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USW Union Local 2599 member dies from job incident

04.24.10

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

USW Union Local 2599 member dies from job incident

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, April 19th- Bridget Geist, 37 of Walnutport, died on April 15th from injuries received after a blast and fire at her employer.

Ms. Geist was one of two employees of the Victaulic Company of America in Alburtis hurt at the industrial incident when apparently she was struck by molten metal.

She was a member of the United Steelworkers of America (USW) Union Local 2599 in Bethlhem for more than 20 years according to Jerry Green, President of Local 2599. “She was a good union member,” said Mr. Green.

Mr. Green told the newspaper the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) office in Allentown is investigating the incident and the union will receive their findings of what cause the blast. Mr. Green said the other Victaulic employee hurt is doing well and has been released from the hospital.

The union has two labor contracts with the Victaulic Company. Local 2599 represents around 130 employees of the Alburtis facility and approximately 260 workers, not counting those that are currently laid-off, at their Forks Township facility. The company manufactures pipe couplings.

The Forks Township contract agreement expired on January 31st, 2010. On February 8th, 2010 the union membership rejected Victaulic’s “final” contract proposal 269 to 0. The two sides have agreed to work under the terms and conditions of the previous contract.

The company’s contract proposal requested many union concessions including the removal of much of the working condition language. The agreement offered no wage increase, an increase for health care, and lower wages for laid-off employees when recalled. Mr. Green told the newspaper laid-off workers had no reason what-so-ever to vote in favor of the pact. “If they supported it they were giving themselves a pay cut,” Mr. Green told the newspaper.

The Victaulic Company facility in Alburtis contract does not expire with the union until September 2013. The membership voted on September 15th 2008 to ratify the five-year agreement.

Local 2599 represents approximately 1,500 workers throughout the Lehigh Valley which includes 19 separate units of employees.

Ms. Geist, who had five children, died at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest. “I know things have been published about safety violations at Victaulic, but they were aways responsive to safety problems during walk-throughs at the plant,” said Mr. Green.

The union will establish a special fund to help the family of Ms. Geist, Mr. Green said.

Group suggest changes to Workforce Development System

04.24.10

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

Group suggest changes to Workforce Development System

BY NANCY KRAKE
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, April 13th- According to four researchers there is a need for the “re-imagining” of the Workforce Development Act (WIA) to promote the creation of talent development systems that foster regional cooperation and prepare workers not only for the jobs of today, but for the jobs of tomorrow.

The four researchers; the Public Policy Associates Inc., Berkeley Policy Associates; the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research; and the Unversity of California-San Diego, are calling for changes to WIA.

The report comes at a critical moment as the United States Congress debates reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act which was enacted in 1998.

The researchers recently presented the findings of their research at a briefing that was held at the Department of Labor in Washington DC.

The report, “Strategic Workforce Development as a Catalyst for Economic Growth; Lessons and Insights from the Field and Implications for the Future of WIA,” indicates the need to develop integrated workforce development systems that thrive on collaboration across functional and jurisdictional boundaries.

The researchers who have vast experience in evaluating workforce development initiatives recommend that the WIA be re-characterized and christened as the “Strategic Workforce Development Act.” The change would reflect the need to develop integrated workforce development systems that thrive on collaboration across functional and jurisdictional boundaries.

The researchers concluded too often, various workforce development entities work in their own silos. In some cases, that can result in training workers for jobs that do not match the current or future needs of employees and fail to retool America’s workforce in alignment with long-term economic goals.

By thinking and acting more strategically, workforce development leaders can work to ensure that the various stakeholders, employers, economic development and workforce development boards, community colleges, and others collaborate to create effective approaches to transforming their regional economies and providing high-wage jobs for workers.

One of the recommended changes to WIA is a new system of measurement and accountability.