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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.