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FDR vs. the Great Recession

11.28.09

FDR vs. the Great Recession
We must tackle four big issues to revive our economy

By Stephen Herzenberg

http://post-gazette.com/pg/09331/1016439-109.stm#ixzz0Y6i5F4NX

I keep seeing this image of Franklin Roosevelt rolling over in his grave.

What might have our late, great President perturbed? Today’s debate about how to get the economy going again.

Since the start of the Great Recession, the U.S. economy has shed more than 7 million jobs, 208,000 of them in Pennsylvania. We are living through the deepest economic contraction since the Great Depression.

In the 1930s, Roosevelt stabilized financial markets and used government spending to create demand in the face of flagging consumer spending and business investment. In the Great Recession, the Obama administration has, with significant success, taken similar steps. As a result, the U.S. economy expanded at a 3.5 percent annual pace in the third quarter and job losses have slowed.

But it hasn’t been enough. Unemployment is still rising, inching past 10 percent last month.

Double-digit unemployment carries a lot of symbolism. As Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff has noted, Congress is under pressure to do something.

So far, momentum is building for a federal tax credit that would give companies an incentive to hire new employees. Never mind that many companies will hire new workers with or without billions more in taxpayer subsidies or that other businesses will play games to increase their new-employee count.

As Mr. Rogoff says, the real appeal of a job-creation tax credit may be that it “beats doing nothing.”

But hold a job-creation tax credit up against what Roosevelt did in the New Deal and it looks like, well, nothing.

Roosevelt attacked the root cause of The Depression ## the failure of middle-class purchasing power to grow, which caused income inequality to spike in the 1920s while speculation by the well-to-do generated a stock market bubble. Sound familiar?

It should. In the current decade, U.S. income inequality reached the levels of the late 1920s. In recent years, the richest 1 percent of Pennsylvanians have been taking home 68 cents of every dollar increase in income.

To get middle-class consumption going again in the 1930s, Roosevelt championed the “Big Four” social policies:

• a minimum wage to lift purchasing power at the bottom;

• a law strengthening workers’ rights to unionize, laying the basis for the emergence of America’s middle class through manufacturing unions;

• unemployment insurance, which enabled jobless workers to feed their families; and

• Social Security, which enabled the elderly poor to avoid destitution and increase their consumption.

So far, what is Washington offering as the Great Recession’s Big Four? The Big Zero.

To be fair, Congress is dedicating a lot of time and energy to health-care reform, which will yield economic dividends for decades to come. But what about policies specifically designed to reinvigorate the middle class?

There are some ideas kicking around the margins that can help shape what today’s Big Four might look like. Three of the best ideas would update elements of the New Deal.

First, the minimum wage should rise again with the overall wage level. Though long forgotten, between 1938 and 1968, the purchasing power of the minimum wage more than doubled. Let’s put minimum-wage earners on that same track today.

Unionization is another important tool to rebuild the middle class, starting in the service sectors that pay too poorly ## in offices, health care and child care, supermarkets and retail stores, hotels and restaurants, and building services.

Unionization won’t cause these local jobs to disappear; you can’t outsource a nurse’s aide job at the local hospital to Tijuana. If these workers earned $15 per hour plus benefits ## instead of $10 per hour with no benefits ## the American middle class would come back. Empowering workers to achieve this specific change is why Congress must pass a proposed federal law that restores workers’ freedom to create a union ## the Employee Free Choice Act.

We also need to update our unemployment insurance system. Today’s unemployed workers don’t just need income to tide them over until the assembly line starts moving again. Unemployed ## and many employed ## workers also need more access to job training that is linked to credentials and career pathways.

The final piece of today’s Big Four would be a massive investment in an environmentally sustainable low-carbon economy, implemented in a way that rebuilds our fragile manufacturing base and expands the number of family-sustaining jobs.

FDR did a lot for our country some 75 years ago. It’s time to build on his legacy with ideas for long-term recovery equal to the scale of today’s recession. And to let the poor man rest in peace.

Stephen Herzenberg is executive director of the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg www.keystoneresearch.org .

Read more: http://post-gazette.com/pg/09331/1016439-109.stm#ixzz0Y9UJJcMG

Jobless extention legislation signed by President Obama

11.25.09

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

Jobless extention legislation signed by President Obama

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 6th- President Barack Obama signed legislation that will extend jobless benefits to the economic hardest hit states including Pennsylvania to 99 weeks. The United States Senate voted on November 4th to extend the Federal-State Unemployment Insurance Program for an additional six weeks to recipients in states such as Pennsylvania where the unemployment rate exceeds 8.5 percent. The bill passed the Senate unanimously with both Democratic Pennsylvania Senators, Robert Casey Jr. and Arlen Specter voting for the legislation.

“With states such as Pennsylvania experiencing record unemployment number, it is high time the Senate pass legislation to extend unemployment insurance benefits to millions of struggling Americans. As we work to recover our economy, we must continue to endure that out-of-work families have the assistance and support to afford the basic necessities and stay in their homes. It is unfortunate that this much-needed relief was delayed by Republican led tactics for over a month, during which time 200,000 Americans saw their benefits expire,” said Mr. Specter.

The United States House of Representatives passed the emergency unemployment insurance legislation 403-12, with Lehigh Valley Congressman Charlie Dent (Republican-15th Legislative District), voting in favor. Mr. Dent voted against the economic stimulus legislation and also voted against providing loans to American automakers eariler this year.

The bill will extend emergency unemployment insurance for another 20 weeks for Pennsylvanians to help the many individuals and families that havebeen forced out of their jobs as a result of the troubling economic situation. Pennsylvanians who have been unable to find jobs can now receive a total of 79 weeks of unemployment insurance. The legislation will also extend the tax credit for homebuyers which was originally implemented through the recovery package.

Unemployment insurance is temporary income for workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own. Regular unemployment insurance provides up to 26 weeks of benefits. Emergency unemployment insurance is a federally funded program created in 2008 to provide additional benefits of 13 weeks or up to 34 weeks, and an additional 19 weeks of benefits for those living in states with high unemployment. Pennsylvanians qualify to receive the additional 19 weeks of unemployment insurance.

The extention is fully paid for and aims to help boost the local economy, while helping those who are unemployed. The Congressional Budget Office has cited unemployment benefits as one of the most cost-effective forms of economic stimulus, and every dollar spent on unemployment benefits generates $1.63 in new demand, according to Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi.

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry announced on October 1st, 23,000 long-term unemployed Pennsylvanians, who have not been able to find work following a job loss, exhausted their final seven-week extension of unemployment compensation benefits. Under the Federal-State Unemployment Insurance Program those workers will receive the additional weeks of benefits.

The legislation also contained Business and Homebuyer Assistance Provisions which extend through April 30, 2010 the tax credit for first-time homebuyers (up to $8,000 or up to 10 percent of the purchase price of the residence), allowing 60 days to close, provided that the homes are under a binding contract by that date.

Republican Senator objects to pro-union NLRB nominee

11.25.09

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

Republican Senator objects to pro-union NLRB nominee

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 5th- On July 9th the Obama Administration announced that it had sent to the United States Senate the nominiations of three individuals to serve as members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, DC, but one of them has been stalled because Republican Arizona Senator John McCain requested a hearing be conducted.

If they were confirmed by the Senate, the NLRB would have a full complement of five members for the first time since December 7th, 2007. The sitting members are Chariman Wilma Liebman and member Peter Schaumber.

In April President Barack Obama announced his intention to nominate labor law attorney’s Craig Becker and Mark Gaston Pearce for the two vacant Democratic seats on the NLRB. The intent to nominate Brian Hayes to fill the vacant Republican seat was announced shortly before the nominations were sent to the Senate. By tradition, three of the five NLRB seats are filled by individuals of the same political party of the President in office.

Chairman Liebman’s term expires on August 27th, 2011 and Mr. Schaumber’s term ends on August 27th, 2010.

On October 20th, 2009, Senator McCain sent a letter to Senator Tom Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, stating Mr. Becker’s written views was too pro-union and requested that a hearing be conducted before the full committee consider his nomination to the NLRB.

“I have concerns regarding Mr. Becker’s written views, which indicate that he would prevent employers from having a role in union representation elections in their workplaces by doing away with requiring fair, secret ballot union elections when requested by an employer and I would like the opportunity to question Mr. Becker about these positions in person and in public,” stated Mr. McCain in the letter which was obtained by the newspaper.

Mr. Becker has served as the Associate General Counsel of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents workers employed in state, county and municipal governments, and the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation. If confirmed his term would end on December 16th, 2014.

NLRB investigating Morning Call employee complaint

11.25.09

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

NLRB investigating Morning Call employee complaint

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 4th- The investigation in whether a complaint filed by a member of the Graphic Communications Conference Union (GCU), which is an employee of the Morning Call newspaper in Allentown, has merit will be completed by the end of November.

The member, Jean Hastins, West Union Street in Allentown, filed a Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge against GCU Local 4-C alleging the labor organization violated Section 8 (b) and subsections (1) (A) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct) at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia in September.

The complaint, reviewed by the newspaper, stated the Union violated the duty of fair representation by failing to pursue a grievance about the Employer’s violation of provisions in the collective bargaining agreement related to overtime.

GCU, formerly the Graphic Communications International Union (GCIU) merged with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union in 2005, represents pressroom personnel at the Morning Call, North Sixth Street in downtown Allentown.

According to information obtained by the newspaper, NLRB Field Examiner Ellen McDowell has investigated the complaint filed by Ms. Hastins and will determine by the end of November if the NLRAct was violated and then will decide what action the NLRB will take to rectify the situation.

The complaint alleges and states, “The Union threatened employees that they could lose their jobs if they filed grievances related to overtime.”

The ULP states the union representative indentified to be contacted is Wayne Cox in Clifton Heights, Pennsylvania while the employer representative named on the complaint to be contacted is Sarah Long, indentified as the Morning Call Human Resources Representative.

Local Superior Court Judge Jack Panella unsuccessful in bid for high court

11.25.09

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

Local Superior Court Judge Jack Panella unsuccessful in bid for high court

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 4th- Jack Panella, Superior Court Judge in Bethlehem, and labor supported Pennsylvania Supreme Court Democratic Party candidate, was defeated by Republican candidate Joan Orie Melvin in the general election on November 3rd. Because of Mr. Panella’s defeat the partisan balance of the seven-member Supreme Court will shift toward the Republicans. Currently, there are four Democrats and three Republicans on the high court.

Mr. Panella was endorsed by many labor unions and federations throughout the Commonwealth including the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and the Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council.

Ms. Melvin is a sitting Superior Court Judge in Pittsburgh and critized Mr. Panella for accepting campaign contributions from organized labor. Her campaign stated in radio and television advertisements Mr. Panella was supported by a “special interest group,” meaning labor unions.

Mr. Panella told the newspaper during the campaign he was proud to receive the support of the working people and their unions. “As a candidate who has always stood up for the rights of working families, I accept these endorsements with great pride. My family has a long history of involvement with organized labor,” Mr. Panella told the newspaper.

Bethlehem Firefighters Union leader states Mayor Callahan fair to his members

11.25.09

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

Bethlehem Firefighters Union leader states Mayor Callahan fair to his members

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 7th- Democratic Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan will challenge incumbent United States House of Representative (Republican-15th Legislative District) Charlie Dent in 2010 and he will need the support of organized labor.

Mr. Callahan, who just won re-election as Bethlehem Mayor, has for months reached-out to members of the labor community throughout the Lehigh Valley requesting their financial support and conducting strategy sessions.

According to one labor leader that represents workers employed by Bethlehem, Mr. Callahan is fair to his members. “He comes out and participates with our events just to show support for our guys,” said David Saltzer, President of the the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Union Local 735, which represents 111 members of the Bethlehem fire department.

Mr. Saltzer told the newspaper Mr. Callahan has been a good employer since becoming Mayor of Bethlehem. Currently, Local 735 has a four-year contract agreement with the city which will expire on December 31st, 2010. “We have negotiated one contract with him but things went well. He was fair to the members,” said Mr. Saltzer.

Mr. Saltzer has been on the Bethlehem Fire Department for eight years and has served as President for one. “I was the Secretary of the union before becoming the President,” Mr. Saltzer said.

Carpenters Union files complaint against Emmaus employer

11.25.09

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

Carpenters Union files complaint against Emmaus employer

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

EMMAUS, November 1st- During a review by the newspaper of Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges filed at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia it was discovered the Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters of Southeastern Pennsylvania Union in Philadelphia filed a complaint against American Millwork and Cabinetry Inc. in Emmaus alleging the employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

According to the complaint, filed on October 28th, 2009 by Stephen Holrold of the lawfirm of Jennings Sigmond on Walnut Street in Philadelphia on behalf of the union, the employer operates an architectural millwork facility on Broad Street in Emmaus and has approximately 20 employees.

The Union alleges on the ULP Section 8 (a), subsections (1) and (3) was violated by the employer.

The International Brotherhood of Carpenters Union Local 600 in Bethlehem represents carpenter union members throughout the Lehigh Valley and is affiliated with the Regional Council of Carpenters of Southeastern Pennsylvania, State of Delaware and Eastern Shore of Maryland.

The ULP alleges the employer has interferred with, restrained and coerced employees in the exercise of the rights guarenteed under Section 7 of the NLRAct.

“On October 12, 2009, it by its officers, agents and representatives discriminated against and is discriminating against Kevin Wetherhold in retaliation for his membership in and activities in support of the Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters by laying him off” states the complaint.

The employer representative named on the complaint to be contacted is George Reitz however his position with American Millwork and Cabinetry Inc is not identified.

According to the National Labor Relations Board, the agency is investigating the complaint and will determine if there is merit in the union’s allegations.

Food Workers Union ask Wal-Mart to provide health care to employees

11.25.09

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

Food Workers Union ask Wal-Mart to provide health care to employees

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 4th- The United Food and Commerical Workers (UFCW) Union Local 1776, which represents workers throughout southeastern, central and northeastern Pennsylvania including the Lehigh Valley, is calling for Wal-Mart Stores to do the right thing and provide health care for their workers.

According to Wendell Young IV, President of the 23,000 member Local 1776, recently the union conducted a action at a Wal-Mart Store in the region and distributed fliers to customers requesting them to urge Wal-Mart to provide meaningful health care coverage to them.

“Wal-Mart claims that 94 percent of its workers have some form of health care. But the company fails to mention that only half of its workers are covered by the company and that many of the 700,000 who are not covered are forced onto taxpayer-supported state health insurance plans because they earn poverty wages and can’t afford the company’s plan,” said Mr. Young from Local 1776’s main office in Plymouth Meeting, which is near Philadelphia.

UFCW Local 1776 represents workers employed in supermarkets; drug stores, including Rite Aid; food processing plants; government services; manufacturing facilities; nursing homes, including the Cedarbrook Nursing Home in Lehigh County; professional offices and the Pennsylvania Wine and Spirits Shoppes.

Michele Kessler, Secretary/Treasurer of Local 1776, stated that under the company’s least expensive family health care coverage the average full-time Wal-Mart worker must spend more than 20 percent of his or her annual income before the plan pays any reimbursement.

“Yet, Wal-Mart claims that every American should have affordable health insurance. When it comes to health care, Wal-Mart clearly wears many masks. If it really cared about health care, it would do the right thing and make its actions match its words. It would use some of the massive profits to make sure that its workers get the quality, affordable health care coverage that it gives its executives and that all Americans should have,” said Ms. Kessler.

UFCW stated that among 18 states that file reports with the federal government on disclosing where the persons who receive state benefits work, taxpayers pay more than $billion a year to provide health care for Wal-Mart employees. Ohio alone in September reported spending $68 million to give Wal-Mart workers Medicaid, food stamps and other benefits.

Labor Department transfers complaint to Washington office

11.25.09

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

Labor Department transfers complaint to Washington office

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 3rd- The Road Sprinkler Fitters Union Local 669, which is affiliated with the United Association of Journeyman and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry International Union in Washington, DC, complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia has been transferred to the agencies office in Washington DC.

The newspaper previously reported the union filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge on September 9th alleging a Lehigh Valley employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The complaint alleges De Ja Vu Mechanical, Selfert Road in Nazareth, violated Section 8 (a), subsections (1) and (3) of the NLRAct.
According to the ULP, the union alleges the employer on or about May 11th, 2009, and again on May 14th, 2009, after Local 669 distributed information to their employees showing them the proper prevailing wage rates that they should have been paid, threatened employees that if they turned the Employer in for failing to pay prevailing wage under the Pennsylvania Wage Law, they would be fired. The complaint also alleges the Employer threatened employees with layoff for asking about the difference in their pay rate.

According to the NLRB, the ULP has been submitted for advise to the Washington office because of a issue surrounding whether workers of De Ja Vu Mechancial were paid the proper wage under the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act. Under the states prevailing wage law construction workers employed for the building and construction of government bodies such as schools and municipal buildings must be paid the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage.

According to Kim Green, Organizer of Local 669 and who filed the ULP on behalf of the union, the nonunion employer installs, maintains and repairs sprinkler systems, and was hired by several area school districts to conduct construction work including in the Nazareth School District. Local 669 represents workers within the construction industry that installs sprinkler systems.

Mr. Green stated the employer isolated employee Glenn Minnick from other employees to prevent him from continuing to talk to them about the proper pay rates they should be paid. The employer assigned overtime to employees other than Mr. Minnick in retaliation for his complaining about the Employer’s failure to pay the proper prevailing wage rates. And Mr. Minnick was terminated for complaining about and pursuing the proper wages on behalf of him and other similarly situated employees, and told him “good luck with what you are doing,” only four days after Mr. Minnick filed a state lawsuit to recover prevailing wages on behalf of himself and others similarly situated.

Pennsylvania and Illinois Faculty Unions Endorse HR 676

11.25.09

Pennsylvania and Illinois Faculty Unions Endorse HR 676

Two faculty unions affiliated with the National Education Association
(NEA) have endorsed HR 676, single payer healthcare legislation introduced
by Congressman John Conyers (D-MI).

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the Legislative Assembly of the Association
of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) voted
overwhelmingly to endorse HR 676. ASPCUF represents 6,000 faculty members
at the fourteen public university campuses across Pennsylvania. Seth
Kahn, Grievance Chair at West Chester University, said: “APSCUF
recognizes the importance of single-payer healthcare for unions
everywhere. We are pleased to offer our strong endorsement.”

In Chicago, Illinois, the Executive Board of the Roosevelt University
Adjunct Faculty Organization (RAFO) also voted to endorse HR 676 reports
LuAnn Swartzlander, RAFO President. RAFO is affiliated with the Illinois
Education Association (IEA) and the NEA. #30#

HR 676 would institute a single payer health care system by expanding a
greatly improved Medicare system to everyone residing in the U. S.

HR 676 would cover every person for all necessary medical care including
prescription drugs, hospital, surgical, outpatient services, primary and
preventive care, emergency services, dental, mental health, home health,
physical therapy, rehabilitation (including for substance abuse), vision
care, hearing services including hearing aids, chiropractic, durable
medical equipment, palliative care, and long term care.

HR 676 ends deductibles and co-payments. HR 676 would save hundreds of
billions annually by eliminating the high overhead and profits of the
private health insurance industry and HMOs.

In the current Congress, HR 676 has 86 co-sponsors in addition to Conyers.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced SB 703, a single payer bill
in the Senate.

HR 676 has been endorsed by 568 union organizations in 49 states including
134 Central Labor Councils and Area Labor Federations and 39 state
AFL-CIO’s (KY, PA, CT, OH, DE, ND, WA, SC, WY, VT, FL, WI, WV, SD, NC, MO,
MN, ME, AR, MD-DC, TX, IA, AZ, TN, OR, GA, OK, KS, CO, IN, AL, CA, AK, MI,
MT, NE, NY, NV & MA).

For further information, a list of union endorsers, or a sample
endorsement resolution, contact:

Kay Tillow
All Unions Committee For Single Payer Health Care## HR 676
c/o Nurses Professional Organization (NPO)
1169 Eastern Parkway, Suite 2218
Louisville, KY 40217
(502) 636 1551
Email: nursenpo@aol.com
http://unionsforsinglepayerHR676.org
11/24/09

Pennsylvania workers losing employer based healthcare

11.18.09

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

Pennsylvania workers losing employer based healthcare

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 4th- According to a newly released report analyzing United States Census data, employers provided health insurance to 694,471 fewer Pennsylvanians in 2007 and 2008 than at the start of the decade.

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) in Washington, DC and the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center in Harrisburg jointly released the study which found that Pennsylvania outstripped every state in the nation except Michigan in the loss of employer sponsored health care between 2000-2001 and 2007-2008.

Nationally, the percentage of Americans under age 65 covered by an employer policy fell in each of the past eight years, going from 68.3 percent in 2000 to 61.9 percent in 2008. That amounts to 17 million fewer Americans insured by an employer policy today.

“The strong ink between jobs and health care is eroding. Pennsylvanians who once relied on a job to bring family health coverage increasingly must look for other options,” said Sharon Ward, Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. “Congress must act soon to reform the health care system to make health care more affordable to employers and to families.”

The number of Pennsylvania workers and their dependents with employment-based health insurance fell from 7,929,984 in 2000-2001 to 7,235,512 in 2007-2008, a decline of 694,471. The rate of employer coverage in the commonwealth dropped from 75.9 percent in 2000-2001 to 69.7 percent in 2007-2008, outstripping the national average decline during that period.

Overall, Pennsylvania has a higher rate of employment based coverage than the national average. Among the 50 states and Washington, DC the state ranked 10th in employer coverage rates in 2007-2008.

Still, the rate and number of children without health insurance has bucked overall downward trends in Pennsylvania, remaining the same between 2000-2001 and 2007-2008. For both periods, approximately 200,000 children lacked coverage, making up slightly more than 7 percent of the population.

As is the case nationally, increased enrollment in Medicaid and SCHIP compensated for the loss of employment-based coverage for kids. Since 2000-2001, the share of the population with coverage through those public programs grew from 10 percent to 14.3 percent in Pennsylvania.

The study shows a major cause of the decline in employer coverage is the skyrocketing cost of health care, which has made employers less likely to offer insurance coverage to their workers. Given the state of the economy, millions more Americans are expected to lose employer-sponsored health insurance over the next two years which is likely to future strain public programs.

SEIU members concerned Allentown State Hospital may be closed

11.18.09

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

SEIU members concerned Allentown State Hospital may be closed

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 9th- On November 2nd the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Pennsylvania Social Services Union (PSSU) Local 668 held a rally at the Allentown State Hospital on Hanover Avenue in Allentown to protest the possible closing of the psychiatric hospital.

Mike Baker, Local 668, Chapter 13 Chairman stated the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW) in Harrisburg has indicated the 97 year old hospital might to closed and the residents would be moved to other state facilities including in Lackawanna County and Berks County.

“We were pleased that many of the public officials that were invited attended the rally. The purpose of the rally was to bring attention to the possibility of DPW closing the much needed hospital,” said Mr. Baker.

Pennsylvania has closed twelve of its psychiatric hospitals since 1979, bringing the number of state owned facilities including Allentown to seven.

Democratic Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell recently supported the selling of the state owned and operated Scranton School for Deaf in Scranton. Mr. Rendell since being Governor has made it known he favors privitizing many of the state owned assets including the Pennsylvania turnpike, the state liquor stores, and psychiatric hospitals.

Mr. Baker stated currently there are approximately 180 patients at the facility and SEIU Local 668 represents around 26 of the 400 hospital workers. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union and the SEIU, Pennsylvania Healthcare Union also represent workers at the facility.

There was more than nine elected public officials that attended the rally to show support for the employees and the patients that would need to be moved out-side the Lehigh Valley should the hospital be closed.

“I was there not only to show support for the employees, but also to support the Lehigh Valley economy,” said Democratic Pennsylvania House of Representative Joseph Brennan (133rd Legislative District).

Mr. Brennan, who was elected to the state assembly in 2006, told the newspaper the loss of the good-paying jobs at the hospital would hurt the Lehigh Valley economy. “There isn’t any other state owned facilities the employees could get a job at. Those workers would be out of a job if the hospital closes,” said Mr. Brennan.

In the past when state jobs were eliminated because of a similar situation, the workers were offered other jobs. Mr. Brennan stated, in 2006 a State Hospital was closed in Harrisburg and the workers were offered other employment but there is no other state owned facility for the workers to get jobs now. “If there is anything that I can do, not only for the employees and patients but also for the economy of the Lehigh Valley, I will do.”

Representative Brennan believes the decision to close the facility would not likely be made before Mr. Rendell leaves office in Janaury 2011. “I’m pretty confident nothing will happen in the near future,” said Mr. Brennan.

PHILAPOSH Awards Reception

11.16.09

The Philadelphia Area Project for Occupational Safety and Health (PHILAPOSH) will hold its annual awards reception on friday, November 20, 2009, at the headquarters of AFSCME Distirct Council 33, 3001 Walnut Street.
PHHILAPOSH is an organization dedicated to advocating for workers’ safety, with such activites as refering workers to atorneys specializing in workers’ compensation law, holding classes for workers in occupational safety tactics, and lobbying state legislators for stronger occupational safety laws.
For further information, contact PHILPAOSH at (215)386-7000, or e-mail bjlogue@yahoo.com.

Obama Announces White House Jobs Summit

11.15.09

Obama Announces White House Jobs Summit

by Mike Hall, Nov 12, 2009

http://blog.aflcio.org/2009/11/12/obama-announces-white-house-jobs-summit-2/#more-22027

This morning, President Obama announced he will invite labor leaders, business executives, small business owners, economists and other financial experts to a special White House summit on jobs next month.

Obama says the summit will explore ways to slow the loss of jobs and quicken the pace of job creation at a time when the nation’s jobless rate is at 10.2 percent, its highest point since 1983. As Obama said,

We have an obligation to consider every additional responsible step that we can to encourage and accelerate job creation in this country.

Just this week, the AFL-CIO Executive Council met in Washington, D.C., to outline a national jobs creation strategy that AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will announce Tuesday at a special Economic Policy Institute (EPI) jobs and economy panel and seminar. (Plan now to view the live webcast from 9-11:30 a.m., Tuesday, Nov. 17, at www.aflcio.org/createjobs.)

The summit announcement came as a new report showed there were 502,000 initial claims for unemployment benefits last week. Dire as that is, it’s lower than expected and is the smallest number of first-time claims since January. But, according to Obama:

Even though we’ve slowed the loss of jobs—and today’s report on the continued decline in unemployment claims is a hopeful sign—the economic growth that we’ve seen has not yet led to the job growth that we desperately need.

EPI President Lawrence Mishel calls the announcement of the White House jobs summit “necessary and welcome.”

President Obama is right to say that we should take “every responsible step” to help put Americans back to work. With a double-digit unemployment rate and nearly 16 million Americans looking for work, we should take decisive action as quickly as possible to create jobs. High rates of unemployment damage our economy in ways that can take years, if not generations, to fix, by casting millions of families and children into poverty and making it difficult for our nation to invest for the future. President Obama’s focus on job creation is necessary and welcome.

Currently 15.7 million workers are jobless and when the unemployment and underemployment rates are combined they soar to 17.5 percent—more than 27 million workers.

A date for the summit will be announced soon.

SEIU’s Andy Stern to lead Goldman Sachs protest

11.14.09

SEIU’s Andy Stern to lead Goldman Sachs protest

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1109/29492.html

By VICTORIA MCGRANE

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein may have had his tongue in his cheek when he said his bankers were doing “God’s work,” but the company’s critics aren’t laughing.

In fact, a couple hundred of them — led by Service Unions International Union president Andy Stern — plan to gather outside of Goldman Sachs’ Washington offices Monday morning to protest the firm’s mega-bonuses, and demand the end of the “too big to fail” doctrine, according to a press release.

The event will be held outside 101 Constitution Ave. N.W., an office building that’s home to many of the most powerful lobbyists and corporations in town, including Goldman. It’s also where you can find POLITICO’s Capitol Hill bureau (in the basement).

Among their demands, the protesters will say that Goldman bankers should donate their reported $23 billion in bonuses to foreclosure prevention programs.

Public Citizen will release a new report during the event analyzing how much the various bailout recipient like Goldman are spending lobbying on financial reform, which the groups say is aimed at squashing real reform.

Goldman is one of the few large financial firms that early on chose not to lobby against the left’s favorite part of the financial reform package — the creation of a consumer financial protection agency. And most if not all of the major Wall Street players say they agree no firms should be too big to fail and support at least the principle behind Democrats’ proposals to end the “too big to fail” era.

But Goldman and other Wall Street firms are very opposed to a new idea gaining traction on the “to big” front — legislation that would empower the federal government to preemptively break up big, complex or interconnected firms even if they’re healthy. Goldman is a member of a coalition, Partnership of New York City, that will meet with the New York congressional delegation next week to urge their resistance to such measures.

Measures like Kanjorski’s would “inflict particular damage on New York, … [and] we hope every member of the delegation will make it their business to oppose them,” the group wrote in a Nov. 11 letter to the New York delegation, which was full of statistics showing the importance of the financial industry to News York — directly employing more than 680,000 people statewide and each one of those Wall Street jobs generating or maintaining an additional 3.3 jobs in other areas.

“There are plenty of ways to achieve reform and reduce risk and taxpayer exposure without destroying institutions that are the anchors of our global financial center,” the group wrote.

Pennsylvania healthcare reform Congressional vote “thank you and shame on you”events schedule

11.09.09

After this weekends historic health care event we have a lot of people to thank and a few that we need to kick sand into their faces. Here are the addresses for the Thank You / shame on you events which are going to happen on Monday 11:00 am and Through out the day on Thursday. The people who are in charge of the events are also listed. Please try to make at least one of these events in your area which are being plan by HCAN and our health care reform allies.

Monday Events

Rep. Bob Brady

1907 South Broad Street

Philadelphia, PA 19148

Lead: Marc

Rep. Chris Carney

175 Pine St. Suite 103
Williamsport, PA 17701

Lead: Alison Hirsch, PHAN

Rep. Chaka Fattah

4104 Walnut Street

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104

Lead: Antoinette Kraus, HCAN-PHAN / Ian Philips, ACORN

Rep. Paul Kanjorski

The Stegmaier Building
7 North Wilkes-Barre Boulevard
Suite 400 M
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702-5283

Lead: Roxanne Pauline, HCAN

Rep. Allyson Schwartz

706 West Avenue
Jenkintown, PA

Lead: Antoinette Kraus, HCAN-PHAN

Rep. Joe Sestak

600 North Jackson Street, Suite 203

Media, PA 19063

Lead: UFCW

Probably no Monday event: for

Rep. Tim Holden

101 North Centre Street

Pottsville, PA 17901

Tuesday Events

Rep. Patrick Murphy

Senior Center

301 Wood St

Bristol Borough

Tuesday, 11:00 am

Lead: Robin Stelly

Thursday Events

Rep. Jim Gerlach

840 N. Park Road
Wyomissing, Pa. 19610

12:00 Noon

Lead: Phila Back, Working Families Win

Rep. Charlie Dent

701 West Broad Street
Suite 200
Bethlehem, PA 18018

4:00 pm

Lead: SEIU

Rep. Allyson Schwartz

706 West Avenue
Jenkintown, PA

Thursday, November 12, 5:00 pm

Lead: Antoinette Kraus, HCAN-PHAN

Rep. Tim Holden

1721 North Front Street

Harrisburg, PA 17102

12:00 Noon

Lead: John Herr, MoveOn

Rep. Paul Kanjorski

The Stegmaier Building
7 North Wilkes-Barre Boulevard
Suite 400 M
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702-5283

1:00 PM

Lead: Roxanne Pauline, HCAN

Rep. Chris Carney

233 Northern Boulevard, Suite 4

Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania 18411

2:30 PM

Lead: Roxanne Pauline, HCAN

John Meyerson

Director of Legislation & Political Action

United Food & Commercial Workers 1776

Manufacturing Jobs Continue to Decline

11.05.09

Manufacturing Jobs Continue to Decline

by Dustin Ensinger
E-mail - editor@economyincisis.org

http://www.economyincrisis.org/articles/show/3601

Most of the millions of manufacturing jobs lost during the recession will never return as companies find ways to continue increasing production with a scaled-down workforce, according to the USA Today.

Over two million manufacturing jobs have been lost since the current recession began in December 2007. Pressure to cut costs in the midst of an economic crisis coupled with the need to meet the demands of competing in a globalized economy, has led to factories across the country to adopt leaner operations.

According to a study by RSM McGladrey, 61 percent of manufacturers said that they already have or were considering adopting cost-cutting measures in order to maintain profits. In most cases, those cost-cutting measures involve less human labor and more technology.

The trend is nothing new, however. Manufacturers have been scaling back on workforces while increasing production for decades.

Since 1979, manufacturing employment has fallen by 7.8 million, or 40 percent. Over that same time, output has actually risen by $1.1 trillion.

Those facts have led some to speculate that the true culprit behind manufacturing job loss has been technological advancements rather than fatally flawed free trade agreements.

“Because of productivity growth, we have been able to produce more output with fewer workers,” former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told Bloomberg News. “That’s the source of higher standards of living. If employment was moving up exactly in line with output, it would mean that productivity and standards of living had stalled.”

While the standard of living for the average American worker may have indeed risen steeply over the past few decades, those manufacturing workers forced to compete directly with Third World laborers have not seen the benefits.

From 2001 to 2007, workers displaced due to increased trade with China lost an average of $8,146 annually - a total of $19.4 billion - as they moved into lower paying jobs, according to the Economic Policy Institute. The one million Americans whose jobs were displaced by NAFTA were forced to take a pay cut of about 18 percent. Because of NAFTA, U.S. workers lost wages totaling about $7.6 billion in 2004 alone, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

In addition, many economists contend that increased productivity and technological advancements play only a minor role in the massive job losses in the manufacturing sector. Instead, the find America’s exploding trade deficit to be a much greater factor.

“Productivity growth has played the most important role in manufacturing job loss in the recent past, but this growth is to be welcomed over the long-run, as productivity provides the ceiling on how quickly living standards can rise,” the Economic Policy Institute’s Josh Bivens wrote. “Productivity growth, in short, is not a problem. What is a problem, however, is slow demand growth for manufactured goods. Demand for manufactured goods can come from domestic use or net exports. In recent years in the United States, these combined sources of demand have been far too weak to generate employment in manufacturing.”

SENATOR CARDIN CALLS SENATE PASSAGE OF UI BILL CRITICAL FOR AMERICAN FAMILIES STRUGGLING DURING THIS RECESSION

11.04.09

SENATOR CARDIN CALLS SENATE PASSAGE OF UI BILL CRITICAL FOR AMERICAN FAMILIES STRUGGLING DURING THIS RECESSION

Senator Urges Adoption of Senate Language That Extends Unemployment Insurance Benefit 14 Weeks to All Americans

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) today praised Senate passage of a strong Unemployment Insurance (UI) bill that would extend unemployment benefits another 14 weeks to all states, including Maryland. The House has passed a bill that would extend UI benefits only to states with unemployment rates of 8.5 percent or higher.

Senator Cardin urged the adoption of the much stronger Senate version of the bill that “guarantees an additional 14 weeks of UI benefits to Americans who – through no fault of their own – have found it extremely difficult to get a job in this recession.”

The Senator stressed that while the Maryland September unemployment rate was 7.2 percent, below the national average of 9.8 percent or the 8.5 percent cutoff contained in the House bill, six Maryland jurisdictions have high unemployment rates at or above 8.5 percent. Those six Maryland counties are: Baltimore City (10.6 percent); Caroline County (8.8 percent); Cecil County (8.6 percent); Dorchester County (10.9 percent); Somerset County (9.5 percent) and Washington County (9.4 percent).

“We are in the most serious recession since the Great Depression and unemployment knows no state boundary. Individuals who have lost their job and cannot find employment should be entitled to this extension solely because of their job status, not because of where they live,” said Senator Cardin, a co-sponsor of the amendment to HR 3548, the Workers, Home Owners and Business Assistance Act.

“We need to pass the strongest possible UI bill to help all jobless Americans who are facing financial catastrophe because of this recession.”

The latest Department of Labor figures show that almost 215,000 Marylanders looked for a job last month, but were unable to find employment. It is projected that more than 25,000 Marylanders will exhaust their unemployment benefits by the end of December if an extension is not passed.

## ####

Susan Sullam

Office of U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin

Communications Director

Boehner Misrepresents FactCheck.orgs Findings

11.04.09

http://factcheck.org/2009/11/boehner-misrepresents-factcheckorgs-findings/

Boehner Misrepresents FactCheck.orgs Findings
November 2, 2009

Last week House Republican Leader John Boehners office issued a “Leader Alert” titled “10 Facts Every American Should Know About Speaker Pelosis 1,990-Page Govt Takeover of Health Care.”

Its a partisan document containing misleading characterizations of the bill. But the bullet point that bothers us most is #2, which reads:

MASSIVE CUTS TO MEDICARE BENEFITS FOR SENIORS. Despite grave warnings from CBO, FactCheck.org, and the independent Lewin Group that cuts to Medicare of the magnitude included in Speaker Pelosis bill would have a negative impact on seniors benefits and choices, Speaker Pelosis health care bill stays the course and cuts Medicare by hundreds of billions of dollars.

We never have said that seniors would suffer “massive cuts to Medicare benefits” under the pending House or Senate overhaul bills, and in fact have done our best to debunk claims to that effect. The only seniors who might see cuts are those enrolled in Medicare Advantage, about 22 percent of the Medicare population. Currently, many of those seniors receive a bit more in benefits than regular Medicare fee-for-service patients perhaps a gym membership, a pair of eyeglasses, a reduced premium. But, as weve written, Medicare pays the private companies that administer Medicare Advantage about 14 percent more per beneficiary than it does for the rest of Medicare beneficiaries, who wind up subsidizing the program, according to government analysts.

If current law didnt change, the value of the additional benefits given under Medicare Advantage would amount to about $85 per senior per month in 2019, according to the Congressional Budget Office. If the Senate bill passed (and the House bill is similar on this point), that would be reduced to about $42 per month. But under no circumstances would any senior receive less in benefits than the other 78 percent of the Medicare population.

Were sure seniors who see benefit cuts of any kind wont be happy about it. But to characterize these as “massive cuts,” and our article (as well as CBOs analysis) as a “grave warning” is simply rubbish.

We asked Boehners office to take our name out of the document, but spokesman Michael Steel said: “Im not inclined to do so,” and invited us to send an e-mail further making our case. We are doing so.

Representative Mann supports American made Resolution

11.02.09

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

Representative Mann supports American made Resolution

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

ALLENTOWN, October 15th- Democratic Pennsylvania House of Representative Jennifer Mann (132nd Legislative District), stated she is proud to join colleagues of the General Assembly in Harrisburg in supporting House Resolution 164, which calls for projects funded by the stimulus plan to give perferential treatment to United States based firms in procuring services and manufacturing goods. Representative Mann is Majority Caucus Secretary.

“Pennsylvania has received a windfall of federal dollars through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRAct). This has put America on the road to recovery from the national recession,” said Ms. Mann who serves on the Pennsylvania Stimulus Oversight Commission, which was established to ensure that ARRA funds is documented.

She stated as a result of the stimulus plan, more commonly known as the federal economic stimulus plan, Pennsylvania is paving roads, fixing bridges and building schools. “Not only has this made our Commonwealth a better place to live, invest and raise a family, but it has also helped create and retain thousands of family-sustaining jobs for men and women across our state,” added Ms. Mann. The 132nd District includes most of Lehigh County.

“Democrats and Republicans put their ideological differences aside and voted unanimously in favor of the resolution in order to help American businesses survive and thrive,” Ms. Mann added.

In her opinion, for the most part the ARRAct has been successful for Pennsylvanians, but there is still more opportunities to create even more jobs by maximizing the purchasing power of the dollars the state is receiving from the federal government. In addition to continuing public construction products, domestically manufactured materials should be used as often as possible.

“When it is not possible to get a specific material or product from a United States producer, ARRA project managers can apply for a ‘procurement prioity waiver,’ which allows them to acquire the material or product from a foreign source. The waiver requests are public information; however, that information has not been easily accessible until recently,” stated Ms. Mann.

The procurement priority waiver requests is listed at the state’s official federal stimulus project website: www.recovery.pa.gov. Because of the site local manufacturers can quickly see what is being requested and adjusted their production lines accordingly to meet demands.

“The posting will help our companies retain and create jobs instead of losing business to outsourcing. Commonwealth businesses will be able to take advantage of a simple, easy-to-use tool that will allow entrepreneurs, plant managers, investors and laborers to discover in-demand products and secure the contracts for these goods and services, maximizing the valuable economic development dollars we are receiving from the federal government,” added Ms. Mann.