Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

The Mason Missile, January 31, 2012

01.31.12

Greetings, freedom fighters! I have joined my congregation, Leyv Ha-Ir, to celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King-the REAL Dr. King, the man who challenged the status quo, not the sanitized peacenik that is put out by commercial media. Towards the latter part of his life, King opposed the Viet Nam war, and not only challenged racial hierarchies but the economic inequalities that are both cause and effect of racism.
On January 10, 1967, at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, King preached, “I’ve chosen to preach about the war in Vietnam because I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal.”
King, knowing he would be branded a traitor or unpatriotic for speaking out against the Viet Nam war, added, “Now, of course, one of the difficulties in speaking out today grows the fact that there are those who are seeking to equate dissent with disloyalty. It’s a dark day in our nation when high-level authorities will seek to use every method to silence dissent. But something is happening, and people are not going to be silenced. The truth must be told, and I say that those who are seeking to make it appear that anyone who opposes the war in Vietnam is a fool or a traitor or an enemy of our soldiers is a person that has taken a stand against the best in our tradition.”
Then, at Riverside Church in New York in April of that year-one year to the day he was murdered- King added, “Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read: Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.” The government and other opinion-makers tried thus to confine King to Civil Rights, as if that can be separated from the Viet Nam issue. To King, Viet Nam was a further sign of a sick nation governed by sick people, willfully ignorant of the needs of the Vietnamese people.
Also, King and his group, the Southern Christian leadership Conference (SCLC) in November 1967 started organizing the Poor People’s Campaign, dedicated to addressing issues of poverty, employment, and housing for people of all races, going beyond the issues of African-Americans. The Viet Nam war siphoned off money that could have been used for rebuilding cities, schools, transit systems, etc. - to pay for a war against a people that really wanted to engage us, and to prop up a gang of kleptomaniacs passing themselves off as a “government.”
King saw that it’s not either/or, either issues of class or race or war to work on. The upper classes traditionally tended to dominate the state, and still do to an extent; and they have twisted the work and emphasis of the state apparatus to its advantage, by repressing unions and other forms of lower-class organizing, and adjusting the tax code to favor the wealthy at the expense of the lower and working classes. The personnel to lead the state apparatus-cabinet ministers, military officers, etc. - has also traditionally come from the upper economic and social echelons-people who, in spite of their wealth and connections, are no more advanced that we working folks are.
Of course, the upper classes have been wise enough to create a hierarchy amongst the lower classes, due to race-to have the lower-class whites look down on the descendents of slaves stolen from Africa, sold as cattle, treated as livestock, as inferior to themselves, thus giving lower-class whites a false sense of superiority. Racism and plutocracy both have to be fought at the same time, it’s not either-or. The Labor movement, that cause to which I have worked for, is eminently suited to deal with racism among white workers, which I have heard plenty; working-class whites must know their fellow workers, no matter their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, and their allies, not their enemies.
I take this time to point out the work of A. Philip Randolph, the great African-American trade unionist and democratic socialist. Randolph, like King recognized the intersection of race and class in this country, and believed in the trade union movement as a means of advancement for African-Americans. The A. Philip Randolph Institute carries on his work, encouraging Black participation in unions and encouraging electoral activity. You can find out more about it at apri.org.
2012 marks the fiftieth anniversary of The Other America, the classic study of poverty in this the richest nation on the planet, by the great American Socialist and patriot Michael Harrington. Alas, poverty is still very much with us, even more so, the gap between rich and poor widening, the “middle class” whittling away. I urge everyone within the sound of this newsletter to look up the Democratic socialist of America, the group Harrington founded, at www.dsausa.org.
SOME hope for sanity in our spending priorities: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has announced cuts in military spending, reducing ground forces, Army and Marine Corps, and focusing on Special Ops forces, focusing on quick deployment in case of emergency. Of course the Republicans act like tremendous military spending leads to greater military strength, and defense industries locate their plants in a variety of congressional districts, to make their constituents dependent on the plants for jobs; with cuts in military spending, the thinking goes, people in the plants lose their jobs, and the congress-members lose theirs as will, so the congress-members keep voting for MORE weapons systems that do NO good.
It’s clear that the US of A is getting out of the empire business, since the VAST network of bases all around the world is economically unfeasible; we simply CAN’T afford world domination through military means. Consciousness of this fact is seeping through to the public. Let the critique continue-THAT, mutually respectful discussion and debate, is the real patriotism. Bye!

Union files complaint against Aramark Cleanroom Services

01.31.12

JANUARY 2012 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Union files complaint against Aramark Cleanroom Services

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 2nd- The Mid-Atlantic Regional Joint Board, Workers United Union, which is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), 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).

The Workers United Union was previously affiliated with the UNITE Union that was formed after the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) and the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU) merged in the 1990’s. The union voted to disaffiliated from UNITE and join the SEIU.

According to the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge, which was filed on December 5th, 2011, the Union alleges Aramark Cleanroom Services, Hemlock Street in Scranton, violated the NLRAct. The company provides cleanroom services throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The ULP was discovered by the newspaper while reviewing complaints and petitions filed at the NLRB.

“Since around October 24th, 2011, the employer has refused to provide the union with information neccessary for collective bargaining,” states the ULP.

The complaint was filed on behalf of the union by the Workers United office in New York, New York.

The number employees represented by the union is not completed on the ULP.

IOUE Local 542 files labor complaint against area company

01.31.12

JANUARY 2012 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

IOUE Local 542 files labor complaint against area company

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 2nd- The International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 542, Virginia Drive in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, filed a labor complaint alleging a Lackawanna County employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRB).

The Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge was filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia.

The employer, Cushman & Wakefield, provides mechanical maintenance repair for an office building located on the Morgan Highway in Clarks Summit, Lackawanna County.

The NLRB ruled in 2011 that the employer must recognize Local 542 as the bargaining representative of the workers of the company.

However, the union alleges the employer has failed to bargain fairly and because of their failure the two parties have not been able to reach a first-time labor agreement.

“On or about November 18th, 2011 and forward, the above Employer has refused to bargain and set dates to bargain in an area recognized for suitable bargaining of the Certification which was obtained on January 13th, 2011.

The above infractions along with the past merit fingings of other unlawful practices of the Employer for refusal to bargain, along with recent information provides to the Region, provides the Union for demand of 10j injunction relief to eliminate the possible chill for union representation,” states the ULP, which was filed on December 9th, 2011.

The complaint was filed on behalf of Local 542 by Frank Bankard, identified on the ULP as Local 542 Organizer. Local 542 has a office on Fox Hill Road in Wilkes-Barre.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA’s unemployment rate unchanged at 9.2 percent

01.31.12

JANUARY 2012 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

MSA’s unemployment rate unchanged at 9.2 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 2nd- According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania, Department of Labor and Industry, the region’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 9.2 percent, unchanged from the previous report, which was released approximately four weeks before. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) includes Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wyoming Counties. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was 9.8 percent.

The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 7.9 percent, decreasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,353,000 with 499,000 not working and 5,854,000 with employment. The national unemployment rate is 8.6 percent, decreasing by four-tenths 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 13,303,000 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.

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 Williamsport MSA has the smallest labor force in Pennsylvania with 59,900 civilians. The Altoona MSA has the second smallest labor force with 64,100 civilians and the Lebanon MSA is third with a labor force of 73,400.

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 8.5 percent. The Johnstown MSA has the fourth highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 8.4 percent followed by the Reading MSA at 8.0 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 6.3 percent, while the Lancaster MSA has the third lowest unemployment rate at 6.6 percent. The Altoona MSA has the fourth lowest unemployment rate at 6.9 percent.

Wyoming County has the lowest unemployment rate within the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA at 8.6 percent. Wyoming County’s unemployment rate decreased by six-tenths of the percentage point from the previous report and dropped by one full percentage point from twelve months ago.

There are 1,200 civilians in Wyoming County without employment, decreasing by 100 from the previous report and dropping by 200 from twelve months ago. Wyoming County has a civilian labor-force of 14,200.

Luzerne County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 9.5 percent, increasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report and dropping by five-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before.

Luzerne County has the largest civilian labor-force in the MSA at 159,000, decreasing by 500 from the previous report and dropping by 100 during the past twelve months.

Lackawanna County unemployment rate is 8.8 percent, decreasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report and dropping by seven-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Lackawanna County has 9,300 civilians of the labor force without employment, decreasing by 200 from the previous report and dropping by 700 during the past twelve months.

GCC/IBT Union files complaint against Offset Paperback

01.31.12

JANUARY 2012 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

GCC/IBT Union files complaint against Offset Paperback

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 2nd- The union that represent workers employed at Offset Papaerback Manufacturers Inc., Memorial Highway in Dallas, filed a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia, alleging the employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

According to the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge, the Graphic Communications Conference/International Brotherhood of Teamsters (GCC/IBT) Union Local 137C, represents approximately 500 workers employed at the printing company facility in the back mountain area of Luzerne County.

“During the last six months, (1) the Employer has refused to meet on a timely basis to discuss pending grievances; (2) the Employer has made unilateral changes with regard to manning and refused to meet with the Union with regard to those changes,” states the ULP which was reviewed by the newspaper.

The complaint also alleges the Employer has temporarily laid-off employees and forced them to utilize their vacation time and/or take a pay cut and forced journeymen to take a pay cut of more than $8.00 an hour or be laid-off.

The Employer and Union entered into an agreement on April 14th, 2011 and under the terms and conditions of the agreement, there were not to be any temporary employees working in the plant, and the company has not complied with the agrement by making the unilateral change in keeping temporary employees in the building, the ULP added.

The complaint was filed on behalf of the Union by Harrisburg labor attorney Ira Weinstock.

The Employer Representative named on the ULP to be contacted is Ken Getz. Mr. Getz position with Offset Paperback is not stated on the complaint.

Outsourcing America’s Health Care

01.20.12

by Walter Brasch

“Ola, Amigo! Pack your bags, we’re going to Mexico!” bubbled Dr. Franklin Peterson Comstock III, faux physician and money-maker.

“Yeah, I could use a decent vacation,” I replied, figuring he’d pay for both of us since he had just set the world record for the most nose jobs in a 24-hour period.

“What vacation?” he said. “I’m setting up practice.”

“And give up catering to rich people with inflated bank accounts and deflated ethics?”

“Don’t have a choice. I’m getting laid off.”

Comstock had been a rainmaker for the Megabucks Happy Health Care Medical Center for the past decade. There was only one reason I could think of why he’d be laid off.

“Megabucks tired of paying your malpractice insurance?” I asked.

“Not just me,” he said. “Hospital’s laying off most of the staff, making the rest work overtime, and hiring outside contractors. They said it was hard to survive when the profit was down to only 20 or so million a year.”

“I didn’t realize it was that serious,” I said. “You planning to set up private practice to help the poor in Mexico?” I asked admiringly.

“Not a chance! Gonna get rich working for Megabucks!”

“You just said you were laid off.”

“Been laid off in the U.S.,” said Comstock while putting a frozen burrito into the microwave.

“Megabucks/Mexico just hired me. There’s cheaper labor down there.”

“You crazy?” I asked. “You’re the cheaper labor.”

“Obviously you don’t know American business,” said Comstock haughtily.

“Megabucks/U.S. closes its auxiliary operations, and then contracts with Mexican companies for a fifth of the cost in the U.S. They do the work, ship it back to the U.S., and Megabucks bills Blue Cross the full rate as if it was done locally.”

“So where do you fit in?” I asked.

“Just as before. Nose jobs. Breast augmentations. Tummy tucks. All the important medical procedures. But this time, I do it in Cancun.”

“To rich Mexicans,” I said disgusted.

“To rich Americans!” said Comstock. “If they want the best care, they’ll take their private jets to Mexico and then deduct the trip as a necessary business expense.”

“And what about the impoverished and middle-class Americans?”

“If they can sneak across the border, they can also get medical care.”

“What about prescriptions?”

“Megabucks contracted with some of the best drug dealers—I mean pharmacists and chemists—in Mexico. Quality is just as good and it’ll only be four or five times production costs. Unlike the U.S. there’s no TV advertising and six-figure MBAs and lawyers that require drugs to be 30 or 40 times production costs.”

“With prices that low, how do you know there won’t be mass rushes by Americans to grab everything they can?”

“Because there’s security! Every hospital and pharmacy has armed guards with the best automatic weapons smuggled through the God-fearing 2nd Amendment patriotic Southern states.”

“Is Megabucks outsourcing all its operations?”

“Keeping the ER. After tummy tucks and butt lifts, that’s the hospital’s ‘cash cow.’”

“So, then, it’ll have to keep some services like X-Ray and the lab,” I said. “Maybe even a doctor or two.”

“Too expensive,” said Comstock. “Megabucks will hire more residents and foreign-educated doctors, and work them 18 hours a day. More work, less time to complain. Residents will do anything to get experience to pass their boards. May even hire a couple of hospitalists. You know, the ones who graduated at the bottom of their class and can’t even get work in a Free Clinic.”

“I suppose they’ll also do the lab work?” I asked.

“Do you know some of those lab techs are making as much as $30,000 a year! Made sense to lay them off, too.”

“So how will the ER know a victim’s blood chemistry, or if there’s internal injuries?”

“Technology,” said Comstock. “They scan the blood here, and send digital X-Rays to Mexico. Mexican lab technicians—you know, the ones that don’t know about unions and will work for only a few bucks a day—will analyze everything, then text the results back to the U.S.”

“This sounds like it’s not only a way to maximize profits, but also a way to avoid dealing with the President’s health care reform program.”

“Obamacare!” spit out Comstock. “Nothing but socialized medicine.”

“Most countries have forms of socialized medicine,” I countered, “and they not only have good health care but affordable prices to their citizens.”
Comstock put his hands to his ears and began chanting, “We’re Number 1, We’re Number 1.”

“Number 37,” I corrected him. “The World Health Organization ranked the U.S. just below Costa Rico.”

“They’re all Commies,” replied Comstock. “Besides, that study is a decade old.”

“Last year, the independent Commonwealth Fund compared the nations of the United Kingdom against the U.S., and the U.S. ranked seventh of the seven.”

“Yeah, like Americans will go to Canada? It’s covered by snow and run by a queen who can’t even speak English.”

“You and Megabucks are crazy!”

“Possibly,” said Comstock, “but outsourcing is the American way. By the way, do you put ketchup or mustard on a burrito?”

[Dr. Walter Brasch isn’t licensed to practice medicine, but he goes to some excellent physicians who are—and they’re just as frustrated with the costs, insurance companies and myriad forms as anyone else. His current book is the critically-acclaimed mystery novel, Before the First Snow]

Miss America: Auditioning for Center Stage

01.14.12

by Walter Brasch

Tucked between the New Hampshire primary and Ground Hog Day, and directly competing against an NFL playoff game, is Saturday night’s annual Miss America pageant.

Although the headquarters is still near Atlantic City, where it originated in 1921, the pageant—don’t call it a beauty contest—has been a part of the Las Vegas entertainment scene for eight years. Apparently, the Las Vegas motto of “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas” wrapped itself around the pageant as well, with TV viewership dropping lower almost every year.

ABC-TV divorced Miss America in 2004, claiming irreconcilable differences. Viewership had fallen from a peak of 26.7 million in 1991 to an all-time low of 9.8 million, barely enough to keep a prime-time show on the air. The pageant’s CEO, trying to preserve what dignity was left, stated “We needed to find a better partner, one that better understands our values.”

Apparently better understanding Miss America’s values was Country Music Television (CMT). However, that marriage didn’t last, and Miss America then hooked up with the The Learning Channel (TLC). By 2007, only 2.4 million viewers tuned in to watch who would be the next beauty queen to want world peace, save the whales, and “do her country proud.”

Treating its demotion to the minor leagues as a chance for rehabilitation, the pageant made a few cosmetic changes, began playing with new ways of scoring, including viewer participation, and slowly brought its ratings back to about 4.5 million in 2010.

That’s when ABC-TV and Miss America, after a six-year divorce, fell in love again. Apparently, CMT and TLC “values” (and money) weren’t as good as a major network’s. Promising eternal faithfulness—as long as the ratings increased—the two lovebirds were seen by about 7.8 million.

Now, it may seem that only TV executives and advertisers should care about ratings, viewer demographics, and selling fluff. But the contestants are well-trained actors in the made-for-TV show, complete with celebrity judges, most of whom are there solely because they are—well—celebrities.

About one-third of all contestants say they want to go into communications. As in almost every pageant for the past four decades, several want to go into television. Miss Delaware and Miss Nevada both want to be talk show hosts. Miss Louisiana wants to anchor the “Today” show; to get to that lofty goal, she plans to first get a master’s in health communication. None of the contestants wanting to go into journalism have expressed any interest in first covering city council meetings, the courts, police, or Little League games. They plan to take their beauty and pageant poise, make up their hair and face, and stand in front of a camera to emphasize the reality that broadcast journalism has diminished to the point of style over substance.

Miss New York wants to be the editor of a fashion magazine. Miss Idaho wants to write for a health and fitness magazine. Miss Hawaii wants to be a film director; to do that, she plans to first get an MBA. There is no evidence she plans first to be an actor, set designer, writer, cinematographer, or in any of several dozen crafts.
Miss Utah says she wants to be an interpersonal communications presenter (whatever that is) and also a college dance team coach. Miss New Hampshire, who probably dressed Barbie dolls in corporate suits, says she wants to “own a large and prestigious advertising firm.” It’s doubtful she’ll want to modify the gibberish of the organization that, with all seriousness, says it “provides young women with a vehicle to further their personal and professional goals and instills a spirit of community service through a variety of unique nationwide community-based programs.”

A few contestants say they want to be “event planners,” as if there already aren’t enough people wasting their own lives by planning the lives of others.

Not planning to go into communications is Miss California who is earning a degree in something called “social enterprise.” That could be anything from learning how to use Facebook to mixing the drinks at upscale parties. Miss West Virginia says she wants to go into the military, and then become secretary of state. Perhaps one day she might work for the 2011 Miss America, whose goal is to become president.

Several contestants plan to get MBAs, but almost everyone wants to use that degree to go into—prepare yourself!—a non-profit social service agency. It sounds good, and maybe they all mean it. But, dangle a six-figure salary, stock options, extensive perks, and a “golden parachute,” and most of them will run over the Red Cross so fast it’ll need blood transfusions.

Mixed into the career goals are some contestants who plan to be physicians, pharmacists, speech therapists, physical therapists, and others in the caring professions.

Miss America doesn’t have to worry about a job or college for a year. Along with a paid chaperone, she will tour the country to sign autographs and give inspirational speeches about whatever her platform is—and, of course, to promote the Miss America Organization.

From the “toddlers and tiaras” stage to the stage at the Planet Hollywood Casino, beauty contestants are told how to look, act, and talk, even what to say or not say. The Miss America Organization—which makes the Mafia look like a second rate fraternity—doesn’t tell contestants they must attend college. But, every one of the state winners plans to be a college graduate.

There is a definite bias against those who don’t think attending college is important at this stage of their lives. And so, we don’t see talented actors, singers, dancers, and musicians who are bypassing college to attend specialized non-degree-granting schools and enter their professions. We don’t see contestants who, although beautiful and talented, are planning to be plumbers, electricians, or firefighter/paramedics. We don’t see contestants who want to be gardeners, floral arrangers, or chefs. And, we most assuredly don’t see women who are bypassing college to be part of major social movements or who are planning to be members or staff of labor unions.

[Walter Brasch, who attended several beauty pageants, although as a reporter and not as a contestant, is a social issues columnist and book author. His current book is the pro-labor social issues novel Before the First Snow: Tales from the Revolution, available at www.amazon.com or www.greeleyandstone.com]

Painters Union files labor complaint alleging Employer violated NLRAct

01.10.12

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

Painters Union files labor complaint alleging Employer violated NLRAct

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, December 23rd- The Painters and Allied Trades International Union (PATIU), District Council 21 filed several labor complaints with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four in Philadelphia alleging a Allentown painting contractor has failed to fund payments stated within the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the two parties.

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.

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 Valley Wide Painting and Decorating, 2222 West Columbia Street in Allentown, violated Section 8(a), subsections (1) and (5) of the National Labor Relations Act when the employer failed to make payments to the union stated within the bargaining agreement between District Council 21, for employees working for the painting contractor. PATIU District Council 21 regional office is in Drums, Luzerne County, and their main office is located in Philadelphia.

“Since February of 2011, Valley Wide Painting has not made fund payments as per District Council 21’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.

In or around October of 2011, the Employer, by its representatives, coerced members of the Union to drop their Union membership to go to work with Valley Wide Painting acting as a Non-Union Employer.

Since in around late August to early September 2011, the Employer has been failing to use the Union’s hiring hall as the exclusive referal source as required by the collective bargaining agreement, including failing to contact the hall for workers on the E.R. Steubner job,” states the Unfair Labor Practice complaint.

The union first filed the ULP with the NLRB on November 21st, however the labor complaint was “amended” on November 30th.

PATIU members throughout the Lehigh Valley are members of Local Union 1269. Local 1269 is affiliated with District Council 21.

The ULP was filed on behalf of the Union by Ken Kraft, Business Agent of District Council 21. Mr. Kraft, a Bethlehem resident, was recently successfully elected to serve on the nine member Northampton County Council. He will begin his term in January.

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.

“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.

The ULP states Valley Wide Painting and Decorating employs five workers. The employer representative named on the labor complaint to be contacted is Kenin Phelan. His position with the company is not identified on the ULP.

The November 21st complaint alleged Valley Wide Painting refused to furnish District Council 21 with the requested information for collective bargaining. However, the allegation was removed from the November 21st complaint.

Pennsylvania House measure would require voter identication card

01.10.12

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

Pennsylvania House measure would require voter identication card

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, December 22nd- Many state legislatures, including Pennsylvania, have been working overtime to pass laws to restrict and disenfranchise many voters, mostly students, people of color, lower income citizens, people with disabilities and senior citizens, to vote in the 2012 elections. Republican party members and their supporters are behind most of the legislation.

From voter identification requirements to limits on voter registration, fourteen states have passed laws in 2011 that will likely have a impact on the 2012 presidential race and the other federal elections.

Overall, 34 states have introduced legislation, including Pennsylvania, that would require photo identification to vote in 2012.

The move is mostly being supported by Republican party members and Democrats charge the GOP members of attempting to suppress the votes of the elderly, many that are still Franklin Roosevelt Democrats, young and the low income citizens, and minority groups, which polls show are more likely to support Democrats.

The reason Republicans give for the legislation is because of “voter fraud” however, according to several studies, the problem is not an issue.

A five-year study released by the Bush Administration Justice Department found virtually no evidence of voter fraud and only a few mistakes that have allowed ineligible voters to participate in elections.

From 2002 to 2007, the Bush Administration ordered its United States attorney generals in every state to look for and prosecute cases of voter fraud. Only 120 people were charged nationwide, with just 86 convictions out of 300 million votes nationwide cast.

The report stated many of those cases involved errors, not deliberate fraud, by people who appeared to have mistakenly filled out registration forms or misunderstood eligibility rules.

“I am concerned about a measure the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed that aims to limit one of the duties and liberties many have fought and died for: a citizen’s right to vote. The voter ID legislation, if passed, will silence many minority, low-income and senior voters throughout the Commonwealth. These groups are more likely than any other to lack an acceptable form of identification at the polls. This measure is an attempt at disenfranchising voters whose needs may not fall in line with the Republican majority in the Commonwealth. Over the last decade, out of an estimated 20 million ballots, we’ve only seen four cases of voter fraud. Relatively speaking, if only four out of 20 million students failed in school, we would consider that outstanding. In only four out of 20 million were unemployed, we would consider that full employment,” stated Representative Ronald Waters, (Democrat-191st Legislative District).

Of the 34 states that have introduced legislation that would require state-issued photo identification requirements; 12 are seeking proof of citizenship; 13 are restricting voter registration and nine are reducing early and absentee voting.

“For some reason the proponents of mandatory voter ID think that four out of 20 million people commiting voter fraud is a major problem. Those that support this measure are trying to prevent a problem that is nearly nonexistent. This is a solution in search of a problem. We should not create barriers to people expressing their constitutional right to vote. We should encourage voter turnout and seek ways to increase participation,” added Mr. Waters.

Approximately 21 million American adults don’t have a government-issued photo identification card, or can’t get access to one.

About 18 percent of young voters have no ID, while around 15 percent of lower-income people lack a valid card. Also, nearly 25 percent of voting-age African-American citizens, or 5.5 million people, do not have a photo identification card.

Union elections rule being attacked by pro-business group

01.10.12

JANUARY 2012, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Union elections rule being attacked by pro-business group

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, December 21st- The new standards proposed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, DC that would shorten when workers could vote whether they want to be represented by a labor union for the purpose of collective bargaining are being critized by anti-union, and pro-business groups and legislation has been introduced to stop the new standards from taking effect.

On June 21st, 2011, the NLRB issued a proposed rule that would potentially remove some of the frivolous litigation that anti-union employers use in union elections that often delay when the employees get to vote on whether they want to be union represented after they have requested the agency conduct an election.

Under the new rule, which is supported by President Obama, representation elections conducted by the NLRB would be held more quickly from the time a petition is filed requesting a union election.

Before a labor organization can file a petition requesting a election at least 30 percent of the employees must support the union and sign the petition requesting the NLRB conduct an election.

A labor organization must receive 50 percent plus one of the eligible to vote employees in a NLRB election to win the right to represent them in collective bargaining.

The proposal would substantially reduced the amount of time employees and employers may communicate prior to the election and will limit the hearings on voter eligibilty, the appropriateness of the unit, and election misconduct.

The United States Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC sued the National Labor Relations Board to challenge the new rule because of what they termed was a new “ambush election rule.”

“When Congress wisely declined to take up the card check bill, it quickly became clear that the NLRB would work to accomplish the priorities of organized labor through whatever means necessary. This year, Christmas came early for the AFL-CIO, with a huge gift to organized labor from the NLRB,” stated Randy Johnson, the Chamber’s senior vice president of Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benefits.

“This rule has no conceivable purpose but to make it easier for unions to win elections. While couched in technicalities, the purpose of this regulation is to cut-off free speech rights to educate employees about the effects of unionization. The elimination of these rights has long been on the wish list of organized labor and the Board has dutifully granted that wish,” Mr. Johnson told the newspaper.

However, in reality, employers often want the extra time to hire anti-union lawfirms and consultants, at the cost of thousands of dollars, that will attempt to convince the employees not to support the union or make promises to them that if they vote no the employer would threat them better.

Richard Trumka, President of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington, DC stated the proposed rule does not address many fundamental problems with American labor laws, but it would help bring critically needed fairness and balance to the election part of the process.

“With the proposal of these new standards, the board is taking a modest step to remove roadblocks and reduce unnecessary and costly litigation, and that’s good news for employers as well as employees,” stated Mr. Trumka.

Republican House of Representative John Kline, introduced legislation that would kill the shorten union elections rule on November 28th. HR 3094 is attended to stop the implementation of the rule changes.

Decision regarding closure of USPS facilities postponed

01.10.12

JANUARY 2012, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Decision regarding closure of USPS facilities postponed

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, December 22nd- The decision of which post offices and mail processing centers throughout the United States will be closed or merged has been postponed until at least mid-2012.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) made the announcement on December 9th. Thousands of workers employed by the USPS across the nation expected to hear whether they had a job or where their job maybe located on that date but instead were told the decision would be postponed until at least May 2012.

On July 20th, the USPS Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe stated it is possible 15 to 20 years from now mail delivery could be cut to three days a week because of dropping demand and economic losses.

Because of the decline in mail volume, mostly caused by the recession and the shift of people to the internet to pay bills, the USPS over the past four years cut its staff by more than 110,000 workers and reduced their cost by $12 billion.

However, Mr. Donahoe said more cuts are neccessary and two unelected groups were created to take steps to cut costs and reduce services. One of the groups has been generating lists of post offices and facilities to be closed. The other to serve as financial overseers with the power to alter or nullify collective bargaining agreements and/or make other operational decisions to reduce expenses.

The labor organizations that represent the workers have been waiting for the announcement of what post offices and mail processing centers would be closed.

There are around 487 mail processing centers throughout the nation, including the Lehigh Valley and Scranton.

It was expected the USPS would announce the Scranton mail processing center would be closed and the work moved to the Lehigh Valley facility in Bethlehem Township.

The major reason the USPS loses money is because of legislation that was passed in 2004 that forces future workers pensions be funded 75 years in advance, meaning pensions of workers that are not even born yet must be funded before 2014. The USPS estimated that the post office department would have made a profit in 2010 if not for the provision of the pension issue.

Also, the union’s believe they have become a “target” of the anti-union rightwing of the Republican party because the USPS now employing more union workers than any other employer in the United States.

Passing on money from the Right Wing

01.03.12

I was just approached by a Right Wing organization about a college advertising campaign. They said on their website they are meant to counter MoveOn and progressive organizations.

I passed although my business College Marketing.com http://​www.CollegeMarketing.com could really use the revenue. I hope labor and progressive groups start looking at this market.

CollegeMarketing.com: Help with reaching the college market

www.CollegeMarketing.com

A one-stop source devoted to helping businesses, colleges, and organizations reach the college market nationally, regionally or locally with ideas, products, services, and programs. Advertising, marketing, promotional and public relations campaigns.

In Solidarity,

Stephen Crockett