Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

A Patch of Pumpkin Heads

10.29.11


by Rosemary and Walter Brasch

In a few days, millions of children will put on costumes, go door to door, and shout “trick or treat.” By Nov. 1, it’ll be over.

But, it won’t be over for Americans who will face presidential candidates for the next year. The candidates will continue to try to mask their true selves, while luring us with treats that disguise tricks. Let’s see what each of the candidates might be wearing for the coming year.

President Obama could dress as a stable boy. Since his first day on the job, he’s had to shovel whatever it is that was left for him in the stable. His opponents, however, think he should dress up as Pinocchio, with an exceptionally long wooden nose, and carrying a hammer and sickle.
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Rick Santorum had begun fading away after he was trounced in a Senate re-election campaign in Pennsylvania, too reactionary even for the Republicans. Wrap him in bandages as the Invisible Candidate.

The other Rick in the race is Perry. For awhile, he was the leader of the pack until the other candidates ganged up on him. Moderates thought he was too reactionary; the extreme right-wing thought he was too liberal. Dress him in a helmet, black leather jacket, and jeans, etch a few tattoos onto his body, and have him encased by a sandwich board. For a few brief shiny moments, he was everything that Camelot wasn’t.

The current front-runner is Herman Cain, whose mask is a cloth pizza slice, cut to the 9’s. But since he’ll be a passing pizza, as the Republican voters love and unlove their front runners, perhaps he could also wear a half-eaten slice with a red bull’s eye on his back.

Michele Bachmann has become one-with-a-teapot. Every voting citizen is likely to see her during the coming year spewing scalding steam, but unable to make quality tea.

Dr. Ron Paul could wear a surgeon’s scrubs, with a lot of fringe, able to leap onto any patient to cut fat and some muscle.

Jon Huntsman, perhaps the most intelligent and most civil of the candidates, could dress in a three-piece striped pants suit of the diplomat he once was. But, since civility isn’t a trait among this year’s Republican crop, the other candidates will probably throw a potato sack over him and bury him in the dirt.

The cast from The Wizard of Oz always presents good costume possibilities.

Mitt Romney, once standing straight, is now leaning so far right that he is likely to be kissing the floor soon. Perhaps he could dress as the Cowardly Lion and hope to find some courage.

It’s too obvious to dress Newt Gingrich as a salamander, none of whom have monogamous relationships. But, it is possible that this incarnation of the former House speaker could wear the mask as Dick Cheney, the man without a heart, who dresses as the Tin Man.

Dorothy, the sweet Innocent with intelligence and compassion, isn’t in the running for the Republican nomination. Sens. Susan Collins, Olympia Snow, and Lisa Murkowski are all possible Dorothies but have no reason to dress up since the Republican party doesn’t like anything sweet and moderate. And, of course, none of the candidates can dress as working people.

The Wizard manipulating everyone might be Roger Ailes, the brilliant president of Fox News. But, since we are writing the story, we’ll make this wizard evil, blustery, and dense. Cerberus, the three-headed vicious dog who prevents souls condemned to Hell from ever escaping, could be the disguise that best identifies Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity.

And, of course that leaves just one main character from the Oz saga, the Scarecrow without a brain. Need anyone look farther than the Alaskan Tundra for the one most likely to seize all the treats she can and still trick the people?

[Walter Brasch’s latest book is Before the First Snow, a look at America between 1964 and 1991, the eve of the Persian Gulf War. Rosemary Brasch is a retired labor grievance officer and Red Cross family services specialist.]

Pennsylvania union member plan to “educate” Congressman Dent on October 28th

10.21.11

Good morning!

In February of 2009, nearly 400 Labor activists and progressives met at the Hotel Bethlehem to “meet” Congressman Charles W. Dent as he bashed the Employee Free Choice Act to a couple of dozen business leaders at a Chamber Breakfast. As most of you know, EFCA isn’t even on a lit backburner, let alone the top of our priorities, but the Chamber sees fit to stir the pot in an effort to destabilize labor relations with companies while increasing billings for Atty. George Hlavac and the notorious, Tallman, Hudders & Sorrentino firm.

As you will see below, Dent is also taking money from the infamous Koch brothers who apparently have been illegally selling equipment to Iran. I do believe that we need to show the good Congressman that we are fed up with his nonsense!

Dent can fan the flames against labor; take money from American terrorists and yet he can’t find the time, nor the inclination to vote YES on a jobs bill. Worse yet, he has NO plans to encourage companies to hire. Dent needs to hear from us NOW.

Join the Lehigh Valley Labor Council and dozens of other unions and progressive groups on Friday, October 28th at the Hotel Bethlehem, 437 Main Street in Bethlehem Pa. We will begin greeting their honored guests at 10:30 and stay to 1:00 in order to give the Congressman a proper send off. If you recall from Feb. 2009, Dent entered and exited from the employee entrance of the hotel. This is the closest he has ever come to honest work. Let’s see if he has the guts to use the front door!

For questions on the event or if you want to r.s.v.p. respond via e-mail or call me at 610 360-9491.

In unity & solidarity,

Gregg Potter
President, Lehigh Valley Labor Council

610 360-9491
www.lehighvalleyclc.org

Teamsters Union Local 401 ready to begin first-time contract negotiations

10.21.11

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

Teamsters Union Local 401 ready to begin first-time contract negotiations

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 4th- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 401, South Washington Street in Wilkes-Barre, will begin first-time contract negotiations with Alexandria Northeast, Lasley Avenue, Hanover Industrial Estates in Wilkes-Barre.

The union won the right to represent workers of the company for the purpose of collective bargaining in a election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia.

The election was held on June 22nd but the IBT needed to wait until the NLRB made a ruling of whether one challenged vote would count or not. Local 401 won the election 11 for the union to 10 against.

The union won the right to represent all full-time and regular part-time warehouse employees including laborers, forklift drivers, leadmen, and stockers.

The employees were previously represented by the Teamsters, but voted to remove the union several years ago.

According to James Murphy, President and Business Representative of Local 401, who filed the petition requesting the NLRB election on behalf of the union, many of the workers felt management went back on promises made during the campaign when the workers voted to remove the IBT.

Mr. Murphy told the newspaper negotiating meetings are scheduled between the two parties. “We have meetings set-up to begin contract negotiations,” stated Mr. Murphy.

Union member files complaint against postal union

10.21.11

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

Union member files complaint against postal union

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 5th- A National Association of Letters Carriers (NALC) Union Branch 115 in Wilkes-Barre member filed a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging his union violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The newspaper discovered the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge while reviewing complaints and petitions filed at the NLRB. The Union News is the only member of the local media that regularly reviews the information and publishes their findings.

Jeffrey Steinman filed the complaint on behalf of himself on August 29th, 2011. According to the ULP Mr. Stenman resides in Kingston Township, Luzerne County.

The Employer Representative named on the complaint be be contacted is Mary Tyneway. Ms. Tyneway position with the USPS is not identified on the labor complaint.

The Union Representative named on the ULP to be contacted is Scott Correll. Mr. Correll position is also not identified on the labor complaint.

According to the complaint, the Union represents approximately 200 letter carriers of the United States Postal Service (USPS) in and around the City of Wilkes-Barre in Luzerne County.

“Within the last six months, the above Labor Organization breached its duty of fair representation by processing a grievance concerning the Charging Party’s termination in a perfunctory or careless manner,” states the ULP.

Labor Studies opportunity at Penn State University

10.21.11

The Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations at Penn State University is offering two-year Graduate Assistantships for labor-oriented students interested in pursuing a M.S. in HRER (Human Resources and Employment Relations) degree beginning Spring or Fall 2012. We are particularly interested in students who are planning to pursue careers working for unions. These assistantships cover all the costs of the degree program, including tuition and living costs, in exchange for 20 hours a week working with a faculty member as a research or teaching assistant. Applicants must meet requirements for admission to the M.S. program. Assistantships will be awarded on a competitive basis.

The Department has a long tradition of sending students on to work for unions and we believe it is important for programs like ours to continue to develop energetic, bright, and well-prepared young people for careers in the labor movement.

Applicants need to apply to the M.S. program and clearly state their interests in the labor movement in the applicant statement. They should also indicate their interest in being considered for financial assistance. More info on the M.S. program and the application process can be found at http://lser.la.psu.edu/students/MSprogram.shtml

Paul Clark, Professor and Department Head
Dept. of Labor Studies and Employment Relations
& Professor of Health Policy and Administration
Penn State University
3 Keller Bldg.
University Park, PA 16802
Ph.: 814-865-0752
Fax: 814-863-4169

Drinks Are on the House (and Senate)

10.21.11


by Walter Brasch

“Got any idea how to make a frozen daiquiri?”

Saturday. 6 a.m. A question no one else would have asked at that hour. I knew it had to be Marshbaum, my faux-friend foil.

“Too early to be drinking,” I mumbled, then hung up. The phone rang again.

“It’s not for me,” said Marshbaum, but since I’m going to own a bar, I should learn how to make drinks.”

“Marshbaum,” I said, reluctantly awake, “you can’t even afford to buy soap to wash your fuzzy navel! How are you going to afford a bar?”

“The government’s going to bankroll me,” he said matter-of-factly.

“New kind of welfare?”

“Old kind of subsidies,” said Marshbaum. “First thing those Santa Clauses in the red ink suits are going to do is to help me find an appropriate location.”

“Something available in Afghanistan?” I asked.

“It’s called exploration subsidy. Thanks to those patriotic pure-bred Republicans who just blocked the President’s proposal to eliminate $2 billion in subsidies a year to oil, gas, and coal companies, all I have to do is say I want to build my bar over a proposed but hidden coal vein. Doesn’t even matter if there’s coal or not. All I have to do is say I think there may be coal. Later, I get a low-interest small business loan, build the bar, and deduct the mortgage interest from my income taxes.”

“That deduction is meant to allow the common person the right of home ownership.”

“And what’s more common than taking someone else’s money? Besides, it isn’t the middle-class that gets most of the benefit.” He explained that almost 100 percent of everyone with at least a $100,000 mortgage takes the interest deduction, while fewer than 20 percent of Americans below the poverty line get federal rental subsidies.

“You’ll still have to pay property taxes,” I reminded him. He reminded me that it didn’t matter.

“Most local and state governments will be so happy to have me build a business and hire minimum-wage bar girls, they’ll probably waive my taxes the first year or two and then give me tax rebates for a couple of more years.”

“O.K., for awhile you have a cheap bar. How are you planning to keep the lights on?”
“Electric companies save about $210 million a year when they buy electricity below cost from the federal dams. I just tap in on some low-voltage energy.”

“Even with cheap utilities, you’ll still have problems keeping it going.”

“Only problem I’ll have is deciding which line on the income tax form is for deductions for advertising, dinners, and research at the country club.”

“I suppose you have other scams?”

“Other subsidies, just like everyone else,” said Marshbaum snippily correcting me.

“The government pays farmers about $20 billion a year to grow feed grains to assure there will be an adequate supply. I plan to get some of those bucks by selling malt liquor. Rye. Barley. Wheat. Corn. It’s the Basic Four food groups. I can even water down my drinks since the government also provides about $400 million a year in water subsidies.”

“The agriculture subsidy program was begun during the Great Depression to benefit poor farmers who—” Before I could finish, Marshbaum interrupted.

“It’s true that the largest 10 percent of the corporate farms get over 75 percent of the subsidies. But, as a poor struggling farmer, I may get $500. That’s still money in the pocket.”

“So, you’re saying that the government wants you to sell more drinks?”

“And less too,” he said. “There’s far too many of those nauseous appletinis. I might be able to get a government subsidy not to grow apples or tinis.” He thought a moment. “Maybe I can feature kahlúas. The government has a minimum price on milk. I may even get NAFTA trade concessions for my Friday Night Margarita promotions. Olé, y’all!”

“Aren’t you just blowing a lot of smoke past me?”

“Smoke,” said Marshbaum, “will fill my bar. It’s the least I can do to help the tobacco cartel, which gets about a billion dollars a year. I’m sure the tobacco growers would want me to have several cigarette machines in my bar.”

“And what happens when the bar fails. Your business record is as bad as cheap vinyl on a 50-year-old 45.”

“I expect to fail,” said Marshbaum. “It’s all part of my business plan.”

“Why would you want to fail?” I naively asked.

“So I can get money to keep from failing even more. Three trillion went to financial institutions. I figure I should get something for being greedy and a failure. That’s the American way!”

“Even if all of what you said is true, President Obama has been trying to reduce subsidies to the rich and to eliminate most of the annual $100 billion in corporate welfare.”

“As long as the Republicans control Congress,” said Marshbaum, “the American way of life will be preserved. Want a drink now?”

[Walter Brasch is author of the social issues mystery, Before the First Snow, and 16 other books. Before the First Snow is available at www.greeleyandstone.com, amazon.com, and other stores.]

OCCUPY WALL STREET: Separating Fact from Media

10.14.11

By WALTER BRASCH

Newspaper columnist Ann Coulter, spreading the lies of the extreme right wing, called the Occupy Wall Street protestors, “tattooed, body-pierced, sunken-chested 19-year-olds getting in fights with the police for fun.” She claimed the protestors, now in the thousands in New York, are “directionless losers [who] pose for cameras while uttering random liberal clichés lacking any reason or coherence.” (Several hundred thousand of these “directionless losers” are expected to attend rallies in more than 650 cities, Oct. 15.)

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), House majority leader, called the protest nothing more than “growing mobs,” completely oblivious to his myriad statements that he supports “mobs” when they are from the Tea Party. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, tacking as far right as possible to avoid anyone thinking he was once a moderate, called the protest “dangerous.”

Republican presidential contender Herman Cain, in a moment that demonstrated how out of touch he is with the economic reality of the five-year recession, argued, “Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks; if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself!”

Glenn Beck, too irrational even for Fox News, which terminated him less than two years after it tried to make him a TV superstar, told his radio audience, the protestors “will come for you and drag you into the streets and kill you.”

Lauren Ellis of Mother Jones, at one time a cutting edge magazine for social justice, believed that the protestors have a “lack of focus.” Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, wrote, “A protest without an objective is like a party or a picnic of the unemployed and the indolent. Unless you have an objective, what are you doing out there?”

First, let’s see just who these protestors really are. And then, let’s see what they stand for, since the mainstream media, of which Fox News is an entrenched part, don’t seem to be getting the message from the people.

The protestors rightly say they are part of the 99 percent; the other one percent have 42 percent of the nation’s wealth, the top 20 percent have more than 85 percent of the nation’s wealth, the highest accumulation since 1928, the year before the Great Depression. Even the most oblivious recognize the protestors as a large cross-section of America. They are students and teachers; housewives, plumbers, and physicians; combat veterans from every war from World War II to the present. They are young, middle-aged, and elderly. They are high school dropouts and Ph.D.s. They are from all religions and no religion, and a broad spectrum of political views.

Support has come from senior politicians with very different philosophies. Vice President Joe Biden believes the protests are because “In the minds of the vast majority of the American–the middle class is being screwed.” Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), unlike a vast majority of Republican politicians, stated, “If they were demonstrating peacefully, and making a point, and arguing our case, and drawing attention to the Fed—I would say, ‘good!’”

Second, like all protests, there are different opinions within the ranks. But, there is a core of beliefs. The protestors are fed up with corporate greed that has a base of corporate welfare and special tax benefits for the rich. They support the trade union movement, Medicare and Social Security, affordable health care for all citizens, and programs to assist the unemployed, disenfranchised, and underclass. A nation that cannot take care of the least among us doesn’t deserve to be called the best of us.

They’re mad that the home mortgage crisis, begun when greed overcame ethics and was then magnified by the failure of regulatory agencies and the Congress to provide adequate oversight, robbed all of America of its financial security. During the first half of this year alone, banks and lending agencies have sent notices to more than 1.2 million homeowners whose loans and mortgages are in default status, according to RealtyTrak. Of course, less regulation is just what conservatives want—after all, their mantra has become, “no government in our lives.”

The protestors are mad that the wealthiest corporations pay little or no taxes. They point to the Bank of America, part of the mortgage crisis problem, which earned a $4.4 billion profit last year, but received a $1.9 billion tax refund on top of a bailout of about $1 trillion. They look at ExxonMobil, which earned more than $19 billion profit in 2009, paid no taxes and received a $156 million federal rebate. Its profit for the first half of 2011 is about $ 21.3 billion.

They rightfully note that it is slimy when General Electric, whose CEO is a close Obama advisor, earned a $26 billion profit during the past five years, but still received a $4.1 billion refund.

They’re mad that the federal government has given the oil industry more than $4 billion in subsidy, although the industry earned more than $1 trillion in profits the past decade.

They’re mad that Goldman Sachs, after receiving a $10 billion government bailout, and a $2.7 billion profit in the first quarter of 2011, shipped about 1,000 jobs overseas. During the past decade, corporations, which have paid little or no federal taxes, have outsourced at least 2.4 million jobs and are hoarding trillions which could be used to spur job growth and the economy.

They’re mad that corporations that took federal bailout money gave seven-figure bonuses to their executives.

They’re mad that the U.S., of all industrialized countries, has the highest ratio of executive pay to that of the average worker. The U.S. average is about 300 to 475 times that of the average worker. In Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, and England, the average CEO earns between 10 and 20 times what the average worker earns, and no one in those countries believes the CEOs are underpaid.

They’re mad that 47 percent of all persons who earned at least $250,000 last year, including about 1,500 millionaires, paid no taxes, according to Newsmax. If you’re a Republican member of Congress, that’s perfectly acceptable. They’re the ones who thought President Obama was launching class warfare against the rich by trying to restore the tax rate for the wealthiest Americans. They succeeded in blocking tax reform and a jobs bill, but failed to understand the simple reality—if there is class warfare, it is being waged by the elite greedy and their Congressional lackeys.

Herman Cain, Fox TV pundit Sean Hannity, and others from the extreme right wing said the protestors are un-American, apparently for protesting corporate greed. The Occupy Wall Street protestors aren’t un-American; those who defend the destruction of the middle class by defending greed, and unethical and illegal behavior, are.

[Walter Brasch is an award-winning syndicated columnist, and the author of 17 books. His latest book is Before the First Snow, a social issues mystery set in rural Pennsylvania.]

Union’s representing FAA employees blame Republicans for partial shutdown

10.13.11

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

Union’s representing FAA employees blame Republicans for partial shutdown

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, September 21st- A brief funding extension for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was passed by the United States Congress on September 10th, that will protect the jobs and livlihhoods of aviation professionals until at least December, 2011.

The Federal Aviation Administration was partial shutdown in August after Congress in Washington, DC failed to resolve differences between congressional Democrats and Republicans on FAA spending. The shutdown effected tens of thousands of construction jobs across the nation along with modernization projects.

The partial shutdown was caused after members of the Republican House of Representatives sought to eliminate $16.5 million in federal subsidies for 13 rural airports that would have been forced to stop providing service on routes that do not make money for airline carriers.

Senate Democrats refused to support the cuts and legislation on the FAA’s operating budget was stalled. Congress took their August recess without resolving the issue.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) Union in Washington, DC urged lawmakers to pass an FAA extension before recess. However, a bipartisan compromise was reached on August 4th that ended the partial shutdown of the FAA. Congress suspended their August recess to vote on the measure on August 5th.

The agreement extended the FAA’s operating authority through mid-September. The legislation includes the rural airports subsidies.

Congress then agreed to extend the funding of the FAA until December 31st.

“This FAA extension is a jobs bill and it directly impacts the lives of real people, skilled aviation professionals who play a vital role in the safety critical function of the FAA,” stated Paul Rinaldi, President of the NATCA, which represents 4,000 FAA employees including air traffic controllers. Air traffic controllers were not effected by the stalemate.

However, the union represents nearly 1,200 FAA Engineers and Architects, FAA Airports Division and Aviation Technical Systems Specialists. Those workers were laid-off during the shutdown which stopped the modernization projects throughout the nation.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) Union, which represents airline employees, including mechanics and stewards, stated Republicans have an double standard on the FAA funding. According to the CWA, the Republican leadership successfully blocked Senator Tom Coburn (Republican-Oklahoma), from shutting down the FAA over his hatred of bike paths sound battiers.

“If Republican colleagues successfully pressured Tom Coburn over his extreme views that could have led to another FAA shutdown, why won’t they do the same to Representative John Mica (Republican-Florida) and his extreme, union-busting views that led to the FAA shutdown,” said CWA Communications Director Candice Johnson.

The union told the newspaper that the shutdown was caused by Mr. Mica’s zeal for union-busting which inserted into the House version of the long-term FAA Reauthorization a provision that would count non-participating voters as “no” voters in union elections for aviation and rail workers, a standard different from every other form of democratic election.

Study shows Lehigh Valley children struggling with hunger

10.13.11

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

Study shows Lehigh Valley children struggling with hunger

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, September 22nd- The Second Harvest Food Bank of Lehigh Valley and Northeast Pennsylvania and Feeding America released a new study showing that 21.7 percent of children under the age of 18 living in the Food Bank’s six-county service area are struggling with hunger. Second Harvest is an affiliate of Feeding America, serving Lehigh, Northampton, Monroe, Wayne and Carbon Counties of Pennsylvania.

Nationally, one in six Americans overall are food insecure, the rate for children is much higher, nearly one in four children are food insecure.

The study provides data for every county across the nation. The highest rate of child food insecurity in the six-county area is in Carbon County, where the rate is 24.4 percent. There 3,250 children live in households that took access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. In Carbon County, the rate of food insecurity among the general population is 13.9 percent. Children are disproportionately affected by a household’s struggle to put food on the table.

Lehigh County’s rate is 23.2 percent, second only to Carbon County. In Lehigh County, 18,560 children are food insecure. The rates for the other four counties in Second Harvest’s service area are: Northampton County, 20.6 percent, 13,530 children; Monroe, 19.9 percent, 8,090 children; and Pike and Wayne Counties, 21.8 percent, 2,360 children.

“America is failing its families with children. Here in the Lehigh Valley we are doing the best we can, but there is no way our best is enough without effective public policies.

Those who are not getting enough good food to eat are less productive, less able to go about their daily tasks. The risks to their health and well-being have consequences for all of us. We shouldn’t be surprised if, 15 years from now, the children on whom we turned our backs, turn their backs on society,” stated Alan Jennings, Executive director of the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, whose agency operates the Second Harvest Food Bank.

The Second Harvest Food Bank of Lehigh Valley and Northeast Pennsylvania serves low-income people in a six-county region through its own network of 200 non-profit organizations and churches. More than 66,000 individuals in this region rely on Second Harvest for food that they consume each month. Nearly 45 percent of the people served by these agencies are chilren. In 2011, the Food Bank distruted over 5.9 percent million pounds of food through its member agencies. Second Harvest Food Bank is a program of the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley.

CARDIN STATEMENT ON TRADE AGREEMENTS

10.13.11

CARDIN STATEMENT ON TRADE AGREEMENTS

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), a member of the Senate Finance and Foreign Relations Committees, issues the followings statement on the Senate approval of bilateral trade agreement with Korea, Panama and Colombia:

“I strongly believe that international trade is good for America, but it must be done properly. Such international agreements can boost our country’s ties with like-minded nations that share our values, helping to strengthen alliances and advancing American interests abroad. American workers can compete with any other workers in the world, but the playing field must be fair and have enforceable rules. Formal trade agreements between nations must be based international standards and protect workers, both at home and with our trading partners. Trade must not reduce us all to the lowest common-denominator.

“I am disappointed by the passage of the Colombia-U.S. bilateral trade agreement. Colombia’s human rights abuses, as well as intimidation and violence against labor leaders, have been documented by the U.S. State Department as recently as 2010. Trade with America is a benefit for deserving nations that share our values, especially with respect to labor rights. Given Colombia’s history and the weakness of enforcement provisions in this specific agreement, I could not support its approval. As a nation, we cannot condone sacrificing the rights of workers in the name of trade.”

Sen. Carper Votes for President Obama’s American Jobs Act

10.12.11

Sen. Carper Votes for President Obama’s American Jobs Act

WASHINGTON – Tonight, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) released the following statement on his vote for President Obama’s American Jobs Act (S.1660):

“The American people want their elected officials in Washington to do what’s right to help our country continue to recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. One of the greatest challenges facing the First State and the nation in the near-term is getting Delawareans and Americans back to work. Today, we had an opportunity to meet that challenge by moving forward to consider the American Jobs Act, President Obama’s job-creating initiative that would provide tax relief to American businesses and workers in order to grow our economy. The bill would also encourage new hiring through tax credits; invest in infrastructure projects to modernize schools and rebuild homes; protect the jobs of hundreds of thousands of teachers and first responders; and reshape the unemployment insurance system to include innovative, work-based reforms.

“These measures would all help foster what I refer to as the nurturing environment for job creation that businesses need to expand and create jobs right here at home. It’s also worth noting that the commonsense measures included in the American Jobs Act have enjoyed bipartisan support in the past and the cost of the legislation is fully paid-for so it doesn’t interfere with our efforts to curb our federal debt and deficit. At the end of the day, putting Americans back to work and growing our economy are also central to the effort to reduce our massive federal deficit. I believe that creating jobs today and working to reduce our debt and deficits in the long-run can be complementary, and Congress should not shy away from either challenge.

“While I’m disappointed that more of my colleagues didn’t join me today in voting to support the American Jobs Act, we can’t afford to postpone actions to help spur job preservation and creation in Delaware and across the country. We should continue our efforts to pass the Jobs Act as soon as possible by whatever means we can – even if that means taking a piece-by-piece approach. Clearly, there’s a lot of work to be done to address our fiscal challenges, whether it’s creating jobs and growing our economy or whether it’s reining in our federal debt and deficit. In Delaware, our elected leaders work closely together and don’t shy away from compromise in order to find the common ground necessary to strengthen our local economies. Just last week, I was in Delaware City with leaders from the federal, state, and local government – as well as from the business and labor communities – to reopen its local refinery, which has created and will create hundreds of jobs. This project exemplifies the spirit of unity that pushes Delaware’s leaders to do their best for their constituents. It’s time for those of us in Congress to show that we too are capable of governing effectively by putting aside partisanship and enacting strong measures to help move our economy forward again.”

CARDIN HAILS PASSAGE OF LANDMARK JOB-BUILDING ANTI-CURRENCY MANIPULATION LEGISLATION

10.12.11

CARDIN HAILS PASSAGE OF LANDMARK JOB-BUILDING ANTI-CURRENCY MANIPULATION LEGISLATION

Washington, DC — U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, released the following statement following the passage of the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act (S. 1619), of which he is an original cosponsor.

“As our economy recovers from the most devastating economic recession since the Great Depression and we work to create good-paying, high-quality jobs for Americans, we cannot ignore countries like China that engage in clearly unfair trading practices. America cannot stand alone while our competitors break the rules - American companies and American workers depend on a level playing field when it comes to international trade and that is why it’s important that we move aggressively to counter any threat to our economy or our workers who may be harmed from clearly unfair trading practices.

“This bill gives us a powerful tool to address currency manipulation by any country – manipulation that reduces the price of imported goods, while raising the price of American made goods internationally. This legislation will help reduce our trade imbalances and, most importantly, create American jobs. I call on Speaker Boehner and the House of Representatives to quickly pass this critically important bill.”

Sands Casino employee files three labor complaint’s against employer

10.04.11

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

Sands Casino employee files three labor complaint’s against employer

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, September 22nd- An employee of Sands Casino in Bethlehem filed several labor complaints with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging the gambling resort violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

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

The newspaper discovered Sands Casino employee, George Boner of Birch Street in Easton, filed three ULP’s against the casino operators. Mr. Bonser is a security officer at Sands.

The Law Enforcement Employees Benevolent Association of Catskills, New York, on July 21st won the right to represent all security officers of the casino for the purpose of collective bargaining.

The NLRB conducted a representation election on July 21st and the approximately 92 eligible to vote employees voted 51 to 35 to be represented by the union.

All three ULP’s were filed with the NLRB by Mr. Bonser on September 8th.

Mr. Bonser alleges on a complaint he received a three days suspension for a company policy violation. However, the facts the company provided on the policy conflicts with the written statement he gave to the Pennsylvania Gaming Commission Board (PGCB). The three day suspension is not consistent with other punishments given to other security officers for similiar incidents.

A second ULP alleges that a letter signed by company president Robert DeSalvio, which was handed out by casino supervisors to all security officers before the July 21st union election, offered an additional $750.00 flat payment per year for ten years for the officers 401K pension plan if they vote “no” for union representation.

The third complaint alleges Sands violated Section 8 (a), subsections (1) and (7) of the NLRAct.

“A change in policy set forth by the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem employee handbook was made to start on August 1st, 2011. This policy has to do with overtime hours worked by an employee who also is using flex time during that same week. This change will offer more monetary value to the overtime worked. This change was made available to all hourly employees of the casino with the exception of the security officers,” states the ULP.

Lehigh Valley unemployment rate rises to 8.8 percent

10.04.11

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

Lehigh Valley unemployment rate rises to 8.8 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, September 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 8.8 percent, increasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report. The MSA includes Lehigh, Northampton, and Carbon Counties of Pennsylvania and Warren County, New Jersey. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was 8.8 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 9.4 percent. The Johnstown MSA has the third highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 8.7 percent with the Williamsport MSA fourth at 8.1 percent.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 7.8 percent, increasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report, which was released approximately four weeks ago. There are 494,000 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 6,303,000 and 5,809,000 of them have employment. The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was reported to be 9.4 percent, increasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report.

There are 13,931,000 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 6.1 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 6.6 percent and the Lansaster MSA has the third lowest unemployment rate at 6.9 percent. The Altoona MSA has the fourth lowest unemployment rate at 7.1 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 2,941,800 with 257,600 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor force at 1,215,100 with 90,100 without jobs; the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force at 279,400 with 25,600 without employment. The Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force at 279,800 with 20,300 unemployed and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the fifth largest civilian labor force at 278,900 with 26,100 without employment.

Carbon County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 10.4 percent, increasing by four-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and decreasing by four-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Carbon County has a civilian labor force of 30,900 with 3,200 residents without jobs, increasing by 100 from the previous report and dropping by 100 from twelve months ago.

Northampton County has the lowest unemployment rate within the MSA at 8.6 percent, increasing by one-tenth 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 151,000. There are 13,000 Northampton County residents without jobs, rising by 200 from the previous report and dropping by 800 during the past twelve months.

Lehigh County has a unemployment rate of 9.0 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. Lehigh County has a civilian labor force of 175,500. There are 15,700 Lehigh County residents without jobs, increasing by 400 from the previous report and dropping by 1,100 from one year ago.

Manufacturing jobs decreased by 300 from the previous report.

There are 334,000 nonfarm jobs within the MSA, increasing by 3,700 from the previous report and dropping by 6,300 from twelve months ago.

Mexican and American labor leaders criticizes NAFTA

10.04.11

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

Mexican and American labor leaders criticizes NAFTA

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, September 20th- Mexico’s independent labor unions on September 13th, which are facing ongoing repression from authorities and corporation’s, many from the United States, while the working people are being driven deeper into poverty through the erosion of their wages and human rights, testified before the United States Congress. The briefing was sponsored by House of Representative Mike Michaud (Democrat- Maine) on behalf of the Congressional Labor Caucus and International Worker Right Caucus.

“More than 15 years ago, we were told that NAFTA would create a thriving middle class in Mexico. Economists and government officials said that the agreement would lead to growing trade surpluses and that hundreds of thousands of jobs would be gained. As our friends from Mexico can attest, NAFTA did not bring these benefits. Instead, workers’ rights are being violated on a regular basis, and both the United States and Mexico are worse off for it,” stated Congressman Michaud.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was passed by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

Three Mexican union leaders participated in the caucus and President of the United Steelworkers of America (USW) International Union, Leo Gerard also spoke before the committee.

“It is clear that the agenda of the Mexican government is to keep workers’ wages low and use that as an economic tool, and we are here today so that representatives and their staff have the opportunity to hear the facts. The Fox and Calderon administrations in Mexico have done everything they could to repress the independent unions that were actually raising the standards of living for Mexican workers,” said Mr. Gerard.

The panel of union leaders provided a detailed accounting of the windening threat to the well-being and livlihoods of Mexican workers, increasing violent acts against unions and the growing and detrimental inequality between United States workers and their Mexican counterparts.

“The United States government must condemn this repression and ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to bust unions in Mexico. It is to our advantage to help Mexican workers expose the kind of oppression and persecution they face every day. And it is very important to workers in America that Mexican workers get an opportunity to raise their standards of living,” Mr. Gerard told the congressional caucus.

The three Mexican union leaders who spoke at the event were: Francisco Hernandez Juarez, General Secretary of the Mexican Union of Telephone Workers (STRM); Marco del Toro, Legal Counsel of the National Union of Mine, Metal Steel and Allied Workers of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSSRM) also known as Los Mineros; and Sergio Beltran Reyes, Internal and External affairs and Recording Secretary for Los Mineros.

“We are going through very difficult times and are on the receiving end of a high level of aggression and anti-unionism by the Mexican government and business leaders. The attacks on Los Mineros and its elected leader, the dismissal of more than 44,000 electrical workers and the threat of a new labor law all designed to reverse 100 years of rights for Mexican workers. The Mexican government through its spokespeople has been trying to sell the idea that they defend labor and human rights. We’d like to show how they do not,” stated Mr. Hernadez Juarez.

Mr. Reyes said in addition to speaking for Mexican working people at the briefing, the group would also meet with congressional representatives to discuss the worker rights and safety standards. He highlighted the repeated efforts by the Calderon administration to strip Los Mineros of its rights to exist as the union continues a four-year strike by 1,000 copper miners over safety issues against Gruop Mexico.