not limit the pool of bidders, and do not raise construction costs.

The study, “Project Labor Agreeemtns in New York State: In Public Interest,” was authored by Fred B. Kotler, the Associate Director of the Construction Industry Program at the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations, and reviewed the background and legal standards for the appropriate use of PLAs on public works projects in New York City and State. It also tests, and rejects, the validity of the claims made by opponesnts of PLAs, focusing on the studies conducted in recent years by the Beacon Hill Institute.

In its conclusions, the study states, in part, “A key point is that there is no evidence to support claims that project labor agreements either limit the pool of bidders or drive up actual construction cost. Such claims by opponents are based on inadequate data and faulty methodology.

“Project Labor Agreement’s in New York City and State and elsewhere have proven very successful at saving costs while respecting fair labor standards,” Mr. Kotler stated.

The unions affiliated with the Building and Construction Trades Department of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), an association of 13 national and international unions representing approximately 2.5 million construction workers in the United States, have suggested for years signing a PLA with the building trades council would not increase the costs of projects. The Building and Construction Trades Council of the Lehigh Valley in Allentown is affiliated with the Building and Construction Trades Department. There are 20 local unions affiliated with the labor federation.

Mark H. Ayers, President of the Building and Construction Trades Department in Washington, DC, agrees with the study findings and stated, “As we have known for some time, and which this study re-affirms, is that Project Labor Agreements are a valuable tool for ensuring a quality returm on construction investments.”

Former garment workers union disaffiliates and joins SEIU

04.30.09

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

Former garment workers union disaffiliates and joins SEIU

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, April 5th- On March 20th former UNITEHERE members gathered in Philadelphia for their first meeting since disaffiliating from the international union several weeks before and joining the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

UNITEHERE was formed in 2004 when the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE) merged with the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union (HERE).

UNITE was formed in 1995 when the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) and the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU) merged. The two unions mostly represented workers employed within the garment industry including throughout Pennsylvania.

HERE represented workers employed at casinos and hospitality services including hotels and restraurants.

According to the United States Department of Labor (DOL), UNITEHERE had approximately 450,000 active members before UNITE disaffiliated from the international union.

According to UNITE, in early March rank and file leaders of UNITEHERE Joint Board voted overwhelmingly to disaffiliate from the union. Since then, more than 75,000 workers have signed petitions voicing support for the disaffiliation.

Approximately 375 delegates were invited from every part of the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada to participate in the meeting in Philadelphia. The meeting was the first founding convention for the new union and was attended by union representatives from the Pennsylvania Joint Board, which represents UNITE members in Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania including workers at Tama Manufacturing.

The union has an office at 1017 Hamilton Street in Allentown.

UNITE stated for many reasons the merger did not work. Spending went up, while membership went down. The union claims UNITEHERE lacked agreement on priorities, strategies to win for members, and a shared vision of the future.

“Eventually, these leaders and members realized the only way to rise up was to get out of UNITEHERE,” stated UNITE.

Wages of service sector workers raised by unionization

04.30.09

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

Wages of service sector workers raised by unionization

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, April 19th- According to a study released jointly by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in Washington, DC, and the Keystone Research Center (KRC) in Harrisburg, unionization raises the wages of the average service sector worker in Pennsylvania by nearly 9 percent. Nationally, unionization raises the average service-sector wage by 10.1 percent.

Pennsylvania workers, like workers across the nation, have seen their wages stagnate or grow slowly in recent decades, but the report shows that being in a union significantly boosts the wages of Pennsylvanian workers employed in service industries, the report shows.

“In many people’s minds, unionization is linked to manufacturing jobs, to well paid work in industries like steel production and auto making,” said Mark Price, a labor economist for KRC. “But today, more than three-quarters of all jobs in the country are service jobs, and there, as in other sectors, union provide important benefits.”

In Pennsylvaia, according to the report, more than 77 percent of the workforce is in service sector jobs, and the unionization rate in those jobs is 14.7 percent. The median wage for unionized workers in the service sector in Pennsylvania is $19.31, while for non-union workers it is $14.27.

Service sector jobs include healthcare, childcare, and food service workers, clerks, housekeepers, and janitors. Essentially all jobs except those in agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, manufacturing, and construction.

The report, “Unions and Upward Mobility for Service-Sector Employees,” was released on April 18th. It analyzes data on workers from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, covering the years 2004 through 2007.

The study found that the impact of unions on service-sector employees in low-wage occupations was especially substantial. For workers in the 15 lowest paying jobs, unionization raised wages by 15.5 percent.

The CEPR is an independent think tank established to debate on most economic issues while the KRC is a similarly oriented non-profit organization which studies the Pennsylvania economy.

“Decades ago, it was unions that transformed tough jobs in Pennsylvania’s coal mines and steel mills into family sustaining jobs. These new data shows that although the economy has changed radically since then, it is still unions that give the biggest boost to workers in the lowest-paying jobs,” Mr. Price told the newspaper.

Mr. Price added however, as the economy has changed and employers have increasingly thwarted efforts by workers to join unions.

“Just as it took new federal laws in the 1930s to protect the rights of Pennsylvania workers seeking to join unions, it will take new legislation like the Employee Free Choice Act to protect workers seeking to join unions today, in our new service based economy,” added Mr. Price.

The study also found that unionized service sector workers are also more likely to have a pension and employer provided health insurance, with unionization increasing those odds by 25 percent and 19 percentage points respectively.

Mr. Price can be contacted at (717) 255.7158 or (717) 440.2360. His e-mail is price@keystoneresearch.org.

National Labor Relations Board conducts Union election at Americold Bethlehem warehouse

04.30.09

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

National Labor Relations Board conducts Union election at Americold Bethlehem warehouse

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

BETHLEHEM, April 11th- The International Brotherhood of Teamters (IBT) Union Local 773, Hamilton Street in Allentown, filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four in Philadelphia requesting the agency conduct an election to determine if the employees of Americold Bethlehem want to be represented by the union and on March 31st the workers voted against unionizing.

However, the newspaper has learned the union filed a complaint with the NLRB alleging the company violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct) during their campaign.

Local 773 filed the petition on February 20th requesting the agency conduct the election to determine if approximately 215 full-time and regular part-time forklift operators, cleaners, maintenance, inventory control, cycle counter, and line leaders workers of the food products warehouse operated by the company on Brodhead Road in Bethlehem wanted to be union represented.

The workers voted 118 against unionizing to 70 being represented by Local 773.

On April 14th, the union amended their Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge filed with the NLRB that was first filed on February 17th. The Union alleges the Employer, through its representatives, beginning November 1st, 2008 has engaged in unlawful conduct against Union organizers and pro-Union employees.

The complaint alleges the Employer threatened employees with loss of their jobs because of their support of the Union; discriminated against pro-union employees by threatening them with loss of their jobs engage in Union activity during work time while simultaneously allowing anti-Union employees to engage in anti-Union activity during work; and telling certain employees who attended group meetings to keep the content of the meetings confidential and not to share them with other employees.

Charles Harrison is the employer representative named to be contacted on the ULP.

The complaint is under investigation by the NLRB.

Democrats Pardoning Specter For Horrific Votes

04.30.09

http://thepennsylvaniaprogressive.com/diary/1350/democrats-pardoning-specter-for-horrific-votes

Democrats Pardoning Specter For Horrific Votes
by: John Morgan
Wed Apr 29, 2009 at 11:51:50 AM EDT

Arlen Specter’s switch to the Democratic Party is already blinding many Dems to his horrific George W. Bush voting record. Scores of people who protested the war in Iraq, torture, Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, the shredding of the Bill of Rights and the other innumerable crimes and offenses of the Bush Administration are already lining up to pardon Snarlin’ Arlen and re-elect him to the Senate.

Gov. Ed Rendell and President Barack Obama are leading the charge much to their shame. How could you campaign against everything President Bush did then embrace one of his chief enablers? Sen. Specter was actually quite a reliable vote for W. Everything from military tribunals, the denial of due process rights, destroying the separation of powers, in all of this Sen. Specter was there with his strong support for Bush. He was a pivotal figure in the politicization of the Department of Justice and inserted the provision enabling AG Gonzales to fire prosecutors.

But now Democrats are suddenly blinded to this by one simple act: Arlen Specter changed his Party affiliation. Wow, it doesn’t take much to brainwash Democrats does it? Talk is that Gov. Rendell has, once again, promised to clear the primary field of challengers as he did in 2006. Isn’t it time for Ed Rendell to simply go away and allow the people of Pennsylvania to select their Senators?

Joe Torsella’s days as a candidate are numbered and numbered in single digits. His campaign was supported with Rendell money and that will now evaporate. Ed Rendell has been dictating for too long now and today is the day Pennsylvania Democrats finally need to restore democracy to their Party. Reject Rendell, Specter, torture, wars of choice and the undermining of our rights and reject this imposition upon your choices. I will vote Green again if Arlen Specter is the only Democrat allowed to run. Do NOT take away our rights as citizens tor un for office or vote for whom WE choose. Gov. Rendell has no right to choose who can run and who cannot.