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Painters Union members picket Lackawanna College

05.17.09

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

Painters Union members picket Lackawanna College

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

SCRANTON, April 17th- Members of the Painters and Allied Trades International Union Local 218 conducted informational picketing in front of the Lackawanna College Student Activities Center on Jefferson Avenue in Scranton on May 1st and May 4th protesting the hiring of a nonunion contractor by the school to renovate the facility.

According to Robert Griffiths, Business Representative of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 21, as many as five of his members could have been hired if Lackawanna College employed a union contractor. Mr. Griffiths stated the project involve funds provided by the state and/or federal government and workers should be paid wages covered under the Prevailing Wage Act. He participated in picketing the center and stated the union is investigating into whether workers of the nonunion contractor were being paid the wages required under the legislation.

There are union workers employed on the renovation project including members of the Sheet Metal Workers International Union Local 44, which would not cross the picket line of the Painters Union on May 1st. Local 44 members are installing new duck vents throughout the facility. Because of the refusal of the Sheet Metal Workers members to cross the picket line, the daily renovation construction was halted.

The protest included a ten foot high inflatable rat with Lackawanna College President Ray Angeli name posted on the front.

According to John Gatto, Assistant Business Manager of District Council 21, members of the union have ratified a new contract with the association of signatory contractors. The term of the agreement began on May 1st, 2009 and will expire on April 30th, 2012. Mr. Gatto stated the members will receive approximately a five percent increase in wages and/or benefits each year over the term of the agreement.

Mr. Gatto told the newspaper only four hours of negotiations were necessary between the parties before the agreement on a new pact was reached. District Council 21 has 325 active members throughout Eastern Pennsylvania including Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties. The union represents painters, and drywallers.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton (PA) -Region’s unemployment rate increases to 8.7 percent

05.17.09

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

Region’s unemployment rate increases to 8.7 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, May 1st- According to labor data provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Labor and Industry, the region’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 8.7 percent, increasing by two-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 3 and three-tenths percentage points lower at 5.5 percent. The last time the region had a unemployment rate this high was in March 1994.

The MSA’s unemployment rate continues to remain higher than Pennsylvania and the nation. The unemployment rate in the state is 7.8 percent, increasing by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,431,000 with 499,000 not working and 5,932,000 with employment. The national unemployment rate is 8.5 percent, increasing by four-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month. There are 13,161,000 civilians in the nation without employment.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA civilian labor force, workers between eighteen and sixty-five years old, decreased by 1,900 from the previous month to 284,400 and increased by 3,600 during the previous twelve months. There are 24,700 civilians not working in the MSA, increasing by 400 from the previous month, and increasing by 9,200 from twelve months ago.

The MSA has the fifth largest labor force in Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force at 2,996,600 with 238,100 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA is second at 1,135,300 with 88,100 without jobs; the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force at 423,800 with 35,100 not working; and the Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force at 286,800 with 20,200 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 Williamsport MSA has the smallest labor force in Pennsylvania at 59,700. The Altoona MSA has the second smallest labor force with 64,900 civilians and the Johnstown MSA is third with 69,100 civilians.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.6 percent with the Lebanon MSA having the second lowest unemployment rate in the state at 6.7 percent and the Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA third at 7.0 percent.

Lackawanna County has the lowest unemployment rate in the MSA at 8.1 percent, increasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous month and jumping two and eight-tenths of a percentage points from one year ago. Lackawanna County has a labor force of 107,900, decreasing by 600 from the month before and decreasing by 1,000 during the past twelve months. There are 8,800 Lackawanna County residents without jobs, increasing by 200 from the month before and increasing by 3,100 from one year ago.

Luzerne County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 9.1 percent, increasing by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month and increasing by 3 and four-tenths of a percentage points from one year ago. Luzerne County has a labor force of 162,000, the largest in the MSA. The labor force has decreased by 700 from the month before and increased by 2,500 during the past year. Of the labor force 14,700 are not working which is 300 more than the month before and 5,600 more than one year ago.

Wyoming County has a unemployment rate of 9.0 percent, increasing by six-tenths of a percentage point from the month before and increasing by 3 and three-tenths 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 1,300 Wyoming County residents not working, increasing by 100 from the previous month and jumping by 450 from one year ago.

In The MSA, total nonfarm jobs dropped by 6,600 from one year ago to 252,900. In the sector, manufacturing jobs was the biggest loser, dropping 2,800 with construction jobs number two decreasing by 1,100.

Paul Kanjorski wants the USPS facility to remain open

05.17.09

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

Paul Kanjorski wants the USPS facility to remain open

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

WILKES-BARRE, April 29th- Democratic 11th Legislative District House of Representative Paul Kanjorski strongly expressed his concern with the results of a United States Postal Service (USPS) study that recommended the closure of the mail processing and distribution facility on Main Street in Wilkes-Barre. He also urged the Postmaster General to reject the study’s recommendation and keep the Wilkes-Barre post office and its jobs for its employees.

The USPS conducted a five-month feasibility study that will determine if the agency should move the operation from Wilkes-Barre to Scranton or the Lehigh Valley. The Gallup Organization, the largest survey company in the nation, conducted a customer satisfaction survey for the USPS.

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.

Workers employed at the facility on South Main Street have held several demostrations 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) Local 308 and the National Association of Letters Carriers (NALC) Union Branch 115, have been joined by other union members and supporters expressing their desire of keeping the facility opened.

According to John Kishel, President of Branch 175, which represents 240 postal service workers that process mail including clerk personnel and maintenance workers at 24 USPS facilities in and around Wilkes-Barre, should the move of processing mail to Scranton or the Lehigh Valley be made, customer service will be affected and it will impact the City of Wilkes-Barre and surrounding communities negatively.

Bill Smith, Local 308 agrees with Mr. Kishel and stated mail will need to be re-routed to Scranton or the Lehigh Valley and then back to Luzerne County causing a delay in home delivery.

“We are in very difficult economic times, and the potential closure of the mail processing and distribution facility in Wilkes-Barre could have negative repercussions throughout the area. We must protect the jobs of the employees at the current facility. I have been advocating against the closure since the study was released,” stated Mr. Kanjorski.

Two unions in dispute because of UNITE disaffiliation

05.17.09

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

Two unions in dispute because of UNITE disaffiliation

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 25th- UNITEHERE International Union and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) are in dispute against each other because of the group of union members that have disaffiliated from UNITEHERE and joined the SEIU.

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 Northeastern 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.

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 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.

UNITEHERE filed a complaint with the Change-to-Win (CtW) labor federation, which both unions are affiliated, because of the disaffiliation and the group joining the SEIU.

The group, called Workers United, stated for many reasons the merger did not work, claiming UNITEHERE lacked agreement on priorities, and strategies to win for members.

The union represents 1,100 workers at the T.J. Maxx warehouse in Pittston.