Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

New residential roofing construction requirement issued

01.13.11

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

New residential roofing construction requirement issued

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 4th- The United States Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in Washington announced a new directive withdrawing a former one that allowed residential builders to bypass fall protection requirements. The directive being replaced, issued in 1995, initially intended as a temporary policy and was the result of concerns about feasibility of fall protection in residential building construction. However, there continues to be a high number of fall-related deaths in construction, and industry experts now feel that feasibility is no longer an issue or concern.

“Fatalities from falls are the number one cause of workplace deaths in construction. We cannot tolerate workers getting killed in residential construction when effective means are readily available to prevent those deaths. Almost every week, we see a worker killed from falling off a residential roof. We can stop these fatalities, and we must,” stated Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health.

The national Association of Home Builders recommended rescinding the 1995 directive, as did OSGHA’s labor-management Advisory Committee for Construction Safety and Health; the AFL-CIO labor federation; and the Occupational Safety and Health State Plan Association, which represents the 27 states and territories that run their own occupational safety and health programs, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

According to data from the DOL Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average of 40 workers are killed each year as a result of falls from residential roofs. One-third of those deaths represent Latino workers, who often lack sufficient access to safety information and protections and are mostly nonunion. Latino workers comprise more than one-third of all construction employees in the nation.

According to the DOL, construction and roofing companies will have up to six months to comply with the new directive. The Occupational Safety and Health Adminstration has developed training and compliance assistance materials for small employers and will host a webinar for parties in learning more about complying with the standard. To view the directive and for more information visit: http://www.osha.gov/doc/residential_fall_protection.html.

Fear, Smear and Political Violence for Profit and Power

01.11.11

Fear, Smear and Political Violence for Profit and Power

The shootings in Arizona should be producing a crisis of conscience on the political Right in this nation. However, I am not sure we are going to see that result.

Extreme language, violent rhetoric and demonizing opponents have been very successful tactics in the quest for political and economic power for the Right Wing of American politics. They have institutionalized these tactics in many ways like the creation of Fox News, a huge array of Right Wing talk shows and print publications along with billionaire funded think tanks and various front groups including most of the Tea Party movement.

These tactics have taken over the entire operations of what was once the conservative movement. Today, the most extreme voices have largely drowned out the moderate conservatives that once dominated the conservative movement and the Republican Party.

As recently as ten years ago, I could still consider myself fairly mainstream member of this moderate conservative tradition because I supported certain policy positions although I was a mainstream Democrat. Back then, the inmates were not yet completely running the asylum.

I believe in gun rights with reasonable regulations to ensure safety and that keep guns out of hands of criminals and insane people. I believe in a strong military that would be used for defense but would never attack first or commit war crimes.

I strongly support protecting the Bill of Rights and civil liberties and wanted our government restrained from the horrors of dictatorships which imprisoned people without trials and tortured citizens. I supported a free market system with strong protections against the abuses of monopolies exploiting consumers and workers.

I worried about technology transfers to foreign nations because they would undermine our long-term military capacity and our governments financial stability while creating national security threats from other nations with growing military-industrial abilities and expanded international ambitions. I wanted to preserve our strong middle class because it strengthened our American democracy and helped create a domestic peace because everyone had a stake in our society that included real opportunities for economic advancement.

These were all widely accepted conservative values before George W. Bush. The Far Right had them in their sites but had not successfully tried to exterminate them from the conservative mainstream.

I never thought our limited welfare programs were a threat to our free enterprise system and regarded those “conservatives” who thought that way as extremists. As a working class man from a union family, I thought those “conservatives” who hated unions were both extremists and willing tools of international corporations.

Over the past ten years, these extremist positions have so taken over the conservative movement that I can no longer call myself or them “conservative.” The reasonable conservatism of the 1960-1980’s has largely died.

I call their successors “rightists”, “The Right Wing”, “corporate clowns” or “neo-fascists.” I do not like using labels to define my diverse policy positions but most others would consider me to be either a “realist” (because I believe in fact based policy where results matter), “a traditionalist (because my ideological views are largely based on the Founding Fathers, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR and Christianity) or a ”progressive” (because I believe in our American tradition of growing social progress, democracy and equality).

Unfortunately, as the Far Right captured the conservative movement with corporate financial help, the tactics the extremists used to con the ignorant, fearful, angry and greedy among our citizenry into supporting political and economic policies that really only favored the powerful elite became typical standard operating procedures of the Right.

The Right in American politics does not have any specific policies will improve the lives of most Americans. In fact, they stand in harsh opposition to any policies that would help the majority of Americans. They preach that our government is our enemy when the very core of the American idea of government is that we are the government.

We need a strong government run by us to hold international corporate power in check and to protect our standard of living from these international predators. The Right wants a weak national government when it comes to restraining corporate power but a strong one under corporate control when it comes to citizens’ demands for better wages, more jobs, decent healthcare, quality and affordable education and real economic mobility. They do not want a government that pursues energy, military or trade policies that protect our national interests instead of the interests of international corporations.

The Right has nothing to offer voters, in order to achieve political power, except fear and smears. It is little wonder that voter suppression is such a key element is their campaign tactics. The economic elite and corporate forces will dump tons of money into the bank accounts of people like Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh because they use the kind of extremist language, violent rhetoric and demonizing tactics that serve to promote the “corporatist” economic and political agenda.

These same “corporatist” forces are funding the Republican Party. They are buying up the media and rigging the rules of the economy against the vast majority of Americans.

Things will likely get worse before the American middle class, working class and poor revolt at the ballot box. We must shame the Right and punish them with our votes to stop the abuses and violence before it gets totally out of control. There should never be another tragedy like the one in Arizona!

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

“18 Iconic Products That America Doesn’t Make Anymore”

01.07.11

“18 Iconic Products That America Doesn’t Make Anymore”

Posted by scapozzola on 11/08/2010 -@Alliance for American Manufacturing

With thanks to the Business Insider, we’d like to reprint an excellent piece they posted, “18 Iconic Products That America Doesn’t Make Anymore.”

Rawlings baseballs, Last production date: 1969– Rawlings is the official supplier of baseballs to Major League Baseball. The St. Louis shop was founded in 1887 by George and Alfred Rawlings. In 1969 the brothers moved the baseball-manufacturing plant from Puerto Rico to Haiti and then later to Costa Rica.

Etch a Sketch, Last production date: 2000– Etch A Sketch, an iconic American toy since the 1960s, used to be produced in Bryan, Ohio, a small town of 8,000. Then in Dec. 2000, toymaker Ohio Art decided to move production to Shenzhen, China.

Converse shoes, Last production date: 2001– Marquis M. Converse opened Converse Rubber Show Company in Massachusetts in 1908. Chuck Taylors– named after All American high school basketball player Chuck Taylor– began selling in 1918 as the show eventually produced an industry record of over 550 million pairs by 1997. But in 2001 sales were on the decline and the U.S. factory closed. Now Chuck Taylors are made in Indonesia.

Stainless steel rebar, Last production date: circa 2001– Many forms of this basic steel product are not available domestically. Multiple waivers to the Buy America Act have allowed purchase of rebar internationally. Note: The Buy America Act requires government mass transportation spending to use American products.

Dress shirts*, Last production date: Oct. 2002– The last major shirt factory in America closed in October 2002, according to NYT. C.F. Hathaway’s Maine factory had been producing shirts since 1837. *We know there are other shirt manufacturers in America. They do not produce in large quantities or supply major brands.

Mattel toys, Last production date: 2002– The largest toy company in the world closed their last American factory in 2002. Mattel, headquartered in California, produces 65 percent of their products in China as of August 2007.

Minivans, Last production date: circa 2003– A waiver to the Buy America Act permitted an American producer of wheel-chair accessible minivans to purchase Canadian chassis for use in government contracts, because no chassis were available from the United States. The waiver specified: “General Motors and Chrysler minivan chassis, including those used on the Chevrolet Uplander, Pontiac Montana, Buick Terraza, Saturn Relay, Chrysler Town & Country, and Dodge Grand Caravan, are no longer manufactured in the United States.” Note: The Buy America Act requires government mass transportation spending to use American products.

Vending machines, Last production date: circa 2003– You know that thing you put bills into on a vending machine? It isn’t made in America, according to a waiver to the Buy America Act. Neither is the coin dispenser, according to this federal waiver. Note: The Buy America Act requires government mass transportation spending to use American products.

Levi jeans, Last production date: Dec. 2003– Levi Strauss & Co. shut down all its American operations and outsourced production to Latin America and Asia in Dec. 2003. The company’s denim products have been an iconic American product for 150 years.

Radio Flyer’s Red Wagon, Last production date: March 2004– The little red wagon has been an iconic image of America for years. But once Radio Flyer decided its Chicago plant was too expensive, it began producing most products, including the red wagon, in China.

Televisions, Last production date: Oct. 2004– Five Rivers Electronic Innovations was the last American owned TV color maker in the US. The Tennessee company used LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon) technology to produce televisions for Philips Electronics. But after Philips decided to stop selling TVs with LCoS, Five Rivers eventually filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Oct. 2004. As part of its reorganization plan, the company stopped manufacturing TVs. Now there are ZERO televisions made in America, according to Business Week.

Cell phones, Last production date: circa 2007– Of the 1.2 billion cell phones sold worldwide in 2008, NOT ONE was made in America, according to Manufacturing & Technology publisher Richard McCormick. After studying the websites of cell phone companies, we could not identify a single phone that was not manufactured primarily overseas.

Railroads (parts including manganese turnout castings, U69 guard bars, LV braces and weld kits), Last production date: circa 2008– Here’s another standout from dozens of waivers to the Buy America Act: railroad turnouts and weld kits. Manganese turnout castings are used to widen railroad tracks, and they were used to build our once-great railroad system. U69 guard bars, LV braces and Weld Kits, along with 22 mm Industrial steel chain are basic items that were certifiably not available in the US. Note: The Buy America Act requires government mass transportation spending to use American products.

Dell computers, Last production date: Jan. 2010– In January 2010, Dell closed its North Carolina PC factory, its last large U.S. plant. Analysts said Dell would be outsourcing work to Asian manufacturers in an attempt to catch up with the rest of the industry, said analyst Ashok Kumar.

Canned sardines, Last production date: April 2010– Stinson Seafood plant, the last sardine cannery in Maine and the U.S., shut down in April. The first U.S. sardine cannery opened in Maine in 1875, but since the demand for the small, oily fish declined, more canneries closed shop.

Pontiac cars, Last production date: May 2010– The last Pontiac was produced last May. The brand was formally killed on Halloween, as GM contracts Pontiac dealerships expired. The 84-year-old GM brand was famous for muscle cars.

Forks, spoons, and knives, Last production date: June 2010– The last flatware factory in the US closed last summer. Sherrill Manufacturing bought Oneida Ltd. in 2005, but shut down its fork & knife operations due to the tough economy. CEO Greg Owens says his company may resume production “when the general economic climate improves and as Sherrill Manufacturing is able to put itself back on its feet and recapitalize and regroup.”

Incandescent light bulb, Last production date: Sept. 2010– The incandescent light bulb (invented by Thomas Edison) has been phased out. Our last major factory that made incandescent light bulbs closed in September 2010. In 2007, Congress passed a measure that will ban incandescents by 2014, prompting GE to close its domestic factory. Note: A reader pointed out that the Osram/Sylvania Plant in St. Mary’s, Penn. is still producing light bulbs to fill old and international contracts. However, the plant has announced plans to wind down incandescent production.

Candidate for County Council President Thomas Kovach’s Work for Developers Poses a Serious Conflict of Interest

01.05.11

PEOPLE FOR SHELDON

TIMOTHY P. SHELDON for NEW CASTLE COUNTY COUNCIL PRESIDENT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Jim Farrell 302/689.3281

January 5, 2011 jafarrell2003@yahoo.com

Candidate for County Council President Thomas Kovach’s Work for Developers Poses a Serious Conflict of Interest

con·flict of in·ter·est

A term used to describe the situation in which a public official or fiduciary who, contrary to the obligation and absolute duty to act for the benefit of the public or a designated individual, exploits the relationship for personal benefit, typically pecuniary.

(Wilmington, DE) – The campaign of Tim Sheldon today revealed that Republican candidate for President of New Castle County Council, Thomas Kovach, has a conflict of interest that raises questions about his fitness for office. Kovach, a Director at a prominent law and lobbying firm, represents powerful real estate developers to county government decision makers. Additionally, candidate Kovach failed to file the required statement of personal financial interests with the New Castle County Ethics Commission. The disclosure is mandatory for all County office candidates, in order to inform the public of any potential issues, which Kovach clearly has. The violation also carries penalties.

“Thomas Kovach has potential conflicts of interest that will require him frequently to recuse himself from County Council discussions and decisions. His firm legally represents and lobbies for big land developers, and also polluters like BP and Sunoco, who may be coming before the Council seeking favorable decisions. Will he be serving the public interest or his law firm’s clients when he votes on land use issues? I think the public interest would be put at risk if Mr. Kovach were to become Council President,” said Tim Sheldon, Democratic candidate for Council President.

Kovach himself concedes his conflict of interest problem. According to the New Journal, “Kovach said he will recuse himself if he has a client with a project in the county, or might even refuse to represent such clients altogether.” 12/18/10

“There is real concern whether Mr. Kovach can impartially represent the best interests of communities, given his profession of advocating for developers, and his pro-business and pro-development bias,” added Tim Sheldon.

On its website, Kovach’s firm boasts of its ‘state-wide real estate and land use practice involving both commercial and residential land use issues, zoning, transactions and disputes,’ and that it ‘provides representation on commercial and residential development projects, shopping centers, malls, recreational facilities, office buildings and marinas.’ Many of these areas are under the control of the County Council.

It was also learned today that Kovach, who has been a candidate since at least November 17th, has gone more than 40 days without any financial disclosure to the public. Candidates for county elective office must file a statement of their financial interests not later than seven (7) days after the last date for giving notice of candidacy for public office under the State of Delaware election laws.

On WILM Radio’s ‘Glenn Urquhart’ show on Monday when asked about the conflict-of-interest problem, Kovach brushed off any question of impropriety by announcing that he had now become a ‘consultant’ to his law firm, and said he relinquished his position as Director of the firm. The firm’s website still lists him as a ‘Director’ on January 4th, 2011, however. Without any public financial disclosure statement, it is difficult to evaluate Kovach’s claims.

“I find Mr. Kovach’s explanation frankly too slick by half. It won’t wash with voters,” said Tim Sheldon. “And when is he going release his financial interests publicly? I imagine some voters would like to see them before they cast their ballots. We need to know what conflicts his personal finances might contain.”

When explaining his candidacy in November, Kovach declared that “having more openness and transparency in the county’s decision-making process will be the first-step towards a better, more trusted government”. Tim Sheldon observed that those words now must ring ironic for voters after today’s revelation.

Economic research group suggest raising minimum wage

01.04.11

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

Economic research group suggest raising minimum wage

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, December 22nd- Seven other states in the nation will increase their minimum wage to keep pace with inflation on January 1st, 2011. The planned increases, which is automatic inflation-based adjustments ranging from 9 to 12 cents, will modestly boost the incomes of approximately 647,000 minimum wage workers in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. The indexed increases came about through ballot initiatives in six states and 2005 legislation in the state of Vermont.

The Keystone Research Center and the National Employment Law Center have called for Pennsylvania Republican Governor elect Tom Corbett and the Pennsylvania incoming legislature to do what the seven states will being doing on January 1st, 2011 and increase the minimum wage in Pennsylvania to keep pace with inflation.

“Regular increases in the minimum wage are critical during tough economic times. These small increases mean that thousands of minimum-wage earners like health aides, child care workers, restaurant workers and retail clerks will be able to put food on the table, provide for their children, and keep a roof over their head,” stated Mark Price, Keystone Reserach Center and labor economist.

As a result of the January 1st increases, 17 states and the District of Columbia will have minimum wages above the federal level. Pennsylvania increased its minimum wage above the federal level in 2007, but the federal minimum wage caught up when the United States Congress raised it to $7.25 per hour in 2009.

The federal minimum wage currently pays a full-time minimum wage earner just over $15,000 per year. Three-quarters of minimum wage earners are adults 20 or over, and in many cases their earnings provide a vital contribution to family income.

“Regular increases in the minimum wage also give low-wage earners parity with state lawmakers whose incomes are already indexed to inflation in Pennsylvania,” added Mr. Price.

“The minimum wage, first established nationally in 1938, was one of the key tools used to lift consumer spending and help the economy recover from the Great Depression. For three decades after that, the United States minimum wage increased faster than inflation, at roughly 3 percent per year, and unemployment fell and then remained low,” stated Keystone Research Center economist and Executive Director Stephen Herzenberg.

“Minimum wage increases go directly to workers who spend the money immediately, because they have to, on basic necessities like food, gas, rent and clothing,” Mr. Herzenberg added.

According to the Keystone Research Center, a economic research organization in Harrisburg, lagging wages or “wage deficit” in Pennsylvania has led families to rely increasingly on debt-financed consumption before the recent recession. The failure to steadily increase the minimum wage is part of what led to the wage deficit.

The annual wages of most full-time Pennsylvania workers are $3,000 to 3,750 less today because the benefits of growth have gone mostly to very high wage earners. As a result of this deficit, many consumers took on home-equity loans and other debt. When the housing bubble burst and the economy stalled, consumers could not longer use debt to increase their spending.

“Long-term, boosting the incomes of working families and strengthening the middle class are the only ways to restore healthy job growth without unsustainable deficit spending. Increasing the minimum wage to keep pace with inflation would be a great place to start,” added Mr. Price.

OSHA and Iron Workers Union renews safety alliance

01.04.11

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

OSHA and Iron Workers Union renews safety alliance

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, December 16th- The United States Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), recently announced a renewed alliance with the Steel Erectors Association and the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Re-Inforcing Ironworkers Union in Pennsylvania.

The agreement means OSHA and its alliance partners will continue to promote workplace safety and health, and provide guidance and training resources for steel erection workers.

Local 36 in South Whitehall represents Iron Workers Union members throughout the Lehigh Valley.

“The first two years of our alliance have been a tremendous success. With fall hazards a leading cause of death in the construction industry, we will keep working closely with our alliance partners to identify methods for reducing falls and other hazards,” said Al D’Imperio, director of OSHA’s Philadelphia Area Office.

According to OSHA, since its inception in November 2008, the alliance has provided safety and health cross-training sessions to more than 1,000 steel erection workers and safety and health professionals in Southeastern Pennsylvania alone.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHAct) of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to assure these conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training education and assistance.

Through the Alliance Program, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration works with groups committed to worker health to prevent fatalities, injuries and illnesses.

These groups include labor unions, consulates, trade or professional organizations, faith and community-based organizations, businesses and educational institutions.

OSHA and the groups work together to develop compliance assistance tools and resources, and to educate workers and employers about their rights and responsibilities.

Alliance Program participants do not receive exemptions from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration programmed inspections but are encourage to participate in the safety training.

For more information on the program visit OSHA’s website at:
http://www.osha.gov/dcsp/alliances/index.html.