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Four of the union-endorsed candidates win in Luzerne County

07.04.11

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

Four of the union-endorsed candidates win in Luzerne County

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, June 1st- Luzerne County voters elected four of the eleven union endorsed candidates on May 17th that were seeking seats on the new county council. The four gained enough votes to continue their pursuit to the general election in November of being on the first-ever eleven member county council that will take the helm of the government next year.

Edward Harry, President of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council, and a retired American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union District Council 87 Business Representative, which has several labor agreements with Luzerne County, said the labor federation wanted to support at least 11 “pro-labor” candidates for the county council, that will form the new county government beginning in January 2012.

Currently, the government is led by three county commissioners, two from a majority political party and one from a minority party.

The new charter establishes 11 part-time county council members and they will hire a county manager to run county business. Also under the home-rule charter the county will hire a full-time chief solicitor.

A committee was established by the labor federation to meet with potential candidates and discuss their views regarding collective bargaining rights and whether they would support the labor community if elected.

“We have nothing to be ashamed of,” stated Joe Padavan, President of the United Steelworkers of America (USW) Union Local 15253. Mr. Padavan was a union endorsed candidate and did not finish in the top eleven. “All of our candidates did well, finishing in the top half of all the candidates that ran.”

There were thirty-three Democrats and sixteen Republicans seeking to become their party’s nominee for the November election.

The four winning union endorsed candidates were: Linda McClosky Houck, Jane Waitkus, Salvatore Licata, and Theresa Morcavage.

The labor community reached-out to union members throughout Luzerne County requesting they support the endorsed slate. Phone banks were established in which union members received calls at their homes and literature with the endorsed candidates names were handed out at polling places on May 17th.

Mr. Harry was disappointed more of the union endorsed candidates were not elected. “I was hoping that at least eight of our candidates would have won,” stated Mr. Harry.

However, the labor community will be the only constituency group that will have at least four candidates seeking a council seat in the November election.

Mr. Harry, and other labor leaders that represent workers employed by Luzerne County, are concerned that should a anti-union majority control council, and hire an anti-union manager to run county business, the labor community will face a tough battle in the future.

Patrick Connors, Secretary-Treasurer/Business Representative and Principal Officer of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 401 in Wilkes-Barre, which has several contract agreements with Luzerne County, stated having county council members that are not anti-union is improtant because there are approximately 13 labor contracts, union members on government boards, and Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s) with the unions of the building trades, that need to be “watched-out for.”

IBT Union Local 401 attempting to organize Wilkes-Barre workers

07.04.11

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

IBT Union Local 401 attempting to organize Wilkes-Barre workers

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, June 4th- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 401, South Washington Street in Wilkes-Barre, filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia requesting the agency conduct an election to determine if workers of a Luzerne County employer want to be represented by the union for the purposed of collective bargaining.

According to the representation petition, which was discovered by the newspaper while reviewing petitions and labor complaints filed at NLRB office, the petition was filed on May 19th, 2011.

According to James Murphy, President and Business Representative of Local 401, who also filed the petition on behalf of the union, a majority of the employees of Alexandria Northeast, Lasley Avenue, Hanover Industrial Estates in Wilkes-Barre, signed petition cards requesting the NLRB conduct the election. Before the agency will conduct a representation election at least 30 percent of the unit of workers must sign authorization cards requesting the NLRB conduct the election.

The petition states there are 21 employees in the unit of workers that would be eligible to vote in the election, however, according to Mr. Murphy the employer provided list includes 25 employees.

The union requested on the petition that all full-time and regular part-time warehouse employees including, but not limited to, laborers, forklift drivers, leadmen, and stockers by the employer at its 300 Lasley Avenue in Wilkes-Barre facility be allowed to participate in the election. All management level employees, supervisors, confidential employees, and guards defined by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct) be excluded in participating in the election.

Workers of the company were previously represented by the Teamsters Union until several years ago. Mr. Murphy stated approximately 30 percent of the current workforce were employed by the company when the union represented the workers.

He stated the employees indicated company officials renegeed on several verbal commitments made after the union was removed. “We feel good right now, but you really don’t know how things will go until the day of the election,” said Mr. Murphy.

The NLRB will conduct a secret ballot election on June 22nd at the employers facility. Alexandria operates a wood moulding warehouse at their Wilkes-Barre facility. There are two shifts at the warehouse and the NLRB will give both an opportunity to participate in the election.

A labor organization must receive 50 percent plus one of the participating eligible to vote employees to become their bargaining representative for the purpose of collective bargaining.

The National Association of Letter Carriers “Food Drive” once again a success

07.04.11

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

The National Association of Letter Carriers “Food Drive” once again a success

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, June 5th- The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Union, which represents the United States Postal Service (USPS) mail delivery workers, announced their carriers collected 70.2 million pounds of food on May 14th, at a time when the hunger is a growing problem.

This year marked the 19th annual NALC National Food Drive to help stamp out hunger. All food items collected will be distributed among the local food pantries in the region. The one-day drive is held annually on the second Saturday in May in 10,000 cities and towns in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam.

“In every corner of this country, there are people and families who are hungry, including children. As letter carriers, we have the privilege of serving communities six days a week, of getting to know people, and we are grateful to have the opportunity to serve them in this way as well,” stated NALC International President Fredric V. Rolando.

“As letter carriers, we see people on our daily routes who rely on the generosity of others to help provide something as basic as a meal in a time of need. We’re proud to continue this program of critical assistance to needy families in every state in the union,” Mr. Rolando added.

The nation’s 230,000 active letter carriers collected the donations and took them to a local food bank, pantry or shelter, including hundreds affiliated with Feeding America, a national partner in the drive. Assisting 1,400 local branches of the NALC were members of other unions, civic volunteers, and other postal employees, including the rural letter carriers, which are not members of the union.

Members of the three NALC Branches in Northeastern Pennsylvania participated in the event.

According to Bill Herbert, Recording Secretary of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council labor federation, and a member of the United Steelworkers of America (USW) Union Local 5652, in Wilkes-Barre, one of the continuing problems each year is people just emptying out their cupboards of can goods with expired dates and putting them out of the letter carriers. He stated all food collected with expired dates are thrown into dumpsters.

This year was the eight consecutive drive surpassing 70 million pounds of collected food. Last year’s record collection of 77.1 million pounds pushed the total past the one-billion-pound mark, and the total since the drive began now stands at 1,030,000,000 pounds.

About 50 million Americans, including 17 million children, now live in families that lack sufficient food. With most school lunch programs suspended during summer months, million of children must find alternate sources of nutrition, Mr. Rolando added.

IAM Union files complaint against Luzerne County employer

07.04.11

JUNE 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, June 4th- The International Association of Machinists (IAM) Union District Lodge 1 filed a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging a Luzerne County employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

According to the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge, which was reviewed by the newspaper, the IAM represents approximately 220 workers employed at Pepsico/Quaker Oaks Company bottling plant in Mountain Top. The company operate a production and distribution facility on Oak Hill Road in Mountain Top.

The newspaper is the only member of the media in the region that reviews petitions and complaints filed at the NLRB office and publishes the information.

“Within the last six months, the above named Employer, through its officers, agents and representatives, has interfered with, restrained and coerced, and is interfering with, restraining and coercing employees of Pepsico/Quaker Oaks Company in the exercise of their rights as guarenteed in Section 7 of the Act,” states the ULP.

The union alleges the Employer, gave verbal and written discipline for attendance to Jack Quinn (Union Steward) because of his membership and activities on behalf of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and at all times have refused to remove the discipline to the employee.

The ULP was filed on behalf of the IAM by James Smith, who is indentified on the complaint as a IAM Grand Lodge Representative in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The company representative named to be contacted is Beverly Kramer, but her position with the employer is not indentified on the ULP.

Postal Workers Union files complaint against Postal Service

07.04.11

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

Postal Workers Union files complaint against Postal Service

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, June 1st- One of the unions that represent workers employed by the United States Postal Service (USPS) filed a labor complaint alleging the mail delivery service violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Branch 175 in Wilkes-Barre filed a Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia on April 22nd, 2011 alleging the employer violated Section 8 (a)(3) and 8(a)(5) of the NLRAct.

According to the Unfair Labor Practice charge, which was reviewed by the newspaper, the APWU is the exclusive bargaining representative for the postal clerks, maintenance, motor vehicle and other bargaining unit employees employed at the Albrightsville, Andreas, Berwick, Bloomburg, Canadensis, Conyngham, Dallas, Drums, Falls, Glen Lyon, Harveys Lake, Hazleton, Hunlock Creek, Huntington Mills, Jim Thorpe, Kingston, Lehighton, Nanticoke, Nescopeck, Pittston, Plymouth, Shickshinny, Tresckow, Tunkhannock, and Wilkes-Barre facilities of the United States Postal Service. The Union represents approximately 100 USPS workers.

“On December 28th, 2010, the Respondent violated the above cited sections of the Act when Postmaster Mary Tyneway denied Union representation and

Weingarten rights to Clerk Cina Horowicz by refusing to allow Local 175 President John Kishel, who had been designated to represent Ms. Horowicz at an investigatory interview, to represent her and to speak on her behalf. Postmaster Tyneway unlawfully informed Mr. Kishel that he was not allowed to speak at the meeting and that he was present only to observe the interrogation.

On Tuesday, Janaury 18th, 2011, the Respondent again violated the Act when Postmaster Mary Tyneway unilaterally removed copies of correspondence and grievanaces from the bullentin board designated for the exclusive use of American Postal Workers Local 175 and threatened and coerced Local 175 President John Kishel by ordering him not to post copies of his correspondence with the Postmaster or copies of grievances which the Union had filed on the Union designated bulletin board,” states the complaint.

The employer representative named on the ULP to be contacted is Mary Tyneway, indentified as a USPS Postmaster. The complaint was filed on behalf of Branch 175 by Scranton based Labor Attorney Robert Mariani.

Labor complaint filed against Standard Speaker newspaper

07.04.11

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

Labor complaint filed against Standard Speaker newspaper

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, June 1st- The Newspaper Guild/Communications Workers of America (TNG-CWA) Union Local 38216, filed a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging a Luzerne County newspaper violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

According to the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge, which was reviewed by the newspaper, the TNG-CWA alleges the Standard Speaker Publishing Company, Wyoming Street in Hazleton, which is owned by Times-Shamrock Communications, which also owns the newspaper’s the Wilkes-Barre Citizens’ Voice in Luzerne County and the Scranton Times/Tribune in Lackawanna County, violated Section 8 (a), subsections (1) and (5) of the NLRAct.

According to the ULP, which was filed on behalf of the union by Bruce Nelson of Laural, Maryland. Mr. Nelson is indentified as a TNG-CWA Representative.

The employer representative named on the ULP to be contacted is Robert Ufberg, indentified as the newspapers labor attorney.

The union represents approximately 75 employees of the Standard Speaker including reporters and other newsroom workers.

Times-Shamrock several years ago eliminated the printing department at the Standard Speaker and shifted the printing of the newspaper to their Waverly printing facility in Lackawanna County.

“Since on or about December 16th, 2010, the Employer has violated Section 8 (a)(5) of the Act by failing and refusing to execute the collective bargaining agreement with the union,” states the complaint which was filed on April 19th, 2011.

Group suggest House Republicans voted to end Medicare

07.04.11

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

Group suggest House Republicans voted to end Medicare
BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, June 2nd- According to the pro-labor and left-leaning political organization, the “Americans United for Change” in Washington, DC, Republicans in Congress have shown their hypocrisy and dishonesty by supporting legislation that would gut Medicare.

On April 15th, the majority of the Republican members of Congress voted for a radical budget plan that seeks to essentially end Medicare by replacing it with a system of a shrinking private insurance vouchers while at the same time voting to dole-out over $4 trillion in new tax breaks for millionaires, oil companies, and corporations that outsource jobs.

The Americans United for Change stated it is understandable that Republicans in Congress would want to wipe the slate clean when it comes to Medicare after many of them joined in the most well-coordinated, well funded misinformation campaign during the 2010 election. The organization stated seniors were proposely misled into believing that their Medicare benefits would be cut under President Obama’s new healthcare law. Ignoring the conclusions to the contrary at the time from independent fact checkers and the AARP.

The Economic Policy Institute in Washington, DC, summarized before the health care reform act became law that Medicare Advantage plans are private plans funded through Medicare to provide similar benefits, but at a 14 percent higher cost on average. According to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, an independent Congressional agency, eliminating these overpayments would free up $157 billion over 10 years, a substantial down payment on health care reform.

By eliminating these wasteful subsides to the private insurance industry, Not only did the health law strengthen Medicare’s solvency by 12 years and not only do Medicare beneficiaries still have all the same guaranteed benefits they always had, but seniors now have new benefits like free preventive care services and tens of thousands of enrollees who fall into the infamous Part D “donut hole” are saving an average of $800 per person because of the new 50 percent discount on covered brand-named drugs.

House Republicans voted to replace Medicare with a voucher system where seniors would be given a coupon and sent out into the private insurance market. The coupon would not keep up with the rising cost of health care and will leave seniors paying over $6,000 more out of pocket for care.

New Wall Street whistleblowers program passed by SEC

07.04.11

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

New Wall Street whistleblowers program passed by SEC

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, June 4th- On May 26th the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), that leads oversees corporate fraud and other misconduct, voted 3 for to 2 against adopting a new whisleblower program that will offer cash awards to whistleblowers reporting fraud. The two Republican commissioners objected.

The whistleblower program was mandated by the financial overhaul law enacted last year. Many big corporations and the United States Chamber of Commerce opposed the program.

On April 7th, 2011, Hawaii Democratic Senator Daniel Akaka introduced the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEAct) of 2011.

In December of 2010, the National Whisleblower Center (NWC), the Federal Ethics Center, and National Security Whistleblowers Coalition and the No FEAR Coalition, together strongly opposed the prior version of the WPEA calling it a “bad deal for whistleblowers.”

The spokesperson for the NWC in Washington, DC is Lindsey Williams, daughter of a International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Union Local 542 member Jack Williams, who resides in Luzerne County.

Corporations like AT&T, Best Buy, FedEx, Google, Target, and Verizon with the United States Chamber of Commerce all opposed the program making the arguement that whistleblowers should first have to tell their employers of misconduct and give them a chance to correct problems before informing the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The whisleblower provisions were included in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The rules will have a major impact on the ability of corporate employees to report fraud and protect the integrity of financial markets.

According to the fact sheet issued by the SEC, the Commission rejected corporate sponsored demands of the provision that employees must first report their concerns to their employer before blowing the whistle to the government.

“The SEC final rule sided with the whisleblowers. According to the Fact Sheet distributed by the SEC, the final rules would not require that employee whistleblowers report violations internally in order to qualify for an award,” stated Ms. Williams.

The Fact Sheet explained the new rule premitting internal reporting as follows:

The rules strengthen incentives that had been proposed and add certain additional incentives intended to encourage employees to utilize their own company’s internal compliance programs when appropriate to do so. For instance, the rules would: Make a whistleblower eligible for an award if the whistleblower reports internally and the company informs the SEC about the violations.

“Investors and whistleblowers scored a major victory. The SEC refused to buckle under tremendous pressure from Wall Street lobbyists (led by the Chamber of Commerce) who worked overtime trying to undermine historic corporate whistleblower protections contained in the Dodd-Frank Act,” stated Stephen Kohn, Executive Director of the NWC.

“Central among the Chamber’s demands were its insistance that the SEC place strict prohibitions on the right of employees to directly contact the SEC and law enforcement when they witness serious corporate fraud. The National Whistleblowers Center, along with thousands of citizens and numerous other public groups, strongly opposed these efforts. The SEC heard our voices,” added Mr. Kohn.

The new rules will take effect in around 60 days. Whistleblowers who provided information starting in July 2010, when the overhaul law was enacted, also would be eligible to receive awards.