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Card Check legislation still not scheduled to be introduced for vote in U.S. Congress


Card Check legislation still not scheduled to be introduced for vote in U.S. Congress


REGION, July 6th- The lobbying in Washington DC and across the United States between business groups and the labor community is continuing over 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.

Pennsylvania United States Senator Arlen Specter has switched political parties from Republican to Democratic but maintains he will not vote for the labor supported Employee Free Choice Act legislation in 2009, unless changes are made to the bill. 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 American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington, DC has mobilized union members and their families requesting them to contact their legislators in Washington asking them to support the legislation, including Senator Specter who’s vote will be crucial if EFCAct is to be implemented.

The AFL-CIO has also conducted several forums in the region to discuss why the legislation would be beneficial to the working people.

George George, a member of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Union Branch 115 in Wilkes-Barre, was released by his job at the United States Postal Service (USPS) to help mobilize union members and organize EFCAct community events.

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

The legislation was expected to be introduced in the United States Congress in early 2009, but because of a threatened Republican filibuster in the Senate, the bill is being withheld until changes are made and there is enough votes to pass the legislation.

Under Senate rules, at least 60 Senator votes are needed to override a filibuster which would allow the legislation to be voted on by the full-Senate. The legislation is expected to easily pass in the House of Representatives where only a majority vote is needed. President Obama stated he would sign the measure should it reach his desk.

NALC Branch President Tom Gavin award recipient


NALC Branch President Tom Gavin award recipient


SCRANTON, July 2nd- Every year the United Way of Lackawanna County presents the William Cockerill Sr. award to someone in the labor community for his or her involvement with the community at-large within the Lackawanna Valley. The award is named after the late William Cockerill who was a long-time union member, union leader of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) Union and President of the Scranton Central Labor Union (SCLU) labor federation.

Tom Gavin, President of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Union Branch 17 in Scranton, which represents letter carriers of the United States Postal Service (USPS) in Lackawanna County, received the William Cockerill Sr. award for 2009.

Mr. Gavin was first elected as President of Branch 17 in 2001 and immediately became supportive of the United Way annual fund raising campaign and the combined federal campaign, stated William Cockerill Jr., the United Way of Lackawanna County Community Services Labor Liaison, the go-between the labor community and the community based organization.

Mr. Cockerill, the son of the late labor leader, stated Mr. Gavin gave new life to the Letter Carriers annual food drive, which is held every May and benefits many of the less fortunate of the community by filling every food pantry that is willing to participate in the event.

Tom Gavin is a member of the Irish American Men’s Association and coordinates another food drive at the Lakeland School District Elementary school.

As a motorcycle enthusast, Mr. Gavin rides to benefit MDA and every year participates in the “Rolling Thunder” motorcycle ride to benefit the veterans at the Gino Merli Veterans Center.

Teamsters Union Local 401 members employed at Nicholas Trucking ratify pact


Teamsters Union Local 401 members employed at Nicholas Trucking ratify pact


COURTDALE, July 3rd- Members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 401, South Washington Street in Wilkes-Barre, employed at Nicholas Trucking in Courtdale ratified a new four year labor agreement with the trucking company.

Nicholas Trucking is a sub-contractor of the United States Postal Service (USPS) and transports mail for the agency.

According to James Murphy, President and Business Agent for Local 401, the new contract was approved by the membership on June 28th. Mr. Murphy stated the membership rejected the company’s first proposal but improvements were made and the union members voted 41 for the contract to 6 against on the second vote. Local 401 represents approximately 70 workers employed by Nicholas Trucking, a family owned and operated company.

The previous contract expired on March 31, 2009 but the members worked under the terms and conditions of the previous contract while negotiations continued. The new contract will expire in March of 2013.

Mr. Murphy stated the issue that prohibited the two sides from reaching agreement sooner was the employees pension plan. However, the employees 401k pension plan was improved under the new pact.

Where’s the Controversy? 75% of the American People Support Majority Signup as Part of the Employee Free Choice Act


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Lauren Weiner, 202-470-5870 or Jeremy Funk, 202-470-5878

DATE: July 21, 2009

Americans United for Change: “Majority Signup is Central to Labor Law Reform and Rebuilding Our Economy”

Where’s the Controversy? 75% of the American People Support Majority Signup as Part of the Employee Free Choice Act

Three-quarters (75%) of adults favor allowing employees to have a union once a majority of employees in a workplace sign authorization cards indicating that they want to form a union, including 44% who strongly support the idea. Just 20% of adults oppose majority sign-up. [Hart Research Associates, 1/8/09]

Washington D.C. – Americans United for Change issued the following statement on the heels of recent reports that a version of the Employee Free Choice Act in the Senate may not include majority sign-up provisions.

Tom McMahon, Acting Executive Director, Americans United for Change: “The jury is in on the Employee Free Choice Act with seventy-five percent of the American public behind labor reform that specifically includes allowing employees to form a union through majority signup. As negotiations on the Employee Free Choice Act continue in Congress, Members need only look at public opinion to realize the only controversy over majority signup is being fabricated by a vocal, well financed, factually challenged minority led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Corporate powerhouses like Wal-Mart. There’s no debate among the American people that the system is badly broken for the 60 million workers who would form a union tomorrow if only given the chance – a system that allows big business and Corporate America to routinely harass, intimidate and even fire workers who try to form a union and bargain for better pay, benefits and retirement security. These Corporate special interests will continue to say or do anything to keep the system broken, but when three-quarters of the American people agree majority signup is central to labor reform and building a strong economic foundation for our disappearing middle-class, Congress really doesn’t have to listen.”

Catholic Bishops announce support for organized labor


Catholic Bishops announce support for organized labor


REGION, July 1st- On June 22nd the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Health Association, the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and several national labor unions, including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) unions, jointly participated in a conference call to announce a landmark set of guilding principles on respecting the rights of workers in the Catholic Health Care system.

The principles, set out in the “Respecting the Just Rights of Workers: Guidance and Options for Catholic Health Care and Unions,” are the result of a 10 year dialogue among the groups aimed at finding common ground on the rights of workers to choose whether to form a union.

According to the groups, the new Guidance and Options document will serve as recommendations for nearly 600,000 workers in almost 600 Catholic hospitals nationwide.

Michael Milz, President of the Scranton Diocese Association of Catholic Teachers (SDACT) Union, which represented many of the teachers employed by the Diocese of Scranton until August 2007, believes the new guildlines reaffirms Scranton Bishop Joseph Martino has violated the principles of Catholic teachings toward organized labor.

The union represented nine of ten high schools and seventeen of the fourty-two grade schools of the Scranton Diocese until Bishop Martino restructured the system in 2007. The new system eliminated the small school boards and created four regional boards, which oversees the schools. The Scranton Diocese of Catholic Teachers Union previously had contracts with each Board of Pastors that represented each school. Bishop Martino implemented a “Employee Relations Program,” and busted the union. Bishop Martino would not recognize SDACT as the teachers bargaining representative and refused to negotiate for a new contract agreement when the previous pact expired in August 2007.

He cited the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act (PLRAct), had no jurisdition over the Diocese therefore, he could simply ignore the desire of the teachers to be represented by the union.

The SDACT has won multiple arbitration victories for the failure of the Diocese of Scranton to pay wages owed to former union members under the terms and conditions of the previous contract agreements.

The new guidlines cover seven principles for employers when workers seek a union which includes:

• Respect;
• Access to information;
• Truthful communication;
• Pressure free environment;
• Expeditions process;
• Honoring employee decisions; and
• Meaningful enforcement of these principles.

Mr. Milz stated because of their willingness to engage in dialogue, the bishops and the leaders of Catholic health care displayed real courage and leadership and have set an example for all to follow. That coupled with the fact that Pope Benedict XVI recently noted that Catholic social teaching are strongly supportive of workers’ freedom to form unions, will Bishop Martino continue to act in the rogue fashion he has so far chosen.

DOL awards $2.2 million to assist dislocated workers


DOL awards $2.2 million to assist dislocated workers


REGION, June 22nd - The United States Department of Labor (DOL) awarded $2,212,751 to assist state apprenticeship agencies in the development of strategies to better serve dislocated workers and other unemployment individuals through expanded partnerships with the Registered Apprenticeship system, which is administered by the department’s Employment and Training Administration.

Registered Apprenticeship is an “earn while you learn” model that provides a combination of on the job learning and related classroom instruction in which workers learn the practical and theoretical aspects of a highly skilled occupation. Apprenticeship programs are sponsored by joint employer and labor groups, individual employers and/or employer association.

Currently, the national Registered Apprenticeship system includes a network of approximately 30,000 program sponsors nationwide, which offers more than 1,000 different career opportunities.

“Today’s funding will help state apprenticeship agencies strengthen partnerships between the Registered Apprenticeship and the public workforce systems. Agencies will will create strategies to jointly train and prepare dislocated workers and other unemployed individuals for careers in growing industries, including those related to green technologies,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.

The Department of Labor stated the grants announced will help support states as they modernize their infrastructure, policies rules and legislation to advance apprenticeship into the 21st century. Funding also will assist states in upgrading data systems to promote increased economic analysis and data sharing between the Registered Apprenticeship and public workforce systems, as well as expand assistance to dislocated workers.

Twenty-two state apprenticeship agenices and the National Association of State and Territial Apprenticeship Directors (NASTAD) are receiving funding under the effort including Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania received a grant of $100,000 to participate in the program. New York also received $100,000 but New Jersey did not receive any funding, according to the DOL.

For more information on Registered Apprenticeship visit

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Region’s unemployment rate increases to 9.4 percent


Region’s unemployment rate increases to 9.4 percent


REGION, July 2nd- According to labor data provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Labor and Industry, the region’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 8.9 percent, increasing by three-tenths from the previous report.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) includes Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wyoming Counties.

The unemployment rate is three and one-tenth of a percentage points higher than a year ago. The last time the region had a unemployment rate this high was in February 1994.

The MSA’s unemployment rate continues to remain higher than Pennsylvania and the nation. The unemployment rate in the state is 8.2 percent. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,467,000 with 532,000 not working and 5,936,000 with employment. The national unemployment rate is 9.4 percent. The national rate has increased by nine-tenths of a percentage point during the past two reports. There are 14,511,000 civilians in the nation without employment. The number does not include civilians that have exhausted their unemployment benefits.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA civilian labor force, increased by 2,000 from the previous report to 285,400. There are 25,500 civilians not working in the MSA, increasing by 1,000 from the previous report, and increasing by 9,100 from one year ago.

The MSA has the fifth largest labor force in Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force at 3,013,800 with 248,500 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA is second at 1,229,700 with 92,300 without jobs; the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force at 426,800 with 37,500 not working; and the Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force at 287,600 with 20,600 without employment.

Of the 14 MSA’s within Pennsylvania, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the fourth highest unemployment rate. The Williamsport MSA and the Erie MSA are tied for the highest unemployment rate in the state at 9.3 percent. The Reading MSA has the second highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 9.1 percent. The Johnstown MSA has the third highest unemployment rate at 9.0 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.9 percent. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in the state at 6.8 percent with the Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA and the Lancaster MSA tied for the third lowest at 7.2 percent.

Lackawanna County has the lowest unemployment rate in the MSA at 8.4 percent, which increased by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and jumping two and nine-tenths of a percentage points from one year ago. Lackawanna County has a labor force of 108,400, increasing by 800 from the last report. There are 9,100 Lackawanna County residents without jobs, increasing by 400 from the previous report.

Luzerne County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 9.3 percent, which increased by four-tenths of a percentage point from the report before and increasing by three and three-tenths of a percentage points from one year ago. Luzerne County has a labor force of 162,500, the largest in the MSA. The labor force increased by 1,200 from the previous report. Of the labor force 15,100 do not have a job, increasing by a whopping 5,400 from one year ago.

Wyoming County has a unemployment rate of 9.0 percent, increasing by four-tenths of a percentage point from the report before and increasing by 3 and three-tenths of a percentage points from one year ago. Wyoming County has a labor force of 14,600, increasing by 100 from the previous report. There are 1,300 Wyoming County residents without jobs, decreasing by 100 from the previous report and jumping by 300 from one year ago.

SEIU critized for “raiding” union members of UNITE HERE


SEIU critized for “raiding” union members of UNITE HERE


REGION, July 1st- Many labor leaders are voicing their support for the UNITE HERE International Union in their dispute with the Services Employees International Union (SEIU).

Both UNITE HERE and the SEIU are affiliated with the Change-to-Win (CtW) labor federation however, the SEIU has attempted to “raid” union members of UNITE HERE.

UNITE HERE on June 29th opened in Chicago their first convention in five years and the most discussed issue was how the SEIU encouraged members of UNITE to disaffiliate from UNITEHERE and join the SEIU. UNITE HERE filed a complaint against the SEIU with the CtW because of the raiding.

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 Department of Labor (DOL), UNITEHERE had approximately 450,000 active members before UNITE disaffiliated from the international union in March.

The disaffiliated group, called Workers United, held their first convention in Philadelphia on March 20th and stated for many reasons the merger did not work claiming UNITE HERE lacked agreement on priorities and strategies to win for members.

On June 29th leaders of 15 national unions, including affiliated members of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), and CtW, critized the SEIU leadership for their attempt to gain members through other unions.

In a solidarity letter sent to UNITE HERE President John Wilhelm, the AFL-CIO President John Sweeney stated he wants the members of UNITEHERE to know that “the labor federation will stand with them if need be, as we have done in the past during many of their historic fights.”

The fifteen labor union leaders has pledge to support UNITE HERE both materially and morally against the raid by any union against their members, or workers in UNITE HERE’s industry jurisdictions.

Don Monkerud: U.S. income inequality continues to grow


Don Monkerud: U.S. income inequality continues to grow
by Don Monkerud

In June 2009, the U.S. economy saw its second steepest decline in 27 years. New jobless claims increased, business inventories fell and exports plunged as bad economic news persisted.

Will the once high-flying American wealth machine continue to produce the vast inequalities of the past?

Only two years ago, Steve Forbes, CEO of Forbes magazine, declared 2007 “the richest year ever in human history.” During eight years of the Bush administration, the 400 richest Americans, who now own more than the bottom 150 million Americans, increased their net worth by $700 billion. In 2005, the top 1 percent claimed 22 percent of the national income, while the top 10 percent took half of the total income, the largest share since 1928.

In June 2009, the Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Report estimated the number of the world’s wealthiest people declined by 15 percent, the steepest decline in the report’s 13-year history. The number of millionaires in the U.S. fell by 19 percent to 2.5 million people.

Analysts tell us the economy is being restructured, but how will the disparities in wealth between the rich and the poor play out?

“The source of wealth has changed over the past 30 years; corporations have become the engine of inequality in the U.S.,” says Sam Pizzigati, associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C. “In the past, wealth came from ownership: Today it comes increasingly from income.”

The highest incomes come from executive pay at top corporations. In 2007, the ratio of CEO pay to the average paycheck was 344 to 1, lower than the record 525 to 1 ratio set in 2001, but substantial.

This year’s ratio is estimated to decrease to 317 to 1. In the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, the average ratio fluctuated between 30 and 40 to 1.

Over 40 percent of GNP comes from Fortune 500 companies. According to the World Institute for Development Economics Research, the 500 largest conglomerates in the U.S. “control over two-thirds of the business resources, employ two-thirds of the industrial workers, account for 60 percent of the sales, and collect over 70 percent of the profits.”

Corporations systematically created a wealth gap over the last 30 years. In 1955, IRS records indicated the 400 richest people in the country were worth an average $12.6 million, adjusted for inflation.

In 2006, the 400 richest increased their average to $263 million, representing an epochal shift of wealth upward in the U.S.
In 1955, the richest tier paid an average 51.2 percent of their income in taxes under a progressive federal income tax that included loopholes. By 2006, the richest paid only 17.2 percent of their income in taxes. In 1955, the proportion of federal income from corporate taxes was 33 percent; by 2003, it decreased to 7.4 percent. Today, the top taxpayers pay the same percentage of their incomes in taxes as those making $50,000 to $75,000, although they doubled their share of total U.S. income.

“Over the past 30 years, the income of the top 1 percent, adjusted for inflation, doubled: the top one-tenth of 1 percent tripled, and the top one-one-hundredth quadrupled,” says Pizzigati. “Meanwhile, the average income of the bottom 90 percent has gone down slightly. This is a stunning transformation.”

Meanwhile, wages for most Americans didn’t improve from 1979 to 1998, and the median male wage in 2000 was below the 1979 level, despite productivity increases of 44.5 percent. Between 2002 and 2004, inflation-adjusted median household income declined $1,669 a year. To make up for lost income, credit card debt soared 315 percent between 1989 and 2006, representing 138 percent of disposable income in 2007.

According to Pizzigati, the wealth disparity is the result of corporations squeezing more profits from workers.
“In the past corporations laid off workers because business was bad,” Pizzigati says. “But over the past few decades, downsizing has been a corporate wealth generating strategy. Today, CEOs don’t spend their time trying to make better products: they maneuver to take over other companies, steal their customers and fire their workers.”

Progressive taxation used to prevent the rich from capturing a disproportionate share of national compensation, and the labor movement, which represented 35 percent of private sector employees and today represents 8 percent, once served as a political force to limit excessive executive pay. The Reagan backlash cut the top income tax rates, and saw the creation of right-wing think tanks that spent $30 billion over the past 30 years propagandizing for deregulation, privatization and wealth worship.

Bubble economies over the past 30 years helped CEOs pump up their income, and efforts to corral their pay are weak and ineffective. CEO pay may fall during these economic hard times, but disparity isn’t going away. Without a strong movement for change, the wealth gap will only increase in this downturn.

“There won’t be a restructuring of the economy unless we take on executive compensation,” concludes Pizzigati. “Outrageously large rewards give executives an incentive to behave outrageously. If we allow these incentives to continue, we will just see more of the reckless behavior that has driven the global economy into the ditch.”

Don Monkerud is a California-based writer who follows cultural, social and political issues. This column was provided by PeaceVoice.

Democrats Drop Key Part of Bill to Assist Unions


Democrats Drop Key Part of Bill to Assist Unions

Published: July 16, 2009

A half-dozen senators friendly to labor have decided to drop a central provision of a bill that would have made it easier to organize workers.

The so-called card-check provision — which senators decided to scrap to help secure a filibuster-proof 60 votes — would have required employers to recognize a union as soon as a majority of workers signed cards saying they wanted a union. Currently, employers can insist on a secret-ballot election, a higher hurdle for unions.

The abandonment of card check was another example of the power of moderate Democrats to constrain their party’s more liberal legislative efforts. Though the Democrats have a 60-40 vote advantage in the Senate, and President Obama supports the measure, several moderate Democrats opposed the card-check provision as undemocratic.

In its place, several Senate and labor officials said, the revised bill would require shorter unionization campaigns and faster elections.

While disappointed with the failure of card check, union leaders argued this would still be an important victory because it would give companies less time to press workers to vote against unionizing.

Some business leaders hailed the dropping of card check, while others called the move a partial triumph because the bill still contained provisions they oppose.

The card-check provision was so central to the legislation that it was known as “the card-check bill.” Labor had called the bill its No. 1 objective, and both labor and business deployed their largest, most expensive lobbying campaigns ever in the battle over it.

“This is a very emotional issue,” said Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the Republican turned Democrat who had been lobbied heavily by both sides. “I cannot remember an issue this emotional in all my years in the Senate.”

Several moderate Democrats, including Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, have voiced opposition to card check, convinced that elections were a fairer way for workers to unionize. They were swayed partly by business’s vigorous campaign, arguing that card check would remove confidentiality from unionization drives and enable union organizers to bully workers into signing union cards.

Though some details remain to be worked out, under the expected revisions, union elections would have to be held within five or 10 days after 30 percent of workers signed cards favoring having a union. Currently, the campaigns often run two months.

To further address labor’s concerns that the election process is tilted in favor of employers, key senators are considering several measures. One would require employers to give union organizers access to company property. Another would bar employers from requiring workers to attend anti-union sessions that labor supporters deride as “captive audience meetings.”

Labor unions have pushed aggressively to enact the bill — formally, the Employee Free Choice Act. They view it as essential to reverse labor’s long decline. Just 7.6 percent of private-sector workers belong to unions, one-fifth the rate of a half-century ago.

Several union leaders interviewed took the senators’ move in stride. One top union official, who insisted on anonymity because lawmakers and labor leaders have agreed not to discuss the status of the bill, said, “Even if card check is jettisoned to political realities, I don’t think people should be despondent over that because labor law reform can take different shapes.”

While voicing confidence they have the 60 votes to pass the revised bill, labor leaders acknowledged an additional hurdle: two powerful Democrats, Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, are seriously ill.

“This bill will bring about dramatic changes, even if card check has fallen away,” said an A.F.L.-C.I.O. official who insisted on anonymity.

The official said the revised bill achieves the three things organized labor has been seeking.

“Our goals,” the official said, “have always been letting employees have a real choice, having real penalties against employers who break the law in fighting unions, and having some form of binding arbitration to prevent employers from dragging their feet forever to prevent reaching a contract.”

Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, a senior member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has led a group of six Democrats who have worked closely with labor to revamp the bill. The other senators are Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Charles E. Schumer of New York, and Mr. Specter.

Labor leaders voiced confidence that if Mr. Pryor backed the compromise, Ms. Lincoln and other moderates would do likewise.

Union leaders argue that under current law, unionization elections are often unfair because, they say, employers have a huge opportunity to intimidate and pressure workers during the lengthy campaigns that precede the unionization vote.

Business leaders say the current system is fair, asserting that unions lose so many elections because workers oppose paying union dues and do not feel they need unions to represent them.

Corporate lobbyists have indicated they would oppose fast elections, arguing that such a provision would deny employers ample opportunity to educate employees about the downside of unionizing, such as strikes and union dues.

Labor leaders counter that employers will have plenty of opportunity to fight unionization, noting that many companies begin plying employees with anti-union information the day they are hired.

Business also opposes the bill’s provisions to have binding arbitration if an employer fails to reach a contract with a new union. Companies argue it would be wrong for government-designated arbitrators to dictate what a company’s wages and benefits should be.

“Binding arbitration is an absolute nonstarter for us,” said Mark McKinnon, a spokesman for the Workforce Fairness Institute, a business group opposing the bill. “We see it as a hostile act to have arbitrators telling businesses what they have to do.”

Several union officials said that once the senators’ revisions became public, some union presidents who are card-check enthusiasts might attack the changes, call for scrapping the revisions and demand an up-or-down Senate vote on a bill with card check.

Kate Cyrul, a spokeswoman for Mr. Harkin, declined to discuss details of the bill. “Nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to,” she said.

Union officials have urged the White House and Senate leaders to schedule a vote this month. But Senate leaders have told labor that the Senate is so preoccupied with health care legislation that September would be the earliest time to take up the pro-union legislation.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Any Senate Democrat who forced this dramatic weakening of the Employee Free Choice Act should not receive a dime of campaign money from any union member, union organization or any Democratic officeholder or potential candidate who ever hopes to receive labor support. This should apply to general elections and primaries. No exceptions.

Union activists should encorage primary opponents to these Senate Democratic incumbents. It is time to make the SOB’s pay for their betrayal of working Americans!

UFCW 1776 workers at ACME Markets 40 stores in Phila and Se PA ratified a new agreement by the vote of 985 to 19


Last night in the Philadelphia Spectrum the workers at ACME Markets 40 stores in Phila and Se PA ratified a new agreement by the vote of 985 to 19. This victory would not have been possible without the unity of the UFCW members and the support that they received from our friends in labor, politics and the community. Thank you very much for your support.

Wendell Young IV; President of UFCW 1776

John Meyerson ; Chairman of Southeast PA Area Labor Federation.

John Meyerson

Director of Legislation & Political Action

United Food and Commercial Workers 1776

3031A Walton Rd

Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462

610 940 1811

Nurses call on Rep. Miller to Support Amendment Allowing States to Enact Single-Payer Health Reform


For Immediate Release
July 16, 2009
Contact: Michael Lighty, 510-772-8384 or Charles Idelson, 415-559-8991

Nurses call on Rep. Miller to Support Amendment Allowing States to Enact Single-Payer Health Reform

With debate underway in the House Education and Labor Committee today on the sweeping healthcare reform bill in that body, the nation’s largest organization of registered nurses today called on Committee Chair George Miller to support a critical amendment that would enable individual states to go a step farther and adopt single-payer, Medicare-for-All style reforms.

The amendment by Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio would remove potential legal impediments for states to pass single-payer bills by waiving federal exemptions that apply to employer-sponsored health plans. The committee is expected to vote on the amendment later tonight or early tomorrow.

“Nurses across America – and the thousands of nurses in Rep. Miller’s district – want genuine, comprehensive reform that addresses the patient care crisis we see every day. That is best achieved through a single-payer reform that is the most effective way to control costs, assure universality, and improve the quality of care,” said Kay McVay, RN, president emeritus of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee.

“With Congress apparently poised to adopt legislation that many of us believe will not solve the crisis, and leave far too much power in the hands of the insurance industry, this amendment is critical to allowing states to show a different path that can become a national model,” said McVay.

McVay, who is a resident of Rep. Miller’s East Bay Area district, said she has spoken to thousands of other of Miller’s constituents who strongly support single-payer reform. “We expect George Miller to show the leadership needed to give everyone a real choice of what kind of reform our nation, and our states need.”

CNA/NNOC, which represents 86,000 RNs has been lobbying Miller and other members of Congress to support the Kucinich amendment.

Recent studies have documented that compared to people with private insurance, Medicare enrollees have greater access to care, fewer problems with medical bills, and greater satisfaction with their health plans and the quality of care they receive.

“Shouldn’t that be the standard for the reform in our nation?” McVay asked, “and if you are not going to adopt Medicare for all in the national bill, why not allow individual states the opportunity to enact it.”

CNA/NNOC is the largest and fastest-growing organization of RNs in the U.S. with 86,000 members in all 50 states.

House Bill (HR 1881) would give TSA screeners union rights, end performance pay


House Bill (HR 1881) would give TSA screeners union rights, end performance pay

July 10, 2009

More than 45,000 federal airport screeners could get collective bargaining rights and be put under the General Schedule pay system — instead of the pay-for-performance pay system they are under now — if a bill advancing in the House is approved by Congress.

The House Homeland Security Committee on Thursday approved HR 1881, the Transportation Security Workforce Enhancement Act, which would extend traditional federal labor rights protections to the Transportation Security Administration’s airport screeners. The bill also would give them more whistleblower protections.

TSA has been plagued by low morale and high turnover, with roughly one in five screeners leaving each year.

Unions and other critics have said the agency’s pay-for-performance system, called the Performance Accountability and Standards System (PASS), is unfair and fails to accurately measure how well a screener does his job.

“Under PASS, not only do the criteria for evaluation differ from year to year, but so does the passing grade,” said Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. “Under this system, it is possible that a few points separate a poor performer from an exceptional performer. As a result, TSA workers do not know whether to expect a pink slip or a bonus.”

Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., who sponsored the bill, said giving screeners more workplace protections such as collective bargaining rights will improve morale and encourage them to stay longer. High turnover rates increase the government’s training costs and hurt transportation security, she said.

“If we continue to treat them like replaceable parts, we’re going to be forced to perpetually replace experienced staff with inexperienced staff, and lose the money we’ve invested,” Lowey said. …

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Virginia offers employees $500 loans


Washington Business Journal - by Jeff Clabaugh Staff Reporter

State employees in Virginia may be eligible for emergency loans of up to $500, under a new program announced by Gov. Tim Kaine Monday.

The governor’s office has established the Virginia State Employee Loan Program, a partnership between the Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign and Virginia Credit Union. Loans are available in amounts between $100 and $500 to state employees facing financial difficulties.

In order to qualify for the loans, state employees must complete an online financial fitness course and pass a brief exam.

“This program will allow our state employees to receive small loans without having to go to predatory lenders,” Governor Kaine said in a statement. “If the Commonwealth can offer this kind of program, other large employers may consider similar initiatives of their own.”

The loans don’t require a credit check, but won’t come cheap. They will carry an interest rate of 24.99 percent and be payable within six months. Employees must also belong to Virginia Credit Union and have a savings account with a balance of at least $5.

Loans will be backed by the Virginia State Employee Assistance Fund.

The National Association of Letter Carriers Union members collect more than 73 million pounds of food


The National Association of Letter Carriers Union members collect more than 73 million pounds of food

REGION, July 1st- The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Union in Washington, DC announced that despite the difficult economic times Americans donated a record 73.4 million pounds of non-perishable food in their annual Letter Carriers National Food Drive. The event is intended to restock community food banks and pantries throughout the nation.

The food was collected by letter carriers on May 9th as they delivered mail along their postal routes in over 10,000 cities and towns in all 50 states and United States jurisdictions. It is the nation’s largest one-day effort to “Stamp Out Hunger.”

NALC President William Young expressed profound appreciation to the millions of Americans who left food by their mailboxes and the thousands of his members, rural carriers, and other postal employees and volunteers, many who are members of other unions, who collected, processed and delivered the donations to local food banks and pantries.

“This is an amazing testimony to the generosity of the American people even as they themselves struggle to make ends meet in these hard times. Our members take pride in being able to serve their postal customers and help them assist millions of needy Americans, including many working families, children and the elderly,” said Mr. Young.

Final results showed 73,414,533 pounds of non-perishable food were collected in the traditional event on the second Saturday in May, a slight increase over the previous record of 73.1 million pounds set in 2008. It was the sixth consecutive year above 70 million pounds and brought the total for the drive’s 17 years to over 982 million pounds.

Members of the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 17 in Scranton, Branch 115 in Wilkes-Barre and Branch 162 in Pittston, participated in the event.

Jobs report signals more job loss to come in Pennsylvania


Jobs report signals more job loss to come in Pennsylvania

REGION, July 2nd- The Keystone Research Center (KRC), a Harrisburg based nonprofit, nonpartisan economic research organization, analysis of the Pennsylvania economy suggest the Commonwealth must maintain spending to forestall additional job loss.

The Keystone Research Center said the carnage in the national job market continued unrelenting in June, with the United States shedding 467,000 jobs and the national underemployment rate reaching 16.5 percent, roughly one in every six Americans in the labor force.

KRC believes the decline in the United States jobs report signals more job loses are to come for Pennsylvania.

The KRC stated the June national job report number place the debate about Pennsylvania’s state budget in a new context. It is well known to economists that the best way for state government to limit job loss in an economic recession is to maintain spending levels. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and others have shown that direct spending reductions may generate more adverse economic consequences than tax increases, particularly tax increases on higher-income households. That means tax increases can be the least damaging way to close state fiscal deficits in the short run and provide for long-term economic growth..

Basic economics underscores that Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell’s proposal to balance the state’s budget in part through an increase in the state’s personal income tax is on target and that alternative course of draconian cuts in state spending would reduce job creation and increases unemployment. So far Pennsylvania unemployment remains about a percentage point lower than the national rate, an advantage that translates into 60,000 jobs. The wrong budget agreement would jeopardize that Pennsylvania advantage, the KRC wrote.

The Keystone Research Center analysis states the basic economic reasons that maintaining state spending ideally through revenue increases that fall on higher earners are straight forward:

• Government injects every dollars it raises into the economy.

• Taxpayers, by contrast, save some of their income and those savings do not stimulate the economy in the short run. The income of higher earners is most likely to be saved rather than used for consumption or investent in a deeply depressed economy.

• State spending financed through bonds, in effect, through future state revenues, can be especially stimulating to the state economy in the short run, one reason that bond-financed water and sewer infrastructure and the state’s $650 million Alternative Energy Investment Fund are so well timed.

The organization states from the point of view of maximizing short-term creation, an even better alternative to the Governor’s current proposal would be to collect needed state revenues more substantially from higher earners, through a differentially higher tax on investment income. It can be done in Pennsylvania without a constitutional change.

While Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate is lower than the national one, it continues to move higher as the United States labor market weakens further. Moreover, initial claims for unemployment benefits were above 40,000 in Pennsylvania this past week, for the third week in a row.

The unemployment rate is higher in every part of Pennsylvania.

Job program created to help thousands of military veterans


Job program created to help thousands of military veterans


REGION, June 30th- Approximatley 15,000 military veterans will benefit from more than $25 million in job training grants released through the United States Department of Labor (DOL) Hilda Solis, Secretary of Labor announced on June 29th.

Ms. Solis stated 98 grants will be provided to the military veterans to help them succeed in civilian careers. The grants are being awarded under the United States Department of Labor’s Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP). “This funding will help veterans across the country access the resources they need to find good jobs and build a blight future for themselves and their families,” said Ms. Solis.

The funds are being awarded on a competitive basis to state and local workforce investment boards, local public agencies and nonprofit organizations, including faith-based and community organizations. These agencies are familiar with the areas and populations to be served and have demonstrated that they can administer effective programs.

The funds are being distributed nationwide through 50 new grants and 48 continuing grants receiving second and third year funding. Homeless veterans may receive occupational, classroom and on-the-job training, as well as job search, placement assistance and follow-up services. The Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program is recognized as an extraordinarily effective program and is only federal program that focuses exclusively on employment of homeless military veterans.

The Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program grants include two cooperative agreements that currently assist in developing the HVRP National Technical Assistance Center. The center provides technical assistance to current grantees, potential applicants and the public; gathers grantee best practices; conducts employment related research on homeless veterans; conducts regional grantee training sessions and self-employment boot camps; and performs outreach to the employer community to increase job opportunities for veterans.

Grantees under the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program network coordinate their efforts with various local, state and federal social service providers. More information on the DOL veteran programs can be found at

Report suggest using Social Security to ensure paid FMLAct


Report suggest using Social Security to ensure paid FMLAct


REGION, July 2nd- The Center for American Progress, a economic research and educational institute in Washington DC, released a study recently that makes the case for why adding family and medical leave to Social Security is perhaps the ideal way to finance paid family leave insurance. The report’s author is Center for American Progress Senior Economist Heather Boushey.

The report entitled “Helping Breadwinners When It can’t Wait,” suggest the United States government, unlike every other developed nation, does not require that workers have access to paid leave for the birth of a child or to care for a seriously ill family member. The federal government requires workers to buy (pay taxes) into a variety of social insurance systems to provide income, but some income like when they are unable to work or can’t find work, when retired, or during a long-term disability. However, the social insurance systems do no provide for any cash income when workers need time off to care for their family members or recover from a serous illness.

The report defines the program so that it’s clear that half-measures are no measures are no solution at all, then details how employers have thwarted national family leave policy proposals in Congress and also suggest solutions to the family leave crisis and how a Social Security program would work.

The Center for American Progress report states:

• Social Security Cares will allow workers to access Social Security benefits for income when they experience any of the three like events by the Family Leave Act; the birth or adoption of a child, the worker’s own serious illness, or to care for a seriously ill family member, for the same amount of time as the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLAct), which is a maximum of 12 weeks per year.

• Social Security Cares will cover every worker currently covered by Social Security, even those who do not receive unpaid job-protected leave from the Family Medical Leave Act.

• Eligibilty will be based on a worker’s lifetime employment history.

• The cost of the program is minimal and there are a variety of financing mechanisms: adding a small increase to the payroll tax (about three-enths of a percent), lifting the earnings cap beyond its 2009 level of $106,800, or by allowing workers to trade future Social Security benefits for paid time off to provide care during their working years.

Finally, it turns to the important questions of how to pay for Social Security Cares. This critical famly leave insurance program is needed by all Americans, can be implemented easily and effectively, and can be paid for without threatening the safety and soundness of our Social Security system.

Pennsylvania union leaders and workers plan a day of action to protest ‘payless paydays’


Pennsylvania union leaders and workers plan a day of action to protest ‘payless paydays’
by Ron Moore

The workers who provide Pennsylvanians with the quality of life they expect can at times become political targets during economic downturns. Even an ostensibly pro-worker governor can give in to the temptation to use them as pawns in budget negotiations. Consequently eight Pennsylvania unions have joined together to form a coalition against payless paydays.

Leaders from SEIU, UFCW, PSCOA, SEIU Health Care PA, PSEA, FOSCEP, OPEIU and AFSCME have organized a ‘Day of Action’ Tuesday, July 14. During lunch breaks state employees will hold demonstrations in and around the capitol complex at Noon. They are encouraging workers and citizens to flood the phone lines and emails of the governor and legislators that day.

“Enough is enough,” said David R. Fillman, Executive Director for Council 13 AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, “For 7 years a budget hasn’t been passed on time. Every year it’s a political tug of war and state employees are tired of being the rope. While elected officials get thousands of dollars of per diem and expenses during the impasse, our folks who come to work and do their job won’t be paid at all? It’s more than wrong, it’s disgusting.” AFSCME Council 13 represents more than 45,000 state employees.

“We’re tired of the Governor’s smokescreens. He doesn’t care about our members, and he doesn’t care about the people we serve. The bottom line is that our members work hard every day to serve the neediest and most vulnerable of our state’s citizens. And then, because the Governor and legislators don’t do their jobs, our members won’t get paid. What we need is a budget that fully funds public services and stop gap legislation to assure that state employees are paid - and we need it NOW!” said Kathy Jellison, Pres., Service Employees International Union, Local 688.

The move to place the burden of difficult budget decisions on the back or state workers and their families while continuing to lavish benefactors with inefficient overpriced contracts will, at the end of the day, save Pennsylvania taxpayers nothing. But the cost in the resulting ‘brain-drain’ as quality workers seek employment elsewhere will far outweigh any symbolic gesture by legislators unwilling to make difficult choices. Once again it is union workers who must protect and fight for the community since after all, they are the community.

Labor Groups to Press Obama on Health Care and a Second Stimulus Effort


Labor Groups to Press Obama on Health Care and a Second Stimulus Effort
By Steven Greenhouse

When President Obama meets with a dozen union presidents next Monday, the plan is to focus on their shared goals, not their differences.

One key item, administration officials and union leaders say, will be health-care reform and how to assure Congress enacts universal coverage.

But several labor leaders said that with unemployment nearing 15 million, they plan to urge the president to push for a second stimulus package — something that has stirred quite a bit of controversy lately. Administration officials, including most recently Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr, and Democratic lawmakers haven’t closed the door to that possibility but have counseled patience in monitoring the effects of the current $787 billion stimulus.

“There are a lot of issues of common interest to the administration and to the folks who will be in the room,” said Nate Tamarin, an associate White House political director. “The fact is that this is a group of leaders who individually and as a group are important to us.”

The meeting will include John J. Sweeney, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., Anna Burger, president of the rival Change to Win labor federation, and Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest labor union, which is not in either federation.

Union leaders say they will tell the president that their organizations will do what they can to win passage of universal health coverage, preferably with the public option that many Republicans oppose.

“It does not take a lot of ask for the labor movement to be supportive of health-care reform and to be supportive of the public option,” said Patrick Gaspard, the White House political director. “There are a lot of shared interests between them and the president’s goals on health-care reform.”

He added, “It’s more of a conversation about how to get there.”

At the meeting, Mr. Obama will underline his concerns about the troubled economy and discuss what the administration is doing to fix it, White House officials said.

“You can expect that the president is really going to try to focus some portion of the conversation on the economy and job growth,” Mr. Gaspard said. “We all know where we’re headed with unemployment. Obviously the folks around the table have an acute interest in the economy, and the president wants to hear from them about what basically needs to happen to grow the economy and to stabilize the middle class right now.”

Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said the labor leaders would of course want to discuss the card check bill legislation that would make it easier to unionize workers. That legislation is stalled, with opposition preventing Democratic senators from acquiring the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster…..

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