Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

A Few Cutting Remarks: Ways to Cut the Budget

05.28.11

by Walter Brasch

Throughout the country, the taxpayers have been revolting. Shocked by the enormity of the taxpayer revolt, and the untimely retirement of several hundred politicians, today’s current legislators, civil servants, and business executives have suddenly became the “people’s champions.” In a parallel universe, we can report the following, just since the latest election:

● Congress got the taxpayers’ message, and cut tax-supported junkets to only 15 per member. “The people have spoken,” said Rep. Horace Sludgepump from the Bahamas where he was on a fact-finding tour for the Maritime subcommittee. However, Rep. Sludgepump cautions that forcing Congressmen to stay at home and work for a living could bring chaos to the nation. Nevertheless, he promises to cut expenses even further three months before the next election.

● The Department of Defense was able to significantly reduce its budget by cutting back on the hours its golf courses and officers clubs were open. Complaining about the cuts were tax-reforming members of Congress whose districts were in the golf club re-appropriation. However, they were voted down by congressmen from Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota who were pleased to tell their constituents there would be new naval bases in their states.

● The Governor’s office announced that although the administration was forced to make severe cuts in education and human services, by strict cost-counting measures it was able to maintain staff salaries, and keep off the unemployment lines 125 administrative assistants, 265 executive assistants, 835 assistants to the administrative assistant, and 1,255 deputy special assistants.

● The budget cuts directly affect the nation’s 200,000 homeless veterans. But, there’s an upside to this. Sixty-three-year-old Cpl. Willie Joe Lumpkin, a veteran of the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars, re-enlisted. “After being downsized three times in the past decade and having the bank foreclose on my mortgage,” says Lumpkin, “at least I now have a bed and meals.” Lumpkin is expected to have shelter in Afghanistan for at least the next year.

● The president of Mammoth State University said that it too will cut expenses. Beginning next semester, the university will eliminate the departments of history, journalism, and philosophy, recruit high school students with at least a “C–” average who are willing to pay the increased tuition rates, add low-paid graduate assistants to teach megasection classes formerly taught by full-time professors, and cut the library budget by 35 percent. When asked if those changes weren’t severe, the President replied, “We tried to be as humane as possible. We allowed our 1,249 administrators to keep their jobs, have maintained our $6 million football program without restriction, and added three more PR people to better explain the mission of the university.”

● Slagheap World Airlines announced that in the spirit of national cost cutting, it would cut back its cockpit crew to one pilot and eliminate flight attendants, meals, and life rafts. “This way,” said the president, “we won’t have to penalize our loyal stockholders by lowering our return on investment.”

● The Association of American Landlords, which had lobbied extensively against annual safety inspections and property tax increases because they would be unfair to their tenants who would be required to pay higher rents, has also made concessions. Beginning September, in the spirit of tax reform, the landlords will sub-divide all apartments, and raise rents only 10 percent. “Sharing a bathroom and kitchen will bring people closer together,” said the Association president from his McMansion Media Room.

● Newspapers have been swept up in the spirit of reform. At the Daily Bugle, publisher Ben “Cash” Fleaux, from his villa in Bermuda, announced that his newspaper was forced to eliminate stories about local government, consumer and environmental reporting, and news of the courts when it cut its editorial staff by half in order to maximize profits during the Recession. To compensate, the Bugle is running more PR releases and added more stories about celebrities in rehab.

● The medical insurance industry, in keeping with the spirit of cost cutting, today announced it was cancelling coverage for 25 percent of its subscribers. “We hated to do it,” said an insurance spokesperson, “but some people insist on getting catastrophic illnesses, and that’s unfair to the rest who are healthy and don’t apply for benefits.”

● Finally, Dr. Guy Nacologist, the state’s richest obstetrician, announced that in keeping with the spirit of tax reform, he was now requiring all his patients to deliver their babies in eight months, thus saving a full month. When asked if he had also considered lowering his fees, he looked at the reporter, and then pointedly proclaimed that with the increase in country club fees, his patients were lucky he didn’t raise their costs by a similar amount.

[Walter Brasch says that since columnists are the soul of a newspaper, they should be downsized only after the last editor shuts off the lights in the newsroom. He reminds his readers that without their support, he’s likely to become unemployed and a burden on their hard-earned tax dollars. His next book is Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, available at amazon.com and other stores after June 20. Also check out his YouTube video.]

Legislator speaks for his support of union rights in state

05.22.11

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

Legislator speaks for his support of union rights in state

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 20th- Pennsylvania House of Representative Pat Harkins (Democrat-1st Legislative District) on April 11th spoke against so-called “Right-to-Work” legislation, which would ensure that joining a labor union is not a condition of employment in Pennsylvania.

There are 22 states, mostly in the southern United States, that prohibit any contract language that forces union membership as a condition of employment. Often after an employee serves a probationary period of employment, usually between 30 and 90 days, the employee must join the union that represents the workers or be dismissed.

Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett supports banning the contract language and has stated he would sign the right-to-work legislation if it reached his desk.

Mr. Harkins, which represents the Erie area said the legislation would essentially stop union workers from organizing in the Commonwealth.

“As a Teamsters for 25 years, I know how important unions are to the hardworking families of this great Commonwealth. If it was not for the hard work and determination of our founding union brothers and sisters, workers today would not enjoy many of the rights they earn today, such as sick time, vacation time, and paid health care,” stated Mr. Harkins.

Mr. Harkins made remarks at a union rally in Harrisburg and spoke about his measure, H.R. 134, which recognizes the rights of union workers to organize and calls for an end to the war on workers. He cautioned Governor Corbett against cutting workers’ rights, saying he was concerned Pennsylvania could enact anti-union legislation such as Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana have done.

“We do not want to see Pennsylvania join the sad, anti-worker likes of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who has systematically dismantled the rights of normal citizens to challenge major corporations. The state cannot put the interests of Wall Street profits and out-of-state business owners over the hardworking families of Pennsylvania,” added Mr. Harkins.

Responding to Mr. Corbett’s proposal to sell off the state bus, Mr. Harkins added the governor should instead use it to see firsthand the effects of anti-union legislation on Pennsylvania’s hardworking families and towns they live in.

“Governor Corbett should ask some AFSCME PennDOT mechanics to fix up the bus and hire some Teamsters driver to drive him around the state to see the impact anti-union legislation has had on our working class families.”

Teamsters Local 229 files complaint against Crystal Soda

05.22.11

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

Teamsters Local 229 files complaint against Crystal Soda

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 17th- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 229, North Main Avenue in Scranton, filed a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging a Lackawanna County company violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

According to the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge, which was reviewed by the newspaper, Local 229 alleges Crystal Soda Water Company in Scranton, violated Section 8 (a) subsections (1), (5) and (d) of the NLRAct.

IBT Local 229 represents approximately 8 production, truck drivers and warehouse employees of Crystal Soda Water Company. The company for many decades bottled and distributed their own soft drink beverage product but suspended the Crystal Soda product line several year ago.

According to the ULP, which was filed on behalf of the union by their labor attorney on March 31st, 2011, the labor agreement between the parties expired on March 31st, 2011 and the employer has failed to negotiate for a successor contract.

“Respondent Employer has violated the above sections of the Act by repubiating its collective bargaining agreement with Local 229 through its failure and refusal to pay the contractually required wages, health care contributions and pension contributions for all members of the bargaining unit so that such members are without pay for their work performed and without health insurance coverage for themselves and their dependents,” states the complaint.

The employer representative named on the ULP to be contacted is Louis Kahanowicz.

Nurses unions’ finding it difficult to gain new labor contracts

05.22.11

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

Nurses unions’ finding it difficult to gain new labor contracts

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 30th- Labor unions that represent workers employed in the health care providing industry in Northeastern Pennsylvania are finding it difficult in gaining new contracts for their members with the operators of the medical centers.

Recently, Lackawanna County Judge Carmen Minora approved the sale of the Mercy Hospital in Scranton and affiliated facilities to Community Health Services (CHS) Inc. of Tennessee.

In February it was announced that CHS wanted to purchase Mercy Health Partners facilities in the region which includes Mercy Hospital, and two medical centers in Nanticoke in Luzerne County and Tunkhannock in Wyoming County.

The workers at Mercy Hosptial are represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Pennsylvania Healthcare Union in Harrisburg.

CHS is the largest for-profit hospital operator in the nation and also owns and operates the Wilkes-Barre General Hosptial, which does business as the Wyoming Valley Health Care System, River Street in Wilkes-Barre.

On April 30th the union that represent nurses employed at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital announced they were able to reach a new contract with CHS after more than two years of negotiations and the filing of numerous labor complaints against the employer.

The Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professional (PASNAP) Union of Conshohocken, represents approximately 440 nurses employed at the medical center. The previous pact expired on August 30th, 2009.

Meanwhile, PASNAP and officials of the Community Medical Center (CMC) Healthcare System, Mulberry Street in Scranton, are negotiating for a successor labor contract. PASNAP represents nurses employed at the hospital and their contract expired on December 8th, 2010.

CHS officials promised to keep all Mercy Hospital employees in good standing in their current jobs at their current pay with seniority recognized for one year, regardless whether they are union or nonunion. However, there is a fear that after the one year CHS will be looking for concessions similar to those they were seeking at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital. The SEIU contract expires in December, 2011.

Meanwhile, the SEIU has been unable to gain a successor labor contract with the operators of the Pocono Medical Center in East Stroudsburg. The Union represents around 500 employees of the medical facility.

Public sector jobs important for black American workers

05.22.11

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

Public sector jobs important for black American workers

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 29th- Several reports show public service jobs are critical for black Americans who make up more than 20 percent of the public service industry in the nation.

According to a study by Dr. Steven Pitts of the U.C. Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education’s program on Work in the Black Community, African American workers in the public sector will significantly suffer new levels of economic injustice as budget cuts and collective bargaining standoffs continue like in Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and other states.

Mr. Pitts report indicated that black men in the public sector earned 23 percent more than black men in the rest of the workforce.

Also, black Americans are 30 percent more likely than other workers to be employed in the public sector. The public sector is important to black communities not only for the number of jobs it provides but also for the quality of those jobs.

The research found:

• African American workers face less racial wage inequality in the public sector than in the economy as a whole. For example, median wages for black men were 74.3 percent as high as those for while men in the cconomy as a whole, but the gap was closed to 80 percent in the public sector.
• The public sector has the highest proportion of African American workers in the highest paid percentile, another important factor providing how the public sector helps wage inequalities.

Black women comprise 52 percent of state-level public sector jobs and 61 percent at the local level according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics and Barbara Arwine, Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Cicil Rights Under the Law, cutting jobs in the public sector would be devastating for women.

The public sector is the number one employer of black men and the number two employer of black women. The public sector is the single most important industry for African American workers in the nation, stated Kawana Lloyd of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Washington, DC, which represents public sector workers throughout the nation.

“While women represented 57 percent of the public sector workforce at the end of the recession, women lost the vast majority, 79 percent, of the 327,000 jobs cut in this sector between July 2009 and February 2011,” stated Susan Feiner, Professor of Economics at the University of Southern Maine.

Luzerne County Judicial candidate Richard Hughes represented by Teamsters

05.22.11

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

Luzerne County Judicial candidate Richard Hughes represented by Teamsters

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 29th- Attorney Richard Hughes is one of sixteen candidates for six open seats on the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas. Mr. Hughes is hopeful members of the labor community will vote for him on May 17th because he is a union member.

Mr. Hughes has been a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 401 in Wilkes-Barre since 2008. Local 401 represents the Luzerne County Assistant District Attorney’s Office, which Mr. Hughes serves as a criminal prosecutor.

He practiced law with his father from 1986 until his death in 1991 in a general practice lawfirm that was started in 1946 by his late father.

During the five years he and his father practiced law together he handled a wide variety of cases involving real estate, estate planning, estates, domestic relations, and criminal defense.

In 1988 he was appointed Assistant District Attorney for Luzerne County by then District Attorney Correale Stevens and served in that capacity for five years.

He left the District Attorney’s office but returned in 2008. While away Local 401 organized the office and Mr. Hughes stated he “proudly joined the union.”

Mr. Hughes received more than 31,000 votes in 2009 when he was a candidate for a seat on the Luzerne County bench.

Patrick Connors, Secretary-Treasurer and Principal Officer of Local 401, told the newspaper Mr. Hughes was endorsed by his union two years ago but they will wait until the Primary election is over before endorsing any candidate for the Luzerne County bench.

Richard Hughes is 50 years old and resides in Mountain Top with his wife Ruth; children, Richard, Callie and Ellen.

The Audacity of Hate: Birthers, Deathers, Deniers, and Barack Obama

05.20.11


by Walter Brasch

The latest garbage spewing hate as it circles the Internet in a viral state of panic continues a three year smear against Barack Obama.

The attacks had begun with the extreme right wing spitting out Obama’s full name—Barack HUSSEIN Obama, as if somehow he wasn’t an American but connected to the Iraqi dictator who, despite the Bush Administration’s best efforts, had no connections to 9/11.

When the right-wingers and Tea Party Pack get tired of their “cutesy” attempts to link Obama to militant Muslims, they launch half-truths and lies to claim he wasn’t born in the United States. Like Jaws, Jason, or Freddy Krueger, “birther” propaganda keeps returning, even when independent state officials and analysts proved the claims false.

The issue simmered on Fox TV and talk radio until Donald Trump, the man with the planet-sized ego and the bacteria-sized brain, inserted his persona into the issue, while pontificating about becoming the next president. The media, exhausted from having to cover the antics of Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen, turned their news columns over to the man who would be God—if only it paid better.

The Wing Nut Cotillion, with Trump getting the headlines, then demanded Obama produce a long-form birth certificate—which he did while leading a combined White House-CIA-Pentagon effort to find and destroy Osama bin Laden. The truth still hasn’t quieted the conspiracy nuts.

Not willing to accept truth and logic, the extreme right wing, grasping for anything they could find, have attacked the raid that killed bin Laden. Among their screeches are that bin Laden isn’t dead . . . that he was killed a week earlier or even years earlier . . . that Obama had hidden the death until there was a more political time to reveal it . . . that it was George W. Bush (who publicly said six months after 9/11 that he didn’t care about bin Laden) who deserves all the credit . . . and that while Navy SEALS should get credit, Obama is too weak to have overseen any part of the mission.

And now from the caves of ignorance and hatred comes a much-forwarded letter, which the anonymous author says “shouldn’t surprise anyone.” Written as fact, the letter informs us Barack Obama: “never held a ‘real’ job, never owned a business and as far as we know, never really attended Harvard or Columbia since those transcripts have never been released and no one remembers him from their time at either school.”

The email of hate further “enlightens” us that “Being a community activist only gives someone insite [sic] on how to assist the less fortunate and dregs of society on how to acquire government housing and government benefits without ever contributing one penny in taxes.”

That’s right. The Whackadoodles Wearing Tinfoil Caps crowd has escaped again.

Among those community activists who worked with the “dregs of society,” apparently on ways to scam the government, are St. Francis of Assisi (1181–1226), founder of the Franciscan order and patron saint of animals and the environment; Jacob Riis (1849–1914), a journalist and photographer who exposed the squalor of slums and tenement buildings; Dorothy Day (1897–1980), a journalist who founded the Catholic Worker Movement that advocated nonviolent action to help the poor and homeless, and who the archdiocese of New York, at the direction of Pope John Paul II, began a process leading to beatification; and Jane Addams (1860–1935), who fought for better conditions for children and mothers, was active in the progressive campaigns of Teddy Roosevelt and who, like Roosevelt, earned a Nobel Peace Prize. Those who rail against community activists for not having “real” jobs would also oppose Saul Alinsky (1909–1972), who tirelessly established the nation’s most effective organizational structure to help the poor and disenfranchised to gain a voice against political, economic, and social oppression; Dr. Benjamin Spock (1903–1998), America’s foremost pediatrician, for leading antiwar campaigns; Cesar Chavez (1927–1993), who helped get farm workers respectable pay and decent working conditions; Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968) who, with hundreds of thousands of others, forced a nation to finally confront its racism; and innumerable leaders of the feminist and gay rights communities who got America to confront their other prejudices. All were community activists.

Not dregs because they have “real” jobs are the bankers and Wall Street investors who brought about the housing crisis that led to the worst depression in the past seven decades. Also exempt from contempt are the business owners who downsized, right-sized, and shipped their production overseas, throwing millions of Americans out of work.

Barack Obama, castigated for not having a “real job,” worked more than a year as research associate and editor at the Business International Corp., three years as director of Developing Community Projects, a church-based group for eight Catholic parishes, and summer jobs at law firms. Other “not real” jobs include being an author, civil rights lawyer, and a professor of Constitutional law at one of the nation’s more prestigious colleges. Frankly, it’s rather nice to have a president who actually understands the Constitution—as opposed to the rabble who misquote, misstate, and misappropriate it all the time.

Those propagating the email of hate believe Obama couldn’t earn degrees from Ivy League colleges; the subtext is as clear as their refusal to believe in an integrated nation. So, I contacted the registrars at Columbia and Harvard. In less than 10 minutes, the registrar at Columbia confirmed that Barack Obama received a B.A. in political science, and the registrar at Harvard Law School confirmed Obama received a J.D. These are public records. Anyone can ask the same questions, and get the same answer. Logic alone should have shot down these accusations. Obama was editor of the Harvard Law Review, something as easy to verify as his graduation, and he passed the Illinois bar exam—which requires graduation from college and law school, and a personal character test—also a matter of public record.

Even if Obama provided official transcripts, which are confidential, the wing nuts of society will claim that, like the birth certificate and the death of bin Laden, the transcripts were faked.

The truth is that the politics of hate, combined with media complicity and Internet access, has led not to a discussion of issues but to character assassination, with racism and bigotry as its pillars.

[Walter Brasch’s latest book is Before the First Snow, literary historical fiction that explores the counterculture between 1964 and 1991. The book, to be published June 20, is available at amazon.com. Also check out this video book trailer.]

Good election night in Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania for the labor movement

05.18.11

The voters blocked the sale of Gracedale Nursing home in Northampton County by about a 3 to 1 margin. This saved about 600 union jobs!

In Lehigh County, a union leader Dennis Hower was the top vote getter in the Whitehall Township Commissioner race:

Township Commissioner - Vote for not more than 4

Hower, Dennis Dem 4 Districts 1,142
Snyder, Kenneth S. Dem 4 Districts 1,009
Brinker, Bruce Dem 4 Districts 1,105
Hunsberger, Clair D. Dem 4 Districts 1,136
Ginder, Philip Dem 4 Districts 1,087
Total: 5,479

Dennis Hower is Vice President of Teamsters 773.

More news to follow as we get more numbers from other races!
—————————————————————

Ken Kraft for Northampton County Council was unpposed. He is a Business Agent for IUPAT (Painters’ Union) and I strongly supported his bid. He moves on to face an opponent in the general election.

Lehigh Valley unemployment rate drops to 8.7 percent

05.17.11

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

Lehigh Valley unemployment rate drops to 8.7 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, April 6th- 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 8.7 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 second highest unemployment rate.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 9.0 percent. The Philadelphia MSA has the third highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 8.5 percent with the Johnstown MSA fourth at 8.4 percent.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 8.0 percent, decreasing by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report, which was released approximately four weeks ago. There are 511,000 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 5,851,000 of them have employment. The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was reported to be 8.9 percent, decreasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report. That number also does not include residents that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and stopped looking for work.

There are 13,673,000 residents nationally unemployed but counting workers that have exhausted their unemployment benefits or have been unable to find full-time work there are more than 19.5 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 5.3 percent, decreasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 6.3 percent and the Altoona MSA has the third lowest unemployment rate at 6.6 percent. The Lancaster MSA has the fourth lowest rate at 6.8 percent.

The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force in Pennsylvania with 419,600 civilians. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force at 2,954,300 with 251,000 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor force at 1,218,900 with 85,100 without jobs; the Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force at 282,100 with 20,100 without employment. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the fifth largest civilian labor force at 281,600 with 25,400 without employment. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA had the fourth largest civilian labor force for more than two decades until several months ago.

Carbon County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 9.7 percent, decreasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and decreasing by one and six-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Carbon County has a civilian labor force of 31,000 with 3,000 residents without jobs, decreasing by 100 from the previous report and dropping by 500 from twelve months ago.

Northampton County has the lowest unemployment rate within the MSA at 8.5 percent, decreasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and dropping by eight-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago.

Northampton County has a civilian labor force of 152,400. There are 13,000 Northampton County residents without jobs, decreasing by 300 from the previous report and dropping by 1,200 from one ago.

Lehigh County has a civilian labor force of 176,500. There are 15,100 Lehigh County residents without jobs, decreasing by 300 from the previous report and dropping by 1,700 from one ago.

There are 334,100 nonfarm jobs in the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA, increasing by 1,200 from the previous report and rising by 1,800 from twelve months ago.

Retail trade jobs were down by 1,000 from the previous report to 37,300. Mining, logging and construction jobs decreased by 300 from the previous report to 11,000. Government jobs are down 1,600 from twelve months ago.

The Philadelphia MSA has the most nonfarm jobs in Pennsylvania at 2,703,500, increasing by 23,200 from one year ago while the Pittsburgh MSA is second at 1,134,000 jobs rising by 23,300 during the past twelve months.

The Lebanon MSA has the fewest nonfarm jobs in Pennsylvania at 49,900 decreasing by 100 from the previous report and rising by 1,000 from one year ago.

National Postal Mail-Handlers Union Local 308 Shop Steward files labor complaint

05.17.11

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

National Postal Mail-Handlers Union Local 308 Shop Steward files labor complaint

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, April 6th- A union representative of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union Local 308, 17 South Commerce Way in Lehigh Valley, filed a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging the United States Postal Service (USPS) violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

According to the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge filed on March 10th, 2011, that was reviewed by the newspaper, the Union Officer alleges the USPS violated Section 8 (a), 7 subsections (157) and (2) of the NLRAct.

According to the ULP, Local 308 represents approximately 400 workers of the United States Postal Service in the Lehigh Valley. The USPS provides mail delivery service.

The complaint was filed by Local 308 Shop Steward Brian Odums on his own behalf. The Union represents mail-sorters and operates mail-sorting machines of the USPS.

“Tour 2 Managers, Jeff Walczer and Pete Marth refused to grant Union time to Local 308 Shop Steward, Brian Odums.

Steward Odums was told that he would have to fill our a “Union time request form”. Steward Odums stated that he had never heard of such form and if such form did exist it would be an impedement to the grievance process, and an interference to his rights as a shop steward.

Later both managers stated that he was listed as a “tour 3″ steward and should seek Union time on that tour. Shop Steward Odum’s work hours overlap both tour 2 and tour 3 (11:00-7:30pm), states the complaint.

The Employer Representative identified on the ULP to be contacted is Brian Kelso, Plant Manager at the USPS facility in Lehigh Valley.

Save On Brew.com offers savings mostly on American, union-made beer

05.15.11

I recently became acquainted with an interesting website that I think we should support for a number of reasons. SaveOnBrew.com http://www.saveonbrew.com helps connect beer consumers with discounts and sales offered by retailers in your community.

I immediately noticed that most of beer on sale was American-made and often with union labor although some imports are listed by local retailers in some locations. Personally, I believe in buying American and buying union whenever possible.

SaveOnBrew.com does not actually sell beer but helps you save money by making you aware of the best deals available locally. You are keeping your purchases in your local community. Many of us are activists who will be holding warm weather events in coming months where beer is served and we might as well get the best deal we can get.

SaveOnBrew.com is coast to coast, covering about 50,000 grocery, drug, and liquor stores but if your community is not covered just ask your local retailers to visit the website for details about joining up in the discount program. I tracked down the owners this way and found them friendly and interesting people.

Personally, I like the creativity along with the money savings of this site. Please take a moment to share this web site with your contacts, friends and families. If you have a blog, write a column or do a talk show, I think that SaveOnBrew.com might be an interesting little segment. When I broached the subject with the owners, they seemed completely willing to work with writers and talkers.

Enjoy the summer.

In Solidarity,

Stephen Crockett

Host, Democratic Talk Radio

Editor, Mid-Atlantic Labor.com

The News, It Is a-changin’: bin Laden and the Mass Media

05.13.11


by Walter Brasch

It was a little before 9 a.m.

I was chatting with two students.

Another student came in, and asked if we had heard a plane had hit a building in New York City.

We hadn’t, but I assumed it was a light private plane, and the pilot had mechanical difficulty or problems with wind turbulence.

A minute or so later, another student came in. It was a passenger jet, she said.

The first student had read the information in a text from a friend, who had received it from another friend, who may have heard it somewhere else. The second student had read it while surfing a news site on the Internet. In a few moments I became aware of how news dissemination had changed, and it was the youth who were going to lead the information revolution.

A half-hour later, in an upper division journalism class, we were flipping between TV channels, and students were texting with friends on campus and in other states.

By 12:30 p.m., the beginning time for my popular culture and the media class, every one of the 240 students heard about the murders and terrorism that would become known as 9/11. Most had not seen it on TV nor heard about it from radio. There was no way I was going to give that day’s prepared lecture. The students needed to talk, to tell others what they heard, to listen to what others had heard. To cry; to express rage. And, most of all, they needed to hear the conflicting information, and learn the facts.

For the first century of colonial America, news was transmitted at the pace of a fast horse and rider. But even then, most citizens read the news only when they wandered into a local coffee shop or tavern and saw the information posted on a wall. The first newspaper, Boston’s Publick Occurrences, lasted but one issue, dying in 1690. The next newspaper, the Boston News-Letter, wasn’t published until 14 years later. Fifteen years passed before there was another newspaper. By the Revolution, the major cities along the eastern seaboard had weekly newspapers, with news from England taking up to three months to reach the American shores and be printed. News from one colony to another might take a couple of weeks or more. All of it was subject to censorship by the colonial governors.

By the Civil War, reporters in the field could transmit news by telegraph—assuming that competitors or the other side didn’t cut the wires. Even the most efficient operation took at least a day to gather, write, transmit, and then print the news.

Radio brought World Wars I and II closer to Americans. Photojournalists—with film, innumerable developing chemicals, and restricted by the speed of couriers, the mail service, and publication delays—gave Americans both photos and newsreel images of war.

Television gave us better access to learning about wars in Korea and Vietnam.

And then came the Persian Gulf War, and the full use of satellite communication. Although CNN, the first 24-hour news operation, was the only network to record the destruction of the Challenger in January 1986, it was still seen as a minor network, with audiences of thousands not millions. The Persian Gulf War changed that, along with the nature of the news industry. CNN built an audience during Operation Desert Shield, from late Summer 1990 to Jan. 16, 1991. On that evening, the beginning of Desert Storm, CNN was the only American-based news operation in Iraq. From the al-Rashid Hotel, its three correspondents and their teams transmitted news and video as the U.S. sent missiles into Baghdad.

Two decades later, individual media have almost replaced mass media as sources for first information. Twitter, Facebook, Linked-in, and innumerable ways to text message now link individuals and groups. Individuals can also transmit photos and video from cell phones to You Tube and dozens of other hosts, making everyone with a cell phone a temporary reporter or photojournalist. It also leads to extensive problems in discerning the facts from rumors and propaganda. The media—individual and mass—have united a world’s people.

In Iran, Tunisia, and Egypt, it was Facebook and Twitter, not state-run mass media, that gave the people communication to launch their protests that would lead to the fall of two authoritarian governments.

On May 1, in a nine-minute television address beginning at 11:35 p.m., EST, President Obama t old the world that Navy SEALs had successfully completed their mission to kill Osama bin Laden. Those not at their radio or TV sets learned about it from messages and video on their cell phones or computers.

It is still be the responsibility of the mass media–of radio, television, newspapers, and magazines–to give in-depth coverage and analysis of the events. But, for millions worldwide, it is no longer the mass media that establishes the first alerts.

[Walter Brasch is an award-winning syndicated columnist, the author of 17 books, and a retired university journalism professor. His latest book is Before the First Snow.]

Promises, Promises; OR, It’s Legal to Lie to Voters

05.13.11

by Walter Brasch

With less than a week before the election, Marshbaum has been campaigning furiously.

“A chicken in every pot! Natural gas drilling will save the universe. Free health care for everyone!”

“Marshbaum!” I commanded, “you can’t make those kinds of promises.”

“You’re right. I don’t want to offend the health care industry. There’s a lot of campaign money there. I’ll just make up something else.”

“You just can’t make up campaign promises.”

“Sure I can. It’s easy. How about ‘Vote for Marshbaum and win a date with Bette Midler?’”

“You don’t even know Bette Midler.”

“I like her movies,” he said casually.

“It has nothing to do with her movies,” I said.

“Think someone doesn’t like her singing? I sure don’t want to offend anyone. I could make it a date with Angelina Jolie. How about Brad Pitt for the women? Justin Bieber for teens?”

“MARSHBAUM!” I screamed. “Get reasonable!”

He thought a moment. “You’re right. Angelina and Brad are probably out wasting their time doing some kind of charity work. How about ‘Elect Marshbaum and you’ll never pay taxes again!’”

“That’s ridiculous,” I said. “No one will believe you.”

“Doesn’t matter if they do or don’t as long as they vote for me.”

“But you’d be lying to the people,” I said.

“Look at campaign posters,” Marshbaum commanded. “They all say the same thing. You can just change the candidates’ names and faces and no one will even notice.”

“People don’t vote for someone based upon posters,” I said.

“You think voters actually read those newspaper articles or go to debates? It’s all name recognition. You have more posters and ads than the next guy, and you win. You get three words on a poster. Try ‘fair,’ ‘tough,’ and ‘experienced’ Add a picture of the family for newspaper and TV ads, and mix it in with campaign promise not to raise taxes, and you have election assured.”

“There’s probably some law that prevents politicians from lying.”

“Even for being a journalist, you’re rather dense,” said Marshbaum. “The FCC says it’s OK to lie.”

“The Federal Communications Commission gives its approval?” I asked skeptically.

“The FCC says that radio and TV stations can’t refuse to run political ads even if the station management knows the ads are outright lies. Law says if a station takes even one ad from one candidate for federal office, it has to take all ads from all candidates for that office, even if the ad is highly offensive.”

“I’m sure when Congress wakes up they’ll change this insane law.” Marshbaum just laughed. “Most people don’t believe most of what they see on TV anyhow,” I sniffed.

“Don’t like the FCC and Congress? The Supreme Court said it was OK to lie,” said Marshbaum.

“The Supremes said lying to the people is acceptable?” I scoffed.

“OK, not the U. ¬¬S¬. Supreme Court, but A Supreme Court.”

“Which one? In Kabul?”

“Albany. The New York Supreme Court.”

“Marshbaum, not even New York’s court could be that incompetent.”

“Got it right here,” he said, taking a wadded paper from his pocket. Case of O’Reilly v. Mitchell. Guy named O’Reilly sued a politician named Mitchell in 1912 and charged him with making promises that weren’t kept.”

“A promise is a verbal contract,” I said. “I’m sure you read it wrong. The Court undoubtedly upheld O’Reilly’s claims.”

“Wrong, Newsprint Breath,” said Marshbaum arrogantly. “Court said that politicians lie all the time, that promises in a campaign are just that. Promises. Verdict for the politician. Case closed.”

“But that occurred before World War I,” I said. “Undoubtedly, some court overturned it.”

“It’s precedent,” Marshbaum said. “It’s on the books. And the ruling was based upon the First Amendment rights of free expression. Just like the FCC ruling. How about ‘Vote for Marshbaum and he’ll wash all your dirty laundry?’”

“Marshbaum,” I said disgustedly, “there’s already too much dirty laundry in the legislature and Congress.”

“Problem solved,” said a smug Marshbaum, “when the voters see my plan to give everyone a free clothes washer and dryer, they’ll overwhelmingly vote for me.”

“You can do whatever you want, but just remember that some politicians actually tell the truth.”

“Name one who did and got elected!” he demanded.

“Honest Abe,” I replied.

(For the legal scholars out there, the case of O’Reilly v. Mitchell is cited as 85MISC176, 148NYS, 88 SUP, 1914. For those who aren’t lawyers, reflect upon Hitler’s belief that “the victor will never be asked if he told the truth.” Walter Brasch’s next book is Before the First Snow, available in pre-orders at amazon.com)

Recruiting student activists to support your efforts

05.13.11

Do you work for or belong to an organization that might be interested in acquiring databases of college student activists interested in specific issues at reasonable rates? If so, please contact us. We are developing programs that will build these lists.

All these efforts will be custom build around your organizational and/or campaign needs. Call us at 443-907-2367 or contact us by email at collegemarket@aol.com.

Students can help educate other students about the labor movement or other progressive causes. They can help you with lobbying. They can help with building public support as volunteers, interns and employees. Leeter writing campaigns including Letters To The Editor efforts can be greatly strengthened by recruiting college student involvement.

College students can assist in political campaigns. They can help build attendance at rallies, demonstrations and picket lines. Involving college students in the labor movement can help us immediately and for many decades in the future.

In solidarity,

Stephen Crockett

Owner, College Marketing.com
Editor, Mid-Atlantic Labor.com

Steelworkers President challenges Northampton County Council

05.13.11

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

Steelworkers President challenges Northampton County Council

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, April 18th- On April 14th the United Steelworkers of the America (USW) Union Local 2599, East Lehigh Street in Bethlehem, President Jerry Green addressed Northampton County Council pertaining to the May 17th primary election in which the question of whether the Gracedale Nursing Home should be sold.

The nine member Northampton County Council voted in favor of selling the 725 bed nursing home, which currently has approximately 650 residents. However, after groups including unions that represent the employees of the nursing home, gained enough signitures to force the issue of whether Northampton County should continue to own and operate the facility for the next five years unto the May ballot, the council agreed to allow the ballot question.

Northampton County Executive John Stoffa appealed but county Judge Stephen Baratta ruled the referendum does not violate the home rule charter’s ban on ballot questions relating to the budget or capital program.

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court affirmed Judge Baratta’s decision after Mr. Stoffa apealed setting the stage for the spring election.

“How does it feel the courts take the decision power out of councils hands to order the sale,” Mr. Green asked Northampton County council on April 14th. “That’s how the Steelworkers felt when the county reniged on an agreed contract in 2009 and subsequently had to settle for a less inferior contract that the county still hasn’t fully honored”.

Mr. Green asked the council to act professionally and not mislead the voters during the campaign. Council has publicly indicated that absent a sale, Northampton County residents will face a 20 percent tax increase to continue to fund the nursing home

A partnership of two companies, TL Management and Global Healthcare Services Group, bid $35 million for the Upper Nazareth Township facility.

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 at the nursing home including food service, cleaning and other support staff employees.

Local 2599 represents approximately 50 nurses and social aid workers.

Both unions oppose the selling of the facility fearing their members will be required to give even bigger wage and benefits concessions than they already have offered.

Mr. Green told the council they have an obligation to the residents to find ways to not have an excessive tax increase including dipping into the 60 million surpluss the county currently has.

The two unions will now work together to educate and inform the public on why the nursing home should stay county owned.

Study shows Pennsylvania school voucher program flawed

05.13.11

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

Study shows Pennsylvania school voucher program flawed

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, April 15th- On April 12th the Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee voted 15-11 to approve legislation that will be the nation’s largest publicly funded school choice program. Senate Bill 1 would create a school voucher program allowing children to attend private schools in Pennsylvania with taxpayer help which would take funding from the public school system.

Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett stated he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk. However, according to a new study, the current state program that funds scholarships for students attending private and religious schools lacks fundamental accountability measures.

According to the Keystone Research Center (KRC), a economic research organization in Harrisburg, their report is designed to help guide the growing debate about the plan to offer taxpayer funded vouchers to all low-income school age children for tution at private and religious schools, and what accountability measures will be put in place in such a voucher program.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Union and the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), which are the two biggest teacher unions in Pennsylvania, are opposed to the legislation fearing if it becomes law it will weaken the public schools by taking funds from the local education system and the taxpayers will not receive any accountability on how the funds are being spent.

According to Pat Halpin-Murphy, of AFT Pennsylvania, Senate Bill 1 lacks basic accountability measures to protect the taxpayers’ investment and to measure student achievement. The legislation also does not contain any provisions to require private schools receiving taxpayer dollars to account for the funds.

In Governor Corbett’s budget the state’s commitment to basic education funding will be reduced by $337.8 million, using federal money to make up the difference in 2010-2011. Combined with stimulus money from the last two years, federal funding for basic education would total nearly $1.0 billion, none of which will be available in 2011-2012 and beyond.

The AFT believes Pennsylvania needs to invest in proven school improvement strategies that help every child, not just those who receive a tax-funded voucher.

“With no education or financial accountability in Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) scholarships for private school tuition, the state is simply not ready for a new voucher program with a price tag to taxpayers that is at least 10-times as big,” stated Stephen Herzenberg, PhD, and Executive Director of the Keystone Research Center.

The EITC Program was launched in 2001-2002 and is administrated by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). It deverts business tax revenue to organizations that provide scholarships for Kindergarten-12th grade students to attend private and religious schools. It also funds tax credits for contributions to preschool and pre-kindergarten scholarships.

Corporations can receive an EITC tax credit on charitable contributions to a Scholarship Organization, 75 percent for a one year contribution and 90 percent for a multi-year commitment. Meaning, taxpayers are paying for 75 percent to 90 percent of all funds received by Scholarship Organizations. Corporations can receive credits worth up to $300,000 per year, with the program’s cost capped at $60 million.

The KRC report also found that there is little or no financial information on organizations that receive voucher tax credits and distributed scholarships. Experiences in Arizona indicate that a lack of financial accountability opens the door to the misuse of public funds.

Corbett Administration official speaks-out against PLA’s

05.13.11

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

Corbett Administration official speaks-out against PLA’s

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 26th- Appearing before the Pennsylvania Senate Appropriations Committee on March 17th, the Department of General Services Secretary Sheri Phillips told lawmakers the state’s current fiscal situation has the Corbett Administration “looking for all the possible revenue sources and cost-cutting measures we can do.”

Ms. Phillips said that no-bid contracts won’t disappear during the Corbett Administration, but efforts to reduce their use are underway.

“We are looking at procurement overall and making a lot of changes to try and do things more transparently and also more effectively. Sole-sources, there are times when they are unavoidable, and we are going to take a very close look at them to see why it is actually happening.”

Ms. Phillips stated stated Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s), like the one governing the much-delayed Graterford State Prison construction project, won’t be used by the Corbett Administration.

With the Republicans gaining control of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the Governors Mansion, anti-union legislation has been introduced, which will include a fourth try at banning the use of PLA’s on public construction projects. The GOP also controls the Senate.

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 project, however if they are selected, local unionized workers must be hired.

“The fact of the matter is that many nonunion contractors here in Pennsylvania and all over the country bid on projects with PLA’s and win those bides. 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,” stated 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.

The Rendell Administration had come under fire from nonunion building construction firms and others for using the agreements that defined wages and work rules for a project, and are approved by labor and the awarding public body before the project begins.

Governor Corbett’s budget cuts funding for public education

05.13.11

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

Governor Corbett’s budget cuts funding for public education

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 20th- Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett presented his State Budget Proposal on March 8th and it included slashing funding for programs for children in classrooms across the state.

Mr. Corbett’s $27 billion spending plan cuts more than $1 billion from public education at all levels, reduces state support for some public colleges and universities by 50 percent and calls for a freeze on compensation for school district employees.

According to Ted Kirsch, President of the Pennsylvania Federation of Teachers (AFT) Union, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) in Washington DC, Governor Tom Corbett has made it clear that his vision for Pennsylvania is a sharp departure from the values and priorities that most Pennsylvanians embrace and his plan to cut basic education aid to school districts will result in many educators being laid-off and the raising of property taxes. “The governor is merely shifting a state tax burden onto local governments and school districts,” stated Mr. Kirsch.

Mr. Kirsch added after taking more than $1 billion away from public education, Governor Corbett did not stop with those cuts. He also supports expansion of vouchers that could drain another billion dollars a year from the state’s neighborhood public schools. Local school districts will lose control and funding, which instead will be given to unaccountable private schools and the corporations that operate many of them.

“The teachers and staff who work in Pennsylvania’s schools understand that our state faces severe budget iusses, including an extimated $4 billion revenue shortfall in the coming year as federal funding that helped us survive the recession comes to an end. But necessary sacrifices should be shared sacrifices. Through its cuts to education and other essential services, the budget presented asks much from those who are least able to shoulder more burdens, and it asks very little from the wealthy and corpoerate interests, shifting corporate tax obligations to residents across the state who will be asked to pay more to send their kids to college as well as more in local property taxes,” Mr. Kirsch told the newspaper.

Legislation introduced in 2011 would allow parents to not pay their local school taxes that fund local public school system and receive an voucher that will allow their children to be enrolled in private and religious schools. Pennsylvania Senate Bill 1, will allow vouchers and take funding from the local public school system.

“Senate Bill 1 lacks basic accountability measures to protect the taxpayers’ investment and to measure student achievement. The legislation contains no provisions to require private schools receiving taxpayer dollars to account for the funds,” stated Sharon Kletzien, education specialist of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, which believes the school choice plans have shortcomings.

Judge uphold’s Wal-Mart citation regarding worker death

05.10.11

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

Judge uphold’s Wal-Mart citation regarding worker death

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 27th- The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) applauded a ruling by Chief Administrative Law Judge Covette Rooney of the Independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission upholding the citation and full penalty issued to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for inadeguate crowd management following a November 2008 trampling death of a worker at one of the company’s retail locations in New York.

In May 2009, OSHA cited Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for inadequate crowd management, concluding an investigation launched after a worker was trampled to death on November 28th, 2008, at its Wal-Mart store in Valley Stream, New York. The worker was knocked to the ground and crushed by a crowd of about 2,000 shoppers surging into the store for its annual “Blitz Friday” holiday sales event. OSHA’s inspection found that the store’s workers were at risk of being crushed by the crowd due to the store’s failure to implement reasonable and effective crowd management practices. Those practices would have provided the store’s workers with the necessary training and tools to safety manage a large crowd of shoppers.

“This is a win for both workers and consumers. It’s only fitting that today the 100th anniversary of the deadly Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City where 146 workers lost their lives that a judge affirmed OSHA’s right to protect the safety and health of workers from clearly recognized hazards. Today’s ruling supports OSHA’s position that, even in the absence of a specific rule or standard, employers are still legally responsible for providing a place of employment free of recognized hazards that are likely to cause serious injury or death. If not properly managed by retailers, a large crowd poses a significant threat to the lives of workers and customers,” stated Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health.

Under its General Duty Clause, OSHA issued Wal-Mart Stores Inc. one serious citation for exposing workers to the recognized hazards of asphyxiation or being crushed by a crowd. The citation carried a proposed fine of $7,000, the maximum penalty amount for a serious violation allowed under the law. A violation is serious when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.

The OSHAct was passed in 1970.

AFT Union President calling for sharing fiscal responsibility

05.10.11

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

AFT Union President calling for sharing fiscal responsibility

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION- March 28th- The President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) International Union, Randi Weingarten, is challenging those who have blamed public employees and their right to collectively bargain as a cause of the states’ fiscal problems. Noting that there is no relationship between states whose employees have bargaining rights and states that have big deficits.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that robbing workers of voice will somehow repair deficits. Collective bargaining is not the cause of our state budget crises, but it can be part of the solution,” stated Ms. Weingarten.

Ms. Weingarten criticized elected leaders, such as Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker stating, “Who prefer a scorched earth approach, who refuse to consider the input of others, and who sell their reckless measures as necessary expediencies in desperate times. Even through Wisconsin’s public employees agreed to massive pay cuts and every proposed concession. Walker refused to take yes for an answer.”

In Contrast, Ms. Weingarten said that the approach to dealing with huge deficits being pursued by California Democratic Governor Jerry Brown was one of shared responsibility, “that hopefully will lead to a better budgerary outcome in the short term and better economic output in the long term.”

The AFT represents approximately 1.5 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other higher education faculty and professional staff; federal and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators throughout the United States. Locally, the AFT represent teachers employed in the Scranton School District, the Pittston School District, the Dunmore School District and instructors employed by Lackawanna County vocational school.

Ms. Weingarten has offered examples of places where collective bargaining is working to help solve budget problems. Teachers and other public employees identified significant cost-savings in Broward County Florida, where teachers through their union called attention to significant wasteful spending, and the courts agreed with them.

“One thing that we’ve learning over the past few months is that it’s relatively easy to balance budgets if you’re willing to unbalance everything else, public services jobs, investments in the future, and the middle class,” Ms. Weingarten added.