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Signitures gained to force nursing home issue to voters ballot

01.31.11

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

Signitures gained to force nursing home issue to voters ballot

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, January 16th- Labor organizations representing workers employed at the Gracedale nursing home participated with the gaining of signatures of the public on petitions that will be used to force Northampton County, which owns and operates the facility in Upper Nazareth Township, to place the issue of privatization on the voters ballot.

The Coalition for Alzheimer’s Families submitted more than 23,000 signatures on January 18th, which was over 3,700 more than needed to force County officials to put the issue to the voters of whether they would rather the nursing home remain owned by Northampton County.

The nine member Northampton County Council voted in favor on August 19th, 2010 to seek offers for the 725 bed nursing home which has around 650 residents.

County officials have stated selling the nursing home, which is owned and operated by Northampton County, is about saving taxpayers money. There are approximately 750 workers, 600 full-time and 150 part-time, employed at the nursing home.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union Local 1435 represents around 600 workers employed at the nursing home including food service, cleaning and other support employees.

The United Steelworkers of America (USW) Union Local 2599 in Bethlehem represents approximately 50 nurses and social aid workers.

Both unions oppose the selling of the facility. The unions fear should the facility be sold to an outside operator their members will be required to give big wage and benefits concessions and contract langugage that protects their members will be changed.

The nursing home sell could be prevented if Northampton County residents vote not to privatize the facility. The minimum signitures that was needed to force the issue to be placed on the ballot was 19,630. The petitions will be checked to assure the signitures are those of registered voters of Northampton County.

Local 2599 President Jerry Green told the newspaper he personally brought petitions to local shopping malls and requested customers read and sign them.

“Most of the people we talked to were against selling the nursing home. I feel the voters want the nursing home to remain county owned,” said Mr. Green.

AFSCME agreed to the opening of their contract allowing for contract concessions hoping to change Northampton County officials about selling the facility. However, the county continues to pursue privatization.

After Lackawanna County sold their nursing home in March 2010, the new owners began to violate the labor agreement with the union that represents the workers. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has since filed multible labor complaints against the Employer.

Unions would likely be affected if state stores are sold

01.31.11

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

Unions would likely be affected if state stores are sold

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, January 9th- The debate of whether Pennsylvania should sell their state liquor stores to private owners is likely to resurface during the 2011 session of the General Assembly in Harrisburg and the three labor unions that represent the workers will likely be affected if the stores are privatized.

The United Food and Commerical Workers Union (UFCW) represents the majority of the workers employed by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), which operates the retail stores. The UFCW represents shelf stockers and clerk workers.

Most lower tied supervisors of the system are represented by the Independent State Store Union (ISSU) in Harrisburg while the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union represents mainly office employees including auditors.

Should the stores be “sold-off” to private owners the unions’ would likely lose members and may even be removed as the bargaining representative of the employees.

There are approximately 625 liquor stores throughout Pennsylvania and the LCB also operates liquor stores located in around 50 grocery stores.

Currently, the system generates millions of dollars in profit including creating $400 million in tax revenue, which in put into the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania general fund.

Supporters of privatization suggest the selling of the stores would general $1.5 billion of state revenue yield, but it would be a one-time infusion of funds.

Before a sale can be held legislation would need to be passed in the Pennsylvania General Assembly and signed by Republican Governor Tom Corbett, which supports privatizing the stores.

Wendell Young IV, President of UFCW Local 1776, which has offices in Plymouth Meeting, Gettysburg, and Pittston, stated there has been a lot of talk about the merits of selling the Wine and Spirit Shoppes recently but there are several myths being repeated regarding privatization including the two billion dollar wind-fall for Pennsylvania.

“While the UFCW PA Wine and Spirits Council representing local unions with a combined membership of over 40,000 members in Pennsylvania is not averse to engaging in the debate on this issue, we think that the discussion has to be based on facts, not fantasy,” stated Mr. Young.

Mr. Young stated privatization opponents suggest selling of the licenses would raise $2 billion but comparable licenses have not been shown to be worth anything close to that anywhere in the nation.

Also privatization supporters suggest selling of the stores would give “mom and pop” a chance to go into the liquor business. However, they do not show where “mom and pop” would come up with the $2.3 million needed to purchase a license.

“Selling the state stores is an irresponsible, risky scheme that won’t fix Pennsylvania’s budget,’ added Mr. Young.

Teamsters Union Local 773 files labor complaint against Breinigsville employer

01.31.11

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

Teamsters Union Local 773 files labor complaint against Breinigsville employer

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, January 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 Magnolia Logistics Inc., 8301 Industrial Boulevard in Breinigsville, 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, 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.

Magnolia Logistics Inc. is a grocery transportation company and according to the ULP employs approximately 60 workers at the Breinigsville facility.

“The above named Employer, by and through its agents, has violated the above-referenced sections of the Act by direct dealing with union member Juan Navarro and by refusing to bargain in good faith with the above-named Union, including but not limited to by failing to timely notify the Union of discipline as required under the parties’ collective bargaining agreement,” states the complaint.

United Auto Workers holds Christmas Party for union members

01.31.11

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

United Auto Workers holds Christmas Party for union members

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, January 16th- The United Auto Workers (UAW) Amalgamated Union Local 677 in Allentown held a Christmas party for children of members in December. Local 677 represents Mack Trucks employees, Americold and First Student bus workers.

According to William deMauriac, a UAW member and a member of Local 677’s Community Services Committee, approximately 44 families with more than 82 children attended the annual event.

“The children ages were newborns to twelve years of age. We gave gifts and candy to all those children. Of course Santa was there. We also had some very talented face painters called Fantasic Faces,” Mr. deMauriac.

The event was organized by Local 677’s Conservation and Recreation Committee. Mr. deMauriac is the Chairperson; Pam Hollinger is Secretary; Roger Knappenberger, Ron Rutman and Rob Pothering are also members of the Conservation and Recreation Committee.

“The main act was Clive Allen and his wife Tracy, they performed a magic act.

My wife Linda and Eileen Miller baked cookies for the children and adults,” added Mr. deMauriac.

Local 677 has one if not the largest community services committees within the labor community in the Lehigh Valley.

Alliance for American Manufacturing statement regarding President Obama’s elevation of Ron Bloom

01.28.11

Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) Executive Director Scott Paul gave the following statement regarding President Obama’s elevation of Ron Bloom to the position of assistant to the president for manufacturing policy:

“The Alliance for American Manufacturing enthusiastically welcomes the announcement today of Ron Bloom being elevated to the position of assistant to the president for manufacturing policy. No one knows the intersection of Wall Street, company board rooms, how things work on the shop floor, and economic policy better than Ron, who demonstrated his skill and know-how in helping to lead the auto industry recovery effort.

“Ron’s intellect and perspective are much-needed at a time when Congress and the Administration turn their attention to creating good manufacturing jobs in America. We share Ron’s interest and ability in bringing labor and business together to solve problems, and we look forward to working with him in his new capacity to strengthen our economy.”

Click here http://americanmanufacturing.org/multimedia/keep-it-made-america-town-hall-merrillville-unedited to view Ron Bloom addressing an AAM Town Hall meeting in Indiana last fall.

Contact: Steven Capozzola, Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing, 202-550-4322.

The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) is a unique non-partisan, non-profit partnership forged to strengthen manufacturing in the U.S. AAM brings together a select group of America’s leading manufacturers and the United Steelworkers. Our mission is to promote creative policy solutions on priorities such as international trade, energy security, health care, retirement security, currency manipulation, and other issues of mutual concern.

Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Region’s unemployment rate decreases to 9.4 percent

01.27.11

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

Region’s unemployment rate decreases to 9.4 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, January 4th- 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 is 9.4 percent, decreasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report. 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 9.5 percent.

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

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 9.7 percent. The Johnstown MSA has the second highest unemployment rate at 9.5 percent.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 8.6 percent, decreasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report, which was released approximately four weeks ago. There are 547,000 Pennsylvania residents without jobs, but that number does not include residents that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and stopped looking for work.

Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted workforce of 6,362,000 and 5,815,000 of them have employment. The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was reported to be 9.8 percent, increasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report.

There are 15,119,000 residents nationally unemployed but counting workers that have exhausted their benefits or have been unable to find full-time work there are more than 20 million Americans without jobs. After workers have exhausted their unemployment benefits they are no longer counted as unemployed unless they continue to apply for work.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.9 percent. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 7.2 percent and the Altoona MSA has the third lowest unemployment rate at 7.4 percent. The Lancaster MSA has the fourth lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 7.5 percent.

Northampton County has the lowest rate in the MSA at 9.3 percent, decreasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and increasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Northampton County has a civilian labor force of 151,200. There are 14,100 Northampton County residents without jobs, decreasing by 300 from the previous report and unchanged from twelve months ago.

Carbon County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 10.9 percent, decreasing by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and decreasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Carbon County has a civilian labor force of 31,200 with 3,400 residents without jobs, decreasing by 100 from the previous report and decreasing by 100 from twelve months ago.

Lehigh County’s unemployment rate is 9.6 percent, decreasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and increasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Lehigh County has a civilian labor force of 176,100. There are 16,800 Lehigh County residents without jobs, decreasing by 600 from the previous report and dropping by 200 during the past twelve months.

According to the data, nonfarms jobs in the MSA have increased by 1,700 during the past twelve months to 334,200.

Government Accountability Office releases report on Employee Verification System

01.27.11

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

Government Accountability Office releases report on Employee Verification System

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, January 20th- The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) released their report entitled “Employment Verification: Federal Agencies Have Taken Steps to Improve Employee Verify, but Significant Challenges Remain.”

The report provides a summary of the GAO’s findings regarding where the agencies Verification Division may move to implement modifications to the existing system based upon GAO’s recommendations to ensure accuracy of employees legal status to work in the United States.

The report was conducted to assess how the agencies involved have been able to ensure the accuracy of the verification process and whether either or both have taken measures to combat fraud. Specifically, GAO examined efforts taken by the agencies to:

• reduce tentative nonconfirmations,
• safeguard private information submitted and,
• prepare for the increased use of the program that may result from either increased state and local legislation (executive action) or a federal mandate.

Some of the other findings include:

• Employees are limited in their ability to identify the source of and how to correct information in the databases (including the significant delay in the correction process commonly taking an average of 104 days).
• Long-term cost associated with the administration of the Employee Verify program and complementary national systems and Social Security Administration (SSA) databases do not reliably depict current budgetary allocations for the costs of adminitration.
• Securing sufficient resources to effectively execute the program plans for the future has not been anticipated and may not be properly antipated in budgetary projections.

Notwithstanding the findings, there is a clear message contained in the report. Comprehensive reform is required to root-out the incidence of document fraud. The use of identification/authorization documents is the only likely cure of the ills currently inherent in the system.

Ultimately the report states a great deal of the burden to address the deficiencies of the current verification system will fall to employers.

The international lawfirm of Greenberg Traurig, LLP, which specializes in immigration law stated, the current system cannot address the underlying reality that as long as at least 11 million unauthorized employees require employment to survive, a robust market of sophisticated, fraudulent documents will flourish.

Laura Flanders: Free Trade Is Not the Answer!

01.26.11

Laura Flanders: Free Trade Is Not the Answer!

by LAURA FLANDERS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

http://blog.buzzflash.com/node/12272

(This is an adaptation of Tuesday’s F Word: the daily commentary from GRITtv.)

President Barack Obama delivered his take on the State of the Union last night and while Congress has bragged about bipartisan seating, it doesn’t matter where anyone sat because the profiteers who define what’s possible in our politics have already barred any serious solution to what ails us.

We know what the problem is: Jobs. 15 million still unemployed. A National Journal piece last week noted that the Great Recession wiped out what amounts to every U.S. job created in the 21st century. And jobs had already been leaving - for three decades.

That’s a bipartisan problem - remember who passed NAFTA, which first opened the floodgates. As a commentator with the hardly radical Hoover Institute told the Journal - Instead of reinvesting the gains of globalization in improved plants or a higher quality of life work in the US, private companies privatized the profits and hired abroad. Driving down wages.

Now while cheap production’s boosting profits again, as Heidi Shierholz reminded GRITtv yesterday, CEOs are smiling, but communities are frozen, cold as ice. And again big business is promoting trade.

Abroad: “That’s where the customers are,” the president said last week, and with a jobs-tsar like Jeffrey Immelt, the GE CEO, at his side, we’re going to hear a lot more of that.

But trade has not fixed us - it’s fouled us up. The spoils have gone to shareholders, and to spending on jobs abroad - and spending on politics - thank you, Citizens United and the U.S. Supreme Court.

As a result, government’s done nothing, neither through taxes nor through regulations. The traditional tools for evening the playing field - government regulation, economic planning, taxes - have all been turned toxic.

And while bailouts for banks are just fine, safety nets for the rest of us are trashed as socialism and waste. And in place of a community culture, those same profiteers have sold us a culture of greed and all things private - while denigrating government and all things public. (Think public workers, public spaces, public art…)

Obama is just the last in a line of Democratic presidents playing it safe, or making change small enough not to rock any powerful boat. But that’s what we’ve seen for thirty years. And playing safe hasn’t been safe at all - it’s played most Americans into a ditch.

Laura Flanders is the host and founder of GRITtv.
—————————————————–

EDITOR’S NOTE: Buzzflash.com and Trithout.org great progressive news sites completely devoted to advancing the labor movement. I urge readers here and labor activists everywhere to visit and support Buzzflash.com and Truthout.org.

PITTSBURGH FEDERATION OF TEACHERS LEADER URGES LAWMAKERS TO OPPOSE VOUCHER BILL

01.21.11

PITTSBURGH FEDERATION OF TEACHERS LEADER URGES LAWMAKERS TO OPPOSE VOUCHER BILL

John Tarka, PFT President, tells area State Senators not to sign-on as co-sponsors of bill that will take public money from public schools

PITTSBURGH, Penn. – Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers (PFT) President John Tarka today released a copy of a letter sent late last week to area State Senators expressing his organization’s opposition to Senate Bill 1, urging them not to sign-on as co-sponsors. SB 1, titled by its sponsors as the “Opportunity Scholarship Act,” would provide vouchers to be used to pay tuition at private and parochial schools for students from low income households.

In his letter Tarka said, “As you know, in Pittsburgh and in other school districts across the commonwealth, aggressive steps are being taken to improve student achievement and to increase high school graduation rates. I am concerned that these efforts may be hurt as fiscal challenges are addressed in the coming year. The last thing public school districts need is new legislation that would divert badly needed funds from public schools to private and parochial schools.”

The bill was introduced by Sen. Anthony Williams, a Philadelphia Democrat, and Sen. Jeffrey Piccola, a conservative Republican from Dauphin County. Sen. Williams stunned political observers last year in a primary bid for Governor by raising more than $4 million from three contributors pushing school vouchers and charter schools. The Williams campaign made major statewide television commercial buys featuring ads supporting school vouchers and charter schools.

Teachers’ unions are not alone in opposition to the proposed legislation. The Pennsylvania School Board Association has publicly stated its opposition to the tuition voucher plan and other pro-public education organizations are expected to join the fight as the bill begins its trek through the legislative process.

In addition to opposing siphoning critically needed public money from public schools to pay tuitions at private and parochial schools, opponents also criticize the bill for not requiring private schools to accept the students who apply using vouchers for tuition.

“So really what it boils down to is the school making the choice, not necessarily the parents of the student making the choice, which is what supporters of the legislation are always touting,” according to Timothy Allwein of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

Anti-PLA legislation was introduced in the previous General Assembly

01.18.11

JANUARY 2011 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Anti-PLA legislation was introduced in the previous General Assembly

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 6th- In September 2009 legislation was proposed that would have prohibit the use of Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s) on public projects in Pennsylvania.

The legislation was introduced by Republican House of Representative John Bear (97th Legislative District). Mr. Bear’s legislative district includes Lancaster County. However, the legislation died because not enough legislators supported the legislation.

In 2009 the Democrats held the majority in the House of Representatives while the Republican held the majority in the Senate. The Pennsylvania Governor was also a Democrat.

Mr. Bear told the newspaper at the time he also introduced the legislation in 2007 but it failed because it failed to gain enough co-signers. In 2009, the total amount of co-signers more than doubled from 2007 but it still failed.

The bill called the “Open Contracting Act” would have prohibit the use of PLA’s by public bodies for construction of schools, prisons, roads, and other public buildings in Pennsylvania.

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.

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, including a fourth try at banning the use of PLA’s on public construction projects.

Anti-union legislators, like Mr. Bear, have stated in the past that PLA’s are often used by Democratic party elected officials to repay labor unions for their support during political campaigns. “PLA’s are used as political favors,” Mr. Bear was quoted as saying in the October 2009 edition of the newspaper.

The legislation’s biggest supporter 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 in Harrisburg and was behind a anti-PLA rally held in the state capitol rotunda in February 2010.

Frank Sirianni, President of the Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council in Harrisburg, which is a labor federation representing unions who members are employed within the construction industry, believes corporate greed is behind any anti-PLA 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 Mr. Sirianni.

PASNAP Union members strike hospital for 24-hours

01.18.11

JANUARY 2011 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

PASNAP Union members strike hospital for 24-hours

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 6th- Union members, their families and community leaders walked the picket line with nurses employed at Wilkes-Barre General Hosptial, which does business as the Wyoming Valley Health Care System, River Street in Wilkes-Barre, on December 23nd to protest the lack of reaching a new contract agreement between the employer and the labor organization that represents the employees.

The Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professional (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 nineteen 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 and on December 23rd, staged a 24-hour strike. The union gave the employer an advance warning of the strike so CHS could prepare for the work stoppage. CHS hired temporary scabs to replace the striking nurses.

At noon on December 23rd a rally was held to show support for the strikers. The event was attended by several political leaders, and union members from throughout the Wyoming Valley.

Unions would likely be affected if state stores are sold

01.18.11

JANUARY 2011 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Unions would likely be affected if state stores are sold

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 6th- The debate of whether Pennsylvania should sell their state liquor stores to private owners is likely to resurface during the 2011 session of the General Assembly in Harrisburg and the three labor unions that represent the workers will likely be affected if the stores are privatized.

The United Food and Commerical Workers Union (UFCW) represents the majority of the workers employed by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), which operates the retail stores. The UFCW represents shelf stockers and clerk workers.

Most lower tied supervisors of the system are represented by the Independent State Store Union (ISSU) in Harrisburg while the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union represents mainly office employees including auditors.

Should the stores be “sold-off” to private owners the unions would likely lose members and may even be removed as the bargaining representative of the employees.

There are approximately 625 liquor stores throughout Pennsylvania and the LCB also operates liquor stores located in around 50 grocery stores.

Currently, the system generates millions of dollars in profit including creating $400 million in tax revenue, which in put into the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania general fund.

Supporters of privatization suggest the selling of the stores would general $1.5 billion of state revenue yield, but it would be a one-time infusion of funds.

Before a sale can be held legislation would need to be passed in the Pennsylvania General Assembly and signed by Republican Governor Tom Corbett, which supports privatizing the stores.

Teamsters Local 401 files petition requesting election in Wilkes-Barre

01.18.11

JANUARY 2011 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Teamsters Local 401 files petition requesting election in Wilkes-Barre

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 6th- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 401, South Washington Street in Wilkes-Barre, filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia requesting the agency conduct an election to determine if the employees of a Luzerne County employer want to be represented by the union.

According to the petition, which was filed with the NLRB on January 5th, 2010, employees of Garda Cash Logistics, Stewart Road in Wilkes-Barre, is requesting for the agency to conduct a election to determine if a majority of them want Local 401 to represent them for the purpose of collective bargaining.

“We have already received notice that the NLRB got the petition,” stated James Murphy, President and Business Representative of Local 401. Mr. Murphy filed the petition on behalf of Local 401 and is an participating member of the Union’s organizing committee.

According to the petition, which was reviewed by the newspaper, there are presently 38 employees in the unit of workers seeking the election.

Under NLRB rules, a labor organization must receive 50 percent plus one of the voting employees during an agency election to become their bargaining representative.

Mr. Murphy stated approximately 75 percent of the unit of employees signed authorization cards requesting the NLRB conduct an election.

The company provides amored car services and security transportation.

The Teamsters requested on the petition that all full-time and regular part-time nonmanagement employees participate in the election.

Writer challenges Republicans on health-care reform bill

01.18.11

JANUARY 2011 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Writer challenges Republicans on health-care reform bill

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 4th- According to a article published by the Americans United for Change.org, a left-leaning web-site in Washington, DC, if Republican members in the United States House of Representatives repeal healthcare reform it would cost hundreds of billions of dollars, violating their campaign pledge of reducing the federal deficit.

According to a article authorized by Ezra Klein one of the Republican members of Congress new rules says that new legislation must be paid for. But the health-care bill reduces the federal deficit by more than $100 billion over the next 10 years.

However, Klein states that the Republicans have figured out an answer to their program: “They’ve decided to simply exempt the repeal bill from the rules. That means they’re beginning the 112th Congress by lifting their own rules in order to take a vote that will increase the deficit. Change we can believe in, and all that,” states Klein.

Republican are aware that their action does not look good, so they are trying to explain why their decision to lift the rule requiring fical responsibility is actually fiscally responsible. Majority Leader Eric Cantor got asked about it and said they talked about 10 years worth of tax hikes and six years’ worth of benefits and everyone knows beyond the 10-year window, the health-care reform legislation has the potential to bankrupt the federal government as well as the states, Mr. Cantor stated.

Klein stated the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the health-care reform law saves vastly more money in its second decade than in the first 10 years.

“The legislation will reduce federal deficits during the decade beyond the 10-year budget window relative to those projected under current law, with a total effect in a broad range around one-half percent of the GDP,” states Klein.

Klein added, “What’s important about Mr. Cantor’s argument is not that he’s wrong. It’s why he’s saying something he knows to be wrong. There are plenty of reasons to oppose the health-care reform bill. You might not want to spend that money insuring people, or you might not think the legislation goes far enough in reforming the system. But as a matter of arithmetic, using the math that Congress always uses, the bill saves money. It cuts enough spending and raises enough taxes to more than pay for itself, both in the first 10 years and in the second 10 years.”

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Metropolitan Statistical Area unemployment rate remains the highest in state

01.18.11

JANUARY 2011 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

MSA unemployment rate remains the highest in state

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 1st- According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania, Department of Labor and Industry, the region’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 9.7 percent, decreasing by four-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report, which was released approximately four weeks before. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) includes Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wyoming Counties. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was 9.4 percent.

The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 8.6 percent, decreasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,362,000 with 547,000 not working and 5,815,000 with employment. The national unemployment rate is 9.8 percent, increasing by two-tenths of a precentage point from the previous report. However, the unemployment rate does not include civilians who unemployment benefits have expired and stopped looking for work.

There are 15,119,000 civilians in the nation reported to be unemployed. That number does not include civilians that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and have stopped looking for work. There are actually at least 21,000,000 civilians in the nation without jobs.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the fifth largest labor force in Pennsylvania with 281,600 civilians. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force at 2,952,400 with 267,800 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor force at 1,217,600 with 97,800 without jobs; the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force at 417,800 with 39,200 not working; and the Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force at 281,700 with 23,500 without employment. The Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA just recently passed the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA for the fourth largest civilian labor force.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA continues to have the highest unemployment rate among the 14 MSA’s within Pennsylvania.

The Johnstown MSA has the second highest unemployment in the Commonwealth at 9.5 percent. The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton has the third highest at 9.4 percent with the Erie MSA and the Reading MSA tied with the fourth highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 9.2 percent.

There are 27,300 residents reported to be not working in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA, rising by 500 from twelve months before. That number also does not include civilians who unemployment benefits have expired and stopped looking for work.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.9 percent. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in the state at 7.2 percent, the Altoona MSA has the third lowest unemployment rate at 7.4 percent with the Lancaster MSA with the fourth lowest unemployment rate at 7.5 percent.

Wyoming County has the lowest unemployment rate in the MSA at 7.8 percent, decreasing by two full percentage points from the previous report and dropping by one and six-tenths of a percentage point during the past twelve months. Wyoming County has a civilian labor force of 14,100 with 1,100 unemployed.

Luzerne County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 10.1 percent, decreasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and increasing by three-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago.

Luzerne County has a labor force of 160,300, decreasing by 500 from the previous report and decreasing by 800 during the past twelve months. Of the labor force, 16,200 civilians do not have a job, decreasing by 300 from the previous report and rising by 400 during the past twelve months.

The unemployment rate in Lackawanna County is 9.4 percent, decreasing by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and dropping by four-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago.

Lackawanna County has a labor force of 107,300, decreasing by 500 civilians from the previous report and dropping by 700 from twelve months ago. There are 10,100 Lackawanna County residents without jobs, decreasing by 400 from the previous report and increasing by 400 from twelve months ago.

The retail trade sector jobs increased by 1,200 from the previous report mainly because of several Wal-Mart openings.

Conservative political groups already targeting Senator Casey for 2012 election

01.13.11

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

Conservative political groups already targeting Senator Casey for 2012 election

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, December 16th- Conservative political groups are already targeting Pennsylvania Democratic United States Senator and labor supporter Robert Casey Jr. in the 2012 election.

In 2010 Democratic United States Senatorial candidate Joe Sestak was defeated by former Republican Lehigh Valley United States House of Representative (15th Legislative District) Pat Toomey who will replace Democrat Arlen Specter in Washington, in January.

Current Republican Lehigh Valley Congressman Charlie Dent is being mentioned as a possible candidate for the Senate seat.

Incumbent Charlie Dent defeated Democratic Congressional candidate John Callahan and a Independent candidate in the November election and will begin a fourth two-year term representing the Lehigh Valley in Washington, DC in January.

According to Newsweek magazine, Mr. Casey is one of 10 Democrats that are on the “endangered list” for re-election in 2012.

Mr. Casey is finishing his fourth-year of a six-year term representing Pennsylvania in Washington.

Senator Casey supported legislation important to the labor community in his first term in Washington, including voting to increase the federal minimum wage, voted for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCAct)/Card Check legislation, and voted in favor of extending unemployment benefits to long-term workers.

Conservative groups have already began buying advertising on radio stations, including in the Lehigh Valley, criticizing Mr. Casey’s voting record during his four-years in Washington.

Mailhandlers Union files several complaints against USPS

01.13.11

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

Mailhandlers Union files several complaints against USPS

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, December 9th- The National Postal Mailhandlers Union (NPMHU) Local 308, South Commerce Way in Lehigh Valley, filed several labor complaints with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four in Philadelphia against the United States Postal Service (USPS) alleging the mail delivery service violated the National Labor Realtions Act (NLRAct).

The newspaper recenlty reviewed Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges filed at the NLRB and found Local 308 filed three complaints against the USPS during a three day period.

On November 30th, the Union filed a ULP alleging the Employer violated the NLRAct by not providing requested information involving a grievance. “The Union has requested information on several subjects necessary for either the continuance of a grievance or the determining of whether we have a grievance. We have not received an explanation for the delays nor the requested information. Several requests have been submitted more than 1 or even 2 times,” states the ULP.

The complaint was filed on behalf on the Union by Pamela Baum, identified on the ULP as Chief Shop Steward. The company representative indentified on the complaint to be contacted is Brian Stewart, the Plant Manager and Brian Kelso, In-Plant Support.

On December 1st, Local 308 filed a ULP alleging the Employer violated the NLRAct when the Union requested information regarding Lehigh Valley Supervisors attendance and discipline issued. “Plant Manager Brian Stewart has marked a request for information “disapproved.” This was a request for a copy of Supervisors attendance and discipline issued. This is needed because the Union believes the T-1 Supervisors are holding Mailhandlers to a much higher standard than the Lehigh Valley Supervisors. We have ongoing grievances for which this is needed,” states the ULP.

The ULP was filed on behald of the Union by member Joseph Jacubowsky of Bath. The company representative indentified on the complaint to be contacted is also Brian Stewart, the Plant Manager.

The third complaint was filed on December 2nd and alleges the USPS has withheld information needed for the continuance of several grievances.

According to the ULP, the Employer has failed to provide requested information regarding grievances dating back as far as October 20th, 2010.

“The Union has requested information on several subjects necessary for either the continuance of a grievance or the determining of whether we have a grievance. We have not received an explantation for the delays nor the requested information,” stated that complaint.

Department of Labor re-establishes construction safety charter

01.13.11

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

Department of Labor re-establishes construction safety charter

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, December 14th- The United States Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis announced the agency will re-establish the charter of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH). The group advises the secretary on formulating safety and health standards and policies that affect construction workers and the construction industry. The charter will expire in two years.

“Since OSHA’s inception, ACCSH has played an important role in furthering the safety and health of workers in the construction industry. The members’ advice and recommendations are extremely valuable to the agency because they have a wealth of knowledge and real-world experience on a wide range of construction trades, activities and issues,” stated Assistant Secretary of labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels.

Established in 1969 as a continuing advisory committee under the Contract Work Hours Standards Act, commonly known as the Construction Safety Act (CSAct), the ACCSH is comprised of fifteen members appointed by the Secretary of Labor.

The advisory committee consists of five representatives of employers in the construction industry, five representatives who represent the viewpoint of employees in the construction industry, who are generally from various building trades unions, two public representatives of state safety and health agenices and one from the National Institute of Occupational Health. The members generally serve staggered two-year terms and may be re-appointed.

As part of its advisory role, ACCSH provides comments and recommendations on OSHA proposed rules affecting the construction industry. In addition, the committee provides other recommendations and develops various work products such as quick cards and fact sheets for OSHA’s consideration.

Currently, ACCSH also has a number of active work groups focusing on areas including women/diversity in construction, education and training, green jobs, multilinual issues in construction, power fastening tools such as nail guns, prevention by design, residential fall protection, and silica and other construction health hazards. The meetings of ACCSH and its work groups are open to the public.

For more information on Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health and the group’s reports and recommendations go to
http://www.osha.gov/doc/accsh/index.html

SEIU Local 32BJ files additional complaint against Lehigh Valley employer

01.13.11

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

SEIU Local 32BJ files additional complaint against Lehigh Valley employer

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, December 15th- The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ filed another labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four in Philadelphia alleging an 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 30th.

The complaint was reviewed by the newspaper and alleges the Employer barred employees at Lehigh Valley Hospital on Cedar Crest Boulevard in Allentown from wearing Union shirts.

“In or around mid-September 2010, the employer participated in, acquiesced in, caused hospital security officers’ conduct in threatening to call police if employees, who were engaged in Section 7 activity did not move from the public sidewalk in front of the hosptial,” states the complaint.

In the previous edition of the newspaper it was reported the SEIU filed a ULP against Sodexo Inc. on November 1st, 2010 alleging the employer violated the NLRAct when 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 downtown 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.

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 is not 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.

Area weatherization workers prevailing wages defined

01.13.11

JANUARY 2011 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Area weatherization workers prevailing wages defined

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 2nd- The United States Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division released Pennsylvania’s prevailing wage rates for weatherization of residential structures as those structures defined in the All Agency Memorandum Program through the United States Department of Energy (DOE).

The primary purpose of the project for which this wage determination is being issued is weatherization and is not for the nenovation, repair, or new construction of residential structures. All other types of residential construction projects are subject to the published general residential wage determinations for the State of Pennsylvania.

General weatherization work for the purpose of this wage determination is defined as minor repairs, batt insulation, blown insulation, window and door repair, and weather stripping, solar film installation, air sealing, caulking, minor or incidental structural repairs, duct sealing, air sealing, installation of light bulbs, and installation of smoke detectors. In Pennsylvania, the Department’s survey determined as a matter of prevailing practice that these duties are performed by a weatherization worker classification.

Additionally, specially weatherization work is defined as the;

• replacement of doors and windows;
• installation and repair of furance/cooling (HVAC) systems and all
associated work involved with the installation of the HVAC system including
electrical, pipe, and duct work.

In Pennsylvania the Department of Energy determined that the duties described above are to be performed by a window and door replacement worker, and by an HVAC worker.

In Pennsylvania wage payment data submitted includes wage data information for a weatherization crew chief classification. This classification of worker is essentially a working foreman who performs the same tasks as the weatherization worker, but who is repsonsible for supervision, job oversight, forms completion, work assignments and quality assurance.

The prevailing rates listed are the minimum rates that may be paid for the classification for the work performed. Wage rates are based strickly on work performed and are not based on the employee’s level of experience, seniority, ability, ect.

Workers preforming the work descibed are due at least the wages listed.

The three classifications listed under the Weatherization Survey Wage Determination are the classifications and rates determined to be prevailing for weatherization work and are based on wage data submitted in response to the weatherization survey. Weatherization work, as well as the specific duties that may be performed by these three classifications, is defined on this project decision.

According to the wage chart, weatherization workers in the Lehigh Valley will earn more than workers in Northeastern Pennsylvania for doing the same performed work.

In Luzerne County, Lackawanna County and Wyoming County the prefvailing wage is $14.97 an hour for electrical workers; $15.46 an hour for workers performing carpentry; $10.30 an hour for doors and windows replacement workers; $16.77 an hour for heating and cooling repair, installation workers and $10.30 an hour for weatherization workers.

A worker preforming carpentry work will earn at least $15.94 an hour; while an electrical worker will earn at least $25.44 an hour in Northampton County. A worker preforming carpentry work will earn at least $15.94 an hour while a electrical worker will earn at least $20.09 an hour in Lehigh County.

The wages quoted does not include fringe benefits.