Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

Philadelphia APRI Awards Banquet

09.29.11

By John O. Mason

The Philadelphia chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) held its annual awards banquet aboard the yacht Spirit of Philadelphia, on Friday, September 23, 2011.
The Institute was named after A. Philip Randolph, the most prominent African-American trade-union leader in the United States. In the 1920’s he organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, which battled for over a decade with the Pullman Sleeping Car Company over wages and benefits. After the merger of the AFL and the CIO in the 1950’s, Randolph became the first African-American Vice-President of the merged organization. In 1963, with the assistance of Bayard Rustin, Randolph organized the March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech.
The evening’s awardees were Frank Snyder, Secretary-Treasurer of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO; Cathy Scott, President of AFSCME District Council 47; Andrew Robinson, Secretary-Treasurer, LIUNA Local 332; and John Johnson, President of TWU Local 234.
Richard Womack Jr., President of the Philadelphia APRI and Northeast Regional Representative, greeting those in attendance, saying, “A. Philip Randolph was always in the middle of a struggle. And today, we are also in the middle of a struggle. We know how they’re taking away our collective bargaining, how they’re doing away with the teachers in the public school system. We look at how they’re talking about cutting Social security and Medicare. What does that tell you? We’re under attack, not just union members, but the community members are also under attack. We must continue to fight, and we must continue to band together, and hold strong, and hold politicians accountable, for that which is right for our community.”
The evening’s awardees, added Womack, “stood on the battlefield, they fought for what is right, and they continue to fight for what is right…I thank them for being the great leaders that they are.”
Womack also told of the work of Rosina Tucker, wife of one of the members of Randolph’s Sleeping Car Porters union, and an organizer for the union; she was “the backbone of the Sleeping Car Porters. when her husband was out there trying to organize, he was fired from his job. Rosina Tucker, being the strong woman that she was,” went to the Pullman office and said, “You put my husband back on his job, or I’ll be back.” The next day, the husband was back on his job. Womack praised the work of women in the Labor movement, adding, “They make things happen.”

CARDIN SAYS CALL TO REBUILD AMERICA’S INFRASTRUCTURE WILL HELP GET MARYLANDERS BACK TO WORK

09.26.11

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 22, 2011

CARDIN SAYS CALL TO REBUILD AMERICA’S INFRASTRUCTURE WILL HELP GET MARYLANDERS BACK TO WORK

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure, issued the following statement on President Obama’s call for rebuilding America’s infrastructure:

“It makes no sense that America’s infrastructure is crumbling while we have record unemployment in the construction industry. We have to make a change and we have to do it soon. And we have to stop talking and start doing because gridlock does not create jobs, it only worsens the problem. When our country faced economic challenges in the past, we overcame our problems by putting people back to work — rebuilding America’s bridges and roads, schools and airports, and everywhere updated infrastructure can help better our communities for business, tourism and even daily commutes. Investing in infrastructure jumpstarts our economy now while providing a literal foundation for long-term jobs. Like the President, I know there is much work to be done and so many people willing and able to do it.

“Improvements to Maryland’s transportation infrastructure are at a critical point. Freight movement through Maryland is critical to commerce along the entire Eastern Seaboard and BRAC is bringing hundreds of defense personnel, their families and support services to the state. Compounding these challenges is some of the worst traffic congestion in the country. Fortunately, Maryland Department of Transportation has made addressing all of these issues a top priority. Now they need active partners in the Congress and U.S. Department of Transportation to provide the resources necessary to help get Maryland’s more than 10,000 transportation professionals on the job working on these critical transportation initiatives. The President’s American Jobs Act is a sound vehicle to help get hard-working Marylanders to work on critical infrastructure projects that repair and maintain our existing infrastructure, enhance the safety and efficiency of our transportation network and improve U.S. competitiveness in the global economy. Congress needs to act.”

Scranton Mayor Doherty lays-off Police and Firefighters

09.26.11

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

Scranton Mayor Doherty lays-off Police and Firefighters

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, September 3rdt- The Department of Labor (DOL) Rapid Response Team, a group of people affiliated with community organizations that help recent unemployed workers learn about programs available to help them adjust to the job loss such as learning to file for unemployment benefits, and job training, met with the employees laid-off by the City of Scranton.

The meeting was held at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union District Council 87 building on the O’Neill Highway in Dunmore Borough.

On July 29th, Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty announced the city will lay-off 13 police officers, which are members of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge 2, and 8 firefighters, which are members of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Union Local 60.

Scranton will have 135 police officers and 129 firefighters. Because of the lay-offs, firehouses within the city will be out-of-service, meaning each day as many as three fire-houses could be closed.

David Gervasi, President of Local 60 told the newspaper because of the lay-offs on September 2nd three Scranton fire-houses were closed. “Four of the ten companies in the city were out-of-service,” Mr. Gervasi stated.

Because of the shorage of personel, firehouses in East Scranton, Petersburg and on Wyoming Avenue rear downtown Scranton were all out-of-service on September 2nd.

Mr. Gervasi said Mr. Doherty, who is currently serving his third term as Scranton Mayor, told the residents of the city he did not intend to close firehouses, but he has. “Call them brown-outs, but your neighborhood fire-house is still closed,” said Mr. Gervasi.

The DOL Rapid Response Team met with the FOP, and IAFF members on August 24th. The DOL group included William Cockerill Jr., the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) Labor Liaison to the United Way of Lackawanna County and Ronald Vogel Jr., Regional Representative of the Bureau of Workforce Development Partnership, Rapid Response Coordiation Services.

Mr. Gervasi said “effects bargaining” negotiations are being held between the City and Local 60 regarding the laid-off workers. Under the IAFF contract, should the city hire any firefighters in the future, the laid-off workers will be rehire in the senority they were first hire by the city.

State stores privatization not likley without Senator Scarnati support

09.26.11

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

State stores privatization not likley without Senator Scarnati support

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, September 1st- There is a difference of opinions within the Republican party leadership in Harrisburg regarding if the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), which operates the Pennsylvania Wine and Spirit Shoppes, should be sold to private owners.

The debate of whether Pennsylvania should sell their state liquor stores to private owners resurfaced in 2011 in the General Assembly in Harrisburg and the three labor unions that represent the workers will likely be affected if the stores are privatized.

In early summer, the Pennsylvania Senate held hearings on what impact privatization will have on the public, the business community, and the unions that represent the PLCB employees.

The United Food and Commerical Workers Union (UFCW) represents the majority of the workers employed by the PLCB. The UFCW represents shelf stockers and clerk workers. Most lower tied supervisors of the system are represented by the Independent State Store Union (ISSU) in Harrisburg while the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union represents mainly office employees including auditors.

There are approximately 625 liquor stores throughout Pennsylvania and the LCB also operates liquor stores located in around 50 grocery stores. The retail store system generates millions of dollars in profit including creating $400 million in tax revenue.

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

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

Pennsylvania House of Representative and Majority Leader Mike Turzai (Republican-28th Legislative District), introduced legislation in July that has been critized by Local 1776.

However, the top Republican in the Pennsylvania Senate, Joe Scarnati (25th Legislative District), indicated he does not support privatizing the system and stated before a sale is contemplated other options should be explored. He suggested reforming the PLCB including having more flexibility in liquor sales, which should include allowing varying prices by region.

Without Mr. Scarnati support privatization is not likely to become law.

IOUE Local 542 amends complaint against Lion Brewery

09.26.11

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

IOUE Local 542 amends complaint against Lion Brewery

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, In the previous edition of the newspaper, it was exclusively reported that the labor union that represents the employees of the Lion Brewery in Wilkes-Barre filed a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging the brewing company violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge was filed on July 1st, 2011 at the NLRB. However, the newspaper has learned the union amended the complaint on July 29th.

According to the July 1st complaint, which was reviewed by the newspaper, Brett Toomey, Business Representative of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Union Local 542 in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, filed the ULP.

The amended complaint indicates IOUE Legal Counsel Louis Agre filed the amended ULP.

“The above named Employer, by and through its agents and supervirors violated the act by changing conditions of employment without bargaining with the Employee Representative. The Employer changed shift starting times without bargainng and in violation of the collective bargaining agreement,” states the complaint.

The above named Employer further violated the Act by circumventing the Employee Representative and bargaining directly with employees,” states the amended complaint.

According to the ULP, the number of workers employed by the Lion Brewery is 120. The employer representative named on the ULP to be contacted is Cliff Rissel.

SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania Union files labor complaint

09.26.11

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

SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania Union files labor complaint

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, August 30th- The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Healthcare Pennsylvania Union, North 2nd Street in Harrisburg, filed several labor complaints with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging a local nursing home operator violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The newspaper discovered the Unfair Labor Practice’s (ULP’s) while reviewing complaints and petitions filed at the NLRB office in Philadelphia. The Union News is the only member of the local media that reviews and publishes information regarding complaints and petitions filed at the NLRB office.

According to the complaint, which was filed on July 28th, 2011, the SEIU/Healthcare Pennsylvania Union filed a Unfair Labor Practice complaint against Brighten and Julia Ribaudo Healthcare Group, LLC, which does business as Julia Ribaudo Extended Care Center, Golf Park Drive in Lake Ariel, alleging the nursing home healthcare operators violated Section 8 (a) and 5 of the NLRAct.

The Union filed a complaint against the Employer on June 22nd, but withdrew the ULP. However, the SEIU’s July 28th complaint uses the same language and alleges the same NLRAct violations occurred.

“Since on or about June 1st, 2011, and at all times thereafter, the above-named employer, by its Officers, Agents, and Representatives, has by unlaterally imposing initial terms and conditions of employment three (3) months after taking control of the facility, failed and refused to bargain collectively and in good faith with SEIU Health Pennsylvania, a labor organization, designated or selected by a majority of the employees of said employer in an appropriate unit for the purposes of collective bargaining in respect to rates of pay, wages, hours of employment and other conditions of employment,” states the complaint.

The Unfair Labor Practice was filed on behalf of the Union by Kevin Hefty, indentified as SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania Vice-President.

The Employer Representative indentified on the complaint to be contacted is Mary Ann Hornack, Administrator of the nursing home.

According to the complaint, the number of workers employed at the nursing home is 140.

The SEIU/Healthcare Pennsylvania also represents nurses at Geisinger Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre, nurses at the former Mercy Hospital in Scranton, and the Lackawanna County nursing home.

Initial unemployment claims decrease from previous week

09.20.11

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

Initial unemployment claims decrease from previous week

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, September 2nd- According to the United States Employment and Training Administration, in the week ending August 27th the seasonally adjusted initial unemployment claims was 409,000 a decrease of 12,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 421,000.

The four-week moving average was 410,250, an increase of 1,750 from the previous week’s revised average of 408,500. The numbers indicate jobs are still hard to find, in fact some economist have predicted a second recession is likely toward the end of 2011 or the beginning of 2012. The unemployment rate was reported to be 9.1 percent, however, besides the 14 million reported to be unemployed, there are 8.8 million American workers that are not counted, part-timers who want full-time work or those who have exhausted their unemployment benefits. There are 14 million workers reported to be unemployed.

The advance unseasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate is 2.8 percent, unchanged from the prior week.

The advance number for seasonally adjusted unemployment during the week ending August 20th, was 3,735,000, a decrease of 18,000 from the preceding week’s revised level of 3,753,000. The four-week moving average was 3,726,000, a decrease of 3,250 from the preceding week’s revised average of 3,729,250.

The advance number of actual claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 334,372 in the week ending August 27th, a decrease of 10,498 from the previous week. There were 383,135 initial claims in the comparable week in 2010. However, since August 2010 thousands of workers have expired their benefits and are no longer counted as unemployed.

States reported 3,118,042 persons claimed Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) benefits for the week, a increase of 31,261 from the prior week.

There were 4,556,751 claimants in the comparable week in 2010. The EUC weekly claims include first, second, third and fourth tier activity.

There are 31 states and the District of Columbia, which includes Pennsylvania, that extended unemployment benefits were available.

Pennsylvania was first among all fifty states with the highest insured unemployment rates in the week at 4.2 percent. New Jersey is second at 3.9 percent, Alaska, California and Connecticut were tied for third at 3.8 percent.

The largest increases in initial claims, (just recently laid-off), were in Pennsylvania, increasing by 1,904; Oregon, increasing by 698; Rhode Island, increasing by 634; and California, increasing by 615.

The largest decreases were in Massachusetts, dropping by 1,698; South Carolina, dropping by 1,058; Georgia, dropping by 978; Nevada, dropping by 695; and Florida, dropping by 670.

Allstate Agents vote to affiliate with OPEIU Union

09.20.11

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

Allstate Agents vote to affiliate with OPEIU Union

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION- August 29th- Members of the National Association of Professional Allstate Agents (NAPAA), on August 16th voted overwhelmingly to affiliate with the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU).

Secret ballots were mailed to all 1,200 members of the National Association of Professional Allstate Agents and according to OPEIU when the ballots were tallied, more than 94 percent has voted in favor of affiliating with the Union. The vote was administered by the American Arbitration Association (AAA) and was counted on August 17th at the AAA’s New York City office.

“Our members have sent a message and we hear them loud and clear,” stated Jim Fish, NAPAA executive director.

The NAPAA Board of Directors is expected to meet in the near future to formally approve the affiliation. Once the agreement is approved, NAPAA members will be granted membership in the OPEIU. OPEIU is affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington, DC.

“Affiliating with OPEIU is the first step toward ensuring that Allstate agents are treated as true independent contractors instead of employees. Currently, agents are subjected to unachievable quotas, the specter of reduced compensation and an ever-present threat of contact termination. Many companies today are circumventing IRS precepts regarding employees status and are now classifying these same people as independent contractors. This practice has to stop,” stated OPEIU President Michael Goodwin.

NAPAA is based in Mississippi and is a non-profit organization, whose members are predominantly insurance agents under contract with Allstate Insurance throughout the nation.

On August 25th, one week after the membership of NAPAA voted in favor of affiliating with OPEIU, the Board of Directors approved the affiliation. The effective date of the affiliation agreement is September 1st, 2011. NAPAA members will now be granted membership in OPEIU.

The OPEIU represents more than 125,000 members throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada. The Union represents employees and independent contractors in banking, insurance, higher education, shipping, hospitals, medical clinics, utilities, transportation, hotels, and administrative offices.

CWA Union targeting Congressman Barletta regarding FAA

09.20.11

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

CWA Union targeting Congressman Barletta regarding FAA

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, August 30th- The Communications Workers of America (CWA) International Union in Washington DC has announced their targeted battleground U.S. House of Representatives Districts for their role in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) shutdown. The CWA is targeting legislators, which includes two dozen Republicans, for what the Union called, “their willingness to shut down the FAA over a union-busting provision inserted into the House version of the multi-year FAA Reauthorization bill”.

According to Michael Earls, spokesperson for the CWA, there are fewer than 30 days until the FAA faces another potential shutdown due to the union-busting ideology of Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee John Mica (Republican-Florida) and many of his Republican House colleagues. The CWA campaign includes spending over a half a million dollars on efforts to educate voters about the causes and consequences of the FAA shutdown. The campaign includes direct mail, which will target over 600,000 voters in key battleground House districts including in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Republican House of Representative Lou Barletta (11th Legislative District) is included on the targeted list.

The direct mailing will highlight that “Americans are losing jobs because Congress is playing politics,” Mr. Earls stated.

The mailing explains that “the FAA got shut down because Chairman John Mica and some Republicans would rather play politics with real people’s lives and the FAA Reauthorization Bill. At the request of their big corporate airline donors, like Delta, Republicans snuck unrelated union provisions into the critical legislation. Then Congress took off on vacation and shut down the FAA,” Mr. Earls added.

According to the CWA, Mr. Mica was the lead driver behind the recent FAA shutdown that put nearly 100,000 people out of work and cost the United States government $400 million. The CWA stated instead of forging a bi-partisan solution that would deliver hundreds of thousands of jobs and aviation infrastructure upgrades through the long-term FAA bill, Representative Mica and many other House Republicans, including Mr. Barletta, continue to insist that the legislation include an unrelated union-busting provision requested by Delta. The provision would change the rules for union elections overseen by the National Mediation Board (NMB) and seeks to count ballots not actually cast.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA’s unemployment rate increases to 9.4 percent

09.20.11

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

MSA’s unemployment rate increases to 9.4 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, September 1st- According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania, Department of Labor and Industry, the region’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 9.4 percent, increasing by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report, which was released approximately four weeks before. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) includes Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wyoming Counties. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was 9.8 percent.

The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 7.8 percent, increasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,303,000 with 494,000 not working and 5,809,000 with employment. The national unemployment rate is 9.1 percent, decreasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report.

The unemployment rate does not include civilians who unemployment benefits have expired and stopped looking for work.

There are 13,931,000 civilians in the nation reported to be unemployed. That number does not include civilians that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and have stopped looking for work. There are actually at least 18,000,000 civilians in the nation without jobs.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the fifth largest labor force in Pennsylvania at 278,900 civilians with 26,100 not working. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force at 2,941,800 with 257,600 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor force at 1,215,100 with 90,100 without jobs; the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force at 416,800 with 36,900 not working; and the Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force at 279,800 with 20,300 without employment. The Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA recently surpassed the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA for the fourth largest labor force in Pennsylvania because more civilians in our region have exhausted their unemployment benefits and are no longer counted. The numbers indicate that while the two MSA’s are close to the same labor force, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA has more than 6,000 more civilians unemployed.

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

The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA and the Philadelphia MSA are tied for the second highest unemployment rate at 8.8 percent. The Johnstown MSA has the third highest unemployment rate in the Commonwealth at 8.7 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 6.1 percent. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in the state at 6.6 percent, while the Lancaster MSA has the third lowest unemployment rate at 6.9 percent. The Altoona MSA has the fourth lowest unemployment rate at 7.1 percent.

Lackawanna County and Wyoming County are tied for the lowest unemployment rate within the MSA at 9.2 percent.

Lackawanna County’s unemployment rate increased by one-tenth of the percentage point from the previous report and decreased by one-tenth of a percentage point from twelve months ago. There are 9,700 civilians in Lackawanna County without employment, increasing by 100 from the previous report and dropping by 100 from twelve months ago. Lackawanna County has a civilian labor-force of 107,500.

Wyoming County’s unemployment rate decreased by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and from twelve months ago. Wyoming County has 1,300 civilians of the labor force without employment, unchanged from the previous report and during the past twelve months.

Luzerne County has a unemployment rate of 9.5 percent, increasing by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and dropping by six-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before. Luzerne County has the largest civilian labor-force in the MSA at 158,700, decreasing by 100 from the previous report and dropping by 100 during the past twelve months.

Manufacturing jobs within the MSA decreased by 300 from the previous report and have dropped by 700 from twelve months ago to 27,100.

Local government jobs dropped by 1,800 from the month before and decreased by 300 from one year ago to 19,200. Federal government jobs dropped by 600 during the past twelve months.

Public hearing held on how region school districts are effected by budget cuts

09.20.11

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

Public hearing held on how region school districts are effected by budget cuts

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, August 25th- The Pennsylvania Democratic Policy Committee held a public hearing at the Scranton High School auditorium in Scranton on August 16th to examine the challenges that state budget cuts have created for northeastern Pennsylvania schools and human service agencies.

The hearing was requested and co-chaired by Pennsylvania House of Representatives Kevin Murphy (Democrat-113th Legislative District) and Ken Smith (Democrat-112th Legislative District). The two legislators share Scranton in Harrisburg.

“The budget that passed without a single Democratic vote in June is unconscionable. At a time when the governor called for ‘shared sacrifice’ allowing big business and natural gas companies to escape without paying their fair share flies in the face of logic and disrespects the taxpayers across the Commonwealth and here in Scranton,” said Mr. Murphy, a former member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union while working for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB).

The House Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla (Democrat-96th Legislative District) stated both Mr. Smith and Mr. Murphy have been strong advocates for their communities and he applauds them for continuing the budget dialogue with their residents.

Those testifying included official’s from the Scranton School District, Abington Heights School District, Riverside School District, and the Blue Ridge School District.

Rosemary Boland, President of the Scranton Federation of Teachers (SFT) Union Local 1147 also gave testimony.

Union Pension capital creating jobs for construction workers

09.20.11

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

Union Pension capital creating jobs for construction workers

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, August 30th- The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation, Housing Investment Trust (HIT) are attempting to put union construction workers back to work. Unemployment among union construction trades remains at levels not seen since the Great Depression. HIT created more than 10,000 union construction jobs during the past two years, and set a new goal of reaching 15,000 jobs by year end 2012.

The HIT has implemented a Construction Jobs Initiative to put union workers from hard-hit construction industry back on the job. The initiative was first adopted in mid-2009 with the support of the AFL-CIO and their Building and Construction Trades Department. The program utilizes union pension capital for high credit quality fixed-income investments. All of the projects are 100 percent union built, and 60 percent of the 9,932 housing units produced under the jobs inititive will be affordable to low-to-moderate income families.

Since it was established in 1965, the HIT has invested more than $6.2 billion in developments that have created more than 101,000 housing units and 69,000 union construction jobs.

“The HIT is investing union pension capital to create jobs for union construction workers on projects that help communities grow. It’s one of the ways unions are supporting America’s economic recovery,” stated Mark Ayers, President of the Building and Construction Trades Department (AFL-CIO).

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO stated the HIT investments has helped many construction workers stay employed during the economic downturn.

“The HIT’s investments are a win-win for working people and their communities. At a time when construction activity has been at a virtual standstill because many lenders have withdrawn from real estate development the HIT is financing new projects that will help cities and towns spur economic development and strengthen their communities,” said Mr. Trumka.

The AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust is a fixed-income investment company registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. It manages over $4 billion in assets for approximately 350 investors, which include union and public employee pension plans.

Pennsylvania Health Access Network statement on Affordable Care Act court ruling

09.14.11

HARRISBURG, PA (September 14, 2011) ― Pennsylvania Health Access Network Project Manager Antoinette Kraus issued a statement on Tuesday’s ruling by Judge Christopher Conner of Pennsylvania’s Middle U.S. District Court that the personal responsibility provision of the Affordable Care Act ― the requirement that individuals purchase health insurance by 2014 when the law is fully implemented ― is unconstitutional.

“The Affordable Care Act has already reduced prescription drug and health care costs for over 2 million Pennsylvania seniors and allowed tens of thousands of young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance. It will protect millions of working families from the worst insurance abuses, like denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions and discriminatory pricing based on a person’s gender or medical history. By 2014, new coverage options will open the door to affordable, quality health care for more than a million Pennsylvanians, seniors and small businesses.”

“Judge Conner and other federal district judges have split on the question of the Affordable Care Act’s responsibility provision, while two federal appeals courts have upheld its constitutionality. We look forward to seeing these cases resolved finally by the Supreme Court, where we are confident that the law will be upheld.”

DOL creating data tool to combat job discrimination

09.13.11

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

DOL creating data tool to combat job discrimination

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, August 18th- The United States Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program is considering the development of a new data tool to collect information on salaries, wages and other benefits paid to employees of federal contractors and subcontractors. The DOL wants to use the tool to improve their ability to gather data that could be analyzed for indicators of job discrimination, such as disparities faced by female and minority workers. To provide an opportunity for the public to submit feed back, the department published an advance notice of proposed rulemakeing in the August 10th, edition of the Federal Register.

The DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program enforces Executive Order 11246, which prohibits companies that do business with the federal government from discriminating in employment practices, including compensation, on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin or religion.

Last year, the agency announced plans to create a compensation data tool in the department’s fall 2010 regulatory agenda. In addition to providing the Office of Federal Contract Compliance program investigators with insight into potential pay discrimination warrenting further review, the proposed tool would provide a self-assessment element to help employers evaluate the effects of their compensation practices.

“Today, almost 50 years after the Equal Pay Act became law, the wage gap has norrowed, but not nearly enough. The president and I are committed to ending pay discrimination once and for all,” stated DOL’s Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis on August 10th.

According to the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2010 women were paid an average of 77 cents for every dollar paid to men. In addition to the gender gap, research has shown that race, and ethnicity based pay gaps put workers of color, including men, at a disadvantage. Eliminating compensation based discrimination is a top priority for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program.

“Pay discrimination continues to plague women and people of color in the workforce. This proposal is about gathering data, which will allow us to focus our enforcement resources where they are most needed. We can’t truly solve this problem until we can see it, measure it and put dollar figures on it,” stated Patricia Shiu, Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program.

The notice poses 15 questions for public response on the types of data that should be requested, the scope of information the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program should seek, how the data should be collected, how the data should be used, what the tool should look like, which contractors should be required to submit compensation data and how the tool might create potential burdens for small businesses. The proposal will be open to public response for 60 days, and the deadline for receiving comments is October 11th, 2011.

The DOL stated anyone interested reading the proposal or submitting a comment, visit e-rulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov.

In addition to Executive Order 11246, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program’s legal authority exists under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974.

As amended these three laws hold those who do business with the federal government, both contractors and of sex, race, color, religion, national origin, disability or status as a protected veteran. For general information call the agency toll-free helpline at (800) 397-6251. Additional information is also available at http://www.gov/ofccp/.

Carpenters file complaint alleging Lehigh Valley contractor violated NLRAct

09.13.11

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

Carpenters file complaint alleging Lehigh Valley contractor violated NLRAct

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, August 15th- The Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters, Southeastern Pennsylvania, State of Delaware and Eastern Shore of Maryland, filed a labor complaint against a construction company in the Lehigh Valley.

The Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge was filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia. The Union alleges ICS, (doing-business-as), Commercial Services, in Bethlehem, violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

Local 600 represents Carpenters Union members throughout the Lehigh Valley. Local 600 is affiliated with the Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters in Philadelphia.

According to the labor complaint, which was discovered by the newspaper while reviewing ULP’s and petitions filed at the NLRB Region Four office in Philadelphia, Metropolitan Council of Carpenters office is located on Spring Garden Street in Philadelphia.

“On or about July 18th, 2011, and at times continuously thereafter, it, by its officers, agents and representatives, has discriminated against and is discriminating against Felix Roman in retaliation for his membership in and activities in support of the Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters by discharging him from employment,” states the labor complaint, which was filed on July 28th, 2011.

The Unfair Labor Practice alleges Commercial Construction Services violated Section 8(a), subsections (1) and (3) of the National Labor Relations Act.

The complaint does not indentify the employer representative to be contacted or indicates how many employees Commercial Construction Services employs.

The ULP was filed on behalf of the Union by Philadelphia Attorney Stephen Holroyd of the lawfirm of Jennings Sigmond, Walnut Street in Philadelphia.

Lehigh Valley unemployment rate rises to 8.7 percent

09.13.11

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

Lehigh Valley unemployment rate rises to 8.7 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, August 15th- 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, increasing by three-tenths 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 9.3 percent.

There are fourteen Metropolitan Statistical Area’s in Pennsylvania and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area is tied with the Philadelphia MSA for the second highest unemployment rate.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 9.2 percent. The Johnstown MSA has the third highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 8.6 percent with the Williamsport MSA fourth at 7.8 percent.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 7.6 percent, increasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report, which was released approximately four weeks ago. There are 480,000 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 6,327,000 and 5,848,000 of them have employment. The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was reported to be 9.2 percent, increasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report.

There are 14,087,000 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 19.4 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 5.7 percent, increasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 6.4 percent and the Lansaster MSA has the third lowest unemployment rate at 6.7 percent. The Altoona MSA has the fourth lowest unemployment rate at 6.9 percent.

The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force in Pennsylvania with 416,800 civilians. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force at 2,941,000 with 258,300 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor force at 1,219,100 with 88,500 without jobs; the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force at 279,400 with 25,600 without employment. The Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA is tied with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA for the fourth largest civilian labor force and has 20,200 without employment.

Carbon County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 10.0 percent, increasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and decreasing by eight-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Carbon County has a civilian labor force of 30,900 with 3,100 residents without jobs, increasing by 100 from the previous report and dropping by 200 from twelve months ago.

Northampton County has the lowest unemployment rate within the MSA at 8.5 percent, increasing by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and decreasing by five-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Northampton County has a civilian labor force of 151,300. There are 12,800 Northampton County residents without jobs, rising by 400 from the previous report and dropping by 800 during the past twelve months.

Lehigh County has a unemployment rate of 8.7 percent, increasing by four-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and decreasing by seven-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Lehigh County has a civilian labor force of 175,400. There are 15,200 Lehigh County residents without jobs, increasing by 700 from the previous report and dropping by 1,300 from one year ago.

Manufacturing jobs have increased by 500 from the previous report while mining, logging and construction jobs also rose by 500.

There are 341,000 nonfarm jobs within the MSA, increasing by 1,700 from the previous report and rising by 2,800 from twelve months ago.

There are 335,900 nonfarm jobs in the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA, decreasing by 1,100 from the previous report and rising by 1,800 from twelve months ago. The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA is ranked third in nonfarm jobs in the Commonwealth.

Over the past twelve months government jobs was the biggest loser, dropping by 2,600 to 42,200. Local government jobs decreased by 1,400 to 37,100, federal jobs dropped by 900 to 2,300 and state government jobs decreased by 300 during the past twelve months to 2,800.

Crocodile Tears on a Cash Register Patriotism

09.09.11

by WALTER BRASCH

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Walter Brasch has written dozens of columns, human interest stories, and investigative articles about 9/11 and its effects. He was one of the first to write about the PATRIOT Act violating civil liberties and parts of the Constitution. He was one of the first, using extensive investigation techniques and inside information, to question the statements from the Bush–Cheney Administration about the reasons for the impending invasion of Iraq. This column, written about a month after 9/11 shows the hypocrisy of some American business, and suggests if they wish to be patriotic they might wish to do more for their workers.]

The news release spoke boldly: “In view of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, this is the time for Corporate America and all government agencies to enhance the safety and security of the nation’s high profile buildings.” Not exactly a revelation. It didn’t take another sentence to underline the company’s intent. “Windows and doors are normally the weakest static construction elements in a building,” continued the release, “and are therefore the first to fail during violent activities and brute forces of nature. . . . Your property needs protection!”

The next few hundred words explained how my readers could choose a security level—and color—of windows to provide that security—”from burglarproof to hurricane resistant and ultimately bullet and blast resistant.”

Thousands of businesses, like the window company, obtrusively used the tragedy to sell their product.

One investment company told me that if I followed world events, “you probably know that the prices of commodities and stocks reflect international politics and tensions!” It explained that as the “U.S. prepares its response, tensions could escalate even further in the Middle East. This could have a DRAMATIC IMPACT on the supply of oil and gas therefore increasing worldwide prices. If this happens, oil and gas companies and THEIR SHAREHOLDERS could be poised to MAKE MONEY from any price increases.” To make money from the tragedy, I just had to contact this company to learn which “undervalued” stocks I should buy.

A writer offered newspaper editors about 400 words detailing Osama bin Laden’s aura, hoping to lure them into buying her weekly column, “Ask Your Aura,” identified as “the personal pull of an advice column, the celebrity appeal of a gossip column, the mystery of astrology.” Not surprisingly, she determined that not only is “love, compassion, and spiritual joy [in bin Laden’s] heart chakra … about as big as a donut hole,” but that this spirituality is “connected to a preference for evil.”

Most corporate America had pulled all advertising from the TV networks and national news magazines for up to a week following the tragedy while they re-evaluated their campaigns. When they returned, they had draped themselves into red-white-and-blue bunting, and told us it’s patriotic to spend money in a lagging economy.

A fairly large publicity firm, targeting book authors, ran a small American flag next to its logo, and told us the company “continues to offer our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to those touched by the events,” that it salutes “the heroism of those who continue to work tirelessly in rescue and relief efforts,” and will continue to work with the media “to provide our clients with the optimum level of exposure.” In case we didn’t understand the last sentence, it told us the time to pull back on advertising and promotion isn’t now because “our experience has shown us that events like this, although very saddening, create unique opportunities that might not have presented themselves before.” To take advantage of this “unique” opportunity, the company even developed a program that for only $750–$3,000 would target the media with our message.

One-shot magazines, full of color pictures, began coming off rotary presses within hours after the towers collapsed. Books about the tragedy are being rushed to press; almost any book that has even the remotest tie-in is being hawked. Fueled by internet rumor that 16th century French physician-clairvoyant Nostradamus predicted such a tragedy, thousands of Americans have flocked to bookstores and on-line companies to buy copies of his books, edited by others. One book, with a Sept. 27 publication date, is well within the top 100 titles on Amazon.com.

On thousands of fiberglass and plastic highway signs, words of hope trumpet words of advertising. Below “God Bless America,” we see “Chili Fries, $1.49.” Below “United We Stand,” we’re told “special prices on carpets.”

During the 1960s, war protestors who wore clothes with the American flag design were beaten by “patriots”; now the fabric of America is patriots wearing just-manufactured high-priced T-shirts, pants, and bandannas, all with images of American flags and slogans.
A flyer I received at home combined the flag, a patriotic call, a message of sympathy—and my inviolate right to buy sofas on sale. General Motors, trying to sell cars, declared “in this time of terrible adversity, let’s stand together. And let’s keep America rolling.”

A laser eye surgical conglomerate tried to convince us getting clearer vision was somehow patriotic. Its newspaper images were of an exhausted firefighter, and of someone it claimed to be an FBI agent who praised the company’s health plan for federal employees.

A Cleveland mayoral candidate ran TV ads, declaring “If tragedy strikes, who could lead?” On the screen were still photos of the towers and a woman holding a flag.

Perhaps these patriotic businesses all mean well. Perhaps they are saddened by the tragedy, and want to let us know they care about the victims and our country. Perhaps, we can hope they have been tortured by the magnitude of evil and the shards of the American fragment that will haunt us for a generation that they will realize the best way to celebrate the American spirit is to treat their own workers better, and to absorb a smaller profit this year rather than to lay off workers. But as long as businesses try to mix sentiment and hard sell, there’s no question our traditional red-and-green Christmas season will be lathered in a red-white-and-blue jingoism of fourth quarter crocodile tears pouring over a cash register patriotism.

[Walter Brasch’s current book is Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution. It is available at amazon.com and www.greeleyandstone.com]

US Post Office under attack by corporate forces

09.09.11

We should demand that the Postmaster General resign. He hates the postal service and his employees. We should not be closing post offices or reducing services. We should not be firing postal employees. We should stop over-funding the pension system and should be raising postal rates especially for large commercial mailers.

Republicans say we should turn the postal system over to private businesses but private businesses would not be able to profitably get mail 6 days a week to every home in America. Rural Americans, the poor and seniors need daily mail. Private businesses will raise rates by huge degrees and cut services. Private businesses are not as efficient as our current postal system. All we need to do is raise postal rates and get much better upper management that actually believes in the mission of the post office!

I support the American Postal Workers Union, the Rural Letter Carriers union, the National Association of Letter Carriers and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union. The Republicans (and a few corporate Democrats in the US Senate) want to destroy all 4 postal unions and increase unemployment in America.

Millions of Americans will face late charges on credit cards and bills if Saturday mail goes away. The poor, seniors and millions of rural Americans do not have access to the Internet to pay bills. Credit card companies and Federal Express will make tons of money from the proposed changes. All consumers and average American citizens will suffer.

The post office helps weave together the fabric of the American nation.

In Solidarity,

Stephen Crockett

Host, Democratic Talk Radio

Editor, Mid-Atlantic Labor.com

TRANSIT WORKERS CALL ON PORT AUTHORITY TO FILL VACANT TRANSIT POSITIONS AND PUT SAFETY BEFORE HIGH-RISK COST SAVINGS

09.08.11

ATU Local 85 Media Advisory

For Immediate Release
Contact: Marty Marks 412.352.0317

TRANSIT WORKERS CALL ON PORT AUTHORITY TO FILL VACANT TRANSIT POSITIONS AND PUT SAFETY BEFORE HIGH-RISK COST SAVINGS

Transit union leader calls press conference to warn that Port Authority inaction on filling job openings is resulting in excessive and mandatory overtime leading to driver exhaustion and unnecessary safety hazards

Pittsburgh, Penn. (September 8, 2011) – On Friday, September 9th at noon, ATU Local 85 President, Patrick McMahon will hold a press conference to blow the whistle on high-risk Port Authority management decisions regarding leaving vacant, as many as 15 transit operator positions that are fully funded in the current operating budget.

“We have repeatedly warned the Authority the failure to fill vacant positions is creating unsafe overtime demands on our drivers and putting the riders we serve at risk,” Mr. McMahon said. “Numerous studies have shown that driving buses and operating commuter rail systems are highly stressful jobs. It makes absolutely no sense intensifying that stress by over burdening the work force when the funding to eliminate the problem is just setting there untapped,” he said.

At the press conference, Mr. McMahon will provide reporters correspondence the union sent to Port Authority management seeking changes in the Authority’s overreliance on overtime and warning of the unsafe conditions created by excessive work demands. He will also address the financial ramifications of overdependence on overtime.

“There comes a time when it makes no sense to keep paying drivers higher overtime wages to work extended shifts when there is an option to bring back laid-off workers to fill the gaps working for the regular hourly rate,” Mr. McMahon says. “When you factor-in the fact that the Port Authority is self-insured and paying unemployment benefits to laid-off workers, it adds a financial argument to bringing back unemployed workers and taking concrete steps to reduce the safety risks we are now experiencing,” he said.

Appearing at the press conference with Mr. McMahon will be transit operators who have been working excessive over-time hours and laid-off transit workers waiting to be called back to work. Press conference participants will be available for one-on-one interviews at the press conference and remote interviews may be arranged by calling the media contact above.

Who: Patrick McMahon, President of ATU Local 85; Transit operators and laid-off transit workers.
What: Media Conference calling in to question Port Authority management decisions regarding transit operator overtime
When: Friday, September 9th at noon.
Where: ATU Local 85 Headquarters at 2011 Chateau Street in Pittsburgh

Corporate America Sends a Labor Day Message

09.05.11

by WALTER BRASCH

For most Americans, the only significance of Labor Day is that it concludes a three day weekend.

For Kirk Artley, it means he has about six weeks left of employment.

On Aug. 24, RR Donnelley, a Chicago-based megacorporation that claims to be “the world’s premier full-service provider of print and related services,” told Artley and the other 283 workers at the Bloomsburg, Pa., plant that “economic conditions” forced the closing of the book printing facility. The workers said they would take significant pay cuts if that would save the plant. RR Donnelley rejected the offer.

Most of the workers live in Columbia County, a small rural county of about 65,000, with unemployment about 8 percent, slightly less than the national rate. Adding 284 persons would significantly increase that rate.

Under the termination agreement, the workers, both management and labor, wouldn’t have priority rights to bid for jobs at any other plant. “We were told we could apply for open jobs just like anyone else,” says Artley, a bindery technician and president of Local 732C of the Graphic Communications Conference, a Teamsters division. Apparently, there was no way to integrate a couple of hundred workers into a corporation that employs about 58,000. What the corporation that had about $10 billion income last year did agree to do, after negotiations with the union, was award severance of one week pay for every year of service, and to pay for half the health insurance for up to nine months, depending upon length of service.

The corporation told the workers the Bloomsburg plant was no longer profitable. They claimed there was no way the Bloomsburg plant, with its eight rotary offset web presses and five bindery lines, could be competitive in an industry that was moving to digital books. They said other plants would absorb the work. If the company had even contemplated changing the nature of production at Bloomsburg to deal with a changing industry, and re-training the workers, that was never made known to those still employed. Every day, the workers did their jobs, put up with Management, and then went home.

By federal law, there has to be a 60-day notice to the workers. But there is no law to require corporations to tell them the truth.

Contrary to corporate statements and a popular belief that print books are doomed by the emergence and significant increase in publication and sales of digital books, there is still a consumer interest in print. Overall, about 2.57 billion books were sold in 2010, a 4.1 percent increase since 2008, according to data compiled by the Association of American Publishers (AAP). Net sales revenue last year was $27.94 billion, a 5.6 percent increase from two years earlier. The AAP reports there were 603 million copies of trade hardcover books published last year, a 5.8 percent increase from two years earlier, with net sales revenue up about 0.9 percent. For trade softcover books, sales were about one billion copies, up 2.0 percent from 2008, with net sales revenue of about $5.27 billion, according to the AAP. The only significant decrease was mass market paperbacks (sometimes known as the supermarket or rack paperbacks). In 2010, net unit sales were 319 million, a decrease of 16.8 percent from 2008; net revenue was $1.28 billion in 2010, down 13.8 percent from two years earlier, according to the AAP. The Bloomsburg plant printed Harlequin romances and some other mass market paperbacks, but they were a small part of the overall production.

RR Donnelley itself, with assets of about $9 billion, is profitable, although its stock has had wide fluctuations in 2011. Its net sales for 2010 were $10.02 billion, up from $9.86 billion the year before. For the first half of 2011, Donnelley had net sales of $3.86 billion, up about 5.7 percent from $3.65 billion a year earlier. Its second quarter net sales were $2.62 billion, an 8.6 percent increase from a year earlier. The company CEO, Thomas J. Quinlan III, earns about $2.6 million in total compensation, with a five-year combined compensation of about $13.6 million, according to Forbes. In contrast, hourly workers in the Bloomsburg plant received an average of 2 percent pay raises each year.

“Just last month, the company told us we were profitable, that it had no plans to close us down,” says Artley, “and now they say we aren’t profitable?”

No well-run corporation makes a decision in less than a month to close a 370,000 square foot plant, with an estimated market value of about $8.4 million. But, that is what the corporation wants the workers to believe. The union did get Donnelley to agree it would not shut down the plant and then re-open it and resume printing books. There was no corporate agreement that it wouldn’t “re-tool,” and establish other printing or digital services. And there was definitely no agreement to retrain or rehire any worker. Based upon past practices, RRD Donnelley is more likely to try to sell the empty building and land.

A clue to what the corporation was going to do may have been disclosed in October 2010 when it trumpeted that it had developed the ProteusJet, high-speed ink jet printers, and was shipping one a month to various plants. The printers were designed to handle short run and one copy at a time print-on-demand publishing. None of those printers were scheduled to be delivered to Bloomsburg.

Bloomsburg still produced several long-run publications for major publishers, including the Idiot’s Guide and Twilight series, as well as several fiction best-sellers. But, it was developing a specialty as a short-run printer (generally 1,000–3,000 copies of a title), with a three-day turn-around. In the current book industry, shorter runs with faster turn-around times are becoming more of an industry standard, especially with the rise of more small independent regional publishers. Yet, Donnelley was closing a plant that could have been part of a major expansion to meet the new publishing platforms. “That’s one of the things that baffled us,” says Artley.

At its peak, the Bloomsburg plant was averaging about seven million books a month; that number dropped to about two million a month, and then picked up to five million in August. Although Donnelley kept reaffirming that the change to digital technology, combined with a decreasing economy, were the problems, there are other truths it didn’t tell the workers.

Undermining Its Best Customer

Lower production in Bloomsburg could be because RR Donnelley sales people were leading some potential customers to the company’s Crawfordsville, Ind., or Harrisonburg, Va., plants. However, one major customer balked at moving the contract. The Penguin Group, one of the five largest publishing conglomerates in the world, wanted to keep a major part of its production in Bloomsburg. Penguin, which owned one of the presses and one of the bindery lines in the Bloomsburg plant, accounted for as much as three-fourths of all titles produced in Bloomsburg, according to Artley.

One critical issue for Penguin was that RR Donnelley wanted to determine where the books would be printed, perhaps yet another sign that it was planning to phase-out Bloomsburg production. One source in Donnelley management who is familiar with the Penguin situation, and who asked that his name not be used, says that the publishing company preferred the quality produced at Bloomsburg, and the close access to its distribution warehouse in Pittston, Pa., about 50 miles northeast of Bloomsburg. The Bloomsburg plant is also close to I-80, a major interstate that connects the New York City metropolitan area with San Francisco. The union had even agreed in January to extend its current contract, and then signed a two-year agreement, assuring Penguin executives there wouldn’t be any labor issues in Bloomsburg. About that time, Donnelley finally agreed to allow Penguin to have its books printed in the Bloomsburg plant and signed a two-year contract. The closing of the Bloomsburg plant, and requiring Penguin to have its books printed in Harrisonburg, Va., and then shipped about 300 miles northeast to Pittston, would increase transportation costs about three times, according to one person familiar with the contract. Because Penguin signed a two year contract with the assurance that books would be produced in Bloomsburg, it would be justified to declare a breach of the contract and move its work elsewhere, or to demand financial considerations from Donnelley.

‘More Interested in Profits than in the Workers’

In 1993, RR Donnelley bought Haddon Craftsmen, which produced numerous books that reached best-seller lists, and which had developed a reputation not only for high quality printing but also as a good place to work. Haddon Craftsmen had begun during World War II as a merger of three companies. The Bloomsburg plant was added in 1964. In 1980, six employees bought Haddon, which now had plants not only in Scranton, its main plant, but also Dunmore and Allentown. Sullivan Graphics bought the company in 1989 and then sold it to RR Donnelley four years later. Within two years, Donnelley announced it was thinking about closing the 400,000 square foot press and bindery in Scranton, and unify all operations in Bloomsburg. Steve Zeisloft, a union officer for 10 years, including four years as vice-president, recalls Donnelley “essentially told us the company could expand if we worked with them, and if we didn’t they would shut down the plant and take the work elsewhere.” The threat of shutting the Bloomsburg plant, however, was undoubtedly a scare tactic. The Scranton bindery was in an old brick building; the Bloomsburg plant was newer, and had significant room for expansion.

Donnelley had several demands. It demanded government concessions and assistance. The Commonwealth gave the company $350,000; the county, local school district, and local township all waived taxes the first year and gave extremely favorable reduced rates the next four years. For the new contract with the union, known as the Green Contract, the corporation also demanded that most hourly workers take pay cuts, that they pay more for health care, that it would now take 15 years instead of 10 years for workers to earn a four week vacation, and that their union gives up the “closed shop” mandatory membership requirement.

Union workers would keep their jobs, but new employees would be allowed to choose whether or not to join the union. More important, new employees would not have to pay “fair share” contributions for representation, something common in unionized shops. Thus, the union would negotiate contracts, deal with workplace conditions and grievances, and provide for the common welfare of the workers, but receive no compensation from non-union members. In exchange, Donnelley agreed to increase the size of the plant and the number of employees. The “Green Contract” went into effect in June 1996, the same month the bindery expansion was completed.

Kirk Artley was one of more than a thousand who applied for a couple of hundred new jobs. He had been a Marine for 14 years and held jobs in other factories. The company, he says, “discouraged us from joining the union,” but like many, “I saw the necessity to be a member.” For the next 15 years, union- and non-union employees worked side by side. “We were family,” says one 30-year press technician, “and some employees saw a reason why the union was necessary.” Only because more than half of the workers were union members could Management not request decertification and the elimination of the union.

Several long-time employees say the atmosphere under the new owner changed. “The rules and regulations weren’t as stringent under Haddon, yet we still produced the quality,” says Mark Harris, a press technician who was union president 1998–2006. Donnelley “kept telling us quality is the most important part,” says Harris, “but at the same time they kept telling us they wanted more numbers.” Adding to the workers’ frustration was that most plant executives had never worked in production.

The new owners were “more interested in profits than in the workers,” says one 30-year employee, who asked that his name not be used. Another employee, who worked under Donnelley and the previous owners, says, “We did what we could with what we had, but you could only do what they let you do.” Artley explains, “We were constantly giving extra maintenance to the presses, trying to maintain quality.” Pride of workmanship was the main reason there wasn’t a significant decline in overall quality. Some of the presses were three decades old; with one exception, any “new” presses brought into the plant were already used. Because the four Harris presses were obsolete, says Artley, “we had to do our own machining to create parts.”

Mentally and Physically Exhausting

Mark Harris recalls that in addition to good wages and benefits, Haddon provided the “little things that helped our morale,” including company-paid Christmas parties. However, Donnelley cancelled the Christmas party and all other socials. “If we wanted a Christmas party,” says Artley, “we had to set it up and pay for it ourselves.”

But, with a physically demanding 13/1 schedule, parties were rare. With few exceptions, hourly employees, most of whom stood most of their shifts, were required to work 13 straight days with one day off, beginning in the late 1990s. Many worked double shifts. “You don’t mind it if the business is dying, because you do what you have to in order to make it work,” says Zeisloft, “but this was a profitable company, and there was always work.”

During the past few years, Donnelley cut back on the 13/1 agreement, but would resort to new contract language that limited hourly workers to “only” 311 days a year. Families, especially the younger ones, became used to a good annual income. They did not get used to the reality that there was little family time or that there was significant physical and mental stress because of the work conditions. Even if there was a reduction of printing contracts, the company apparently had plans only to reduce forced overtime, not eliminate it. “We looked forward to June and October,” says Zeisloft, “because those were the slowest times during the year, and we could be with our families more.”

Blocking and Stalling

Management tended to “blame everything on the union,” says Harris, who had been at the plant 32 years. Under the union contract is a three-step grievance process. If a problem couldn’t be resolved at one of three levels it went to arbitration. Under Haddon, problems tended to be solved internally, says Mark Harris. But under Donnelley, there was “a lot of blocking and stalling,” with some grievances taking as long as three years before going to arbitration. In some cases, says Harris, the union couldn’t afford the cost of arbitration, especially when faced by a corporation that seemed to have endless legal resources and the desire to never admit it did anything wrong. Nevertheless, the union, says Zeisloft, “fought as hard for the non-union workers as it did for its own members.”

The corporation’s blatant anti-union attitude was clearly seen in 2007. The United Network International (UNI), a federation of more than 1,000 unions representing 20 million unionized workers on four continents, had sent three detailed letters to Thomas Quinlan to request a meeting to discuss workplace conditions in the corporation’s overseas plants. The alliance specifically wanted to talk with the CEO about following the recommendations of the International Labour Organisation and various national laws about the rights to join a union, bargain collectively, and issues of discrimination and child labor. Quinlan ignored the letters. In May 2008, a delegation from UNI and the Teamsters went to the Chicago headquarters to meet with Quinlan. They left a letter of concern with an assistant; Quinlan had refused to meet with them.

The corporate attitude to workers, reflected in numerous ways in Bloomsburg, extended even after the closing was announced. On Friday, Sept. 2, the state sent a Rapid Response Team to Bloomsburg. The purpose was to give the workers information about numerous social services available, to discuss government benefits, including unemployment, and to help them find other work. At a preliminary meeting, with four union officers and three from Management, the team outlined what it wanted to do and to secure the company’s assistance. According to those who were there, the Human Resources manager, who was also on the list to be terminated, asked how long the meeting with the workers would be. She was told it would be 90 minutes. “Can it be done after work hours,” she asked, “because we have production goals to be met.” Alan Robinson, of the state’s Dept. of Labor and Industry, replied, “You’re not going to like this answer. You can pay now or you can pay late.” He was referring to the reality that the longer workers were unemployed the more RR Donnelley would be paying its share in unemployment taxes. “We were all surprised at her question,” says Artley, but they were even more surprised by what she said later. Reaffirming a Management attitude, she suggested, “Can we send these [workers] back to the floor . . . because we have production goals to meet.” The planning meeting ended at that point. “We stood outside just shaking our heads in disbelief,” says Artley.

Rhetoric is all that it Is

Kirk Artley is 56 years old. Like most of those who have been terminated, he’s not old enough to retire; in a nation that values youth, he’s not a prime candidate for employment, no matter what his competence and experience are. But, he’s more worried about his co-workers. “They have mortgages, they have bills like everyone else,” he says, “and now they’re out a job in an area that has few new jobs.” More important, most of those terminated are not only skilled labor, but have a long history in a highly technical field. Their knowledge and abilities will be lost if they are forced into other employment.

In the RR Donnelley Corporate Social Responsibility Report are four guiding principles. One is “Treating others the way that we want to be treated.” It’s nice rhetoric. If it were true.

[Bloomsburg plant management referred all calls to the Chicago headquarters. Three calls in a week to the Chicago headquarters for comment were not acknowledged or returned. Most workers at the Bloomsburg plant who voluntarily talked about the problems and issues asked that their names be concealed. Many refused to talk until after Oct. 24, the final date of their employment. One worker said, “You never know what they could do to us even in our last month there.” Another said his reason for not saying anything was, “They could fire me and deny me the severance benefits,” even though he and the company had signed a severance agreement. That fear of retaliation, whether real or perceived, was seldom seen under the management of Haddon Craftsmen.

Walter Brasch, a retired professor of mass communications, is a syndicated social issues columnist, and a member of The Newspaper Guild/Communications Workers of America, Authors Guild, and National Society of Newspaper Columnists. His latest book is Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, available through bookstores, Amazon.com, or the publisher’s website, www.greeleyandstone.com.]