Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan meets with Building Trade Unions to discuss 2010 campaign


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

Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan meets with Building Trade Unions to discuss 2010 campaign


LEHIGH VALLEY, September 4th- Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan will challenge incumbent Republican United States House of Representative for the 15th Legislative District Charlie Dent in 2010 and Mr. Callahan wants labor support.

Mr. Callahan, a Democrat, who is seeking re-election as Bethlehem Mayor this year but has no challengers, stated local and national Democrats believe he would be a formidable challenger to Mr. Dent.

Congressman Dent is currently serving a third two-year term in Washington, DC. He defeated Democratic challenger Sam Bennett last year. The 15th Legislative District includes Lehigh and Northampton Counties.

“He is a great candidate. I’m looking forward to the campaign,” said Joe Long, Chairman of the Northampton County Democratic Committee and a retired member of the United Auto Workers of America (UAW).

On September 1st the Building and Construction Trades Council of the Lehigh Valley held a strategy session with Mr. Callahan at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 375 building on Liberty Street in Allentown. The event was attended by leaders of the construction trades unions and several labor leaders from the Lehigh Valley. The Building and Construction Trades Council of the Lehigh Valley has 20 local unions affiliated with the labor federation. The unions represent workers employed within the building and construction industry.

Kenneth Kraft, Assistant Business Manager of the Painters and Allied Trades Union District Council 21, stated a good line of communication between the labor community and the campaign will be necessary if Mr. Callahan is to defeat Congressman Dent.

The 15th Congressional District seat has been held by a Republican for six consecutive terms. Pat Toomey represented the Lehigh Valley in Washington for six years and did not seek a fourth two-year term in 2004. Mr. Toomey has announced he will seek the Republican nomination for the United States Senate in 2010. The seat is currently occuppied by Democrat Arlen Specter. Mr. Specter has already announced he will seek another six-year term in 2010.

The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) in Washington tabulates the voting record of legislators toward legislation important to the working people. Since being in the United States Congress, Mr. Dent’s voting record has dropped every year.

According to the review of the report card of the legislators by the newspaper, Mr. Dent in 2006 had nearly a 35 percent labor voting record. However, it dropped to 27 percent in 2007 and is now below 20 percent. In 2009, Mr. Dent failed to support federal “bridge loans” to General Motors and Chrysler, which was important to the UAW.

In 2008 Mr. Dent voted against the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)/Card Check legislation. The Congressman also voted against the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, which raised the federal minimum wage in three steps to $7.25 per hour.

Pennsylvania State budget impasse effecting agencies that help citizens


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

State budget impasse effecting agencies that help citizens


LEHIGH VALLEY, September 19th- There was an announcement on September 19th the Pennsylvania budget impasse may be over but the crisis put state employees jobs and vulnerable citizens services in harms way. Every Tuesday union workers of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania rally across the state protesting the lack of a new state budget. The state legislators and Governor Edward Rendell went more than two and a half months without agreeing on a new state budget.

Members of the two unions that represent the majority share of Pennsylvania state employees, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union participated with conducting peaceful protests held at worksites all across the commonwealth and at the capital every Tuesday. Pennsylvania has not gone this long without a budget in its history.

Meanwhile, vulnerable citizens and noprofit organizations that are needed of state funding are feeling the effect of the budget impasse.

“We want to remind the legislators that their failure to pass an adequate budget is having a direct effect on Pennsylvania’s citizens. Not only is this impasse having a negative impact on the Pennsylvania economy as a whole, it is devastating for the thousands of people who depend on nonprofit services on a daily basis,” said Jennine Miller, Coordinator of the Education and Advocacy for Project H.O.M.E.

The lack of a budget is also hurted the funding of programs that help Pennsylvania’s children, families, counties, seniors, schools, people with mental illnesses and disabilities, institutions of higher learning, and child and foster care providers. Because of the impasse, agencies are not being reimbursed for services already delivered with many of them reporting that they had no sources of money remaining to help them through the crisis period. Also, agencies reported that the lack of government reimbursement for services has hindered their ability to provide regular paychecks to their employees.

More than a third of the agencies reported that they have initiated staff layoffs because of the budget impasse.

Mike Baker, a SEIU Local 668 member and an Income Maintenance Caseworker at the Lehigh County Assistance Office, stated Pennsylvania social services workers are stretched thin in trying to do their jobs in providing the services needed by so many in the current economy and cannot suffer further state worker cuts without drastically affecting client service.

DOL to releases report showing workers cheated wages


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

DOL to releases report showing workers cheated wages


REGION, September 5th - The United States Department of Labor (DOL) in Washington, DC released the findings of a survey of 4,387 workers in low-wage industries across the three largest United States cities and found that the core workplace protections many Americans take for granted are failing significant number of workers.

The three cities were: Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

The report issued on September 2nd, just days before Labor Day, and jointly funded by the Ford, Joyce, Hayes and Russell Sage Foundations, examines the right to be paid at least the minimum wage, the right to be paid for overtime hours, the right to take meal breaks, access to workers’ compensation when injured and the right to advocate for better working conditions.

“There is no excuse for the disregard of federal labor standards, expecially those that are designed to protect the neediest among us. As secretary of labor, I am committed to the vigorous enforcement of our laws and will make use of the full weight of my authority to find and prosecute violators,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis in a press released e-mailed to the newspaper regarding the survey.

Secretary Solis stated she was concerned that labor law is so often violated and disregarded.

“I am especially troubled by the report’s findings that employment and labor laws are regularly and systematically violated. Our workers deserve, and need, far better than that. In fact, it’s precisely why stronger enforcement remains at the top of my agenda,” said Ms. Solis.

Because of the violations and the disregard for labor laws, DOL will be hiring more personnel to investigate whether employees are paid the proper wages by employers.

“Beginning this year and into 2010, I am hiring an additional 250 new wage and hour investigators so we can continue to effectively monitor wage and hour violations. During the first six months of this year, the Department of Labor already has recovered more than $82 million in back wages for nearly 107,000 minimum wage workers,” stated Ms. Solis.

She added the report clearly shows DOL still has a major task before them, but America’s workers should feel assured that the agency is committed to the protection of their rights.

Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Region’s unemployment rate at 9.0 percent


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

Region’s unemployment rate at 9.0 percent


LEHIGH VALLEY, September 6th- According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Center for Workforce Information and Analysis in Harrisburg, the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was unchanged from the previous report at 9.0 percent. The MSA includes Lehigh, Northampton, and Carbon Counties of Pennsylvania and Warren County, New Jersey. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was 5.6 percent.

There are fourteen Metropolitan Statistical Area’s in Pennsylvania and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area has the fifth highest unemployment rate in the Commonwealth.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 8.5 percent, increasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report, which was released approximately four weeks ago. There are 540,000 Pennsylvania residents without jobs. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted workforce of 6,388,000 and 5,848,000 of them have employment. The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was reported to be 9.4 percent, decreasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report. There are 14,462,000 residents nationally unemployed which does not include workers who benefits have expired.

The data shows the Erie MSA has the highest unemployment rate in the state at 9.7 percent. The Reading MSA has the second highest unemployment rate in the state at 9.2 percent, with the Williamsport MSA and the Johnstown MSA are tied for third at 9.1 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.8 percent, with the Lebanon MSA and the Altoona MSA tied for the second lowest unemployment rate at 7.4 percent. The Harrisburg/Carlisie MSA has the third lowest unemployment rate at 7.6 percent.

The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest civilian labor force in Pennsylvania at 421,400, dropping by 300 from the previous report and rising by 1,700 during the past twelve months. There are 36,100, dropping by 300 from the previous report and rising by 15,000 during the past twelve months, residents in the MSA not working.

The Philadelphia MSA has the largest civilian labor force in Pennsylvania at 2,977,600 with 253,100 residents not working. The Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest civilian labor force at 1,217,300, with 93,700 residents unemployed. The Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force in the state at 284,200, with 21,500 residents unemployed. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the fifth largest civilian labor force at 282,200 with 25,200 residents not working.

The Williamsport MSA has the smallest civilian labor force in Pennsylvania at 59,800. The Altoona MSA is the second smallest at 64,300 with the Johnstown MSA the third smallest at 69,000.

Carbon County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 10.3 percent, rising by three and six-tenths percentage points from twelve months ago. Carbon County has 3,200 civilians not working, increasing by 200 from the previous report and increasing by 1,100 from twelve months ago.

Northampton County has the lowest unemployment rate in the MSA at 8.7 percent, increasing by three and two-tenths percentage points during the past twelve months. Northampton County has 13,300 residents not working, rising by 3,900 during the past twelve months.

Lehigh County has a unemployment rate of 9.1 percent, increasing by three and five-tenths of a percentage points from twelve months ago. Lehigh County has 16,100 residents not working rising by a whopping 6,200 from twelve months ago.

Unions Need to Sever All Ties with Anti-Climate Bill Groups


Unions Need to Sever All Ties with Anti-Climate Bill Groups

by Brendan Smith

Under escalating pressure from activists, Nike, the utility giant Pacific Gas & Electric Company, and others have publicly resigned from the US Chamber of Commerce over its opposition to climate protection policies. It’s time for labor unions to follow suit by cutting all ties with groups opposing climate legislation like the Chamber-funded Energy Citizen’s Alliance.

The AFL-CIO’s newly elected president Richard Trumka recently told an audience at the “Jobs, Justice, and Climate” conference: “The AFL-CIO and all the unions in North America are strongly on board the global campaign to reduce carbon emissions and stabilize climate change. Working together with environmental organizations we hope to reverse practices that put our very survival at risk.”

So why have some labor unions thrown their support behind the Energy Citizens Alliance, a nationwide front-group lobbying against climate mitigation legislation and funded by the likes of the Chamber of Commerce and American Petroleum Institute?

According to Energy Citizen’s website, the group’s objective is to force “Congress to reject climate change policies that could raise energy costs and eliminate American jobs.” They opposed the Waxman-Markey climate bill and are now furiously lobbying against the Senate version, claiming it will have “negative effects for families, small businesses, farmers and truckers–but the fact remains that all Americans that drive or fly will feel the impact.”

Besides the Chamber and API, the alliance’s membership includes Laborers’ Local 341, Building and Construction Trades Council of South Central Alaska, and the Pipefitters’ United Association Local 375. The rest of the membership reads like a “who’s who” of the most anti-union and anti-environmental lobbies in the country, including: the National Association of Manufactures, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, and the American Conservative Union.

Even worse, at least one AFL-CIO state president has become a spokesman for the alliance. At a recent Energy Citizens rally in Alaska, organized to demand that “Senators Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski to reject costly climate change policies”, Vince Beltrami, president of the Alaska AFL-CIO, warned the crowd that one-third of Alaska’s workers owe their jobs to the oil industry, and that climate legislation “will cost jobs in the long term.” Energy Citizens is sponsoring 20 similar rallies around the country to aid efforts to defeat any and all climate legislation.

The AFL-CIO and their affiliates have come a long way on climate change. They opposed Kyoto Protocol in 1990’s, despite the fact that unions from Europe, Canada and elsewhere supported it. Fortunately that started to change at the end of 2006 when the AFL-CIO formed a new Energy Task Force and began to engage with the issue in new ways. Its 2007 report, Jobs and Energy for the 21st Century, acknowledged that “human use of fossil fuels is undisputedly contributing to global warming, causing rising sea levels, changes in climate patterns and threats to coastal regions.”

More recently labor and environmental coalitions such as the Blue Green Alliance and the Apollo Alliance have dedicated significant resources to fighting for green jobs and climate mitigation policies. The AFL-CIO sent member delegations to Bali and other international climate change convening. And the AFL-CIO supported the Waxman-Markey climate bill.

That’s why labor affiliates joining forces with the Chamber of Commerce to support astro-turf groups like Energy Citizens is so disturbing. According to a recent editorial by the NYT, “no organization in this country has done more to undermine” climate legislation than the Chamber of Commerce. This is the same organization that recently called for a “Scopes monkey trial” questioning the science behind the EPA’s preliminary finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger human health.

At every turn, labor is advocating for the creation of millions of “green jobs.” The AFL-CIO recently opened a new Center for Green Jobs at the National Labor College and unions fought hard to secure federal funds for green job creation in the House and Senate climate bills. At last month’s AFL-CIO convention, even Energy Citizen ally Vince Beltrami publicly endorsed Resolution 10 entitled “Creating and Retaining Sustainable Good Green Jobs.” So why are these same union officials trying to see that those jobs are never created?

What’s even more frustrating is that the Energy Citizen’s Alliance membership is composed of the very corporate lobbies that have led the charge against labor’s number one legislative priority: The Employee Free Choice Act. How can labor ask environmental groups to support their legislative priorities when some unions are working against the single most important environmental issue of our time

If PG&E and Nike can cut ties with the Chamber, isn’t it time for labor to do the same?
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EDITOR’S NOTE: The original article is full of embedded links. I highly recommend reading it from the blog link just after the title in this post.