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Under Obama, labor should have made more progress

02.10.10

Under Obama, labor should have made more progress

By Harold Meyerson
Wednesday, February 10, 2010

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/09/AR2010020902465.html

For American labor, year one of Barack Obama’s presidency has been close to an unmitigated disaster.

Labor’s primary priority ## the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) ## died when the Democrats lost their 60-vote majority in the Senate. Labor’s normal priority ## a functioning National Labor Relations Board ## also seems out of reach, with Republicans on Tuesday blocking the appointment of Obama nominee Craig Becker (that’s why Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown scurried down to Washington last week to take his seat). Other key legislation for which labor has lobbied, including health-care reform and financial regulations, languishes in the Senate.

For the unions, the Senate’s inability to pass EFCA is devastating and galling. Democratic senators had developed a compromise proposal that would have jettisoned the controversial “card check” process ## by which unions could be organized without a secret ballot ## in favor of expediting the election process (so that management couldn’t delay for months, or even years, employees’ votes on whether to unionize) and stiffening the penalties for violating the rules that govern election conduct.

The compromise had a shot at winning all 60 Democratic votes. The unions, which spent more than $300 million in the 2008 elections on Democrats’ behalf, wanted a vote on EFCA last year, but Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid asked them to wait until health reform had passed. (Their requests for confirmation votes on NLRB appointees were similarly delayed.)

By my count, this marks the fourth time in the past half-century that labor’s efforts to strengthen workers’ ability to organize have been deferred by the Democratic presidents and the heavily Democratic Congresses they supported. In 1965, about the only piece of Great Society legislation not enacted was the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act provision that gave states the power to block unions from claiming as members all the employees in workplaces where they had won contracts. In 1979, as American management was beginning to invest heavily in union-busting endeavors, the first effort to reform labor law failed to win cloture in the Senate by one vote as President Jimmy Carter stood idly by. In 1994, President Bill Clinton responded to a similar labor-backed effort by appointing a commission to recommend changes in labor law to the next Congress ## which turned out to be run by Newt Gingrich. And last year, by asking his labor supporters to wait, Obama ensured ## unintentionally, of course ## that the next effort to revive organizing must wait until the next overwhelmingly Democratic Congress.

Meanwhile, the percentage of American workers in unions steadily declines. During the 1965 effort, more than 30 percent of private-sector workers belonged to unions. In 1979, the share was 21 percent; in 1994, 11 percent; and in 2009, just 7.2 percent. When the next chance to rewrite labor law comes around, the rate of private-sector unionization could be down to trace elements.

What will life be like in an America with almost no private-sector unions or collective bargaining? We had a glimpse of that during George W. Bush’s presidency, in which the unionization rate was already so low that median household incomes declined even as gross domestic product rose. It’s also apparent that a deunionized private sector won’t readily support ## politically or economically ## a unionized or expansive public sector. In 1960, when California Gov. Pat Brown created the nation’s foremost public sector ## the greatest university systems, freeways and aqueducts ## it was paid for by the nation’s most vibrant, and one of its most highly unionized, private-sector economies. California’s private sector is nowhere near as vibrant or unionized today ## a major reason its public sector is crumbling.

In a deunionized America, it’s not clear who, if anyone, will fund campaigns such as those the unions funded this year, for universal health care and financial regulation. It’s also not clear who, if anyone, will persuade working-class whites to vote Democratic. (Over the past half-century, white male union members have voted Democratic at a rate 20 percentage points higher than their nonunion counterparts.)

No nation has ever been home to a middle-class majority absent a sizable labor movement. In their failure to advance labor’s prospects, the Democrats condemn themselves to a future of fewer Democratic voters and their nation to a future of mass downward mobility.

* * *

American workers suffered a loss of a different kind Friday with the death of Beth Shulman from complications of a brain tumor. In her 2003 book, “The Betrayal of Work,” and throughout her life, Beth eloquently championed the interests of the tens of millions of Americans who barely make enough to get by. Her voice, and her warmth, will be missed.

meyersonh@washpost.com

CWA Union files complaint against LifePath Inc.

02.10.10

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

CWA Union files complaint against LifePath Inc.

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

BETHLEHEM, January 17th- The Communications Workers of America (CWA) Union District 13 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).

According to the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge filed on January 13th, 2010 by the District 13 of the CWA, Board Street in Philadelphia, LifePath Inc., High Point Boulevard in Bethlehem, violated Section 8 (a), subsections (1) and (5) of the NLRAct.

The complaint does not state how many workers are employed at LifeBath Inc., which provides specialized support services for mentally and physically disabled persons.

According to previous news stories published in the newspaper, CWA Local 13500 organized the employees of LifePath Inc. approximately 29 facilities that are located throughout the Lehigh Valley in 2007. In September, 2007 the NLRB conducted a election to determine if employees of the company wanted to be represented by the CWA for the purpose of collective bargaining. The union was successful winning the election with 166 voting in favor of becoming union members and 138 voting against. Under NLRB rules, at least fifty percent plus one of the eligible employees voting in the secret ballot election must support being represented by a labor organization.

The voting location for the LifePath workers was at the High Point Boulevard facility. Each group home had around three eligible to vote employees for a total of around 467.

The CWA alleges in their ULP “since on or about January 7th, 2010, the Employer has failed and otherwise refused to supply information requested by the Union necessary for the administration and enforcement of the collective bargaining agreement and to otherwise participate in a timely manner in the grievance process. Specifically, the Employer has refused to comply with relevant and necessary information requests submitted by James Byrne, CWA Representative, to Karen Werkheiser, Human Resources (HR) Director, on or about January 7th, 2010, pertaining to the discharge of Nicosia Henry.”

The complaint was filed by Attorney Nancy Walker, South Board Street in Philadelphia, on behalf of the Union.

The company representative named on the ULP to be contacted is Karen Werkheiser, indentified as LifePath Inc. HR Director.

In January, 2008 the CWA filed a complaint against the employer alleging LifePath violated the NLRAct when the employer terminated a union member alleging she was fired because of her protected activity on behalf of the CWA.

According to the NLRB, the agency is investigating the allege violation of the NLRAct and will determine if there is merit in the complaint.

Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area unemployment rate decreases

02.10.10

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

Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area unemployment rate decreases

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, January 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 decreased by five-tenths of a percentage point to 9.3 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 6.3 percent.

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

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 8.5 percent, decreasing by four-tenths 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 6,328,000 and 5,788,000 of them have employment. The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was reported to be 10.0 percent, decreasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. However, the rate does not include workers who benefits have been exhausted and have stopped looking for work. There are 15,375,000 residents nationally unemployed which also does not include workers who benefits have been exhausted.

The data shows the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA and the Erie MSA are tied for the highest unemployment rate in the state at 9.4 percent. The Johnstown MSA, the Williamsport MSA, and the Reading MSA are tied for the third highest unemployment rate in the state.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.9 percent, with the Lebanon MSA second at 7.0 percent. The Lancaster MSA and the Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA are tied for the third lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 7.5 percent.

The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest civilian labor force in Pennsylvania at 416,400, rising by 4,900 during the past twelve months. There are 38,700 residents in the MSA without jobs, rising by 12,100 during the past twelve months.

The Philadelphia MSA has the largest civilian labor force in Pennsylvania at 2,950,300 with 261,000 residents not working. The Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest civilian labor force at 1,205,200, with 95,100 residents unemployed. The Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force in the state at 280,300, with 21,000 residents unemployed. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA has the fifth largest civilian labor force at 279,500 with 26,400 residents not working.

PLRB schedules hearing on complaint filed by Union against Northampton County

02.10.10

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

PLRB schedules hearing on complaint filed by Union against Northampton County

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, January 15th- The contract dispute between Northampton County administrators and the United Steelworkers of America (USW) Union Local 2599, which represents workers at Gracedale nursing home, has resulted in the union filing a complaint with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) in Harrisburg. Northampton County owns and operates the nusing home in Upper Nazareth Township.

According to Jerry Green, President of Local 2599, which office is located on East Lehigh Street in Bethlehem, the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge was filed because the two parties agreed on a new four-year labor agreement but Northampton County administrators have renege on the contract.

“We spent time and money negotiating the contract, now they want to back out of the deal,” said Mr. Green.

Under the contract negotiated with Northampton County officials the 50 Gracedale employees represented by Local 2599 would receive a wage increase of more than four percent each year of the pact.

The previous contract expired on December 31st, 2008 and the two parties agreed to work under the terms and conditions of the old contract while negotiations continued for a successor pact.

On December 15th, 2009 Mr. Green filed the ULP with the PLRB alleging the County leadership willfully and wantonly knew that they would renege of the new agreement that was thought to be reached in good faith. According to the PLRB, the ULP was marked received on December 17th, 2009.

A hearing on the ULP is scheduled before Hearing Examiner Thomas Leonard on April 28th, in the Northampton County Courthouse in Easton.

Man files complaint against Pizza Hut in Allentown

02.10.10

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

Man files complaint against Pizza Hut in Allentown

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

ALLENTOWN, January 14th- Hector Morales of 8th Street in Allentown filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging the Pizza Hut Restraurant on Chew Street in Allentown terminated him for engaging in protected concerted activity including organizing a drivers meeting to discuss joining a union.

According to the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge filed by Mr. Morale, he was terminated on November 13th, 2009 in retaliation for engaging in action protected under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The ULP was discovered during the monthly review by the newspaper of complaints and petitions filed at the NLRB office. The newspaper is the only local media that reviews both complaints and petitions filed by labor organizations and workers.

The complaint states the Head Manager of the Chew Street Pizza Hut is Mr. Ron Knocz and is indentified as the contact person for the employer.

Under the NLRB rules, any worker can file a complaint with the agency if he/she believes their rights under the NLRAct were violated. It is not necessary for a worker to be represented by a labor organization.

The ULP states there are approximately 20 workers employed at the Pizza Hut Chew Street restraurant.

According to the NLRB, the complaint is being investigated and should it be found there is merit in Mr. Morales complaint the agency will schedule a hearing