Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

AdultBasic healthcare program allowed to expire by Pennsylvania Legislature

03.29.11

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

AdultBasic healthcare program allowed to expire by Pennsylvania Legislature

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 1st- The decade old adultBasic healthcare program, that provided low-cost insurance for thousands uninsured working adults, expired on February 28th because Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett allowed the funding to run out.

AdultBasic was created by the legislature in 2001 with funding received through the National Tobacco Settlement Agreement. The program provides coverage for the basic health-care needs of people between 19 and 64 who do not have health insurance. They must also meet certain eligibility requirements, and cannot have an income greater than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

The main funding of the program during the last five years was financial contributions from the surpluses maintained by the four Blue Cross providers in Pennsylvania that was made available by state law, but expired on December 31st, 2010.

Union member and Pennsylvania House of Representative Eddie Day Pashinski (Democrat-121st Legislative District) has outlined a plan to fund the program.

“The adultBasic program has made an important contribution to the welfare of over 40,000 Pennsylvanians and to the overall health of the state. My plan would save a valuable program and builds upon its foundation,” stated Mr. Pashinski.

Mr. Pashinski is a retired member of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) Union and a member of the American Federation of Musicians Union Local 140.

Charges filed against contractor dropped by Painters Union

03.29.11

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

Charges filed against contractor dropped by Painters Union

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 1st- Charges filed by the Lackawanna County District Attorney’s Office on behalf of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) District Council 21 against the owners of a Lackawanna County contractor for failing to pay union members benefits have been dropped after the employer paid the amount owned.

“They paid more than $51,000 in benefits owned to our membership,” said John Gatto, Assistant Business Manager of District Council 21 in Drums.

The charges were filed against Paul Sinkaus of Scranton and his son, James Sinkaus of the Borough of Taylor in Lackawanna County. The two owned and operated the company JVS, a construction contracting company, which is currently out of business.

Mr. Gatto told the newspaper charges were filed against the two after IUPAT members were hired to proform construction work on several local building projects includes the IMAX Threater in Dickson City. “We did all we could to get our members benefits paid but were forced to take action when all we got were promises,” added Mr. Gatto.

Paul Sinkaus has been a member of the International Brotherhood of Carpenters Union for several decades, Vern Johnson, Vice President of Carpenters Union Local 645 told the newspaper.

The Carpenters Union also filed a complaint against the company after funds were deducted for workers’ insurance benefits, pensions and other dues but failed to turn the money over to the union. The union also withdrew the complaint after receiving a commitment the funds will be paid.

Lackawanna County Assistant District Attorney Paul Ware comfirmed the IUPAT received more than $51,000 in funds through Paul Sinkaus Attorney Mark Powell.

Mr. Johnson stated charges could be re-filed if the Sinkaus family fails to pay the money owed to the Carpenters Union.

AFL-CIO labor federation against expanding trade with Korea

03.29.11

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

AFL-CIO labor federation against expanding trade with Korea

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 1st- The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organization (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington, DC. opposes the United States - Korea Free Trade Agreement.

According to the AFL-CIO, last year South Korean manufacturers exported nearly 500,000 motor vehicles to the United States while our manufacturers exported only about 6,000 vehicles to Korea. Autos and auto parts accounted for $7.9 billion, or 75 percent, of our $10.6 billion trade deficit with South Korea. Yet the United States Trade Representative (USTR) rejected proposals to rectify this imbalance in the trade negotiations.

The AFL-CIO supports the proposals of the United Auto Workers of America (UAW) Union, which would safeguard and promote the long-term viability of the United States auto industry.

The AFL-CIO stated even if the fixes the issues related to the auto sector, it won’t be enough. There have been cases where free trade agreements have led to higher trade deficits and job loss. For example, it is estimated that since its passage in 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton, has cost the United States more than a million jobs, allowed violations of core labor standards to continue and resulted in numerous challenges to laws and regulations designed to protect the public interest.

There are also serious concerns about workers’ rights in South Korea, where numerous laws fall far short of the core international labor standards. Millions of workers are hired on fixed-term contracts or through subcontracts, which makes it more difficult for workers to exercise their basic rights.

The AFL-CIO stated as a result, many workers have no way to fight back against low pay and a lack of job security. In some cases, police have used overwhelming force to break strikes. Courts frequently have imposed massive fines on workers who “obstructed the business” of their employer through collective action.

The labor federaion believes a better trade strategy begins with good domestic policy choices. What’s needed is continued and substantial public investments in education, lifelong workforce training in infrastructure and in research and development and to provide high-quality public services.

IAM Union files complaint against Luzerne County employer

03.29.11

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

IAM Union files complaint against Luzerne County employer

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 1st- The labor organization that represents workers at the Pepsi/Quaker Oaks Company plant on Oak Hill Road in Mountain Top filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging the company violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

According to the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge, which was reviewed by the newspaper, the International Association of Machinists (IAM) Union Local Lodge 2905 represents approximately 190 Pepsi/Quaker Oaks Company employees at the Mountain Top facility. The company produces and warehouses Gatorade and other Pepsi products at the Luzerne County plant.

“Since on or about January 6th, 2011, and at all times thereafter, the Employer, by its officers, agents, and representatives, has refused to bargain in good faith with the IAM, a labor organization chosen by a majority of its employees in an appropriate unit, for the purpose of collective bargaining in respect to rates of pay, wages, hours of employment, and other terms and condition of employment.

Specifically, the Employer unilaterally modified the terms of the collective bargaining agreement without offering to bargain with the Union and without contractual authority to do so, changed the pay week from Monday through Sunday to Sunday through Saturday,” states the complaint.

The ULP was filed on behalf of the Union by James Smith, IAM District Lodge 1, Grand Lodge Representative in Cininnati, Ohio. IAM Local Lodge 2905 is affiliated with District Lodge 1. District Lodge 1 has a office in Philadelphia.

The employer representative named on the complaint to be contacted is Beverly Kramer. Her position with the company is not identified on the complaint.

Group: Unemployment System needs expanded federal role

03.29.11

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

Group: Unemployment System needs expanded federal role

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 2nd- According to the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning economic research and educational institute in Washington, DC., there is a need to expand the Unemployment Insurance System. The purpose of the unemployment insurance system, as Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt noted upon signing the legislation into law, is both to alleviate hardships for the unemployed and to counter recessions.

The rules are that to receive unemployment benefits, a worker must have lost their job through no fault of their own and be actively seeking re-employment. In the wake of the Great Recession, the unemployment insurance system has been effective in helping families hardest hit by unemployment. In 2009 alone, unemployment benefits lifted 3.3 million families out of poverty.

The second purpose of the unemployment insurance system affects everyone, whether unemployed or not.

The system is designed to act as an “automatic stabilizer” for the economy. The unemployment insurance system acts “countercyclically” pumping money into the economy when unemployment is high by paying benefits that replace lost wages to those involuntarily unemployed while they search for work. This boost economic growth just when the economy needs it most.

Some economists have estimated that during the Great Recession, unemployment benefits closed about one-fifth of the recession-caused gap in total economic output. The unemployment benefits are paid for through federal and state taxes on employers, which are highest when unemployment is high and thus not inorrdinately pulling down employment during recessions.

In the wake of the worst recession since the Great Depression, however, the nation’s unemployment insurance system is in a crisis that threatens both its hardship-alleviating and automatic stabilizer functions.

Most state unemployment insurance systems are now insolvent, including Pennsylvania’s, due to the lack of adequate payments into the system in the nonrecession years preceding the Great Recession and the subsequent tepid jobs recovery that has required many states to continue to pay benefits for an extended period of time. As a result, most states (32) have taken out loans from the federal government for this unemployment trust funds to the tune of over $43 billion.

The Center for American Progress laid out the key elements of a plan to accomplish the goal of shoring up the unemployment insurance system’s role as an effective automatic stabilizer, while addressing the solvency crisis in the states.

The first step is to clear the deck by forgiving the trust loans of insolvent states and rewarding states that maintained position trust-fund balances.

The state of Wisconsin enacted the first unemployment compensation law and established the nation’s first program in 1936.

The organization propose a set of conditions for what they called “deck clearing” that will improve the core functions of the unemployment insurance system by:

• Clearly delineating and separating the federal and state roles by increasing the role of the federal trust fund during times of high unemployment;

• Reducing the wide disparity in eligibility rules and benefits across states.

The Center for American Progress stated their proposal will reduce cost for states as their labor markets struggle to emerge from the Great Recession, improve benefits for the unemployed, and better stabilize the economy in future recessions.

United Food and Commerical Workers members ratify pact

03.29.11

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

United Food and Commerical Workers members ratify pact

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, February 26th- The United Food and Commerical Workers (UFCW) Union Local 1776 members at JBS Soudertown, Inc. meatpacking plant in Montgomery County recently ratified a first-time labor contract.

The new three-year contract agreement covers approximately 1,200 JBS Soudertown employees, which voted in a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election on October 5th, 2010, to be represented by the UFCW for the purpose of collective bargaining.

“We stood together in choosing to form a union. Now we have a contract that guarantees wages, improves our health care and vacation benefits and spells out steps for grievance and arbitration when differences arise. We have a voice at work,” stated Bernie Coneghen, a JBS Soudertown employee and member of the bargaining unit.

The UFCW Union victory was one of the biggest units of employees to vote in favor of unionization in Pennsylvania in 2010.

“The election and contract negotiations demonstrate that when workers have a fair open choice, they choose union representation and create an environment that is fairer and more productive for workers, the company and the community at-large.

We applaud JBS for taking the high road in allowing a fair and free process,” stated Wendell Young IV, President of UFCW Local 1776, in Plymouth Meeting, which also has offices in Pittston Township and Gettysburg.

Local 1776 represents approximately 24,000 workers throughout Southeastern, Central and Northeastern Pennsylvania, including the Dunmore Department of Public Workers; Citterio USA in Freeland; Cargill Manufacturing in Hazleton; Rite Aid Drug Stores; Wise Chips in Berwick, and the Pennsylvania Wine and Spirits Shoppes.

In ratifing their labor contract the JBS Souderton workers joined 27,000 other JBS workers and 250,000 meatpacking and poultry workers in the United States who are represented by the United Food and Commerical Workers Union.

The United Food and Commerical Workers International Union in Washington, DC. has 1.3 million members including workers employed in the healthcare, garment, chemical, distillery and retail industries.

Mr. Young added the successful contract conclusion ends a 20-year effort
by some of the JBS Soudertown Inc. workers at the plant to be union represented.