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Suggested Amendments to the U.S. Constitution for 2011

12.30.10

Suggested Amendments to the U.S. Constitution for 2011

It has become clear that our nation has a severely crippled political system where the will of the majority and the best interests of the nation are being ignored so a very few obscenely wealthy individuals and many international corporations can reap absurd profits. Our American democracy and way of life are under serious attack by elite, powerful forces exploiting grave weaknesses in our system of government.

In my opinion, we need to start serious discussions about how to amend our Constitution in an effort to both correct institutional weaknesses and reduce to power of excessive wealth to undermine our nation. I am suggesting that we start introducing Constitutional Amendments in our state legislatures and in Congress to encourage public debate about these problems and how to best address them.

Below the reader will find some suggestions and It is hoped by this writer that others will suggest additional ways of strengthening American democracy, restraining excessive corporate power and making our government better able to deal with the modern problems facing us in the first half of the 21st Century:

(1) Corporations shall not have the right to spend shareholder money to influence elections. Executives who are convicted of using corporate funds to influence elections shall be barred from serving as corporate officers for life and be punished as felons.
(2) Corporations chartered in the United States of America and foreign corporations with operations in the United States shall be required to have as their first mission serving the public good before the mission of maximizing returns and maximizing the dividends of shareholders. American corporations failing to serve the public good shall be dissolved or have their management replaced at the discretion of the federal courts. Foreign corporations found to be not serving the public good shall be barred from operating in the United States or selling into the American market. The restriction on offending foreign corporations shall include sales via third parties or subsidiaries.
(3) All Congressional election districts shall be required to be drawn in as competitive a manner as possible by state governments.
(4) All votes in all elections in the United States must be counted with reasonable accurately and be cast using independently verifiable methods. All vote counting must be done publicly by government agencies. Private businesses and corporations may not be permitted to fill this government function.
(5) All trade agreements between the United States and foreign nation must be approved by a majority public referendum vote of American citizens of voting age. All previous trade agreements must be approved in the above manner within 4 years of the adoption of this amendment.
(6) All imported manufactured goods must be taxed by the federal government at a minimum rate to offset the financial losses involved to American workers, businesses and governments. No trade agreement may be placed into the referendum process for approval that does offset the financial losses listed above.
(7) All citizens shall be entitled to basic healthcare at public expense. The federal government has the responsibility to provide basic healthcare to all citizens and must fund adequately this responsibility.
(8) The right of American workers to organize and bargain collectively with employers shall not be restricted by employers, Congress or governments at any level. Employers are not permitted to interfere with the election process when workers are deciding rather or not to unionize and bargain collectively. Employers who violate the unionization rights of workers shall be considered felons and punished as felons subject to punishments established by Congress.
(9) All citizens have the right to gainful employment, at hourly rates at least equal to the established minimum wage, by the federal government, if able and willing to work, during periods of excessively high periods of unemployment, unless fired by the federal government for good cause or while serving a criminal sentence. Congress shall establish a reasonable definition of excessively high unemployment rate at a level of no more than 8 percent of the total available domestic workforce.
(10) Corporate officer elections of publicly traded corporations shall be conducted by the Commerce Department of the federal government. Shareholders voting to elect the corporate officers shall vote their shares independently on the salaries and other compensation packages of the corporate offices involved. A majority of shares voted by participating shareholders must approve these compensation packages. Candidates for these corporate offices may vote their shares in the election of corporate officers but may not vote their shares in the vote on compensation.

It is time for the American nation to react to the excessive power of huge corporations to control the lives of American citizens and the institutions of our government. These proposed amendments will be fought by powerful, wealthy forces but are long overdue. We can no longer ignore the damage that a tiny elite is doing to the American nation and the American Dream.

We need a vigorous public discussion of these problems and proposed solutions. It is this writers hope that the discussion will start here and that legislators in every state will force the discussion by introducing some or all these ideas in their respective legislative bodies.

Written by Stephen Crockett (host of Democratic Talk Radio http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio.com) . Mail: 698 Old Baltimore Pike, Newark, Delaware 19702. Phone: 443-907-2367. Email: demlabor@aol.com.

Feel free to publish or reprint in full without prior approval.

Teamsters Union Local 773 files labor complaint against United Parcel Service

12.30.10

JANUARY 2011, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Teamsters Union Local 773 files labor complaint against United Parcel Service

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, December 11th- 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 the United Parcel Service (UPS) in Stroudsburg violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

According to the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge, which was discovered by the newspaper while reviewing petitions and complaints filed at the National Labor Relations Board, the Union alleges the Employer, 2129 East Rockdale Lane in Stroudsburg, violated Section 8 (a), subsections (1) and subsection (3) of the NLRAct.

The newspaper is the only member of the local media that reviews and publishes the information.

UPS is a package shipping company and according to the ULP employs approximately 1,000 workers at the Stroudsburg terminal.

The ULP was filed on behalf of the Union by Philadelphia Attorney William Josem on November 26th.

“The above-named Employer, by and through its agents, is engaging in a pattern and practice of disciplining employees because of the exercise of Section 7 and union rights by Teamsters Local 773 and by the employees,” states the complaint.

According to the Unfair Labor Practice complaint, the Employer Representative to be contacted is Frank Govan, indentified as the UPS Center Manager.

Allentown officials pass Project Labor Agreement legislation

12.30.10

JANUARY 2011, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Allentown officials pass Project Labor Agreement legislation

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, December 19th- The Allentown City Council passed legislation that would almost assure local union tradespeople will be hired for city-sponsored building projects.

On December 15th the seven-member council voted 5 for to 2 against the Project Labor Agreement (PLA) legislation that will require union workers on Allentown sponsored building construction.

Under the PLA, projects that receive state or federal funding that cost more than $250,000, local unionized workers will need to be hired. The legislation has been implemented in other municipalities throughout Pennsylvania including the City of Scranton, and Lackawanna County. Also, the legislation has been passed by many school districts throughout the Commonwealth.

In the previous edition of the newspaper it was reported with the Republicans gaining control of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the Governors Mansion, anti-union legislation, including banning PLA’s, will likely be introduced in the upcoming session of the General Assembly.

The Republicans will have a ten-seat majority in the Pennsylvania Senate and a 12-seat majority in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and a Republican Governor will be sworn in in January 2011.

In the previous General Assembly, the Democrats held the majority in the House of Representatives while the Republicans controlled the Pennsylvania Senate. The Governor was a Democrat.

In February 2010 Project Labor Agreements in Pennsylvania were under attack with business groups assembling in the state capitol rotunda stating the signing of PLA’s with members of the building trades unions should be eliminated.

A PLA is a comprehensive agreement signed by a builder and local craft unions under which a defined construction project is agreed to be completed by workers from local union halls, in return for the union’s guarantee of no strikes, a steady labor supply, and general labor peace. Under a PLA, a nonunion contractor could still be hired for a project, however if they are selected, local unionized workers must be hired.

According to Joseph Colucci, Business Manager of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Re-Inforcing Ironworkers Union Local 36, which represent steel erector workers, PLA’s assure local workers will benefit from building projects.

Mr. Colucci said often out-of-the-area or worse out-of-the-state construction workers are hired for area building projects and after the project is completed they take the money earned back to their home region and spend the money there.

“You can’t argue against the economic benefit of a PLA. Local workers spend the money locally. It’s not rocket science,” said Mr. Colucci.

The legislation’s biggest critic is the Association of Builders and Contractors (ABC) construction group. The ABC is made-up of nonunion contractors and often lobbies for anti-union legislation.

Allentown Democratic Mayor Ed Pawlowski and councilman Mike D’Amore, a Service Employees International Union (SEIU) member, supported the PLA legislation.

Building Craft Unions will likely face legislation banning PLA’s

12.21.10

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

Building Craft Unions will likely face legislation banning PLA’s

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, November 15th- With the Republicans gaining control of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the Governors Mansion, anti-union legislation will likely be introduced in the upcoming session of the General Assembly.

The Republicans will have a ten-seat majority in the Pennsylvania Senate and at least a 18-seat majority in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and a Republican Governor will be sworn in in January 2011.

In the previous General Assembly, the Democrats held the majority in the House of Representatives while the Republicans controlled the Pennsylvania Senate. The Governor was a Democrat.

During 2010 several bills were introduced that were considered to be “anti-union” by many within the labor community.

In February 2010 Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s) in Pennsylvania were under attack with business groups assembling in the state capitol rotunda stating the signing of PLA’s with members of the building trades unions should be eliminated.

A PLA is a comprehensive agreement signed by a builder and local craft unions under which a defined construction project is agreed to be completed by workers from local union halls, in return for the union’s guarantee of no strikes, a steady labor supply, and general labor peace. Under a PLA, a nonunion contractor could still be hired for a project, however if they are selected, local unionized workers must be hired.

Currently, there is a high unemployment rate within the construction industry nationally, in Pennsylvania and in the Lehigh Valley because of the great recession, which experts claim was over in July 2009.

In September 2009, Pennsylvania House of Representatives John Bear (Republican-97th Legislative District) introduced legislation that would prohibit the use of PLA’s on public projects in Pennsylvania. However, the legislation died in committee because there was not enough supporters of the bill in the Labor Relations Committee in Harrisburg.

The legislation’s biggest supporter was the Association of Builders and Contractors (ABC) construction group. The ABC is made-up of nonunion contractors and often lobbies for anti-union legislation.

“The fact of the matter is that many non-union contractors here in Pennsylvania and all over the country bid on projects with PLA’s and win those bids. They then go on to complete those projects using local crafts people and still earn a reasonable profit. They do this because PLA’s work. It is clear that the ABC and their legislative allies are not really interested in creating jobs for Pennsylvania skilled crafts people. They are more interested in finding ways to line their pockets with our tax dollars and with little protection of our community standards as possible,” stated Frank Sirianni, President of the Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council in Harrisburg.

If PLA’s are banned, school districts favorable to signing the legislation with building craft unions would be eliminated. Unionized construction workers could be replaced with nonunion out-of-state workers and lose work hours across Pennsylvania.

PASNAP still without pact with CHS, files another complaint

12.21.10

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

PASNAP still without pact with CHS, files another complaint

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 6th- The Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professional (PASNAP) Union filed another labor complaint against the operators of the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, which does business as the Wyoming Valley Health Care System, River Street in Wilkes-Barre, alleging the medical center violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Professionals (PASNAP) Union of Conshohocken Pennsylvania, represents approximately 440 nurses employed at the medical center. The Union also represents nurses employed at the Community Medical Center (CMC) on Mulberry Street in Scranton.

PASNAP and Community Health Systems (CHS) Inc., which owns the medical center, have been negotiating for more than eighteen months attempting to gain a successor labor contract agreement. The previous pact expired on August 30th, 2009. The two sides agreed to work under the terms and conditions of the previous contract while negotiations continue for a new pact but the employer has changed several conditions of work including forcing union officials to collect monthly union dues rather than having them collected through employees pay-checks.

The Tennessee based CHS Inc. is the largest owner of for-profit hospitals in the United States.

The Union filed multiple labor complaints with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four in Philadelphia in the spring however the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges were dismissed by the agency ruling the complaints lacked merit.

However, the NLRB found merit in a PASNAP Unfair Labor Practice charge alleging the Employer has withdrawn its agreement to specific bargaining proposals and has done so because of previous ULP’s filed by the Union.

The most recent complaint, which was filed on November 30th, 2010 at the NLRB office in Philadelphia, is at least the fifth ULP filed by the Union against the Employer during 2010.

The union filed a ULP charge on March 11th, 2010 alleging CHS Inc. was negotiating in bad faith and violated the NLRAct. On May 14th, the union filed another ULP.

On July 15th, 2010 the Union filed another ULP alleging the Employer violated the NLRAct. The NLRB found merit in the July 15th ULP and conducted a hearing in November.

The membership voted to authorize a strike against the medical center but so far the Union has failed to call for a walk-out.

“Since on or about August 2nd, and at various times thereafter, the above named Employer, by its officers, agents and representatives has failed to bargain collectively and in good faith with the Charging Party, the exclusive bargaining representative for the registered nurses employed by the Employer. More specifically, since on or about July 1st, 2010, the Employer unilaterally and without bargaining promulgated work rules governing exposure to radiation and since on or about August 2nd, 2010 has failed and refused to bargain with the Charging Party (PASNAP) over such work rules,” states the November 30th labor complaint.

Teamsters Local 401 members at Pespi Bottling ratify new four-year pact

12.21.10

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

Teamsters Local 401 members at Pespi Bottling ratify new four-year pact

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 6th- Members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 401 in Wilkes-Barre recently ratified a new four-year contract agreement with Pepsi Bottling in Wilkes-Barre.

According to Patrick Connors, Secretary/Treasurer and Principal Officer of Local 401, which represents IBT members throughout Luzerne County, the workers voted 21 for the pact to 4 against. The Union represents 27 Pepsi workers.

“We got them a good contract. There is no concessions,” said Mr. Connors.

Under the agreement workers in all classifications will receive wage increases between 2.95 percent to 3.5 percent and company contribution to employees pensions will increase each year of the agreement.

The Union represents distribution employees including drivers and warehouse workers.

The workers will receive retroactive back pay from October 1st, 2010.

Other contract highlights include:

• Increases in short term disability benefits;
• Increased bereavement leave;
• Additional contract lauguage to address excessive over-time;

Mr. Connors told the newspaper negotiations were difficult with the employer introducing contract proposals requesting employee give-backs.

“The company tried to reduce layoff language to six months. It is kept at two years,” said Mr. Connors.

Also, the Employer tried to eliminate Monday as a observed holiday.

There was seven seperate wage proposals introduced during negotiations Mr. Connors said.

Social Security Administration Union files labor complaint

12.21.10

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

Social Security Administration Union files labor complaint

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 6th- The Northeastern Pennsylvania Security Officers Association Union Number 1, North Front Street in Harrisburg, filed a Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) office in Philadelphia.

The Union represents approximately 42 workers employed as supply security for the United States Social Security Administration Center in Wilkes-Barre. The workers are actually employed by Southeastern Paragon Inc., of Virginia, which is a subcontractor hired to provide security at Social Security offices including in Wilkes-Barre.

The current four-year contract between the parties does not expire until March 31st, 2014.

According to the ULP that was filed against the Employer on November 22nd, 2010, which was reviewed by the newspaper, the Union alleges the Employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The complaint alleges Ron Rebo, Union President, Negotiation Committee Member and an employee of Southeastern Paragon, was removed as a shift supervisor and informed by the company Project Manager Doug Fawbush that he was removed because Mr. Rebo was talking about the Union before the company entered into a labor agreement with the labor organization.

Also, the ULP alleges Mr. Rebo and a second employee, Bruce Campbell, were removed from their position as security officers at the United States Social Security Administration Wilkes-Barre Data Operations Center.

The complaint was filed on November 22nd, 2010 by Attorney Richardson Todd Eagen of Harrisburg on behalf of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Security Officers Association Union.

Steelworkers Union files complaint against Scranton employer

12.20.10

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

Steelworkers Union files complaint against Scranton employer

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, November 14th- The union that represents several workers employed at a Scranton employer filed a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging the company violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The United Steelworkers of America (USW) Union Local 6996, Pottstown, filed the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge against Quakermaid Cabinety, 40 Popular Street in Scranton on October 4th alleging the employer violated Section 8 (a), subsections (1) and (5) of the National Labor Relations Act.

The newspaper discovered the Unfair Labor Practice while reviewing complaints and petitions filed at the National Labor Relations Board office.

The Union News newspaper is the only member of the local media that reviews and publishes the information.

According to information provided by the ULP, the USW Local 6996 represents 2 workers of the employer. The company manufacturers a cabinet factory at the Poplar Street location but has recently closed the facility.

“The Employer has not provided necessary information requests from the Union dated August 25th, 2010. The Employer has also refused to bargain the effects of plant closing announced in August.

The Union was never notified by the employer of said closing,” states the labor complaint.

The ULP was filed on behalf of the Union by Steven Gombos of the USW Local 6996. However, his position with the United Steelworkers Union is not identified on the complaint. The address listed on the complaint for him is North Charlotte Street in Pottstown.

The Employer indentified on the complaint to be contacted is Alex Tarapchak. Mr. Tarapchak position with the company is also not identified on the ULP.

AFSCME member withdraws ULP against medical center

12.20.10

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

AFSCME member withdraws ULP against medical center

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 2nd- The member of the union that represents workers employed at the Hazleton General Hospital on East Broad Street in Hazleton that filed a labor complaint against her employer has withdrawn the charge.

The newspaper exclusively reported in the October edition a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union District Council 87 in Dunmore, which represents 87 workers at the medical center, filed a Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge against her employer at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia.

Ms. Linda Labert of Tresckow, Pennsylvania, a Hazleton Hospital employee and a member of AFSCME filed the complaint on September 3rd, 2010 alleging the Employer violated Section 8 (a), subsections (1) and (3) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

“On or about May 11th, 2010, the Employer suspended its employee Linda Labert because she had previously refused to act as a witness for the Employer in an arbitration concerning the discharge of another employee; and the Employer by its agent Liz Perrrong told Linda Labert not to contact anyone from the Union (AFSCME) or any worker concerning the supension,” stated the ULP.

Ms. Labert believed the Employer interfered with, restrained, and coerced her in the exercise of the rights guarenteed in Section 7 of the NLRAct.

The employer representative named on the Unfair Labor Practice to be contacted is Liz Perrong, indentified as the Vice-President and Human Resources of the Hazleton Hospital.

According to Kerry Gallagher, Business Representative of AFSCME District Council 87, which represents AFSCME Union members throughout nine counties of Northeastern Pennsylvania including Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wyoming Counties, Ms. Labert filed the complaint on behalf of herself without the knowledge of the Union.

Ms. Gallagher was quoted in the October edition of the newspaper that she was unaware her member filed the ULP until management of the medical center contacted her. “I’m aware of the complaint now, but I didn’t have any knowledge of it until the Employer sent me a copy,” Ms. Gallagher told the newspaper.

According to Ms. Gallagher, the ULP has been withdrawn by Ms. Labert and the situation has been resolved.

“She withdrew the complaint and the matter has been resolved,” stated Ms. Gallagher.

The newspaper discovered the Unfair Labor Practice while reviewing complaints and petitions filed at the NLRB office. The Union News newspaper is the only member of the media in Northeastern Pennsylvania that reviews and publishes the information.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Metropolitan Statistical Area Region’s unemployment rate highest in Pennsylvania

12.20.10

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

Region’s unemployment rate highest in Pennsylvania

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 2nd- According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Center for Workforce Information and Analysis in Harrisburg, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased by two-tenths of a percentage point to 10.1 percent. The MSA includes Lackawanna, Luzerne, and Wyoming Counties of Pennsylvania. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was 9.4 percent.

There are fourteen Metropolitan Statistical Area’s in Pennsylvania and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Metropolitan Statistical Area has the highest unemployment rate.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 8.8 percent, decreasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report, which was released approximately four weeks ago. There are 560,000 Pennsylvania residents without jobs. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted workforce of 6,366,000 and 5,806,000 of them have employment.

The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was reported to be 9.6 percent, unchanged from the previous report. However, the rate does not include workers who benefits have been exhausted and have stopped looking for work. There are 14,843,000 residents nationally unemployed which also does not include workers who benefits have been exhausted. Counting the long-term workers that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and workers that have not been able to find full-time work there are more than 20 million civilians without employment.

The data shows the Johnstown MSA has the second highest unemployment rate in the state at 9.8 percent. The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third highest unemployment rate in the state at 9.5 percent, with the Erie MSA and the Reading MSA tied for the fourth highest unemployment rate in the state at 9.4 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 6.2 percent, the Lebanon MSA has the second lowest at 7.4 percent and the Lancaster MSA has the third lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 7.6 percent.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the fifth largest civilian labor-force in Pennsylvania at 283,200, rising by 100 during the past twelve months. There are 28,500 residents in the MSA without jobs, rising by 1,800 during the past twelve months. Those numbers also does not include workers who have exhausted their benefits.

The Philadelphia MSA has the largest civilian labor-force in Pennsylvania at 2,963,900 with 269,100 residents not working. The Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest civilian labor force at 1,222,100, with 99,700 residents unemployed. The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest civilian labor force in Pennsylvania at 421,000 with 40,000 residents not working. The Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force in the state at 284,100, with 22,900 residents unemployed.

Luzerne County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 10.3 percent, rising by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report and increasing by five-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago.

Lackawanna County has the lowest unemployment rate at 9.7 percent, rising by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and increasing by seven-tenths of a percentage point from one year ago. Wyoming County has a unemployment rate of 9.9 percent, increasing by one and six-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before.

Union files complaint against Kingston Nursing Home

12.20.10

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

Union files complaint against Kingston Nursing Home

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 4th- The Retail, Wholesale, Department Store International Union Local 1034 filed a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four in Philadelphia alleging an employer in Kingston, Luzerne County, violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

According to the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge, which was reviewed by the newspaper, the Union alleges AGE Institute of Pennsylvania Inc., which does business under the name of Kingston Commons, Wyoming Avenue in Kingston, of violated the NLRAct.

The complaint was filed on behalf of the Retail, Wholesale, Department Store Union by Philadelphia Attorney Wendy Chierici on December 3rd. The address of the Union on the ULP is Bensalem, Pennsylvania.

The ULP was discovered by the newspaper while reviewing complaints and petitions filed at the NLRB office in Philadelphia.

“On or about October and November 2010, the Employer engaged in bad faith bargaining in violation of Section 8 (a) 5 of the Act by misrepresenting to the Union the number of sick leave days granted under its policy.

On or about November 25th, 2010 the Employer violated Section 8 (a) 5 of the Act by unilaterally changing the terms and conditions of employment by reinstating the extra shift bomus for one day, and terminating it again the following days,” states the ULP.

The ULP states there are 73 employees at Kingston Commons, which is a nursing home and provides nursing care for the elderly, but does not state how many are represented by the Union.

The employer representative indentified on the ULP to be contacted is Sherry Outten. The ULP stated her postition with management is Attorney’s David Armstrong and Timothy McCartney.

Study shows how higher wage standards effect development

12.16.10

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

Study shows how higher wage standards effect development

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

December 1st- A new study by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a left-leaning advocacy organization in Washington, DC, indicates while local goverments spend billions of dollars every year to entice private businesses to invest in their communities and create jobs in the construction of sports arenas to high-tech manufacturing zones and from commercial office buildings to big-box retail, these funds often help create jobs that pay poverty-level wages with no basic benefits.

Cities across the country are working to gain greater control over these projects and help create quality jobs by attaching wage standards to their economic development subsides. Communities are linking labor standards to public development projects in various ways, including community benefits agreements and prevailing wage laws. But the most common and comprehensive policies are business assistance living wage laws, which require businesses receiving public subsidies to pay workers wages above the poverty level.

According to the study these economic development wage standards have successfully raised pay for covered workers. Yet opponents of these standards argue that such laws prevent businesses from creating jobs and thus help some workers at the expense of employing more workers. Some business leaders and developers also claim that adding labor standards to economic development projects will scare away potential investors by sending an “antibusiness” signal.

The report examines the claims and finds that economic development wage standards have no negative effect on citywide employment levels. This casts serious doubt on arguements that standards dampen municipalities abilty to use subsidies to attract new businesses or create negative business climates where all firms avoid investment.

The study finds that the 15 cities effectively implementing business assistance living wage laws; Ann Arbor, Berkeley, Cambridge, Cleveland, Duluth, Hartford, Los Angels, Minneapolis, Oakland, Philadelphia, Richmond, San Antonio, San Francisco, San Jose, and Santa Fe, had the same levels of employment growth overall as a comparable group of control cities. The study also finds that these laws do not harm low-wage workers. Employment in the low-wage industries most likely affected by the living wage laws was unaffected by the change.

The organization believes the study provides strong test of the economic impact of wage standards because business assistance living wage laws are the type of economic development wage standards likely to have the most widespread effect on employment. Other types of economic development wage standards, such as community benefits agreements and prevailing wage laws, either effect far fewer projects or more closely tied to market wages, and are thus less likely to have any effect on employment.

The group stated the study is the most methodologically sound, quantitative study conducted to date on business assistance wage standards. It uses the best available data that tracks employment by establishment and establishment movements over time in order to make accurate accounts of employment change at the city level. The study carefully selects cities that have effectively implemented business assistance living wage laws and ensures a controlled comparison that minimizes the effects of unobservable variables by comparing 15 living wages cities to 16 cities with similar attributes where advocates lodged unsuccessful campaigns to pass ordinances.

The Center for American Action Fund suggest their report demonstrates that raising job standards does not reduce the number of jobs in a city. This means that job growth does not have to come at the expense of job quality in the city.

Statement by Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale on the Need to Pass the Unemployment Extension

12.14.10

Statement by Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale on the Need to Pass the Unemployment Extension

“Don’t Leave the Jobless Out in the Cold”

At midnight last night, 800,000 unemployed workers lost their unemployment insurance benefits. By the end of December, 2 million are projected to lose their unemployment insurance. Shame on those in Congress who aren’t supporting this emergency lifeline.

Today, more than fifty workers from across Pennsylvania descended on Washington, DC to fight for an emergency extension, joining jobless workers from across the nation at a press conference to tell the stories of their struggles.

Following the press conference, workers set out to lobby their members of Congress. The participants were armed with more than 150,000 petition signatures calling on Congress to maintain unemployment insurance. The petition signatures supported their call for an immediate, one-year UI extension that would prevent 2 million jobless workers from losing their lifeline by the end of this year.

The domino effect of the unemployment insurance expiration will affect more than just the families of the unemployed. When jobless families are unable to pay their mortgage, buy groceries or generate tax revenue, local communities, businesses and governments all suffer. The expiration of unemployment insurance benefits slows our economy down when we need to speed it up.

The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO and working families are calling on Congress to approve a one year emergency extension of unemployment insurance. Never before has Congress allowed unemployment insurance to expire when so many people are looking for work but unable to find jobs. There are five job seekers for every job opening, and the percentage of people unemployed for longer than six months is the highest on record. But instead of focusing on working families, the newly-elected GOP Congress is pushing to pass tax cuts for millionaires by extending the Bush tax cuts for those making over $250,000.

Representatives Thompson, Shuster and Pitts were wrong to vote no and help Republicans block extending unemployment benefits to workers on the wrong end of this troubled economy. They must rethink their “just say no” mentality and not leave Pennsylvania’s workers in the cold this December. Common decency and common sense require them to act to keep our communities and jobless families afloat and support a one year emergency extension of unemployment insurance.

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AFGE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF EPA LOCALS #238 QUESTIONS PRESIDENT OBAMA’S MOVE TO PENALIZE FEDERAL CIVILIAN EMPLOYEES

12.14.10

AFGE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF EPA LOCALS #238 QUESTIONS PRESIDENT OBAMA’S MOVE TO PENALIZE FEDERAL CIVILIAN EMPLOYEES

Balancing the Budget on the Backs of Overworked and Underpaid Federal Employees is Just Plain Wrong

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 2, 2010

CONTACT: John J. O’Grady (312) 886-3575

CHICAGO—The American Federation of Government Employees’ Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Labor Council announced today that it is shocked and dismayed by President Obama’s announced freeze on Federal pay increases. “Numerous politicians have wrongfully attacked government employees under the guise of fiscal responsibility and reducing the Federal deficit, and now President Obama has joined them,” stated AFGE Council 238 Treasurer John J. O’Grady.

The Council questions why President Obama would specifically propose to exempt Federal contractors, knowing full well that the shadow government workforce numbers well over 7.6 million contract employees. “Just the top 200 government contractors alone cost the American taxpayer over $543 billion in fiscal year ending September 30, 2009,” stated O’Grady. “Certainly President Obama does not endorse the fact that top executives of these same government contractors do not need a pay cut, although their salaries are just shy of $700,000, which is paid for in full by the American taxpayer?”

“To balance the budget on the backs of Federal employees, as the President proposes to do, is an insult to the dedicated employees AFGE represents. Federal employees did not run companies into the ground, take a bailout and then receive large raises and bonuses. “This is not only just plain wrong, it is bad policy and sends the wrong message to those responsible for this country’s economic problems. Mr. Obama’s freezing of Federal salaries at the January 2010 levels until January 2013, in the face of rising prices on key items such as education, food and gasoline, is an attack on America’s middle class,” concluded O’Grady. The Council notes that the amount of savings the Obama Administration says this Federal pay freeze will generate is based on inflated figures that aren’t realistic; the Administration’s calculations assumed a 2.5 percent raise for 2011 and a 3.9 percent raise in 2012. However, Federal employees were slated to receive a mere 1.4 percent raise in 2011; and that proposed raise hasn’t even been passed by Congress yet.

Meanwhile the debate continues on plans to extend tax cuts to people making over $1 million per year—at a cost of at least $690 billion to the American taxpayer, or well over seven times what would presumably be saved by eliminating Federal pay raises over the next two years. The people getting this tax break are the same ones who crippled the economy with the way they mismanaged banks, insurance companies and financial institutions. It is hard to believe that Federal employees are now vilified as much, if not more, than the company executives that caused our current economic crisis. AFGE Council 238 urges the President and the anti-Federal employee politicians that a stable, well-trained work force is needed to do the work of government. Senior citizens depend upon a Social Security Administration that is fully staffed to get the correct amount to them on-time. Our wounded and sick veterans depend upon the highly dedicated Veterans Administration Hospital staff to take care of them. Federal employees put their lives on the line guarding and protecting our borders, airports and prisons. America depends upon the Federal employees of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to protect human health and the environment. Who doesn’t want clean air to breathe and safe water to drink? It is unlikely that President Obama gained many supporters with his announcement, but he has certainly jeopardized the vote of a vast majority of Federal employees and their families.

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AFGE Council 238 and its affiliated locals constitute a union of highly dedicated employees working within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nationwide. Membership in the Council includes Locals at EPA Headquarters, Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, all 10 Regional Offices, as well as the National Health & Environmental Effects Research Laboratory in Corvallis and Newport, OR, National Vehicle & Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor, MI, and the Robert S. Kerr Research Laboratory in Ada, OK.

Statement by Patrick McMahon, President of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85, on Governor Rendell’s Leadership on Public Transit

12.14.10

AFL-CIO Media Release Statement by Patrick McMahon, President of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85, on Governor Rendell’s Leadership on Public Transit

Governor Rendell has once again proven his credentials as a champion for public transportation. His leadership and creative thinking, along with the anticipated commendable wisdom of the members of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, have scored a major victory for working families and economic recovery.

The Governor’s proposal to shift $45 million to the Port Authority, previously dedicated to projects that are not going forward, allows workers and small businesses throughout the region to breathe a collective sigh of relief.

Transit cuts kill jobs. Thousands of workers in the region use busses and trains to get to work every day and night. Businesses depend on public transit to deliver their employees and bring customers to their doors. Because multitudes of workers use transit, commuters who drive and companies transporting goods and services benefit significantly from less congested streets and highways.

Although today we celebrate the Governor’s action preventing painful, job-killing cuts in bus and rail service, we must brace ourselves for the fight to come. It is long past time for the state legislature to come up with a sustainable, dedicated funding formula for public transit in Pennsylvania. Enough with the band-aid fixes.

Today, while we express our gratitude to Governor Rendell for his vision and leadership, we call on Governor-elect

Building Craft Unions will likely face legislation banning PLA’s

12.12.10

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

Building Craft Unions will likely face legislation banning PLA’s

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, November 15th- With the Republicans gaining control of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the Governors Mansion, anti-union legislation will likely be introduced in the upcoming session of the General Assembly.

The Republicans will have a ten-seat majority in the Pennsylvania Senate and at least a 18-seat majority in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and a Republican Governor will be sworn in in January 2011.

In the previous General Assembly, the Democrats held the majority in the House of Representatives while the Republicans controlled the Pennsylvania Senate. The Governor was a Democrat.

During 2010 several bills were introduced that were considered to be “anti-union” by many within the labor community.

In February 2010 Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s) in Pennsylvania were under attack with business groups assembling in the state capitol rotunda stating the signing of PLA’s with members of the building trades unions should be eliminated.

A PLA is a comprehensive agreement signed by a builder and local craft unions under which a defined construction project is agreed to be completed by workers from local union halls, in return for the union’s guarantee of no strikes, a steady labor supply, and general labor peace. Under a PLA, a nonunion contractor could still be hired for a project, however if they are selected, local unionized workers must be hired.

Currently, there is a high unemployment rate within the construction industry nationally, in Pennsylvania and in the Lehigh Valley because of the great recession, which experts claim was over in July 2009.

In September 2009, Pennsylvania House of Representatives John Bear (Republican-97th Legislative District) introduced legislation that would prohibit the use of PLA’s on public projects in Pennsylvania. However, the legislation died in committee because there was not enough supporters of the bill in the Labor Relations Committee in Harrisburg.

The legislation’s biggest supporter was the Association of Builders and Contractors (ABC) construction group. The ABC is made-up of nonunion contractors and often lobbies for anti-union legislation.

“The fact of the matter is that many non-union contractors here in Pennsylvania and all over the country bid on projects with PLA’s and win those bids. They then go on to complete those projects using local crafts people and still earn a reasonable profit. They do this because PLA’s work. It is clear that the ABC and their legislative allies are not really interested in creating jobs for Pennsylvania skilled crafts people. They are more interested in finding ways to line their pockets with our tax dollars and with little protection of our community standards as possible,” stated Frank Sirianni, President of the Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council in Harrisburg.

If PLA’s are banned, school districts favorable to signing the legislation with building craft unions would be eliminated. Unionized construction workers could be replaced with nonunion out-of-state workers and lose work hours across Pennsylvania.

SEIU continuing attempt to organize hospital workers

12.12.10

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

SEIU continuing attempt to organize hospital workers

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 19th- The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ filed a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four in Philadelphia alleging a Lehigh Valley employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The SEIU filed the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge against Sodexo Inc., which is a food service contractor and provides food service for three Lehigh Valley hospitals, on November 1st. The complaint was reviewed by the newspaper and alleges the company interrogated a worker and wrongfully disciplined several workers for being involved with the unions’ attempt to organize fellow workers.

Union supporters at the medical center staged a one-day strike against the three hosptials on October 11th, to protest low wages, anti-union tactics and lousy benefits.

The three hospitals, the Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest, Good Shepherd, and Sacred Heart, cafeteria workers are part of a national campaign by the SEIU to gain a national labor agreement with Sodexo Inc. SEIU Local 32BJ of New York, NY is conducting a ten-state organizing campaign of the food service workers. Sodexo Inc., is headquartered in France.

In April workers marched in downtwon Allentown near the Sacred Heart Hospital and the medical centers kitchen and cafeteria workers attended the event alleging Sodexo Inc. is using intimidation to keep them from becoming union members.

“Since on or about September 29th, 2010, the above employer interrogated a worker about her union activity and issued disciplinary warnings to Kwawima Bruce, Andrew Perez, Jose Perez and Jessenia Santiago in retaliation for engaging in concerted protected activity, including organizing with Local 32BJ at Lehigh Valley Hospital located at 1200 S. Cedar Crest Blvd., Allentown,” states the complaint.

According to information provided on the ULP, the number of workers at the hospital employed in food service is 135.

The complaint was filed on behalf of the Union by a paralegal in the New York office of SEIU 32BJ. Her name could not be illegible because of poor penmanship.

The Employer Representative named on the ULP to be contacted is George Chavel, indentified as the company’s CEO from Gaitherburg, Maryland.

The Union filed a labor complaint against Sodexo, Inc. in April which also is contracted to provide the food service at Lafayette College in Easton, alleging the Employer violated the NLRAct.

The ULP, which was reviewed by the newspaper, also states Sodexo Inc. interrogated workers about their union activity and issued disciplinary warnings to a worker in retaliation for her concerted protected activity.

If organized, SEIU 32BJ wants to include all of the food service workers from the hospitals into the national agreement that would prevent the company from limiting workers’ hours that currently prevents them from qualifing for health benefits and sick pay.

Teamsters Union Local 773 files complaint against Lehigh Valley employer

12.12.10

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

Teamsters Union Local 773 files complaint against Lehigh Valley employer

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 8th- 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 an Lehigh Valley employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

According to the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge, which was discovered by the newspaper while reviewing petitions and complaints filed at the NLRB, the Union alleges the Employer, First Student in Brodheadsville, violated Section 8 (a), subsections (1) and subsection (5) of the NLRAct. The newspaper is the only member of the local media that reviews and publishes the information.

The company provides transportation for the Pleasant Valley School District.

The ULP was filed on behalf of the Union by Philadelphia Attorney Cassie Ehrenberg on November 3rd.

“The above-named Employer, by and through its agents (including Karen Denardo), has violated the National Labor Relations Act by refusing to bargain in good faith in that the Employer repudiated a settlement agreement it reached with the Union,” states the complaint.

Ms. Denardo is indentified on the ULP as the company’s Contract Manager.

According to a source at the NLRB, the complaint is under investigation by the agency.

Economic group calling for unemployment benefit extension

12.12.10

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

Economic group calling for unemployment benefit extension

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, November 16th- On November 30th unemployment insurance benefits to individuals who have been out of work for at least six months will expire.

According to the Center for American Progress, an economic research and educational institute in Washington, DC, the need for the benefits continues even though the recession is officially over and should be extended.

Jobs are still hard to find, and nearly 15 million Americans remain unemployed. Four in ten of those are long-term unemployed, meaning they’ve been out of work and searching for a job for at least six months, the group stated.

Workers that have exhausted their up to 26 weeks through their state unemployment insurance program but due to prolonged joblessness in the recession, Congress implemented full federal funding for extended benefits in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that provided between 13 and 20 additional weeks of benefits.

Congress also used the Recovery Act to provide up to 34 additional weeks of benefits for the long-term unemployed in high-unemployment states. This program is called Emergency Unemployment Compensation, and it’s federally funded as well. It too will expire at the end of the month unless Congress acts.

The Center for American Progress stated there’s a strong economic case for extending these benefits, too. Unemployment benefits are one of the most effective and efficient ways to boost demand, which is exactly what the economy needs. Economists estimate that the economy grows by $1.61 for every dollar spent on unemployment benefits because recipients typically spend all of their benefit payments quickly.

Conservatives often claim that unemployment benefits are just a giant welfare program that allows people to collect income without having to look for a job.

However, Senior Economist Heather Boushey of the Center for American Progress stated the facts tell a different tale. “Our nation’s extraordinarily high levels of unemployment is due to a lack of demand for workers rather than a lack of people willing to work.”

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka On Korea Trade Deal

12.10.10

For Immediate Release
Contact: Eddie Vale 202-637-5018

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka On Korea Trade Deal

December 9, 2010

For more than a decade, the labor movement, environmental groups, development advocates and others have advocated for a new trade policy that is part of a more coordinated and coherent national economic strategy. The proposed U.S.-Korea trade deal does not live up to that model and does not contribute to a sustainable global future. We believe we must move towards a more democratic, sustainable and fair global economy with broadly shared prosperity for working people around the world. Reaching that goal will require deep-seated reforms in current trade policy, as well as in our own domestic labor laws and other policies.

We welcome the tremendous efforts by the Obama administration and particularly Ambassador Ron Kirk and his team to address the urgent concerns of autoworkers and auto companies with respect to market access, safeguard provisions and some non-tariff barriers. Ways and Means Chairman Sander Levin and Ranking Member Dave Camp also pressed hard for key improvements in the auto provisions, and we appreciate their strong efforts. These newly negotiated provisions will give some much needed breathing room to the auto industry, and we appreciate the hard bargaining that was necessary to win these important changes.

However, the labor movement’s concerns about the Korea trade deal go beyond the auto assembly sector to a more fundamental question about what a fairer and more balanced trade policy should look like. In particular, the labor movement has consistently and for many years argued that the investment and government procurement provisions in the Korea deal will encourage offshoring. And despite the progress made in improving the labor chapter in 2007, it is clear that in both the United States and South Korea, workers continue to face repeated challenges to their exercise of fundamental human rights on the job - especially freedom of association and the right to organize and bargain collectively. This deal does nothing to improve or strengthen the provisions negotiated by former President George W. Bush in these crucial areas. It is essential that both countries bring their labor laws and practice fully into compliance with international standards prior to implementation of the agreement. And for American workers to benefit from trade deals, we must strengthen U.S. labor law to harmonize social activity. Going forward, we hope to work closely with the Obama administration to address all of these concerns in any future deals, particularly the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

The Korea deal also fails to address the potential problem of currency manipulation and contains lax provisions on rule of origin (allowing up to 65% foreign content in autos eligible for the lower tariff treatment, in contrast to the EU-Korea agreement, which allows only 45% foreign content) and duty drawback (which disadvantages domestic parts production). These provisions will undermine both S. Korean and American workers. There is significant opposition by many S. Korean unions to the trade agreement, as the agreement fails to address key offshoring and outsourcing issues facing S. Korea. In fact, the weak offshoring protections and rule of origin make the agreement a backdoor for increasing offshoring to China and other countries from South Korea, as well as from the United States.

We are also concerned that the trade agreement leaves open the possibility that goods produced in the North Korean free trade zone, the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), could in the future gain access to the United States. We shouldn’t leave open the possibility of including these goods for two reasons: 1) grave concerns over the atrocious labor rights record in the KIC and 2) the impact on jobs and wages of the exports of these goods ## produced at perhaps the lowest wage levels in the world.

In addition to much needed reforms in trade policy, the United States must implement a well coordinated industrial strategy that includes tax policy, infrastructure, skills development and technology investments to support a vibrant, growing and modern manufacturing sector.

The experiences of union members and working people with too many flawed trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement and China’s accession to the World Trade Organization do not justify optimism that this deal will generate the promised new jobs. We’ve seen U.S. multinational companies take advantage of the investment and other corporate protections in past trade deals to shift production offshore, while maintaining access to the U.S. consumer market and undermining the jobs, wages and bargaining power of American workers. And the results have been catastrophic, with chronic and unsustainable trade deficits that sap economic growth and domestic job creation.

So long as these agreements fall short of protecting the broad interests of American workers and their counterparts around the world in these uncertain economic times, we will oppose them.