Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

Stories We Will Still Have to Write in 2012

12.31.11

by WALTER AND ROSEMARY BRASCH

In January 2009, with a new president about to be inaugurated, we wrote a column about the stories we preferred not having to write, but knew we would. Three years later, we are still writing about those problems; three years from now, we’ll still be writing about them.

We had wanted the U.S. Department of the Interior to stop the government-approved slaughter of wild horses and burros in the southwest, but were disappointed that the cattle industry used its money and influence to shelter politicians from Americans who asked for compassion and understanding of breeds that roamed freely long before the nation’s “Manifest Destiny.”

We wanted to see the federal government protect wolves, foxes, and coyotes, none of whom attack humans, have no food or commercial value, but are major players in environmental balance. But, we knew that the hunting industry would prevail since they see these canines only as competition.

We wanted to see the Pennsylvania legislature stand up for what is right and courageously end the cruelty of pigeon shoots. But, a pack of cowards left Pennsylvania as the only state where pigeon shoots, with their illegal gambling, are actively held.

For what seems to be decades, we have written against racism and bigotry. But many politicians still believe that gays deserve few, if any, rights; that all Muslims are enemy terrorists; and publicly lie that Voter ID is a way to protect the integrity of the electoral process, while knowing it would disenfranchise thousands of poor and minority citizens.

We will continue to write about the destruction of the environment and of ways people are trying to save it. Environmental concern is greater than a decade ago, but so is the ignorant prattling of those who believe global warming is a hoax, and mistakenly believe that the benefits of natural gas fracking, with well-paying jobs in a depressed economy, far outweigh the environmental, health, and safety problems they cause.

We will continue to write against government corruption, bailouts, tax advantages for the rich and their corporations, governmental waste, and corporate greed. They will continue to exist because millionaire legislators will continue to protect those who contribute to political campaigns. Nevertheless, we will continue to speak out against politicians who have sacrificed the lower- and middle-classes in order to protect the one percent.

We will continue to write about the effects of laying off long-time employees and of outsourcing jobs to “maximize profits.” Until Americans realize that “cheaper” doesn’t necessarily mean “better,” we’ll continue to explain why exploitation knows no geographical boundaries.

The working class successfully launched major counter-attacks against seemingly-entrenched anti-labor politicians in Wisconsin, Ohio, and other states. But these battles will be as long and as bitter as the politicians who deny the rights of workers. We will continue to speak out for worker rights, better working conditions, and benefits at least equal to their managers. We don’t expect anything to change in 2012, but we are still hopeful that a minority of business owners who already respect the worker will influence the rest.

There are still those who believe education is best served by programs manacled by teaching-to-the-test mentality, and are more than willing to sacrifice quality for numbers. We will continue to write about problems in the nation’s educational system, especially the failure to encourage intellectual curiosity and respect for the tenets of academic integrity.

Against great opposition, the President and Congress passed sweeping health care reform. But, certain members of Congress, all of whom have better health care than most Americans, have proclaimed they will dismantle the program they derisively call “Obamacare.”

During this new year, we will still be writing about the unemployed, the homeless, those without adequate health coverage—and against the political lunatics who continue to deny Americans the basics of human life, essentials that most civilized countries already give their citizens.

We had written forcefully against the previous president and vice-president when they strapped on their six-shooters and sent the nation into war in a country that posed no threat to us, while failing to adequately attack a country that housed the core of the al-Qaeda movement. We wrote about the Administration’s failure to provide adequate protection for the soldiers they sent into war or adequate and sustained mental and medical care when they returned home. The War in Iraq is now over, but the war in Afghanistan continues. The reminder of these wars will last as long as there are hospitals and cemeteries.

We had written dozens of stories against the Bush–Cheney Administration’s belief in the use of torture and why it thought it was necessary to shred parts of the Constitution. We had hoped that a new president, a professor of Constitutional law, would stop the attack upon our freedoms and rights. But the PATRIOT Act was extended, and new legislation was enacted that reduces the rights and freedoms of all citizens. At all levels of government, Constitutional violations still exist, and a new year won’t change our determination to bring to light these violations wherever and whenever they occur.

The hope we and this nation had for change we could believe in, and which we still hope will not die, has been minced by the reality of petty politics, with the “Party of No” and its raucous Teabagger mutation blocking social change for America’s improvement. We can hope that the man we elected will realize that compromise works only when the opposition isn’t entrenched in a never-ending priority not of improving the country, but of keeping him from a second term. Perhaps now, three years after his inauguration, President Obama will disregard the disloyal opposition and unleash the fire and truth we saw in the year before his election, and will speak out even more forcefully for the principles we believed when we, as a nation, gave him the largest vote total of any president in history.

We really want to be able to write columns about Americans who take care of each other, about leaders who concentrate upon fixing the social problems. But we know that’s only an ethereal ideal. So, we’ll just have to hope that the waters of social justice wear down, however slowly, the jagged rocks of haughty resistance.

[Dr. Walter Brasch is an award-winning social issues columnist, former newspaper investigative reporter and editor, and journalism professor. His latest book is Before the First Snow, a social issues mystery novel with a strong labor focus. Rosemary Brasch is a former secretary, Red Cross national disaster family services specialist, labor activist, and university instructor of labor studies.]

Apologies for delay in posting Union News (PA) articles and a personal update from the Editor

12.30.11

Please page back a page or two to catch up. My father had heart surgery and my business activities swamped me during late November thru most of December.

College Marketing.com has picked up a couple of new accounts and has strong prospects for more in 2012. Any interest in being a client? Call 443-907-2367 or email collegemarket@aol.com.

Democratic Talk Radio has plans for evolving into a non-profit, college radio brand of shows instead of a single show. We hope to raise enough financial backing to be on college radio stations training a new generation of pro-labor, progressive talk show hosts. Interested? Email me at demlabor@aol.com.

I am now working with AFLAC if your union or business is interested in offering their insurance products to your members or employees. Call me at 443-907-2367 or email me at demlabor@aol.com.

I can help you connect with a pro-union insurance/benefits broker if you want more insurance products or other benefits not directly available from AFLAC. This includes various financial consulting services.

I will try to do a better job posting Union News articles as they come in during 2012.

By the way, my father is doing very well. He has been a member of UAW Local 1183 since 1957 and remains my real life working class hero.

In Solidarity,

Stephen Crockett

Editor, Mid-Atlantic Labor.com
http://www.midatlanticlabor.com

Host & Founder, Democratic Talk Radio
http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio.com

Owner, College Marketing.com
http://www.CollegeMarketing.com

Member, National Writers Union (UAW Local 1981)
Associate Member, USW

Home care workers will receive overtime pay under proposed new rule

12.30.11

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

Home care workers will receive overtime pay under proposed new rule

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, December 22nd- The Obama administration has proposed new rules that would extend wage protections for home healthcare workers.

On December 15th, President Obama and the United States Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, announced the rule change that would extend minimum wage and overtime protections to the workers under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, that assures most workers in the nation receive overtime after 40 hours and are paid at least the federal minimum wage.

“Extending minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers has been the Direct Care Alliance’s (DCA) flagship issue since the Supreme Court rules against Evelyn Coke,” stated Leonila Vega, executive director of the Direct Care Alliance.

The DCA is a national advocacy group which lobbies for direct care workers in long-term care. Home care workers are currently excluded from minimum wage and overtime protections because they are considered mere “companions.” The workers provide health and personal care services to the elderly and people with disabilities.

Evelyn Coke was a home care worker who challenged the companionship exemption in court. Her case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, which ruled in 2007, that the Department of Labor was acting within its authority in upholding the exemption.

President Obama stated in a press released obtained by the newspaper that the workers employed within the home care industry shouldn’t have to wait any longer to be properly compensated.

“The nearly 2 million in-home care workers across the country should not have to wait a moment longer for a fair wage. They work hard and play by the rules and they should see that work and responsibility rewarded,” said President Obama.

The rule was announced at an event at the White House with advocates from across the country attending.

The proposed rule will soon be open for a public comment period, after which the Department of Labor will decide whether or not to issue a final rule. It’s likely Republicans in Washington will oppose the rule change.

“I am so grateful to Secretary Solis and her staff for their support on this issue. I earn less than $8 an hour, so without overtime pay I usually have to work at least 50 or 60 hours a week. If I got time and a half for overtime, I could work less and make a better life for myself and my family,” stated DCA member Elizabeth Castillo.

Sands guards union files additional labor complaints

12.30.11

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

Sands guards union files additional labor complaints

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, December 22nd- The Law Enforcement Employees Benevolent Association (LEEBA) Union, which represents security officers employed at the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, filed at least two 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.

During the past four months the union or members of the LEEBA have filed at least seven Unfair Labor Practice’s (ULP’s) against the employer.

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, the only unionized workers, states the ULP.

On November 18th, 2011, Peter Luck, identified on the complaint’s as the LEEBA Membership Coordinator, filed two ULP’s against Sands alleging the gambling casino violated the NLRAct.

“Officer Manar Makhoul on July 30th, 2011 following the election and victory by Sands security guards, was disciplined for allowing a patron under 21 to enter the Casino floor, an incident that took place two weeks before the election. Following the write-up Officer Makhoul was scheduled two meetings with Barry Wade for remedial re-training regarding patrons under 21. Sands Casino never held the scheduled meetings with Officer Makhoul,” states one of the latest ULP’s filed.

The complaint states Mr. Makhoul was later terminated and was denied the requested peer-review, which is clearly defined in the Sands employees handbook.

Mr. Makhoul alleges he was terminated for retaliation for being associated with the union considering that Sands policy is to not check every patron, but only individuals entering Sands they believe to be under 30.

The second ULP filed on November 18th, alleges that Sands violated the NLRAct by hiring approximately 12 security guards for the expansion of the shopping mall area without making them members of the bargaining unit. The union contends the only security allowed to function and operate inside the Sands Casino prior to the union election were current LEEBA members.

Teamsters Local 773 successful in NLRB Representation Election

12.29.11

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

Teamsters Local 773 successful in NLRB Representation Election

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 22nd- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 773, Hamilton Street in Allentown, was successful in winning one union election and unsuccessful in another.

The union filed a peition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia on September 21st, 2011 requesting the agency conduct an representation election to determine if employees of the Indian Mountain Lake Civic Association, Indian Mountain Lake in Albrightsville, want to be represented by Local 773 for the purpose of collective bargaining.

The union requested that all full-time and part-time secretarial, clerical, administrative and codes enforcement employees participate in the election. All supervisors, first level supervisors, guards and confidential employees were excluded from participating.

Local 773 Business Agent Joe Wieder filed the petition on behalf of the Union.

The employer representative named to be contacted on the petition is Robert Savino, identified as the Indian Mountain Lake Civic Association Board President.

The NLRB conducted the election on October 9th, and the employees voted five for union representation to zero against. Under NLRB rules, a labor organization must receive 50 percent plus one of the eligible voting employees to become their bargaining representative.

The Indian Mountain Lake Civic Association is a private homeowners community.

According to the NLRB, there were five employees eligible to participate in the election. The election results were certified by the agency on October 28th.

On November 11th, the NLRB conducted a representation election involving Local 773 for employees of Airgas East, East Race Street in Allentown.

According to the petition, which was reviewed by the newspaper, Philadelphia Attorney Cassie Ehrenberg, requested the NLRB conduct the election on behalf of Local 773.

The employer representative named on the petition to be contacted was Scott Anglovich, his position with the company is not identified.

The petition was filed on September 29th, 2011 and the agency held the representation election on November 10th.

The fifteen eligible to vote employees voted against being represented by the Union for the purpose of collective bargaining, six for to eight against.

The petition requested that all full-time and regular part-time drivers, dock workers and fillers participate in the election. All other workers, including guards and supervisors did not participate in the election.

Airgas East is a distributor of gas products.

The newspaper discovered both petitions while reviewing labor complaints and petitions filed at the NLRB Region Four office in Philadelphia. The Union News is the only member of the local media that reviews and publishes the information.

Carpenters Union files labor complaint against employer

12.29.11

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

Carpenters Union files labor complaint against employer

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 20th- The Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters, Southeastern Pennsylvania, State of Delaware and Eastern Shore of Maryland Union, filed a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia, alleging a Lehigh County employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

Local 600 in Bethlehem represents Carpenters Union members throughout the Lehigh Valley. Local 600 is affiliated with the Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters, Southeastern Pennsylvania, State of Delaware and Eastern Shore of Maryland.

The newspaper discovered the labor complaint while reviewing the information and petitions filed at the National Labor Relations Board. The Union News is the only member of the local media that reviews and publishes the information.

According to the ULP, which was reviewed by The Union News, the union alleges Bottom Dollar, 3237 Hamilton Street in Allentown, violated Section 7 and Section 8 (a) and subsections (1) of the National Labor Relations Act.

“On or about August 8th, 2011, by its officers, agents and representatives, interfered with lawful handbilling and bannering activities by the MRC by causing South Whitehall Township Police to arrive on the scene and remove the MRC from the location where said activities were occurring even though it was not owner of the property.

By the above and other acts, the above-named employer has interfered with, restrained, and coerced employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Section 7 of the Act,” states the ULP.

The complaint was filed on behalf of the Carpenters Union by Philadelphia Attorney Stephen Holroyd of the lawfirm of Jennings Sigmond.

The Employer Representative named on the ULP to be contacted is Brian Egolf. His position with the company is not identified on the complaint.

Steelworkers Union members vote to approve a new five-year contract agreement

12.29.11

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

Steelworkers Union members vote to approve a new five-year contract agreement

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 22nd- The United Steelworkers of America (USW) Union Local 2599, in Bethlehem, members employed at Lehigh Heavy Forge manufacturing plant, Emery Street in Bethlehem, ratified a new five-year labor agreement with the company.

The successor agreement was voted on by the membership on Sunday, November 20th.

USW Local 2599 President Jerry Green chaired the negotiating committee for the union while Lehigh Heavy Forge President Jim Romeo chaired for the company.

“After fourteen months of Union employees working under the old agreement, the Union members ratified a new five year agreement,” stated Mr. Green.

Mr. Green added management at Lehigh Heavy Forge proposed the offer and the Union leadership took it back for a vote.

Highlights of the pact include:

• No medical increases for five years;
• 401k pension increase .5 an hour for two to five years employment;
• $1,500 retro-active pay for the last 14 months without a contract;
• Vacation eligibility was reduced for number of years employed to
qualify for additional vacation weeks;
• Life Insurance and accident/sickness benefits will have a modest
increase;
• Perfect attendance bonus was increased to $350.00 a year; and
• Employees will either receive a wage increase or a bonus each year of
the pact

Legislation would help protect health care workers

12.29.11

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

Legislation would help protect health care workers

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, November 18th- Pennsylvania State House of Representative Nicholas Micozzie (Republican-163rd Legislative District), has introduced House Bill 1992, which would require Pennsylvania hospitals and other health care facilities to take proactive steps to protect nurses and other health care workers from suffering from violence on the job.

House Bill 1992 is a joint effort between the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) Union and Mr. Micozzie and would require hospitals to assess the security risks in their facilities, find ways to create a safer workplace, and help victims of violence report incidences.

“This marks an important step in our efforts to protect health care workplace violence. Thanks to the hard work of our members and our allies in the District Attorney’s offices and in the legislature, every hospital will now become proactive in prevention of injury to their caregivers,” said Patricia Eakin, a Emergency Room nurse at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia and statewide President of PASNAP.

Workplace violence against health professionals is on the rise both in frequency and severity, and for the past year PASNAP has been advocating against this disturbing trend. Last winter, the statewide union of registered nurses and health care professionals held three conferences in order to educate health workers about the growing issue and to begin to address how to resolve it.

“Our health care professionals work tirelessly to help protect and care for individuals when they are at their most vulnerable, and we have an obligation to make sure they are able to do their jobs in an environment that is free of the threat of violence. It was my honor to help craft this legislation, and I am hopeful it will will move swiftly through both chambers and onto the governor’s desk to be signed into law,” stated Mr. Micozzie.

Meanwhile, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), in Washington, DC, released data on November 9th, 2011 that shows the incidence rate for health care support workers that require days away from work because of nonfatal occupational injuries increased 6 percent in 2010.

There were 283 cases per 10,000 full-time workers, almost 2 1/2 times the rate for all private and public sector workers at 118 cases per 10,000 full-time workers. The rate among nursing aids, orderlies and attendants rose 7 percent, to 489 per 10,000 workers. Also the rate of musculoskeletal disorder cases with days away from work for nursing aids, orderlies and attendants increased 10 percent to a rate of 249 cases per 10,000 workers.

“It is unacceptable that the workers who have dedicated their lives to caring for our loved ones when they are sick are the very same workers who face the highest risk of work-related injury and illness,” stated OSHA’s Assistant Secretary, Dr. David Michaels.

Union member Ken Kraft successfully wins seat on Northampton County Council

12.29.11

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

Union member Ken Kraft successfully wins seat on Northampton County Council

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, November 19th- Union member Ken Kraft was successfully elected to serve on the nine member Northampton County Council on November 8th.

Mr. Kraft, a life long resident of Bethlehem and a graduate of Freedom High School, is a Assistant Business Manager for the Painters and Allied Trades International Union (PATIU) District Council 21, which represents PATIU members throughout the Lehigh Valley.

PATIU members work within the construction trade industry. District Council 21 is affiliated with the Building and Construction Trades Council of the Lehigh Valley labor federation.

“As a person who believes in community and public service, I look forward to serving the residents of Bethlehem, Hellertown and Hanover as their voice on County Council. I will be a strong advocate for the needs of our region and will always be available to listen to their concerns,” stated Mr. Kraft.

Mr. Kraft is a Democrat, which will be out-numbered on council by Republicans by five-to-four. The Republicans previously held the majority by seven-to-two. Also, Republican Ron Angle, a constant vote against organized labor, was defeated and will be replaced by a labor supported candidate.

“As a Council member, I will work tirelessly to attract quality, family sustaining jobs, keep taxes stable and deliver high quality services to the residents. I love Northampton County and I will keep it a great place to live, work and raise a family,” Mr. Kraft added.

Mr. Kraft told the newspaper in March he wanted to replace Ann McHale on the County Council, who was a supporter of the labor community during her term.

Television ads lauched in three States about Medicare funding

12.29.11

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

Television ads lauched in three States about Medicare funding

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 16th- Several labor organizations have recently began airing television advertisements in three states requesting that three Republican legislators should vote to protect Medicare and Medicaid and not support tax breaks for millionaires that don’t create jobs.

The television advertisements began airing on November 16th in media markets in Massachusetts, Alabama, and Nevada.

The three legislators targeted are: Republican Nevada Senator Dean Heller; Republican Massachusetts Senator, Scott Brown; and Republican Alabama House of Representative, Denny Rehberg.

With Medicare and Medicaid potentially on the Washington DC budget cutters chopping block, the new TV ads are hitting the airways in the three states warning Republicans in Congress that seniors will not soon forget a vote to slash their benefits while protecting tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires.

The advertisements are sponsored by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and Americans United for Change.

Under consideration is a plan from the Super Committee that mirrors other Republican budget proposals because it “contains virtually no new revenue and deep cuts in Medicare and Medicaid.”

“Once again the 99 percent will be burdened by the actions of a Republican Congress that continues to make decisions that are detrimental to the most vulnerable members of our society. Republicans like Senators Dean Heller, Scott Brown and Denny Rehberg, need a reality check. When corporations, millionaires and billionaires are taking home higher incomes and outrageous bonuses while many Americans are taking home pink slips, everyday Americans need you to stand up for them,” stated Gerald McEntee, President of AFSCME in the TV ad.

Mary Kay Henry, President of the SEIU said any recommendations that cut Medicare and Medicaid would be irresponsible and reckless.

The Republican plan would cut $185 billion from Medicaid and Medicare cuts of $400 billion.

“They say an elephant never forgets but these Republicans in Congress clearly have forgotten seniors and the middle class if they think cutting Medicare and decimating Medicaid is the answer,” stated Tom McMahon, Exective Director of Americans United for Change.

State store privatization legislation not yet introduced before full legislature

12.29.11

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

State store privatization legislation not yet introduced before full legislature

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, November 20th- The United Food and Commericial Workers (UFCW) Union Local 1776 is requesting the labor community contact their members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly that serve on the House Committee on Liquor Control to ask them not to support privatizing the state stores.

The UFCW represents the majority of the workers employed by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), which operates the Pennsylvania Wine and Spirit Shoppes. The UFCW represents shelf stockers and clerk workers, while the Independent State Store Union (ISSU) in Harrisburg represents most lower supervisors of the system and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union represents mainly office employees including PLCB auditors.

There are approximately 625 liquors stores throughout Pennsylvania and the PLCB also operates liquor stores located in some grocery stores. The retail store system generates millions of dollars in profit including creating at least $400 million in tax revenue for Pennsylvania each year.

Before Pennsylvania can sell the stores to private owners, which proponents suggest would raise $2 billion in licensing fees, the state general assembly must first pass legislation approving the sale to companies such as Wal-Mart, Target and Costco, who are unfriendly to labor unions. The state revenue yield would be a one-time infusion of funds.

“While the UFCW PA Wine and Spirits Council representing local unions with a combined membership over 40,000 members in Pennsylvania is not averse to engaging in the debate on this issue, we think that the discussion has to be based on facts, not fantasy. Selling the state stores is an irresponsible, risky scheme that won’t fix Pennsylvania’s budget,” stated Wendell Young IV, President of UFCW Local 1776, Plymouth Meeting.

Mr. Young stated privatization supporters suggest the selling of the stores would give “mom and pop” a chance to go into the liquor business. However, they do not show where “mom and pop” would come up with the $2.3 million needed to purchase a license.

There have been public hearings conducted throughout the state during 2011 but the legislation has not yet left the House Committee on Liquor Control that is neccesary before the full House can vote on the measure. Pennsylvania’ anti-union Republican Governor Tom Corbett supports the selling of the state stores and has stated will sign the legislation if it should reach his desk.

The UFCW would like the legislation to stay in committee and not be introduced to the full House and is requesting the labor community and opponents of the privatizing effort to contact any legislator on the House Committee on Liquor Control.

The only member of the General Assembly from the Lehigh Valley on the committee is Joseph Brennan (Democrat-133rd Legislative District).

Should the stores be “sold-off” to private owners the labor organizations would likely lose members or may even be removed as the bargaining reprsentative of the employees.

The union’s believe their members, who earn a decent living wage, will be replaced will lower earning workers with less benefits.

Lehigh Valley job market remains weak with retail job losses

12.29.11

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

Lehigh Valley job market remains weak with retail job losses

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, November 22nd- The job market in the Lehigh Valley remains weak however, over the past twelve months the professional and business services sector has added 1,900 jobs. Government jobs continues to decline, with local government leading the way losing 1,400 jobs from one year ago. Overall government jobs have decreased by 1,800 during the past twelve months.

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 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
rate at 6.9 percent. The Altoona MSA has the fourth lowest unemployment rate at 7.1 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 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.

According to the data, retail trade had an expected seasonal job decline from the previous month, however, should recover due to the holiday shopping season.

The service-providing sector declined by 1,300 jobs from twelve months ago, which includes jobs within the trade, transportation and utilities. The largest decliner within the sector was in retail trade, losing 1,100 jobs.

Study shows employee turnover cost businesses millions

12.29.11

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

Study shows employee turnover cost businesses millions

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 21st- According to a new study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), an economic policy research think tank in Washington, DC, employee turnover costs businesses millions each year, but many employers don’t realize exactly how much it’s costing their company.

To help human resource managers and business owners understand turnover’s toll, the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), and the CEPR released a new tool that allows employers to calculate how much turnover costs in just 10 questions.

“Policies that expand job quality lead to improved employee loyalty and morale and can make a significant difference for workers and for businesses. Employers have the security and benefit of being able to take time off when needed without facing retaliation and employers have a more loyal workforce, therefore reducing employee turnover,” stated Andrea Lindemann, a policy analyst at CLASP.

“One of the greatest investments companies make is in employees. But when an employee leaves, that investment is diminished. There are very good workplace policies like paid sick leave that help prevent losing that investment. Once employers understand the cost of turnover, we hope they’ll see the need for policies that support their employees as a means of reducing their costs,” added Eileen Applebaum, senior economist at CEPR.

When an employee leaves or is laid-off and a company looks for a replacement, expenses such as advertising, recruiting, background checks, benefits administration and staffing can add up to major costs. The turnover calculator allows businesses to vary wages, weekly hours, and recruiting and hiring costs to calculate the cost of turnover for different categories of workers. It considers typical hourly or annual pay as well how employers fill vacancies and how long it takes new employees to become proficient in the position.

With the economy still sluggish, many businesses struggle to maintain or increase their bottom lines. The turnover calculator provides employers the opportunity to measure their turnover costs so they can develop and plan for polcies that save money and help their business.

Forty-four million workers, or 42 percent, lack paid sick days. Research shows that employee turnover is less when workplaces have supportive policies as paid sick days and paid family leave, the CEPR study stated.

Poll finds Pennsylvanians oppose school voucher program

12.29.11

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

Poll finds Pennsylvanians oppose school voucher program

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 15th- Funding cuts for public schools in Pennsylvania continues to be a huge topic and according to a new poll citizens of the commonwealth oppose the decreases.

Findings of the latest Terry Madonna Opinion Research survey, released on October 5th, found that Pennsylvanians strongly support investing in tutoring students, reducing class sizes and making schools safer.

By a similarly wide margin, state citizens oppose creating a taxpayer-funded voucher system for private and religious schools. Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett recently announced he supports a “school voucher program” that if implemented would take even more funds from public schools.

“By a nearly two-to-one margin, Pennsylvanians oppose the recent funding cuts to the Commonwealth’s public schools, stated Michael Crossey, President of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) Union, the state’s largest school employee labor organization. The PSEA represents approximately 193,000 active, and retired teachers, other school employees and health care workers in Pennsylvania.

The Madonna poll asked Pennsylvanians for their views regarding the $860 million cut from public schools as part of the state budget Governor Corbett signed into law in June. Sixty-nine percent of the people polled said they oppose or strongly oppose these cuts, while only 27 percent said they favor or strongly favor the action.

According to Keystone Progress, a left-leaning political action group in Harrisburg, since the public school funding cuts, many districts have raised property taxes; cut in after-school tutoring and mentoring programs; Kindergarten has been reduced to a half a day instead of full day; students have outdated materials and fewer computers; there are part-time school nurses; and fees are being imposed to play sports and participate in after school activities.

Under Mr. Corbett’s proposal, taxpayer money will be spent on a voucher program that gives hundreds of millions of dollars to private and sectarian religious schools that are not accountable for academic standards or results, or for their financial doings. After funneling money away from the community schools, many school children are left behind with fewer resources.

Keystone Progress stated there is no evidence that vouchers improve student achievement and choices. What choice will parents have when non-public schools can favor or exclude students based on gender, religion, ability, and behavior.

Teachers Union President opposes school voucher program

12.29.11

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

Teachers Union President opposes school voucher program

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 25th- The President of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) Union, which represents approximately 193,000 active, and retired teachers, school employees and health care workers in Pennsylvania, registered strong opposition to Pennsylvania Senate Bill 1, which includes a school voucher program.

Michael J. Crossey, President of the PSEA, called on legislators to oppose the legislation, which includes tuition voucher, charter school expansion, and tax credit plans that would take even more funds from local school districts. Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett supports the legislation that was introduced on October 25th. Mr. Corbett’s budget cut $860 million from public school funding.

“Tuition voucher plans like Senate Bill 1 will put public education in Pennsylvania on the wrong track. We need to get public school funding moving in the right direction again and the fitst step is to reject expensive voucher plans that don’t work,” stated Mr. Crossey.

A recent study released by two groups representing public school administrators and business managers showed that state funding cuts have forced school districts to increase class sizes, eliminate course offerings, and cut tutoring programs.

The Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) surveyed the state’s 500 school districts and documented their findings.

Children started the new school year and found fewer teachers and school staff, larger class sizes, reduced course offerings, outdated textbooks, reduced opportunities for extra help and cuts to and fees charged for extracurricular activities, states the report.

“The state funding cuts hit our struggling schools the hardest. How can you help schools by cutting their funding? Tuition voucher plans would take even more money away from those students. It just doesn’t make sense,” added Mr. Crossey.

The report was released on September 14th and shows that class sizes have increased in 70 percent of school districts that responded. The report also pointed out that course offerings have disappeared in nearly half of the school districts, and tutoring opportunities have been eliminated in many others. Full-day and pre-kindergarten have been eliminated in some school districts.

The report found 3,556 teachers, 739 administrators and 4,000 other employees have lost their jobs and 5,883 positions have been vacant in nearly 60 percent of the state’s 500 school districts.

“Tuition voucher plans will take even more money away from our public school students. Educators know it, the public knows it, and we need to make sure that our elected officials know it too,” Mr. Crossey added.

Union leader unhappy with local elected officials regarding USPS cuts

12.29.11

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

Union leader unhappy with local elected officials regarding USPS cuts

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 25th- According to Kevin Gallagher, President of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 101 in Scranton, it is likely the decision by the United States Postal Service (USPS) on whether the Scranton based mail processing operations will be moved to Lehigh Valley will be announced on December 9th.

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 that could result in them being 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. The facility was not closed and is still used by the USPS but all mail is transported to the Scranton facility for processing.

Branch 175 President John Kishel, which represents APWU members in and around Wilkes-Barre protested the closure of the Luzerne County facility. The USPS stated the closing of processing facilities are in response to the decline in first class mail. Over the past decade, first class mail volume has declined with the use of electronic communications.

Mr. Kishel and his union members circulated petitions, collecting thousands of signitures of the public requesting for the Wilkes-Barre mail processing center to stay open, but the USPS closed it anyway.

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.

Mr. Gallagher stated the biggest reason the postal service is in the “red” was because of legislation passed by Congress in 2006. The law placed a burden on the USPS that no other government agency or private company bears, paying a 75 year liability in pension costs in just 10 years. The USPS under the law must “pre-fund” healthcare benefits for future retirees and is costing the agency more than $5 billion a year, causing the current financial crisis.

“What will happen in bad whether?, asked Mr. Gallagher should the Scranton operations be moved to the Lehigh Valley.

Mr. Gallagher is disappointed with regional elected political officials, including local resident United States Senator Robert Casey Jr., for the lack of support regarding the possible closure of the processing center and local post offices.

“On December 9th, the USPS could decide to close as many as 16,000 post offices nationally. We have contacted local elected officials and have received little to no help,” stated Mr. Gallagher.

Kevin Haggerty pledges to support labor community if elected in 2012

12.29.11

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

Kevin Haggerty pledges to support labor community if elected in 2012

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION- December 6th- A 39 year old Dunmore resident, a 1991 Dunmore High School graduate, and former United States Marine, Kevin Haggerty is again challeging current Pennsylvania House of Representative Ken Smith (112th Legislative District) and promises to support the labor community if elected in 2012. Both Mr. Haggerty and Representative Smith are Democrats.

During a interview, Mr. Haggerty stated he would support the labor community by voting against the anti-union legislative agenda that Republican Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is pushing.

Mr. Haggerty resigned from his employment on August 1st to run full-time for the 112th Legislative District seat which will likely not include any part of Scranton due to re-districting in Harrisburg.

Next years campaign will be Mr. Haggerty’s second. He was unsuccessful in defeating Mr. Smith in 2010, when two other Democrats also ran.

“My. wife is a member of the PSEA (Pennsylvania State Educational Association) Union,” stated Mr. Haggerty.

Kevin Haggerty’s wife Jennifer grew-up in Minooka and is a librarian in the Riverside School District and a member of the PSEA.

Mr. Haggerty told the newspaper he does not support the selling of the Pennsylvania Wine and Spirits Stores and would only consider the idea if “safeguards” were put into the legislation to protect the jobs of the workers.

Also, he is against Mr. Corbett’s “school vouchers program” and will vote against any bill that will weaken Prevailing Wage laws.

When asked about the cuts being made of firefighters by Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty, Mr. Haggerty said he was for public safety and will not support any legislation that was anti-municipal union.

IBT Union Local 229 member receives help from flooding

12.29.11

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

IBT Union Local 229 member receives help from flooding

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 5th- A member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 229, Main Avenue in Scranton, received a check in the amount of $500.00 to help her recover from the floods in the region.

“It is impossible to forget the disastrous effects from the tropical storms which ravaged areas of Northeastern Pennsylvania during September 2011. Unfortunately every family was affected, either directly or indirectly. One such family was that of Teamsters Local 229 member Bernadine Hoover, a member of 229 for 21 years, she is employed by the Topps Company,” Craig Pawlik, Local 229 Secretary/Treasurer and Principle Officer told the newspaper.

Ms. Hoover resides in Duryea, which was badly damaged by the September flooding.

“Almost immediately the Disasters Relief Fund from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters swung into action offering assistance to all Teamsters in the effected areas,” added Mr. Pawlik.

Mr. Pawlik said Ms. Hoover contacted the IBT Disaster Relief Fund and on November 15th, he presented her with the check of $500.00. “Knowing that this assistance is another step in the long road that her family must travel to get their life back she smiled and thanked her Teamster family for this support when she thought all was lost,” added Mr. Pawlik.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/HazletonMSA’s unemployment rate decreases to 9.2 percent

12.29.11

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

MSA’s unemployment rate decreases to 9.2 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 3rd- According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania, Department of Labor and Industry, the region’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 9.2 percent, decreasing by one-tenth 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 9.7 percent.

The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 8.1 percent, decreasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,354,000 with 513,000 not working and 5,842,000 with employment. The national unemployment rate is 9.0 percent, decreasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report. The unemployment rate does not include civilians who unemployment benefits have expired and stopped looking for work.

There are 13,897,000 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 17,600,000 civilians in the nation without jobs.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA is tied with the Harrisburg/Carlislie MSA for the fourth largest labor force in Pennsylvania at 280,400 civilians with 25,700 not working. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force at 2,963,900 with 250,400 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor force at 1,235,700 with 89,700 without jobs; and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force at 416,700 with 35,900 not working.

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

The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the second highest unemployment rate in the Commonwealth at 8.6 percent, while the Philadelphia MSA has the third highest at 8.4 percent. The Johnstown MSA has the fourth highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 8.2 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.3 percent. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in the state at 6.2 percent, while the Lancaster MSA has the third lowest unemployment rate at 6.5 percent. The Altoona MSA has the fourth lowest unemployment rate at 6.8 percent.

The Williamsport MSA has the smallest labor force in Pennsylvania with 59,700 civilians. The Lebanon MSA is second with 73,600 civilians and the State College MSA is third with a labor force of 75,000.

Lackawanna County has the lowest unemployment rate within the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA at 8.9 percent. Lackawanna County’s unemployment rate decreased by three-tenths of the percentage point from the previous report and dropped by five-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. There are 9,500 civilians in Lackawanna County without employment, decreasing by 300 from the previous report and dropping by 500 from twelve months ago. Lackawanna County has a civilian labor-force of 106,500.

Luzerne County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 9.4 percent, decreasing by seven-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and dropping by six-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before. Luzerne County has the largest civilian labor-force in the MSA at 159,600, decreasing by 300 from the previous report but rising by 800 during the past twelve months.

Wyoming County unemployment rate is 9.0 percent, decreasing by five-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and dropping by five-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Wyoming County has 1,300 civilians of the labor force without employment, decreasing by 100 from the previous report and during the past twelve months.

The Department of Labor reported the retail trade sector employment gained 400 jobs over the month, but dropped 500 jobs during the past twelve months. Grocery store jobs were down 100 from the previous report and decreased by 200 jobs from one year ago.

Leisure and hospitality employment dropped by 400 jobs over the month to 22,200 but rose by 500 jobs from twelve months before. The job increase in the sector was the 13th consecutive month that showed an over-the-year increase. The sector increase was 2.3 percent over the year in the MSA.

IBEW Local 1600 files complaint against PPL Corporation

12.29.11

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

IBEW Local 1600 files complaint against PPL Corporation

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 2nd- The union that represents workers of the PPL Corporation, a public utility which provides and distributes electricity, 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).

During a review of Unfair Labor Practices (ULP)’s) and petitions filed at the NLRB, the newspaper discovered the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 1600 filed a ULP on October 27th, 2011 against PPL. Local 1600 represents approximately 3,700 PPL employees.

“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 whatsever” 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 NLRA rights as outlined in NLRB v. Weingaten, Inc.,” states the complaint.

The ULP was filed on behalf of the union by Attorney Ronald Tomasko, of the lawfirm of James, Smith, Dietterick and Connelly LLP of Hummelstown, Pennsylvania.

PPL headquarters is in Allentown while the IBEW Local 1600 office is in Trexlertown.

There is no employer representative to be contacted on the complaint.