Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

Report shows state construction hardest hit because of recession

03.15.10

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

Report shows state construction hardest hit because of recession

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 2nd- The unemployment rate in the United States dipped below 10 percent last month but workers in the building and construction trades have yet to feel any improvement. According to the Department of Labor the jobless rate among construction workers in the nation actually jumped to nearly 25 percent. Total construction payroll employment has fallen by 2.1 million jobs since 2006, with employment in residential construction shedding 38 percent of those jobs.

According to a report released by the Center for American Progress and the Home Performance Resource Center, construction jobs can be saved through energy efficiency programs. The Center for American Progress is a economic research and educational institute in Washington, DC. The Home Performance Resource Center is a nonprofit organizatrion formed to conduct public policy and market research in support of the home performance industry, also located in Washington, DC.

“With demand for construction jobs at near depression levels, stimulating consumer demand for residential energy efficiency is smart business. It creates high-paying jobs for idled construction workers, boosts sales of American’ made building materials, and saves consumers money. American companies are ready to hire back crews if we can jumpstart demand for projects. Home performance contracting for energy efficiency is one bright spot on the horizon for the building trades today,” said Bracken Hendricks, Senior Fellow with the Center for American Progress.

The report’s authors, Mr. Hendricks and Matt Golden, call on federal policymakers to launch a national HOME STAR program which includes incentives for homebuyers to invest in the energy efficiency of their homes, which will jumpstart demand for labor. They believe that the United States Congress could quickly act to create jobs with policies to expand investment in commercial and industrial energy efficiency and financing for retrofit jobs.

“The tool belt recession is devastating. There is an urgent need in every state in the union to generate skilled, high-paying, long-term construction and manufacturing jobs to grow our economy. But there is hope. As an employer in the hard-hit state of California, I have seen my efficiency business grow by 70 percent, even as the construction industry has lost over 35 percent of construction jobs,” said Mr. Golden, President of Recurve, a home performance retrofit contractor.

Mr. Golden said the home performance builders’ Efficiency First Industry Association brought together more than 500 constractors from around the United States to educate lawmakers on how they are creating jobs today through energy efficiency.

The authors of the study stated the “tool belt recession” has a deep and far-reaching impact on communities. Many factories are running at only half capacity, while unemployment in manufacturing industries tied to construction is higher than manufacturing as a whole, with unemployment rates often running from 20 percent to 30 percent.

Jobs in the construction sector and related industries are suffering more compared to other parts of the economy.

Data on construction jobs follows:

• The unemployment rate for experienced workers in construction was 24.7 percent in January 2010.
• Total construction payroll employment has dropped by 2.1 million jobs since 2006, with residential construction down by 1.3 million, or 38 percent.
• For 2009, 12.4 percent of all unemployed workers were previously employed in the construction industry.
• There have been 134,000 jobs lost (10 percent) in construction related retail, such as building supply stores and lumber yards, since December 2007, with 186,000 lost (14 percent) since July 2006.

Union wants to represent workers in Wilkes-Barre

03.15.10

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

Union wants to represent workers in Wilkes-Barre

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 1st- The International Union of Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America Union Local 506, Roseville, Michigan, filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia requesting the agency conduct an election to determine if workers in Wilkes-Barre want to be union represented.

According to the petition, the union wants to represent all armed and unarmed security officers employed by Southeastern Paragon, Inc. The company provides security for the Social Security Administration in Wilkes-Barre. The security services of the facility is provided under contract by Southeastern Paragon Inc. of Baltimore, Maryland.

The union wants all security guard services employees to participate in the election and requests all office clericals, managerial personnel, confidential personnel, and supervisors be excluded from voting. According to information on the petition there are 44 employees that will particpate in the election.

Under NLRB rules, before the agency will conduct an election the petition must be supported by at least 30 percent of the employees.

The union must receive at least 50 percent plus one of the eligible employees that cast ballots to be the representative of the employees for the purpose of collective bargaining.

The petition was filed on behalf of the union by Attorney Richardson Todd Eagen of Harrisburg on February 8th, 2010.

The National Labor Relations Board decided not to conduct a secret ballot election at the employer rather ballots were mailed to eligible to vote employees homes. Ballots must be returned to the NLRB by the employees before March 24th, 2010 to count.

The newspaper discovered the petition while reviewing complaints and petitions filed at the agency office. The newspaper is the only media in Northeastern Pennsylvania that routinely reviews complaints and petitions filed at the NLRB office.

Obama fails to seat NLRB nominee via recess appointment

03.15.10

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

Obama fails to seat NLRB nominee via recess appointment

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 1st- More than seven months after the Obama Administration sent to the United States Senate the nomination of Craig Becker to be a member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Democrats fell short of the 60 votes needed to break a Republican led filibuster against his nomination. The key procedural vote failed 52 to 33 with two Democratic Senators voted with the Republicans.

Mr. Becker’s nomination was blocked after the United States Chamber of Commerce in Washington heavily lobbied the business organization supporters in the Senate to not support his seat on the NLRB.

In April, 2009 President Obama announced his intention to nominate labor law attorneys Mr. Becker and Mark Gaston Pearce for the two vacant Democratic seats on the NLRB. Brian Hayes was nominated by Mr. Obama to be the Republican member of the NLRB. If Mr. Obama’s nominees were confirmed by the Senate the NLRB would have a full complement of five members for the first time since December 16th, 2007. The NLRB oversees the enforcement of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The Senate in December returned the nomination of Mr. Becker back to the White House, however the Obama Administration resubmitted his name on Janaury 19th.

Mr. Becker’s seat on the NLRB had been blocked by Arizona Republican Senator John McCain for months by calling for hearings before proceeding to full committee consideration of his nomination.

The Chamber of Commerce stated Mr. McCain had a legislative hold on the Becker nomination because it takes 60 votes to invoke cloture on the nomination before it can proceed to an up-or-down vote and all of the Democrats in the Senate did not agreed to support cloture. Because of the Massachusetts election the Democratic party now has 59 seats in the Senate but they were unable to seat Mr. Becker when the party held 60 seats.

Democratic Senators Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Ben Nelson of Nebraska voted with 31 Republicans to block Mr. Becker’s nomination. No Republicans voted to support cloture.

Mr. Becker is Associate General Counsel of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) in Washington DC.

The sitting members of the NLRB are Chairman Wilma Liebman and member Peter Schaumber.

Mr. Hayes was in private legal practice for more than twenty-five years devoted exclusively to representing management clients in all aspects of labor and employment law. He has represented employers in scores of cases before the NLRB, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and various state fair employment practice agencies.

The Chamber of Commerce stated Mr. Becker was blocked because of his view that employers should be stripped of any legally cognizable interest in their employees’ election of representatives. Also, Mr. Becker’s ties to the SEIU, an avid proponent of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCAct) legislation could lead him to advance “Card Check” organizing through administrative action of the NLRB.

Despite the blocked attempt President Obama could have still seated Mr. Becker to the NLRB. Mr. Becker could have been seated via “recess appointment” by the administration before the President Day’s recess on February 12th and could have served until the conclusion of the next session in late 2011. However, Mr. Obama failed to do so.

Local AAA Baseball Umpires vote to join larger union

03.15.10

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

Local AAA Baseball Umpires vote to join larger union

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 1st- Minor league umpires of International League Baseball, which the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees is affiliated, voted to join the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU). The union is affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations.

Members of the Association of Minor League Umpires (AMLU), a non AFL-CIO affiliated union, voted by more than 90 percent in favor of affiliation with OPEIU. The AMLU will now be known as AMLU/OPEIU Guild 322.

“Our affiliation with OPEIU is the next step in a progression toward improving the lives and working conditions of some of the hardest working and most underappreciated people in the game. We evaluated the pros and cons of affiliation with a variety of different unions and OPEIU was head and shoulders about the rest. OPEIU’s size, diversity of membership in a wide range of industries, as well as the quality of staff made them a perfect fit for our group,” said AMLU President Shaun Francis.

OPEIU represents more than 125,000 members in the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada. The union represents employees and independent contractors in banking and credit unions, insurance, higher education, shopping, hospitals, medical clinics, utilities, transportation, hotels and administrative offices.

The newspaper contacted Nicole Korkolis, OPEIU Director of Communication, Education and Research, and she comfirmed the local umpires that will umpire at PNC Stadium in Lackawanna County will be represented by the union.

According to Ms. Korkolis, prior to AMLU’s formation in 2000, minor league umpires had been working with no union representation. The goals of the AMLU’s organizers was to secure health insurance, as well as a ranking and promotion system to standardize movement up through the various leagues.

Minor league umpires also work regularly in Major League Baseball, filling in for sick, injured or vacationing full-time umpires. More than 1,300 regular season MLB games had at least one AMLU member on the field in the 2009 season.

Salary for a minor league umpire starts at $1,800 per month, and is only paid during the season.

Penn Foster selected for union workers online college

03.15.10

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

Penn Foster selected for union workers online college

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 1st- The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington, DC recently announced that along with the National Labor College and the Princeton Review an online college for union members and their families will be created and it will result in hiring at a local employer.

The new online college, called the “College for Working Families,” is intended to expand job opportunities for union members by providing education and job training.

According to Antoinette Yachna, a steward and member of the United Steelworkers of America (USW) Union Local 5652, which represents employees of Penn Foster on Oak Street in Scranton, a subsidiary of the Princeton Review, her employer will receive work because of the online college, and the employer will hire more workers because of the AFL-CIO agreement with the National Labor College.

The college will be the first and only accredited degree-granting online institution devoted exclusively to educating union members. Courses will be offered beginning this fall including those in criminal justice, health sciences, education, and business.

Ms. Yachna told the newspaper the USW represents approximately 210 workers of Penn Foster at the Oak Street facility and around 55 workers at their warehouse in Ransom Township.

She has been employed by the correspondence course school for more than 26 years and stated they are a good employer that treats their employees withrespect. “Our four-year contract with Penn Foster will expire in July,” said Ms. Yachna.

Bob English, USW District 10 Staff Representative, told the newspaper Penn Foster was chosen among around six to become partners with Princeton Review to provide online courses for union members. “The main thing is union members will benefit from the relationship,” said Mr. English after being contacted by the newspaper.

Mr. English stated he has been involved with contract negotiations with the employer for more than 15 years. He said negotiations for a successor agreement will soon begin to replace the current three-year pact.

“For the most part they are a good employer. And when it was narrowed down to only two, we believed Penn Foster should get the contract because the other company was nonunion.”

Penn Foster got its start in 1890 when the company first provided correspondence courses by mail on coal mining safety. Currently the company provides online courses to 220,000 students. The company for many decades was known as ICS but the name has changed several times over the past ten years because it has been sold four times.

According to a letter sent to employees of Penn Foster by Michael Perik, the President of Penn Foster, it is great news the company was selected by the National Labor College as its partner in a joint online education venture.

“The College for Working Families is perfectly aligned with our mission of helping people achieve their educational goals in an affordable and accessible manner. It will enable working adults to build on their prior training and experience, to ensure that their skills will match employers’ requirements in an evolving job market. Moreover, it is backed by the power of the AFL-CIO, who will be critical in ensuring that the couses meet students’ real-world needs,” states Mr. Perik.

Mr. English stated there is much yet to be done before the courses will be available. He said the company and AFL-CIO will need to work together to market the course availablity to the 11.5 million union members and their families that are affiliated with the labor federation. “Counting family members, you are talking about more than 30 million people that can receive the courses,” said Mr. English.

Former union member Jack Loscombe named to serve on Scranton Council

03.15.10

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

Former union member Jack Loscombe named to serve on Scranton Council

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 4th- Jack Loscombe Jr., was named to replace Bill Courtright on Scranton City Council and is a retired member of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Union Local 60, which represents the 142 members of the Scranton Fire Department.

Mr. Loscombe told the newspaper one thing he hopes to accomplish as a council member is the restoration of the EMT emergency reponders in Scranton. The service was eliminated in 1986.

“When I served in the fire department and we had EMT’s, special training was needed and only a few got it. I was one of them. Now, every member of the department is trained as a EMT. Therefore it will be easy to restore the service,” said Mr. Loscombe.

Mr. Loscombe was a member of the Scranton Fire Department from 1983 to July 2001. He was permanently injured after being electrocuted while fighting a fire on Luzerne Street in West Scranton in 1996. Mr. Loscombe returned after the injury despite his hand being permanently injuried from the accident.

“Scranton’s budget is out of control because of the spending of Mr. Doherty,” said Mr. Loscombe.

Scranton Democratic Mayor Chris Doherty won a third four-year term as Scranton Mayor in 2009.

Mr. Loscombe believes it is unfair to Scranton residents that more than 30 percent of properties in the municipality is tax exempt. “More must be done to get funds from them to help with the city finances.”

Debate on TSA collective bargaining rights March 31

03.15.10

Frends, Brothers and Sisters:

I will be debating the Executive Director of an anti-union group in the Senate Dirksen Building at 2:00 p.m. on the issue of collective bargaining rights for TSA officers. For those not familiar with my history I’ve included a couple of links below.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A41820-2004Dec6.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/22/AR2006042201016.html

Please spread the word!

In Solidarity,

Ron Moore
301-495-7832
## ## ## ## ## ## ## ##
EDITOR’S NOTE: For those of you who do not already know, Ron Moore is a great pro-union writer and union activist. This going to be a great event. I urge all who can attend make an effort to do so.

Union sends letter to incoming Scranton Diocese Bishop

03.15.10

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

Union sends letter to incoming Scranton Diocese Bishop

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 5th- Mike Milz, the President of the Scranton Diocese Association of Catholic Teachers (SDACT) Union, which once represented teachers of the Scranton Diocese, is anxious to met and discuss labor matters with Scranton’s next Bishop Joseph Bambera. Monsignor Bambera will assume the leadership of the 11 county Diocese.

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

The union represented the teachers of 17 of the 42 grade schools and 9 of 10 high schools of the Scranton Diocese.

Mr. Martino implemented a new system that eliminated the small school boards and created 4 regional boards. SDACT previously had contract 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 teachers.

Mr. Milz told the newspaper he has sent a letter to Monsignor Bambera requesting the two sides sit down and discuss the returning of the union. The union president was a 33 year employee of the Scranton Diocese working as a science teacher and later a social studies teacher at Bishop Hoban in Wilkes-Barre. The school remained open after many were closed throughout the Diocese and is now called Holy Redemmer.

Mr. Milz was laid-off by the Diocese of Scranton in 2008 and is now employed by the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) Union in the Lehigh Valley.

He has critized the Employee Relations Program claiming it is nothing but a “company union” similar to what the coal barons did in the early 1900’s in a attempt to stop the United Mine Workers Union (UMWU) from organizing their miners.

Mr. Milz told the newspaper the union has authorization cards signed by the teachers indicating they would like to be represented by the SDACT.

“We stand willing and able to sit down and discuss the return of the union. The teachers want us back and the labor community throughout the region has shown they disapprove of the way we were treated,” said Mr. Milz.

The cards were signed after Bishop Martino agreed to allow the union to represent the workers providing SDACT got a clear majority of the teachers to sign authorization cards. “Martino went back on his word and even later refused to discuss the union issue with us,” added Mr. Milz.

Job losses from recession higher than previously estimated

03.15.10

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

Job losses from recession higher than previously estimated

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 1st- High job losses during the recession continues to overshadow any economic recovery. The employment figures released by the Department of Labor showed mixed news for workers. The unemployment rate has fallen from 10.0 percent in December 2009 with a strong Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures show reasonably strong signs that the economy is starting to recover.

However, the bad news is that the same figures show that the economy lost over 1 million more jobs during the recession than previously estimated and the unemployment, especially long-term unemployment, remains at troublingly high levels. More than 14 million Americans are out of work, there are six job seekers for every available job, and 4 in 10 unemployed workers have been pounding the pavement searching for a new job for at least six months, a record level.

The Labor Department’s revisions of employment figures show that the economy shed 8.4 million jobs during the recession, instead of the 7.2 million as previously estimated. To give a sense of how big this jobs hole is, the nation would need to create 350,000 jobs per month for the next 24 months just to recover what was lost since the recession began, and that’s not even compensating for population increases. The United States has sometimes been able to create such high levels of job growth after a recession, it took several years before the nation saw consistent job growth and 350,000 were created in only two months of the entire economic cycle.

The news from the job’s report shows the overall direction of the labor market is trending up however, the employment-to-population ratio rose slightly to 58.4 in February from 58.2 the previous month. The ratio is an indication of the total labor market strength.

The average workweek increased by 0.1 hour to 33.9 hours for the month, indicating that companies are starting to need additional labor. And temporary help increased by 52,000 in January and has averaged nearly that level for the past four months.

According to David Madland, a economist with the Center for American Progress, a economic and educational research institute in Washington, DC, what the economy and workers need now is another boost in spending to ensure that job growth is faster and more widespread throughout the economy. A few sectors of the economy are creating jobs, but most businesses are not hiring because they do not see sufficient demand for their goods and services.

“A basic step to boosting demand is to get the unemployed back to work. Employing more people doesn’t just get those workers back on the job, it affects the momentum of the economy, which ultimately creates the cycle of private sector job creation that we need. Unemployed workers have few dollars with which to purchase goods and services, and giving them a job injects an immediate boosts to their family budget and our national economy. We need to build on the successes of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRRAct) and use scarce federal dollars in the efficient way to boost demand and get the unemployed back to work,” said Mr. Madland.

The Center for American Progress stated they have put out such a plan, which calls for infrastructure investment and aid to state and local governments, along with direct investments in job creation through initiatives such as expanding our national service programs. And there is growing momentum in the White House and on Capital Hill for these types of job creation policies, the organization states.

The House of Representatives has already passed a jobs bill that would redirect $75 billion of TARP funds toward infrastructure investment and aid to state and local governments.

In the United States Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid announced a package of job creation bills. The bills are set to include improved access to credit for small businesses, investments in infrastructure and energy efficiency, aid to local governments, increases in youth summer job programs, and targeted tax incentives to spur immediate job growth.

“Congress is taking action on job creation legislation. And this months’ jobs numbers are a stark reminder that they need to do so quickly. The recovery is just starting to take hold, but we are in much a more massive jobs hole than previously through and need rapid job creation to get out of it,” added Mr. Madland.