Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

Penn State Trustees Violated State Law

11.22.11

by WALTER BRASCH

The Penn State Board of Trustees may have several times violated state law for its failure to publicly announce meetings and how it handled the firing of Coach Joe Paterno. However, these violations may be the least of the Board’s worries, as it scrambles to reduce fall-out from the scandal that began with revelations that an assistant football coach may be a serial child molester, and that the university may have been negligent.

The state’s Sunshine Act [65 Pa.C.S.A §701–710] requires all public bodies to publish notices at least 24 hours before their meetings. The purpose is to eliminate secret meetings. Penn State, a private university, which received $279 million from the Commonwealth for its 2011–2012 budget, is bound by the Sunshine Act.

A public notice did appear in the Centre Daily Times, State College’s hometown newspaper, three days before a regularly-scheduled board meeting, Friday Nov. 11. But, the Trustees were caught flat-footed the week before by what eventually turned into the largest scandal in its history. These are events the Trustees should have been aware of for at least two years; certainly, the Board should have known there was a problem when the Harrisburg Patriot-News broke a story in March that the Grand Jury was investigating former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

But, based upon Board incompetence, there wasn’t even a crisis management plan in place when Sandusky was arrested Nov. 5, and Athletic Director Tim Curley; and Gary Schultz, senior vice-president of finance and administration, were charged with perjury and failure to report a crime to police. The Trustees allowed Curley to take an administrative leave, and Schultz to return to retirement. Schultz, who had worked for Penn State for 40 years, had retired in 2009, but had been brought back on an interim basis in July. Both Curley’s and Schultz’s decisions were probably influenced by the Board demands.

During the two weeks, beginning Nov. 5, the Board had conference calls, executive sessions, and emergency meetings, all without public notice.

Conference calls involving a quorum without public notice aren’t allowed. At least one conference call was conducted on Saturday, Nov. 5. A meeting by telephone is just as illegal as a meeting with all persons at a table if it isn’t publically announced.

Several emergency meetings were held the next few days. The Sunshine Act allows emergency meetings. The Trustees conducted meetings Sunday, Nov. 6, Monday, Nov. 7, and Wednesday, Nov. 9. By law, an emergency meeting can be called, without public notice, only for “the purpose of dealing with a real or potential emergency involving a clear and present danger to life or property.” [65 Pa.C.S.A §703] Even in the wildest stretch of that definition, there was no clear and present danger. That occurred years ago when the university didn’t contact police to report the actions of a man believed to be a child molester.

Executive sessions to discuss personnel issues and some other items are allowed—if they are announced at public meetings “immediately prior or subsequent to the executive session.” [65 Pa.C.S.S. §708(b)] But, they were not. About 10 p.m., Nov. 9, following an emergency meeting, Board vice-chair John P. Surma, flanked by 21 of the 31 trustees, publicly announced it had fired Paterno and PSU president Graham Spanier. Surma told the media the decision was unanimous, thus indicating a vote was done in secret and not under public scrutiny as required.

The Trustees also violated both Paterno’s and Spanier’s rights under law. It’s doubtful the Board members, most of them in corporate business, even care. How they handled Paterno’s firing is indicative they have little regard for employee rights and due process. Paterno had previously said he would retire at the end of the season, since he believed, “the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can.” The Trustees, undoubtedly, believed firing Paterno immediately would take heat off the university. Again, it was wrong.

Although executive sessions may be conducted in private, the Sunshine Act requires that “individual employees or appointees whose rights could be adversely affected may request, in writing, that the matter or matters be discussed at an open meeting.” [65 Pa.C.S.A. §708(a)(1)] The Board, according to a report in the Easton Express-Times, had ordered Spanier to resign or be fired. He chose to resign. Paterno was not contacted by the Board prior to termination, either to request to be heard or to request an open meeting. Paterno was informed of his termination by a hand-delivered letter that demanded he place a phone call to a board member. There was no indication in that letter of what the Board’s decision was.

Violating the law could result in invalidating decisions made at those meetings, and penalties of $1,000 for each violation; until September, the penalty had been a paltry $100. But here’s a nice twist. The Trustees probably don’t care.

A district attorney must approve prosecution for Sunshine Act violations. Although the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association (PNA) receives about 1,000 inquiries each year about what may be Sunshine Act and Right-to-Know law violations, “it’s rare for criminal prosecutions of the Sunshine Act,” according to Melissa Melewsky, media law council for the PNA. Civil actions by individuals are likewise difficult to pursue because of significant costs.

Here’s another surprise. Because of heavy lobbying to the legislature, whose members are feasted at one home game a year and can also receive comp football tickets to other home football games, Penn State is not bound by the state’s Right-to-Know law. This means that innumerable records, including minutes of all meetings— both public and those that are illegal under the Sunshine Act—can still be secret.

Here’s something not so surprising, however. Penn State’s Public Affairs office punted all questions to the Board. The Board arrogantly has refused to answer both verbal and written questions. However, possibly using public funds, it did hire a PR firm to handle crisis management issues. We won’t know the cost—that’s something it doesn’t have to tell the taxpayers.

[Assisting on this story was Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel of the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association. Walter Brasch, as president of both the Keystone chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and Pennsylvania Press Club, was active in fighting for a stronger Right-to-Know law and enforcement of the Sunshine Act. He is an award-winning syndicated columnist and retired university professor. His latest book is Before the First Snow, a mystery/thriller set in Pennsylvania.]

NALC Branch 17 files complaint against Postal Service

11.15.11

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

NALC Branch 17 files complaint against Postal Service

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Union Branch 17 in Scranton, filed a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging the United States Postal Service (USPS) violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge was filed on October 17th, 2011 by Branch 17.

The newspaper discovered the complaint while reviewing Unfair Labor Practices’s and organizing petitions filed at the NLRB. The Union News is the only member of the local media that reviews and publishes the information.

“Scranton Postmaster has failed to adhere to a grievance settlement. Management has not restored City Carrier Erin Flynn’s leave that was taken from her unjustly. They have appealed it to the Area and Area representative Mark A. Sisto agreed with DRT decision and instructed management to make the proper leave adjustment,” states the ULP.

Branch 17 represents letter carriers of the USPS in and around Scranton while Branch 115 represents the carriers in and around Wilkes-Barre.

The “Postmaster is now out on sick leave furthering the delay to make the grievant whole. There have been many attempts to get management to make the adjustments through the Business Agents office and the AREA to no avail,” states the labor complaint.

The ULP was filed on behalf of NALC Branch 17 by Thomas Gavin, President of the the Union.

The employer representative indentified on the complaint to be contacted is Linda Sosniak, Scranton Postmaster.

Verizon Communications and union’s still without pact’s

11.15.11

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

Verizon Communications and union’s still without pact’s

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 16th- Nearly two months since members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) International Union and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union (IBEW) agreed to return to their jobs after a two-week work-stoppage against Verizon Communications Inc., the parties have yet to reach a new successor contract agreement.

The union’s went on strike August 7th against Verizon Communications because of the failure of reaching a new pact with the communications company and returned to their jobs without new contracts on August 23rd. The previous contract expired at mid-night August 6th.

The two union’s and the company agreed to work under the “terms and conditions” of the previous contract for thirty days while negotiations continued. However, under the return to work agreement, should a new contract not be reached within the thirty days, the two sides could agree to extend the pact for yet another thirty days, which has happened.

The company recently began placing full-page advertisements in daily newspapers in New York and Philadelphia stating that the union’s have inflexible work rules and want union-represented employees to contribute to their own healthcare premiums.

The strike involved approximately 45,000 workers across the Northeastern part of the nation, including the region. The strike was the first by the union’s against Verizon since 1998, when the dispute lasted 13 weeks.

The CWA represents around 35,000 of the workers which include members of Local 13000 and Local 13500, which represents Verizon employees throughout the region. The IBEW represents around 10,000 of the employees including members of Local 1944, which represents workers in the region.

The two sides were unable to reach an agreement because of Verizon’s insistence of “give-back” despite the company making $3 billion in profits during the first half of 2011.

The concessions included work-rules, cuts in employee pensions, and forcing workers to pay toward their health insurance premiums.

During the strike the company placed full-page advertisements in daily newspapers throughout the region, and the placing of new advertisements could suggest the company is preparing for another labor dispute.

Union workers have randomly conducted informational picketing at Verizon stores throughout the region since the strike ended.

Anti-American worker trade agreements passed in Washington

11.15.11

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

Anti-American worker trade agreements passed in Washington

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, On October 12th the United States Congress overwhelmingly passed trade agreements with South Korea, Columbia and Panama despite the opposition of labor unions and the failure of past agreements to create jobs as promised.

In rapid succession the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate passed the trade pacts, and President Barack Obama supported the passage of the legislation, which will lower or eliminate tarriffs.

The trade agreements were supported by many Democratic legislators that have in the past received labor support and have promised to support “pro-labor” legislation.

United States Senator Robert Casey (Democrat-Pennsylvania), a Scranton resident, voted against the trade agreements citing they will only hurt the American workers just as the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993 has done. The trade pacts was also signed into law by a Democratic President, Bill Clinton.

On September 13th, Mexico’s independent labor unions testified before the United States Congress on the failure of NAFTA to improve the lives of Mexican workers as was promised before the trade agreement became law. 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.

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.

Mr. Casey stated Pennsylvania has lost 300,000 jobs since NAFTA was implemented despite the projected new jobs increases.

The trade agreements with South Korea, Columbia and Panama were first proposed under Republican President George Bush four years ago.

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.

Meanwhile, Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) legislation was passed by Congress following the vote of the trade pacts. The TAA is intended to help workers displaced by foreign trade. Many legislators would not support TAA unless the trade agreements were ratified first.

Postal workers conducting public campaign to save service

11.15.11

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

Postal workers conducting public campaign to save service

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION- October 20th- The union’s that represents workers of the United States Postal Service (USPS) in Lackawanna County have begun a public campaign to inform the general public about possible service cuts should local postal offices are closed and the mail processing center in Scranton is eliminated.

Kevin Gallagher, President of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 101 in Scranton, opposes the possible closure of the Scranton mail center in South Scranton by the United States Postal Service (USPS).

The mail processing facility, just off the Davis Street exit of Interstate 81 in South Scranton, is one of more than 250 across the nation under review by the USPS for the next several months that could be closed. If the processing facility is closed the local mail operations would be moved to the Lehigh Valley, meaning when a letter is mailed in Scranton for delivery in Wilkes-Barre it will first be sent to Bethlehem and back to Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Two years ago the mail processing operations in Wilkes-Barre was eliminated and moved to Scranton.

Mr. Gallagher believes the USPS wants to “down the road” close all processing facilities throughout Pennsylvania and combine all operations into their Philadelphia and Pittsburgh processing centers. “Mail delivery will suffer. There is no way cuts like these won’t hurt customer service,” added Mr. Gallagher.

Mr. Gallagher told the nerwspaper the main problem is that a bill Congress passed, which oversees the USPS, in 2006 is pushing the agency into bankruptcy. The law imposed a burden on the USPS that no other government agency or private company bears. It requires the Postal Service to pay a 75-year liability in just 10 years, to “pre-fund” healthcare benefits for future retirees. This congressional mandate costs the USPS more than $5 billion a year, and it is the cause of the USPS’s financial crisis, Mr. Gallagher stated.

The USPS does not operate on tax dollars, it is solely funded by the sale of postal stamps and postage.

Under proposed legislation in Washington, H.R. 1351, the Postal service would be allowed to apply its excess retirement payments to meet its current financial obligations.

The legislation was introduced by Representative Stephen Lynch (Democrat-Maine) and would allow the USPS to apply the billions of dollars in pension overpayments to meet the agency’s financial obligations.

More labor complaint’s filed against Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem

11.14.11

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

More labor complaint’s filed against Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, REGION, October 30th- The Law Enforcement Employees Benevolent Association (LEEBA) Union, which won the right to represent security officers employed at the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, has filed at least three more labor complaints with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging the employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct), the newspaper has discovered.

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.

In the previous edition of the newspaper it was reported that an employee of Sands Casino in Bethlehem filed several labor complaints with the NLRB alleging the gambling resort violated the 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 previously reported that Sands Casino employee, George Bonser of Birch Street in Easton, filed three ULP’s against the casino operators. Mr. Bonser is a security officer at Sands.

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

Mr. Bonser alleged 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.

He also alleged that a change in policy by the Sands Casino Resort employee handbook was made to start on August 1st, 2011. 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.

The latest ULP’s were filed on September 26th by Peter Luck, identified on the complaint’s as the LEEBA Membership Coordinator.

One ULP alleges days before the July 21st NLRB election, company president Robert DeSalvio had supervisors hand out letters offering $750.00 flat payment per year for ten years for the officers 401K plan if they vote “no” for union representation. The offer was beyond the normal five percent maximum matching they provide to the rest of their employees.

Lehigh Valley unemployment rate is 8.9 percent

11.14.11

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

Lehigh Valley unemployment rate is 8.9 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 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 8.9 percent, decreasing by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. The Metropolitan Statistical Area 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 has the second highest unemployment rate.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 9.7 percent. The Philadelphia MSA and the Johnstown MSA are tied for the third highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 8.7 percent.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 8.3 percent, increasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report, which was released approximately four weeks ago. There are 523,000 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 6,334,000 and 5,811,000 of them have employment. The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was reported to be 9.1 percent, unchanged from the previous report.

There are 13,992,000 residents nationally unemployed but counting workers that have exhausted their unemployment benefits or have been unable to find full-time work there are more than 19.5 million Americans without jobs. After workers have exhausted their unemployment benefits they are no longer counted as unemployed unless they continue to apply for work.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.6 percent. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 6.7 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 418,100 civilians. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force at 2,970,900 with 258,400 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor force at 1,227,200 with 91,200 without jobs; the Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force at 281,100 with 20,900 without employment. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the fifth largest civilian labor force at 279,700 with 27,000 unemployed.

Carbon County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 11.2 percent, decreasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report and decreasing by six-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Carbon County has a civilian labor force of 31,300 with 3,500 residents without jobs, unchanged from the previous report and increasing by 200 from twelve months ago.

Northampton County has the lowest unemployment rate within the MSA at 8.4 percent, decreasing by five-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and dropping by seven-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Northampton County has a civilian labor force of 151,000. There are 12,700 Northampton County residents without jobs, decreasing by 800 from the previous report and dropping by 1,100 during the past twelve months.

Lehigh County has a unemployment rate of 9.1 percent, decreasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report and dropping by two-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Lehigh County has a civilian labor force of 176,100. There are 15,900 Lehigh County residents without jobs, decreasing by 400 from the previous report and dropping by 600 from twelve months ago.

NLRB employees Union without contract agreement

11.12.11

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

NLRB employees Union without contract agreement

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 14th- The union that represents employees of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) throughout the nation is very dissatified with the agency’s General Counsel, which was appointed by President Obama, in contract negotiations for a successor labor agreement.

During contract negotiations with the National Labor Relations Board Union (NLRBU), which represent workers of the NLRB, the head of the five-member NLRB has made proposals that would dramatically cut rights and benefits, deny the ability of the NLRBU to challenge management actions, and marginalize and disable national and local unions of the NLRBU.

According to the union, the NLRB management has launched an attack upon the NLRBU and all Union members in its contract bargaining proposals that would cost members thousands of dollars, will eliminate vital programs and benefits, and will enable management to act at whin by eliminating employees’ right to challenge many management actions through the grievance procedure. The Union charges management has launched an institutional attack on the NLRBU’s ability to represent employees in bargaining, grievance and arbitration hearing.

The NLRBU represents workers of the NLRB throughout the nation including Region Four in Philadelphia which the region is under the jurisdiction.

The NLRBU stated the dramatic scope of the General Counsel’s and Chairman’s cuts is without precedent. No preceding General Counsel or Chairman, Democrat or Republican, has proposed to reduce contract benefits and NLRB employee rights on such a vast scale.

The NLRB proposed to cut funding for courses by one-half, and would give management power to veto an employee’s training request, even when the training relates to an employee’s current job or career development.

The agency proposed employees with “Fully Successful” ratings of record would become ineligible to work at home. Employees who transfer to another office would become ineligible to work at home for one year. Management seeks to exclude employees from participating in work at home if they subjectively determine them to be “undependable.”

Management has failed to define the disqualifications it relies upon for excluding employees who it determines cannot work responsibly, cannot prioritize work effectively, or who had leave or conduct problems in the past.

IUOE Local 542 files labor complaint against employer

11.12.11

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

IUOE Local 542 files labor complaint against employer

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 15th- The International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Union Local 542, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, filed a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia, alleging a Lackawanna County employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

Local 542 filed the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge against Cushman and Wakefield, which provides mechanical maintenance for a office building in Clarks Summit, on October 5th. The union filed other ULP’s against the employer during 2011, which was exclusively reported in this newspaper.

According to the ULP, which was reviewed by The Union News, the union is seeking a immediate 10J injunction relief, from the NLRB. A NLRB 10J would require the employer to agree to a labor agreement immediately.

“On or about July of this year after a bargaining session of reaching a tentative agreement, the Employer Counsel and Head Negotiator reneged on what was agreed and bargained and has taken a regressive bargaining position.

On or about July of this year the Employer has refused to return to the Table to bargain the reneged changes of the reached Tentative Agreement,” states the ULP.

The union has failed to gain a first-time contract with the Employer after successfully winning a NLRB conducted union election nearly a year ago.

The complaint states the Employer has also failed to provide wage information of a new hired employee.

Teamsters Union Local 401 endorses Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton

11.12.11

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

Teamsters Union Local 401 endorses Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 19th- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 401, South Washington Street in Wilkes-Barre, endorsed the City of Wilkes-Barre Democratic Incumbent Mayor Tom Leighton for another four-year term in the November election.

According to Pat Connors, Secretary-Treasurer and Principal Officer of Local 401, who recently was re-elected by his membership for another term, Mr. Leighton has shown he supports and respects the labor comunity and deserves the endorsement of Local 401.

Local 401 represents the Wilkes-Barre Department of Public Works (DPW).

The union also endorsed the candidacy of Richard Hughes, Molly Hanlon Mirabito, Joseph Sklarsky Jr., Fred Pieratoni and Michael Vough for Luzerne County Judge.

All but Mr. Pieratoni are members of IBT Local 401.

“The candidates endorsed possess the skill, integrity and commitment needed to restore justice in Luzerne County. Magistrate Pieratoni has proven strong labor values and is an outstanding public servant,” stated Mr. Connors.

The union also endorsed Incumbent Democratic Luzerne County District Attorney Jacqueline Musto Carroll. “With experience and dedication to seeking justice, Musto Carroll is the strong candidate for Luzerne County District Attorney,” added Mr. Connors.

Luzerne County District Attorney hopefull of labor support on November 8th

11.12.11

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

Luzerne County District Attorney hopefull of labor support on November 8th

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 20th- Democrat Jackie Musto Carroll is seeking a second four-year term as District Attorney of Luzerne County on November 8th. She is the first women to hold the position of District Attorney in Luzerne County.

Ms. Carroll is requesting the support of the labor community on election day and has been endorsed by labor organizations that represent workers in the building trades, industrial and public sector’s.

“I have always been supportive of unions as my grandfather, the late State Representative James Musto, fought hard on behalf of coal miners against the coal barons,” stated Ms. Carroll.

“It takes experience to be effective District Attorney and there’s no substitute for the experience I have gained in my twenty-six years of practicing law including nineteen years as a procecutor. Whether it is trying cases, making tough decisions, heading major case teams, managing a staff of 67 individuals, providing community outreach, partnering with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, consoling victims and their families or fighting in the courtroom on their behalf, I have done it all,” stated Mr. Carroll.

Jackie Musto Carroll was born and raised in Pittston Township and graduated from Pittston Area High School in 1978. She has been a practicing attorney for 26 years, having been admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar in 1985.

IBEW Union Local 1600 files labor complaint against PPL

11.12.11

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

IBEW Union Local 1600 files labor complaint against PPL

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 15th- The union that represents workers of PPL Corporation, Allentown, which is a electricity producer in Pennsylvania, including Northeastern Pennsylvania, filed a labor complaint at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging the employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge was filed by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 1600 in Trexlertown on October 11th, which represents approximately 3,700 workers of PPL.

“On Wednesday August 8th, 2011, the Employer convened an investigatory interview regarding a bargaining unit employee, Joe Gotzon. Nick Krecker and Wilbert Scott, Union Stewarts, accompanied Mr. Gotzon to the meeting. Numerous times during the course of the meeting, Mr. Krecker tried to speak but was prevented in doing so by Jeff Hobbs, an Employer Supervisor. Indeed, Mr. Hobbs told Mr. Krecker that “you have no input whatoever” and “don’t speak.”

The interview resulted in the Employer’s decision to suspend Mr. Gotzon. The Employer’s actions by Mr. Hobbs violated Mr. Gotzon’s NLRArights as outlined in NLRB v. Weingarten, Inc., 420 U.S. 251 (1975), states the ULP.

The complaint was filed on behalf of the union by Attorney Ronald Tomasko, of the Lawfirm of James, Smith, Dietterick and Connelly, indentified as Legal Counsel for IBEW Local 1600. The Employer Representative named on the ULP to be contacted is Jeff Hobbs.

The Personhood of a Mississippi Zygote

11.11.11

by WALTER BRASCH

“O.K., class, we have a few minutes at the end of today’s lecture about how the godless Communists created evolution to try to destroy the decent loyal patriotic capitalist society of America. Any questions? Yes, Billy Bob.”

“Mr. Jim Bob, I heard about this thing called a person. What is that?”

“Good question. With all the distortions by the lyin’ liberal left-wing, it can get confusing. But, it’s really simple. A person is an egg that has just been fertilized by a sperm. We call this young person a Zygote.”

“Does it have to be a goat? Can it be anything else?”

“Well, Susie Bob, if you nurture it, that fertilized egg can grow up to be anything it wants to be, because this is the United States of America. And no one has the right to tell us white folks what to do.”

“Are there advantages of being a single-celled person?”

“Definitely. Their parents don’t have to wait until they emerge from the birth canal to claim them as an IRS deduction. Also, with more persons in Mississippi, we can get more single-cell congresspersons to represent us.”

“Then why did our parents vote against the constitutional amendment?”

“It was a close defeat. While those abortion activists voted against the measure, most of the opposition was because us conservatives were worried that the way the proposed amendment was written would allow them liberal types to go to Washington and overturn our states’ rights.”

“You mean Congress can do that?”

“No, Junie Bob, the Supreme Court can do that. It was a craps roll. You see, there are four decent Americans on the Supreme Court. And there are four who are women, or Jews, or both. And they were likely to say something stupid, like the state isn’t allowed to use religious dogma to justify new laws. That would mean there would be a 4–4 tie. We couldn’t trust the other judge to do what’s right, because he changes what side he’s on all the time. Even our illustrious governor said he had doubts about how broad that amendment was, and what the courts would do.”

“But he voted for it anyway.”

“He’s a politician, Kenny Bob. That’s what they do. Next question.”

“My mommy says that abortion and wearing condoms is murder, and to protect persons she plans to run down baby-killer doctors when she sees them on the streets.”

“Your mommy is looking out for the best interests of the fertilized egg. In that case, the courts will rule that what your mother does is justified homicide. Just like them lynchings your pappies and grandpappies might have done for fun on some hot weekend. It sent a message that we don’t tolerate uppity colored people doing dumb things like voting or demanding constitutional rights. Those were meant only for the white people.”

“Is slavery still legal?

“No, Bertie Bob, Mississippi outlawed it in 1995 when we ratified the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.”

“Why did it take so long?”

“Well, Martha Bob, you have to understand that decent conservatives just don’t go rushing into making important decisions. It takes time to figure out all the issues and their implications. Thirteen decades seemed about the right time.”

“I’m still confused Mr. Jim Bob. My pappy says that we got to keep the gummint out of our lives, like not allowing revenooers on our property. Don’t all of them laws intrude on our rights?”

“Sometimes, you have to intrude for the good of society. That’s why we have laws about who you can and can’t marry?”

“You mean, me and—?”

“Yes, Jenny Bob, I was planning to talk to you about you and your brother. Marriage has to be between a man and a woman who aren’t siblings.”

“So, it’s OK for me and Calvin Bob to marry?

“Since you’re first cousins that’s OK, just as long as marriage is between a man and a woman, as God intended.”

“Is that why we don’t like the coloreds and the Asians to marry us? I heard that half the state doesn’t want intermarriages and the rest are the colored people.”

“What people don’t understand, Beauford Bob, is that we made those laws to help the colored people. Before the War Between the States—Praise Jeff Davis and Jesus, Hallelujah!—we allowed white slave owners to have sex with anyone they wanted, as long as they were women. But, then we realized that wasn’t fair to the African people, because it diluted their purity. So, to protect the darkies, we didn’t have any choice but to forbid whites from marrying anyone with even one-eighth dark blood.”

“I heard about this thing called sodomy, which them homosexual and lesbian ladies practice. That’s just yucky.”

“Indeed it is. That’s why sodomy is a felony, and homosexuals can get 10 years in prison, where they can practice deviant. After that, they have to register as sex offenders. That’s another reason why the government is allowed into our bedrooms, so they can protect respectable voyeurs from having to participate in such immoral activity. Time for just one more question. Yes, Horatio Bob.”

“Mr. Jim Bob, how did you become so wise?”

“I’m a graduate of the Mississippi school system.”

[Walter Brasch’s latest book is the critically-acclaimed mystery/thriller, Before the First Snow, set in rural Pennsylvania. The book is available through www.greeleyandstone.com, amazon.com, and other bookstores.]

Results for Lehigh Valley Labor Council Endorsed Candidate

11.09.11

Results for Lehigh Valley Labor Council Endorsed Candidate

There were some significant victories last night and many of labor’s endorsed candidates came through in a big way.

Starting in Northampton County where we were down 7 to 2, we picked up THREE new councilmen. IUPAT DC 21 Business Mgr. Ken Kraft, Bob Werner and Scott Parsons won and labor favorite, Lamont Maclure kept his seat in a tough fight. Union nemesis, Ron Angle lost to Scott Parsons and we can’t say good bye fast enough!!

Northampton County Controller, Steve Barron Jr. also won and no one has been as big a supporter for labor as Steve. In Bethlehem, Bob Donchez won again in City Council and two of our endorsed candidates for the School Board, Sudantha Viidanage and Basilio Bonilla won impressive victories.

In Easton, Mayor Sal Panto won handily and there are now several new members of the Easton School Board, including; Frank Pintabone and Janet Matthews. Our endorsed School Board candidate in Allentown, Ce-Ce Gerlach won and she worked extremely hard.

Allentown City Councilman, Pete Schweyer won re-election and we look for greater things from Pete in the near future. Mary Ellen Koval won in her bid for Allentown City Controller and Lehigh County District Attorney, Jim Martin won handily in his re-electino race. The only two CLC endorsed candidates that did not win were Dan McCarthy and Tom Slonaker. Both of them are wonderful public servants and solid supporters of labor.

Teamster V.P. Dennis Hower won in his race for Whitehall Commissioner! Congratulations Dennis!!

Thanks for all of your efforts in mobilizing and educating your members for these key victories,

In unity & solidarity,

Gregg Potter
President, Lehigh Valley Labor Council

During 2012 political season the labor community will be active

11.06.11

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

During 2012 political season the labor community will be active

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 5th- The labor community will be active during 2012 in what promises to be an interesting political year.

The two United States House of Representatives that represents Northeastern Pennsylvania in Washington, DC will likely face opposition and Democratic United States Senator from Pennsylvania Robert Casey Jr., a Scranton native, will definitively face a Republican opponent, with at least eight Republican’s so-far declaring their candidacy for the opportunity to challenge Mr. Casey’s re-election.

Five years ago Mr. Casey defeated Incumbent Republican right-wing Senator Rick Santorum. Senator terms are for six years.

In 2010 conservative Republican Pat Toomey defeated Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak for the other Pennsylvania Senatorial seat.

Mr. Casey is one of ten Democratic Senators that are on the “endangered list” for re-election in 2012 according to Newsweek magazine.

Senator Casey has supported legislation important to the labor community in his first term in Washington, including voting to increase the federal minimum wage, voted for passage of the failed attempt of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCAct)/Card Check legislation, voted in favor of extending unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed workers and does not not support the pending trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama unless job assistance and other protections are part of the deal to help workers, should their jobs be affected by the pacts. The Obama administration supports the trade agreements.

Mr. Casey stated Pennsylvania has lost 300,000 jobs since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was implemented in 1993 despite the projected new jobs increases.

Northeastern Pennsylvania is currently represented in the United States House of Representatives by two Republicans, which both were successful in defeating incumbent Democrats in the 2010 election. The previous Congressmen had a positive labor voting record during their time in the House of Representatives but their successor’s have a negative record on supporting labor endorsed legislation during their first full-year in Washington.

However, 11th Congressional District Representative Lou Barletta recently was praised by the union’s that represent employees of the United States Postal Service (USPS) for supporting legislation that can ease the financial burden on the postal service, while keeping mail delivery six days a week.

The union’s that represent employees of the USPS have requested members of the House of Representatives to act as co-signers for H.R. 1351, which would allow the USPS to apply the billions of dollars in pension overpayments to meet the Postal Service’s financial obligations. The union’s said the overpayments are the result of 2006 legislation that made the agency “pre-fund” healthcare benefits for future retirees. The congressional mandate costs the USPS more than $5 billion a year, and is the cause of the Postal Service’s financial crisis.

However, Mr. Barletta did support legislation that was intended to weakened the Davis-Bacon Act. The legislation is important to member union’s of the Building and Construction Trades Council.

Postal Service employees concerned about their jobs

11.06.11

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

Postal Service employees concerned about their jobs

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 2nd- Kevin Gallagher, President of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 101 in Scranton, opposes the possible closure of the Scranton mail center in South Scranton by the United States Postal Service (USPS).

The mail processing facility, just off the Davis Street exit of Interstate 81 in South Scranton, is one of more than 250 across the nation under review by the USPS for the next several months that could be closed. If the processing facility is closed the local mail operations would be moved to the Lehigh Valley, meaning when a letter is mailed in Scranton for delivery in Wilkes-Barre it will first be sent to Bethlehem and back to Northeastern Pennsylvania.

“What will happen in bad whether?, asked Mr. Gallagher to the union delegates present at the September meeting of the Scranton Central Labor Union (SCLU). The SCLU is affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington, DC and Harrisburg.

Two years ago the mail processing operations in Wilkes-Barre was eliminated and moved to Scranton. The facility was not closed and is still used by the USPS.

Mr. Gallagher believes the USPS wants to “down the road” close all processing facilities throughout Pennsylvania and combine all operations into their Philadelphia and Pittsburgh processing centers.

“Mail delivery will suffer. There is no way cuts like these won’t hurt customer service,” added Mr. Gallagher.

Local 101 and other union’s that represent USPS employees have begun a “public campaign” intended to inform residents of what the cutbacks would do to their postal service. The campaign includes getting co-signers for legislation in Washington, DC, which would allow the Postal Service to apply its excess retirement payments to meet its financial obligations.

The union’s have stated the reason for so much red-ink by the USPS is because of the way employees future retirement payments are collected.

“Lay-offs of postal workers would only hurt the American economy,” Mr. Gallagher added.

Workers at General Dynamics Land System plant laid-off

11.06.11

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

Workers at General Dynamics Land System plant laid-off

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 1st- The United States Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense recently announced $240 million in additonal funding for upgrades to the United States Army Abrams tank, which was good news for workers employed at the General Dynamics Land Systems plant in Eynon, Lackawanna County.

The United Auto Workers of America (UAW) Union Local 1193 represents the workers of the plant, which reconditions parts for the Abrams tank.

“We have more funding for now,” said Ken Klinkel, President of Local 1193.

“There is talk about shutting down the program for four years and then restarting it. We doubt that would happen. The restart costs would be unbelievable and our members would need to find other jobs,” added Mr. Klinkel.

Local 1193 has approximately 200 members at the facility. During 2011, around 50 workers were laid-off, most likely permanently, because of the funding cuts due to the federal government debt ceiling crisis.

Mr. Klinkel told the newspaper one of the requirements of the federal debt ceiling agreement is to cut the budget by 1.2 trillion over the next ten years. The defense budget is part of those budget cuts, and the Abrams tank program is on the table. The tank was heavily used during the war in Iraq, but with the “pull-back” of American forces in the middle-east country funding for the tank program has been cut.

The local plant has been visited by political leaders such as United States Senator’s Robert Casey (Democrat-Pennsylvania) and Pat Toomey (Republican-Pennsylvania). Mr. Klinkel stated Mr. Casey has shown his support for the local plant but Mr. Toomey has “wavered” with his support.

The Department of Labor (DOL) Rapid Response Team met with the dislocated workers of the plant at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union District Council 87 building in Dunmore.

The Rapid Response Team includes officials representing agencies that assist laid-off workers in gaining new employment, signing-up for unemployment benefits, and explaining to them other programs available because of their loss of employment.

Ronald Vogel Jr., Regional Representative of the Bureau of Workforce Development Partnership Rapid Response Coordination Services, stated a session was held for 23 employees affected by the reduction in force at the Eynon plant.

Offset Paper employee files labor complaint

11.06.11

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

Offset Paper employee files labor complaint

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 1st- An employee of Offset Paper Manufacturers, Route 309, Dallas, filed a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging the company violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct). However, on the same day the employee amended the complaint.

On August 22nd, Bobbie Jo Stonier, Tunkhannock, filed the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges against Offset Paper Manufacturing, a paperback book publisher. The employees of the company are represented by the Graphic Communications Conference/the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (GCC/IBT) Union Local 137C.

According to the first complaint, Ms. Stonier alleges she was issued a written warning because she sought assistance from the Union and from the NLRB. “Since on or about the end of March, 2011, the Employer has refused to pay backpay to Bobbie Jo Stonier because she sought assistance from GCC/IBT Local 137C and from the NLRB,” states the complaint. Ms. Stonier later amended the complaint.

“On or about May 27th, 2011, the Employer issued a written warning to Bobbie Jo Stonier because she sought assistance from GCC/IBT Local 137C and from the National Labor Relations Board. Since on or about the end of March, 2011, the Employer has refused to pay backpay to Bobbie Jo Stonier because she sought assistance from GCC/IBT Local 137C and from the National Labor Relations Board.

The Employer Representative named on the ULP to be contacted is Ken Getz, identified as the Human Resources officer of Offset.

The newspaper discovered the complaint while reviewing ULP’s filed at the NLRB.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Region’s unemployment rate increases by four-tenths of a percentage point to 9.8 percent

11.06.11

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

Region’s unemployment rate increases by four-tenths of a percentage point to 9.8 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 4th- According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania, Department of Labor and Industry, the region’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 9.8 percent, increasing by four-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 8.2 percent, increasing by four-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor-force of 6,309,000 with 516,000 not working and 5,792,000 with employment. The national unemployment rate is 9.1 percent, unchanged from the previous report. The unemployment rate does not include civilians who unemployment benefits have expired and stopped looking for work.

There are 13,967,000 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 fourth largest labor force in Pennsylvania at 281,200 civilians. There are 27,600 civilians in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA unemployed. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force at 2,950,200 with 266,100 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor force at 1,231,100 with 96,100 without jobs; and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force at 419,200 with 38,300 not working.

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

The Johnstown MSA has the second highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 9.2 percent with the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA third at 9.1 percent. The Philadelphia MSA has the fourth highest unemployment at 9.0 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 6.5 percent. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in the state at 7.1 percent. The Lancaster MSA has the third lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 7.3 percent with the Altoona MSA fourth at 7.7 percent.

Wyoming County the lowest unemployment rate within the MSA at 9.3 percent, unchanged from the previous report.

Luzerne County has the highest unemployment rate within the MSA at 10.0 percent, increasing by five-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report.

Lackawanna County has a unemployment rate of 9.6 percent, increasing by five-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report.

Nurses union files labor complaint’s against medical center

11.06.11

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

Nurses union files labor complaint’s against medical center

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION- September 29th- The union that represents nurses at the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, North River Street in Wilkes-Barre, recently filed several labor complaint’s with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging the medical center violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct). The medical center operators have filed a labor complaint against the union alleging the labor organization violated the NLRAct, the newspaper has discovered.

The newspaper discovered the filing of the Unfair Labor Practice’s (ULP’s) charges while reviewing labor complaint’s and petition’s at the regional office of the NLRB. The Union News is the only member of the local media that reviews and publishes the information.

On August 24th, the Pennsylvania Nurses of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) Union, Conshocken, Pennsylvania, which represents approximately 400 nurses employed at the medical center, filed two ULP’s alleging the medical center violated the NLRAct. The medical center is operated by the Wilkes-Barre Hospital Company, which does business as the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital. The medical center is owned by the Tennessee based Community Health Services (CHS) Inc.

“Since on or about March 9th, 2011 and at various times thereafter, the above named Employer, has failed to bargain collectively and in good faith with the Charging Party.

More specifically, since on or about March 9th, 2011, the above-named Employer, by its officers, agents and representatives has unilaterally changed terms and conditions of employment by implementing a new on-call policy and further delaying for fifteen weeks the provision of the policy to the Union,” states the ULP.

The second ULP alleges the Employer since May 1st, 2011 has failed and refused to implement certain terms and conditions of the collective bargaining agreement that went into effect that day. The two parties agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement during the summer after reaching a successor contract after almost 24 months of negotiations.

The medical center filed a complaint against PASNAP on August 22nd, alleging the union violated Section 7 of the NLRAct by unlawfully restraining and coercing employees in the exercise of their rights. Also, the Employer alleges the union has refused to utilize a grievance form which conforms with the requirements of the contract and failed to provide requested information.