Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

JOBS message from AFSCME

01.29.10

Dear Stephen,

President Obama made it clear last night that he will fight for jobs. He knows that we cannot lose sight of the millions of working families who are still suffering from the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. Too many Americans are out of work and too many jobs are at risk.

The President and Congress must act now or millions of Americans could lose their jobs in the months ahead. To this point, the President reminded the Democrats of their obligation to lead and served notice to Republicans that ‘just say no’ is not an option.

AFSCME agrees with the President that America needs to lay a foundation for long-term economic growth, and we continue to believe that providing affordable, quality health care for millions of additional Americans is not only the right thing to do, but is also a key to economic recovery.

We also agree that federal action is needed to keep our economy from slipping back into the ditch. Too many services in communities across the country are being cut to the bone. AFSCME members understand this first hand. Members like you are on the front lines of this crisis, trying to do more and more with less and less. State and local governments need help and they need it now.

AFSCME will fight for robust investment in vital public services. Indeed, investment in public services must be a part of federal jobs legislation. In the coming weeks and months, we will call you, our 1.6 million members, to lend your voice to our efforts to make this happen.

In solidarity,

Gerald W. McEntee
International President

Labor community giving funds to help Callahan defeat Charlie Dent

01.29.10

FEBRUARY 2010, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Labor community giving funds to help Callahan defeat Charlie Dent

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, January 18th- Democratic Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan is challenging incumbent United States House of Representative (Republican-15th Legislative District) Charlie Dent in 2010 and his recent fundraising success is partly because of labor unions donating to his campaign.

Mr. Dent is currently serving the second half of a third term in Washington, DC and his recent voting record has taken a sharp turn against legislation supported by the labor community. 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 is seeking the Republican nomination in 2010 for the United States Senator from Pennsylvania. The seat is currently occupied by Democrat Arlen Specter.

Mr. Callahan stated if he is to be successful in defeating Mr. Dent the labor community must support him financially and with their votes.

Mr. Callahan reported that he raised $380,000 for his challenge of Mr. Dent in the last three months of 2009 which was more than Mr. Dent raised. Mr. Callahan’s campaign stated it has more than $600,000 on hand to spend on the campaign.

The affiliated union members of the Building and Construction Trades Council of the Lehigh Valley labor federation has pledged to support Mr. Callahan’s campaign and many have given funds.

Mayor Callahan is just beginning a new four-year term as Bethlehem Mayor and for months has been reaching-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.

David Saltzer, President of the the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Union Local 735, which represents 111 members of the Bethlehem fire department 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. Dent had a labor voting record of nearly 35 percent in 2006, but dropped to 27 percent in 2007 and is now below 20 percent. He voted against raising the minimum wage, and the Card Check legislation.

Teamsters Union Local 773 files labor complaint against Pepsi Bottling Company

01.29.10

FEBRUARY 2010, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Teamsters Union Local 773 files labor complaint against Pepsi Bottling Company

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, January 4th- On December 23rd, 2009 the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 773, Hamilton Street in Allentown, filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging a Lehigh Valley employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

Local 773 filed the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge against Pepsi Bottling Company, Vultee Street in Allentown, alleging the employer violated Section 7 of the NLRAct.

The newspaper discovered the complaint after reviewing ULP’s and petitions filed at the NLRB Region Four office. The newspaper is the only media in the Lehigh Valley that routinely reviews complaints and petitions filed at the regional office of the agency.

“The above named employer, by and through its agents, has repudiated the collective bargaining agreement by refusing to provide insurance coverage to injured employees for twelve months as required under Article IX,” states the ULP.

The complaint does not state how many workers the union represents at the beverage manufacturing facility in Allentown.

United States Chamber of Commerce challenges labor law

01.29.10

January 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

United States Chamber of Commerce challenges labor law

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 27th- The United States Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit on December 22nd alleging that a new State of Oregon law is unconstitutional because it is too pro-union.

The business organization jointly filed the lawsuit with Associated Oregon Industries and is arguing a new Oregon law “unconstitutionally eliminates an employer’s right to conduct mandatory meetings with employees to rebut union rhetoric and provide information about drawbacks of a unionized workplace.”

“Organzized labor hasn’t been able to muster the votes or the public support to pass Card Check, so they’ve moved on to “Plan B” to muzzle employers during union organizing drives. Just like Card Check, this law flies in the face of the country’s democratic values,” said Steven Law, chief legal officer and general counsel for the business organization.

Oregon is the first state in the nation to pass such a law that would prohibit employers from conducting mandatory meetings with their employees during union organizing campaigns. The Oregon legislation is modeled after language in the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCAct) legislation that is currently being held-up in Washington, DC.

The United States Chamber of Commerce told the newspaper the federal law pre-empts the Oregon law, which runs counter to fifty years of federal protection for employers’ right to hold mandatory meetings to rebut labor leaders’ rhetoric about unionizing. The business organization lawsuit also alleges the law violates employers’ speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. The legislation became law on January 1st, 2010.

The law, known as SB 519, and the case is Associated Oregon Industries and Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. Brad Avakian and Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 296.

“This legislation is organized labor’s first salvo in an apparent state-by state assault on federally protected employer speech,” said Robin Conrad, executive vice president of the National Chamber Litigation Center, the United States Chamber of Commerce public policy labor firm.

Organized labor has urgued for decades that the conducting of mandatory meetings with workers by employers during organizing campaigns were unfair because all employees must attend or face being discipline or termination.

Teamsters Union Local 401 members ratify new five-year labor agreement

01.29.10

January 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Teamsters Union Local 401 members ratify new five-year labor agreement

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 23rd- Members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 401, South Washington Street in Wilkes-Barre, ratified a new five year labor agreement with Altadis USA in McAdoo, Luzerne County.

Teamsters Local 401 represents approximately 140 employees of Altadis USA.

According to James Murphy, President and Business Agent for Local 401, the contract was ratified on December 20th with around 67 percent of the participating members voting in favor of the successor agreement.

“This is a fair package for our members and it also allows for the company to remain competetive and continue to provide jobs for our members,” said Mr. Murphy, who negotiated the agreement for the Union.

Mr. Murphy told the newspaper Local 401 members will receive two percent pay increases each year of the pact.

Also, employees health insurance benefits will be paid for by the company. Employees can choose from several health insurance plans of Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania. For family coverage there is a deductible for medical attention.

Mr. Murphy stated under the terms and conditions of the agreement there was contract language improvements including:

• layoff language;
• bereavement language; and
• shift differential

Study shows lack of jobs increasing poverty rates

01.29.10

January 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Study shows lack of jobs increasing poverty rates

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 18th- A newly released report shows that millions of families have experienced hardship during the first year of the Great Recession in 2008.

The report compiles Census Bureau data on poverty in 2008 by congressional district, with additional breakdowns on child poverty, women in poverty, and poverty among racial minorities.

The Census Bureau released its national estimates on September 10th, 2009, showing that the number of people living in poverty in 2008 rose from 37.3 million (12.5 percent) to 39.8 million (13.2 percent).

The number released in 2010 will reflect 2009’s dismal job losses and are expected to be significantly worse. The unemployment rate in 2008 averaged 5.8 percent, but is expected to exceed 9 percent on average for 2009.

“This data offers lawmakers a more detailed look into the growing poverty rates among their own constituents. As we head into the new year, we look forward to working with Congress and the administration to advance the necessary policies to help those most in need during this time of economic turmoil while laying the groundwork for a shared economic recovery,” said Melissa Boteach, an economist for the Center for American Progress Action Fund in Washington, DC.

The 2008 picture was particularly bleak for women, children, and minorities. The breakdown by congressional district reveals that the child poverty rate above thirty percent in thirty-six districts across seventeen states. Economists predict that next year’s data will show that one in four children in America was poor in 2009.

The study shows disparities by race and gender also continue unabated. Women’s poverty rates are above the district average in all but 15 of the 437 congressional districts analyzed, which include the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. More than one in four African Americans live below the poverty level in 188 congressional districts, and Latino poverty rates are higher than twenty-five percent in 145 congressional districts.

The United States House of Representatives passed the Jobs for Main Street Act in December, which includes effective job creation stategies such as aid to states and localities, new public service jobs for hard-hit communities, extensions of emergency unemployment insurance and COBRA provisions, improvements to the child tax credit, and investments in the national housing trust fund.

“Job creation strategies should focus on putting more Americans to work in the short term, but they should also focus on long-term solutions that provide the most vulnerable populations with the skills they need to access jobs, provide for their families and contribute to the economy. Without long-term solutions that equip more workers with the skills they need to access employment, the economy won’t truly recover for all Americans,” said Evelyn Ganzglass of the American Progress Action Fund. “Further, workers and their families also need supports to meet their basic needs and stay afloat as they search for employment or acquire the skills needed to access good jobs in growth areas of the economy,” Ms. Ganzglass added.

“We need both short and long-term plans to help families through the worst of the recession while keeping our eye on the bigger picture to ensure that education, training, and economic opportunity are available to those who need it most,” said Wade Henderson President of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights in Washington, DC.

Catholic teachers union president unhappy about comment

01.29.10

January 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Catholic teachers union president unhappy about comment

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 19th- Mike Milz, President of the Scranton Diocese Association of Catholic Teachers (SDACT), which once represented the teachers of the Scranton Diocese, told the newspaper he is disappointed with comments made by Cardinal Justin Rigali about the success of the Employee Relations Program that was implemented after the union was removed as the bargaining representative of the employees.

SDACT represented the teachers until August 2007 when the previous contracts expired and then Scranton Diocese Bishop Joseph Martino refused to negotiate for a new contract.

The union represented the teachers of seventeen of the fourty-two grade schools and nine of the ten high schools of the Scranton Diocese.

The new system eliminated the small school boards and created four regional boards. SDACT previously had contracts with each Board of Pastors that represented each school. Bishop Martino implemented a “Employee Relations Program,” after he told the union they no longer represented the employees.

Mr. Milz was a 33-year employee of the Scranton Diocese working as a science teacher and later a social studies teacher at Bishop Hoban High School in Wilkes-Barre, which is now called Holy Redemmer. Mr. Milz was laid-off by the Diocese of Scranton in 2008 and is now working for the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) Union in the Lehigh Valley.

Mr. Milz stated the Employee Relations Program is nothing but a “company union” and the SDACT would like to represent the employees again after the new Bishop is named in 2010.

A meeting was held between officials of the Scranton Diocese and SDACT in October about representing the employees again. Mr. Milz stated the meeting held between the parties lasted for a little less than a hour in which the union was told no resolve of the union situation can be obtained until a new Bishop of Scranton is named.

Mr. Milz stated SDACT still has authorization cards signed by the workers indicating they would like to be represented by the union again. The cards were signed by the workers after Bishop Martino agreed to allow the union to represent the workers if a majority of them wanted to be SDACT members. However, Mr. Milz stated Mr. Martino went back on his word and later refused to discuss the union situation.