Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

Fewer Words; Less Filling

02.18.12

by WALTER BRASCH

The Reduced Shakespeare Co. cleverly and humorously abridges all of Shakespeare’s 37 plays to 97 minutes. Short of having a set of Cliff’s Notes or a collection of Classic Comics, sources of innumerable student essays for more than a half-century, it may be the least painful way to “learn” Shakespeare. The critically-acclaimed show, in addition to being a delightful way to spend part of an evening, is a satiric slap upside the head of the mass media.

The condensation of the media may have begun in 1922 with the founding of Reader’s Digest, the pocket-sized magazine which keeps its 17 million world-wide subscribers happy by a combination of original reporting and mulching articles from other magazines. Books also aren’t safe.

For more than six decades, Digest editors have been grinding four books into the space of one, calling them “condensed” or “selected,” and selling them by subscription to people with limited attention spans. These are the people who actively participate in society’s more meaningful activities, such as watching Snooki and JWoww on “Jersey Shore” or swapping lies with the gentrified folk at the country club. However, most media condense life to save money and improve corporate profits.

Book publishers routinely order authors to reduce the number of manuscript pages, saving production and distribution costs. The printed book will always have a place, but publishers are now deleting print production and putting their books onto Kindle and Nook, reducing page size to a couple of sizes smaller than the first TV screens. Because reading takes time, and time needs to be abbreviated for the MTV Go-Go Generation, chapters are shorter, and book length has been further reduced to adapt to e-book format.

Movie industry executives, eyes focused upon their wall safes, dictate shorter films, with more “action-paced” scene changes, an acknowledgement that Americans need constant stimulation. It isn’t uncommon for writers, faced by corporate demands to reduce the length of a screenplay, to indiscriminately rip out three or four pages in protest, only to find that the corporate suits instead of being appalled are, in fact, pleased.

Scripted half-hour TV shows were once 26 minutes, with four minutes for promotions and commercials. Now, the average half-hour show is 22 minutes; the average hour show is about 45 minutes, with at least two sub-plots because producers believe viewers don’t have the attention spans to follow only one plot line.
In radio and television news, the seven-second sound bite is now standard, forcing news sources to become terse and witty, though superficial. News stories themselves usually top out at 90 seconds, about 100–150 words. An entire newscast usually has fewer words than the average newspaper front page.

An exception is the music industry. At one time, popular songs were two to three minutes, some of it because of the technological limits of recordings. During the past two decades, with the development of digital media, pop music has crept past four minutes average. The downside, however, is that writers are taking the same cutesy phrases and subjecting listeners to nauseous repetition.

Long-form journalism, which includes major features and in-depth investigations that can often run 3,000 or more words, has largely been replaced by short-form news snippets, best represented by Maxim and USA Today.

USA Today condenses the world into four sections. Publishers of community newspapers, citing both USA Today’s format and nebulous research about reader attention span, impose artificial limits on stories. Thirty column inches maximum per news story, with 12 to 15 inches preferred, is a common measure.

When the newspaper industry was routinely pulling in about 20–30 percent annual profits, the highest of any industry, publishers were routinely delusional, believing that was the way it was supposed to be and would always be. Instead of improving work conditions and content, they increased shareholder dividends and executive bonuses. When advertising and circulation began to drop, they made numerous changes to keep those inflated profits.

Publishers downsized the quality, weight, and size of paper. Page sizes of 8-1/2 by 11 inches are still the most common magazine size, but several hundred magazines are now 8- by 10-1/2 inches. Newspaper page width has dropped to 11–12 inches, from almost 15-1/2 inches during the 1950s.

Faced by advertising and circulation freefall the past decade, publishers cut back the number of pages. More significantly, they began a systematic decimation of the editorial staff, cutting reporters and editors.

Faced by heavier workloads and tight deadlines, many reporters merely dump their notebooks into type, rather than craft them and then submit the story to a copyeditor to fine tune it so it is tight, has no holes, and no conflicting data. In the downsized newspaper economy, stories often pass from reporter to a quick scan by an editor and then into a pre-determined layout, all of it designed to cause fewer problems for overworked editors.

The solution to the “newspaper-in-crisis” wailing, with innumerable predictions that print newspapers will soon be as dead as the trees that give them nourishment, may not be in cutting staff, and replacing the news product with fluff and syndicated stories that fill pages, but are available on hundreds of websites, but in giving readers more. More reporters. More stories. And, most of all, more in-depth coverage of local people and issues, with each article well-reported, well-written, and well-edited.

[In a 40-year career in journalism, Walter Brasch has been an award-winning newspaper and magazine reporter and editor, syndicated columnist, multimedia and TV writer-producer, and tenured full professor of mass communications. He says he’ll keep doing journalism until he gets it right. His current book, BEFORE THE FIRST SNOW, is an autobiographical mystery novel that includes a number of media observations.]

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA’s unemployment rate decreases to 8.9 percent

02.15.12

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

S/WB MSA’s unemployment rate decreases to 8.9 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 31st- According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania, Department of Labor and Industry, the region’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 8.9 percent, decreasing three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report, which was released approximately four weeks before. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) includes Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wyoming Counties. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was 9.6 percent.

The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 7.6 percent, decreasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,351,000 with 485,000 not working and 5,865,000 with employment. The national unemployment rate is 8.5 percent, decreasing by two-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 13,097,000 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 continues to have the highest unemployment rate among the 14 MSA’s within Pennsylvania.

The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA and the Philadelphia MSA are tied for the second highest unemployment rate in the Commonwealth at 8.4 percent.

The Johnstown MSA has the third highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 8.2 percent followed by the Reading MSA at 7.9 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.1 percent. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in the state at 6.0 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 6.7 percent.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the fourth largest labor force in Pennsylvania at 279,200 civilians with 24,800 not working. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force in Pennsylvania at 2,948,000 with 248,000 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor force at 1,231,100 with 85,200 without jobs; and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force at 416,400 with 34,900 not working.

The Williamsport MSA has the smallest labor force in Pennsylvania with 60,000 civilians. The Altoona MSA has the second smallest labor force with 64,500 civilians and the Lebanon MSA is third with a labor force of 73,300.

Wyoming County has the lowest unemployment rate within the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA at 7.9 percent. Wyoming County’s unemployment rate decreased by eight-tenths of the percentage point from the previous report and dropped by one and seven-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago.

There are 1,100 civilians in Wyoming County without employment, decreasing by 100 from the previous report and dropping by 300 from twelve months ago. Wyoming County has a civilian labor-force of 14,100.

Luzerne County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 9.1 percent, decreasing by four-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and dropping by seven-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before. Luzerne County has the largest civilian labor-force in the MSA at 159,200, unchanged from the previous report and dropping by 600 during the past twelve months.

Lackawanna County unemployment rate is 8.6 percent, decreasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and dropping by seven-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Lackawanna County has a civilian labor force of 105,900, unchanged from the previous report and dropping by 400 during the past twelve months.

UFCW members in Hazleton ratify new five-year contract

02.15.12

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

UFCW members in Hazleton ratify new five-year contract

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, February 3rd- Members of the United Food and Commercial Worker (UFCW) Union Local 1776, Route 315 in Pittston, voted to ratify a new labor agreement with Cargill Meat Solutions in Hazleton.

Wendell Young IV, President of Local 1776, stated the membership voted overwhelmingly to approve the five-year labor contract. He said the more than 600 members of the union will receive wage increases and health care benefits under the agreement.

“At a time when the cost of health care benefits continues to be an increasing challenge in negotiations between workers and employers in our region and across the country, Cargill’s representatives and our bargaining committee were able to create a fair proposal for our members to continue providing them with affordable quality health care.

Not every employer has recognized this responsibility. Both sides negotiated in good faith to reach this positive outcome,” Mr. Young stated.

The contract agreement is the third between UFCW Local 1776 and Cargill since the company opened the plant in Hazleton in 2002. The pact was approved by the membership by a ninety-seven percent margin to three percent against.

Michele Kessler, Secretary/Treasurer of Local 1776 and Director of the union’s Northeast and Central Pennsylvania Divisions said the company has other labor agreements with the UFCW throughout the United States.

“As our negotiations moved forward we were able to draw on the experiences of the other UFCW locals to create the best possible result for our members in Hazleton,” stated Ms. Kessler.

Local 1776 has 24,000 members throughout northeast, southeast and central Pennsylvania.

AFTRA and SAG Union’s going forward with merging

02.12.12

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

AFTRA and SAG Union’s going forward with merging

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, January 20th- The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) International Union’s have reached a consensus on merging the two entertainment labor organizations.

Officials for the two union’s met for nine days in Los Angles in January and a Merger Package was approved and will now be sent to the respective boards of AFTRA and SAG for approval.

Details of the proposed merger package will not be released prior to the AFTRA and SAG board meetings. AFTRA board members willmeet on January 27th and if needed January 28th. Both labor organizations are headquartered in Los Angeles, California.

Both union’s are affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington, DC.

“What we have accomplished over the last year is tremendously gratifying. We are confident our members will agree that we have created something we can all be proud of, actors, singers, broadcasters, dancers, voiceover artists, background actors, stuntpersons and all entertainment and media professionals that will be represented by this new union,” SAG National President Ken Howard stated.

“The consensus process allowed our G1 (Group for One Union), members to fully discuss, debate and reach agreement on critical provisions that form a strong foundation for a single union that will protect and strengthen the future for all our members,” Mr. Howard added.

The Screen Actors Guild is the nation’s largest labor union representing working actors. Established in 1933, SAG has stood up to studios to break long-term engagement contracts in the 1940’s to fighting for actists’ rights amid the digital revolution sweeping the entertainment industry.

SAG has 20 Branches nationwide, and represents more than 125,000 actors who work in film and didital motion pictures and television programs, commercials, video games, industries, internet and new media formats.

AFTRA has 32 Local Union’s across the nation representing 70,000 professional performers. Their members work as actors, broadcasters, singers, dancers, announcers, hosts, comedians, disc jockeys, and other performers across the media industries including television, radio, cable, sound recordings, music videos, commercials, audio books, non-broadcast industries, interactive games, the internet and other digital media.

Study shows long-term unemployment substantially higher than official level

02.12.12

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

Study shows long-term unemployment substantially higher than official level

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, January 20th- According to a new study released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a nonpartisan economic think tank in Washington DC, the Great Recession pushed the share of the long-term unemployed (defined as being unemployed more than six months) to over 40 percent throughout 2010 and 2011. The new report shows that this standard measure estimate understates the extent of long-term hardship in the United States labor market.

According to the Department of Labor and Industry (DOL), the national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was reported to be 8.6 percent, decreasing by four-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. However, the number did not include the long-term unemployed because workers that have exhausted their unemployment benefits, are no longer counted as unemployed unless they continue to apply for work.

“Long-term unemployment rates have been at unprecedental levels for two years now, but the full group facing long-term hardship in the labor market is likely to be at least twice as high as the official figure,” stated John Schimitt, co-author of the report and a senior economist as the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

The report, “Down and Out: Measuring Long-Term Hardship in the Labor Market,” proposes a broader definition of long-term unemployment that encompasses the underemployed, (workers that have lost their full-time job and are now only able to find part-time work) and those workers experiencing long-term hardship in the labor market, Mr. Schimitt added.

He continued that the report expands on the official concept of unemployment by including data on discouraged workers, those not in the labor force who want a job but have stopped looking because they believe there are no jobs available; marginally attached workers, those who want a job and have looked in the last 4 weeks; and workers who are part-time for economic reasons, those who want a full time job only have part-time work. Together with the unemployed, these groups are the basis for an alternative Bureau of Labor Statistics’ measure of unemployment, known as U-6, which the authors of the report argue gives a more complete picture of long-term hardship.

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not track the length of time workers have fallen under these categories, the authors stated it demonstrates that under reasonable assumptions, the share of workers facing long-term hardship may be twice as high as the share that is long-term unemployed by the standard measure.

“Under these same assumptions, between 2007 and 2010 long-term unemployment increased almost as much in these unofficial channels as it did under the more narrow definition,” added Mr. Schimitt.

IBT Union Local 773 files petition requesting election in Brieigsville

02.10.12

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

IBT Union Local 773 files petition requesting election in Brieigsville

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, January 20th- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 773 in Allentown, filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia requesting the agency conduct a election to determine if employees at a employer in Brienigsville want to be represented by the union for the purpose of collective bargaining.

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

The petition was filed on behalf of the labor organization by Dennis Hower, Vice-President of IBT Local 773, Hamilton Street in Allentown on January 12th. Local 773 represents IBT members throughout the Lehigh Valley.

The petition requests that 22 employees of Kehe Distributors, Nestle Way in Brienigsville, participate in the election. The union wants all full-time and regular part-time truck drivers of the employer to participate in the NLRB election.

Under NLRB rules, the union must receive 50 percent plus one of the eligible to vote employees in a agency election to become the bargaining representative for the purpose of collective bargaining.

The IBT request that all other employees, office clerical employees, dispatchers, maintenance manager and guards not participate in the election.

Local 773 was successful in winning a NLRB election on October 9th, 2011. Employees of the Indian Mountain Lake Civic Association voted five to zero to be represented by Local 773. Indian Mountain Lake Civic Association is a private homeowners community in Albrightsville.

All full-time and part-time secretarial, clerical, administrative and codes enforcement employees participated in the election. According to the NLRB there were five employees eligible to participate in the election.

The union was not successful in organizing employees of Airgas East, East Race Street in Allentown.

On November 11th, 2011 the NLRB conducted a representation election for employees of the company. The workers voted against being represented by Local 773, six for to eight against. There were fifteen eligible to vote employees of the company.

Meanwhile, the newspaper discovered the United Independent Union, South 11th Street in Philadelphia, filed a petition with the NLRB requesting the agency conduct a election to determine if several employees of Easton Hospital Medical Center want to be represented by the labor organization for the purpose of collective bargaining.

The labor organization request that five Registered Nurse’s (RN’s) working in the wound healing center at the Employer’s 250 South 21st Street in Easton facility participate in the election.

The petition, which was reviewed by the newspaper, was filed on behalf of the United Independent Union by Ronald Ferguson, identified as the President of the labor organization.

Labor Pains: A Fable for Our Times

02.10.12

by Walter Brasch

Once, many years ago, in a land far away between two oceans, with fruited plains, amber waves of grain, and potholes on its highways, there lived a young man named Sam.

Now, Sam was a bright young man who wanted to work and save money so he could go to school and become an electrician. But the only job open in his small community was at the gas station. So, for two years, Sam pumped gas, washed windshields, checked dipsticks and tire pressure, smiled and chatted with all the customers, gave them free drinking glasses when they ordered a fill-up, and was soon known as the best service station attendant in town.

But then the Grand Caliphs of Oil said that Megamania Oil Empire, of which they all had partial ownership, caused them to raise the price of gas.
“We’re paying 39 cents a gallon now,” they cried, “how can you justify tripling our costs?” they demanded.

“That’s business,” said the Chief Grand Caliph flippantly. But, to calm the customer fury, he had a plan. “We will allow you the privilege of pumping your own gas, washing your own windows, checking your car’s dipsticks and tire pressure, and chatting amiably with yourselves,” said the Caliph. “If you do that, we will hold the price to only a buck or two a gallon.”

And the people were happy. All except Sam, of course, who was unemployed.
But, times were good, and Sam went to the local supermarket, which was advertising for a minimum wage checkout clerk. For three years, he worked hard, scanning all groceries and chatting amiably with the customers. And then one day his manager called him into the office.

“Sam,” said the boss, “we’re very pleased with your work. You’re fired.” From corporate headquarters had come a decision by the chain’s chief bean counter that there weren’t enough beans for their executives to go to Europe to search for more beans.

“But,” asked Sam, “Who will scan the groceries?”

“The customers will,” said the boss. “We’ll even have a no-hassle machine that will take their money and maybe even give change.”

“But won’t they object to buying the groceries, scanning them, bagging them, and shoving their money into a faceless machine?”

“Not if we tell them that by doing all the work, the cost will be less,” said the manager.

“But it won’t,” said Sam.

The manager thought a moment, and then brightly pointed out, “We’ll just say that the cost of groceries won’t go up significantly if labor costs were less. Besides, we even programmed Canmella the Circuit-enhanced Clerk to tell customers to have a nice day.”

Now, others may have sworn, cried, or punched out their supervisor, but this is a G-rated fairy tale, and it wouldn’t be right to leave Sam to flounder among the food. By cutting back on luxuries, like food and clothes, Sam saved a few dollars from his unemployment checks, and finally had enough to go to a community college to learn to become an electrician. After graduating at the top of his class, an emaciated and homeless Sam got a job at Acme Industries.

For nine years, he was a great electrician, often making suggestions that led to his company becoming one of the largest electrical supplies manufacturers in the country. And then one day one of the company’s 18 assistant vice-presidents called Sam into a small dingy office, which the company used for such a day. “You’re the best worker we have,” the AVP joyfully told Sam, “but all that repetitive stress has cut your efficiency and increased our medical costs. In the interest of maximizing profits, we have to replace you.”

“But who can do my job?” asked Sam.

“Not who,” said the manager, “but what. We’re bringing in robots. They’re faster and don’t need breaks, vacations, or sick days. Better yet, they don’t have union contracts.”

“So you are firing me,” said Sam.

“Not at all. We had to let a few dozen other workers go so there would be room for the robots, and we won’t be hiring any new workers, but because of your hard work, we’re reassigning you to oil the robots. At least until we design robots that can oil the other robots.”

For three years, Sam oiled, polished, and cleaned up after the robots. Sometimes, he even had to rewire them. And then the deputy assistant senior director of Human Resources called him into her office.

“No one can oil and polish as well as you can,” she said, but the robots are getting very expensive and we still have several hundred workers who are taking lobster and truffles from the mouths of our corporate executives, “so we’re sending all of our work to somewhere in Asia. Or maybe it’s Mexico. Whatever. The workers there will gladly design and assemble our products for less than a tenth what we have to pay our citizens.”

“You mean I’m fired?!” said a rather incredulous Sam.

“Not fired. That’s so pre-NAFTA. You’ve been downsized.”

“Downsized?!”

“If you want, we can also say you’ve been outsourced. How about right-sized. That’s a nicer word. Would you prefer to be right-sized?”

By now, Sam was no longer meek. He no longer was willing to accept whatever he was told.

“The work will be shoddier,” said Sam. “There will be problems.”

“Of course there will be,” said the lady from HR. “That’s why we hired three Pakistani goat herders to solve customer complaints.”

“Our citizens won’t stand for this,” said a defiant Sam.

“As long as the product is cheaper, our people will gladly go to large non-union stores and buy whatever it is that we tell them to buy.”

And she was right.

[Walter Brasch is an award-winning journalist and former university professor. His latest book is the pro-labor mystery novel, Before the First Snow, available at amazon and other book dealers.]

Teamsters Local 229 announce College Scholarship winners

02.02.12

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

Teamsters Local 229 announce College Scholarship winners

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 26th- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 229, North Main Avenue in Scranton, recently announced the winners of the 2011/2012 College Scholarship Program and for the first time a child of a member of the union was selected as a College Scholarship winner by the James R. Hoffa Scholarship Fund in Washington, DC.

Craig Pawlik, Secretary-Treasurer and Principal Officer of Local 229, stated he and the Executive Board of Teamsters Local 229 are proud to make the announcement of the three winners of the College Scholarship Program.

Local 229 represents IBT members in and around Scranton and Lackawanna and Monroe Counties of Northeastern Pennsylvania including; Topps Chewing Gum plant in Scranton, the United Parcel Service (UPS) facilities in Lackawanna County, New Penn Trucking employees, the Throop Department of Public Works (DPW) and the warehouse workers of Harper Collins Publishers.

Mr. Pawlik stated Katrina Good, daughter of Local 229 member Kevin Good was the recipient of the First Year Scholarship. Ms. Good is a freshman student attending Lock Haven University.

“Our Continuing Education Scholarship was awarded to Nicole Pollock,” said Mr. Pawlik.

Nicole has been enrolled at Wilkes University and is the daughter of IBT member Joseph Pollock.

For the first time in the history of Teamsters Union Local 229 a child of one of their members was selected as a College Scholarship Scholarship Fund. The scholarship, which is named after former Teamsters International General President James R. Hoffa, is a prestigious award opened to children and grandchildren of all IBT members throughout the United States and Canada.

One hundred scholarships are awarded under the program. Applicants compete in one of the five geographic regions where the Teamsters parent’s Local Union is located.

Thirty-one of the awards total $10,000 each. These four-year scholarships are disbursed at the rate of $2,500 per year and renewable annually.

Sixty-nine of the awards total $1,000 grants. These are disbursed to the college or university at the beginning of the recipient’s freshman year.

Eligibility requirements and application procedures are the same for all awards. Recipients are selected by an impartial committee of unversity admissions and financial aid directors based on academic and financial need.

Brittney Kulesza, daughter of IBT Local 229 member Joseph Kulesza was selected as one of the winners of this years program. Brittney is beginning her studies as a Freshman, attending the University of Pittsburgh.

Mr. Hoffa became a Teamsters member in 1934 and served as General President for 14 years and in recognition of his service to the IBT members was honored as General President Emeritus for life. In 1999 a resolution was passed by the IBT General Executive Board meeting to establish the new scholarship fund.

Mr. Hoffa’s son has recently won another term as General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

President Obama appoints “wall-street watchdog” to agency

02.02.12

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

President Obama appoints “wall-street watchdog” to agency

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 5th- President Obama on Janaury 4th appointed former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, using the recess appointment after Senate Republicans blocked his nomination.

Tom McMahon, Executive Director of Americans United for Change, a left-leaning Washington, DC based political action organization, stated Mr. Obama did what Republicans in the Senate refused to do, show leadership on preventing another Wall-Street created economic crisis by appointing Mr. Cordray to head the agency.

The United States Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is the federal agency that holds primary responsibility for regulating consumer protection in the United States.

The bureau began operations on July 21st, 2011. It was founded as a result of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which passed during the 111th United States Congress in response to the late–2000’s recession and financial crisis.

The bureau was set up by Elizabeth Warren, who was passed over for diretor in favor of Richard Cordray. Mr. Cordray’s confirmation was delayed by Republicans in the United State Senate. The bureau has become the “focus of bitter fighting” between the administration of President Obama on one side and “Republicans and banking lobbyists on the other.”

On July 17th, Mr. Cordray was selected over Ms. Warren as the head of the entire CFPB. However, his nomination was immediately in jeopardy because 44 Senate Republicans had previously vowed to derail any nominee in order to encourage a decentralized structure to the organization. Senate Republicans has also shown a pattern of refusing to consider regulatory agency nominees, purportedly as a method of budget cutting.

“At every twist and turn Republicans have attempted delay, defund, or dismantle the Wall Street reforms enacted under President Obama that created the new watchdog agency Cordray will head. Republicans have chosen instead to stand with Wall Street companies and their well-paid lobbyists who have spent as many millions to underwine the new law, and done everything to avoid being held accountable for crashing the economy,” stated Mr. McMahon.

The American for Limited Government (ALG) a right-wing Washington, DC based free-market reform action organization, condemned the recess appointment of Mr. Cordray.

“The appointment of Richard Cordray to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and all acts he may take while in his post, are not worth the paper they are printed on. Barack Obama has rammed through a phony ‘recess’ appointment when there is no recess, and now he borders on being a tyrant. Obama cannot constitutionally pretend a recess into existence, and yet that is exactly what he has done. This has never been attempted before,” stated ALG President Bill Wilson.

CWA applaudes ruling involving FAA union elections

02.02.12

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

CWA applaudes ruling involving FAA union elections

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 29th- The Communications Workers of America (CWA) International Union applauded the ruling of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that upheld the rule changes adopted by the National Mediation Board (NMB) in 2010 that was designed to hold union elections within the industry to the same basic principles as other elections in the nation.

Congressional Republican’s have attempted to overturn the NMB rules change by claiming that the election changes overstepped the agency’s authority, and the judicial ruling eliminates the lead rationale used by the GOP to block the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill, which caused a shutdown of the FAA in late summer 2011.

Congress did agree to a short-term funding extension that provided funds for the FAA until January, 2012. However, the issue will again be front and center when congress returns from the holiday recess.

The shutdown that put nearly 100,000 people out of work and cost the United States government $400 million, was led by Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee John Mica (Republican-Florida).

The CWA stated GOP House members, including Congressman Lou Barletta (11th Legislative District), insisted that the FAA funding legislation include an unrelated union-busting provision that would change the rules for union elections overseen by the NMB.

The Republicans want a rule that would allow workers that did not cast ballots in union elections be counted as “no” votes, rather than ballots actually cast.

The CWA has targeted two dozen Republicans, including Mr. Barletta, for what the Union called, “their willingness to shutdown the FAA over a union-busting provision inserted into the House version of the multi-year FAA Reauthorization bill.”

The judicial challenge was led by the Air Transport Association, primarily Delta Air Lines.

“This court ruling demolishes the agreement that the NMB overstepped its bounds in ensuring that NMB elections count only the ballots of those who actually vote. This ruling settles this issue once and for all: Republicans cannot continue to block the upgrades and job benefits of the FAA over a provision that has force of law, fairness, and common sense behind it,” stated CWA Communications Director Candice Johnson.

More Scranton firefighters laid-off, firehouses closed

02.02.12

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

More Scranton firefighters laid-off, firehouses closed

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION- January 2nd- The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Union Local 60, which represent members of the Scranton Fire Department, now have 101 members following Democratic Mayor Chris Doherty’s most recent furlough of fire-fighters.

Mayor Doherty notified the 29 fire-fighters on November 30th, 2011 they would be laid-off because of a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that overturned his anti-union legislation.

“The Mayor wants to balance the budget short-fall on the backs of the union’s.

I hope the taxpayers understand that at most there will be only four firehouses open on any given day throughout the city,” stated David Gervasi, Greivance Chairman of Local 60. Mr. Gervasi was President of the union until January 1st, 2012, after deciding he would not seek another term.

Scranton firefighter Jack Gaffney is acting President until the membership of Local 60 conducts an election in February.

The City of Scranton is 27 square miles, the third largest in Pennsylvania. Only Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are larger.

Because of the lay-offs, three of the eight Scranton firehouses are closed and two others are on “brown-outs” because there won’t be enough firefighters working to keep them open. Under a “brownout” firehouses will remain open but could be closed anytime because of a shortage of personel.

Mr. Gervasi told the newspaper most of the time only four of the ten companies in the city will be in service, because of the recent lay-offs.

Because of the furloughs, neighborhood firehouses in East Scranton, Petersburg and Wyoming Avenue are out-of-service. However under brown-outs, each day two more houses will be closed. “Three houses and five companies is all that will be available most of the time in the city,” added Mr. Gervasi.

“Call them brown-outs, but your neighborhood firehouse is still closed,” he added.

The Department of Labor (DOL) Rapid Response Team, a group of people affiliated with community organizations that meet with recent unemployed workers and help them adjust to a job loss, met with Local 60 members at St. Mary’s Center on Miffin Avenue in Scranton on December 29th.

The Rapid Response Team will help the unemployed worker file for unemployment benefits, learn about job training availability, and teach them about other programs.

Teamsters Local 401 members recently re-elect officers

02.01.12

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

Teamsters Local 401 members recently re-elect officers

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 4th- The Intenational Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 401, South Washington Street in Wilkes-Barre, members recently re-elected their incumbent Executive Board members.

Local 401 represents IBT members from the Borough of Duryea south to Hazleton including the City of Wilkes-Barre.

Patrick Connors, Secretary-Treasurer, Business Representative and Principal Officer was re-elected by the members.

Also, re-elected was President and Business Representative James Murphy; Dennis McNulty, Vice President; Thomas Sissick, Recording Secretary; and Dale Keller. Sandra Moosic, and Scott Kucharski were re-elected as Local 401 Trustees.

Mr. Murphy was the only member of the Executive Board that faced any opposition.Local 401 represent workers of the Department of Public Works of Wilkes-Barre and Nanticoke; Nicholas Trucking Company; Coke Bottling in Pittston; the United Parcel Service (UPS) workers; grounds personnel at Mohegan Sun; drivers and dock workers of YRC Freight; and the Assistant District Attorney’s of Luzerne County.

Seminar held on health dangers of hydraulic fracturing

02.01.12

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

Seminar held on health dangers of hydraulic fracturing

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 3rd- The Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) Union, which represent nurses employed at the Community Medical Center (CMC) Hospital in Scranton and at the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital in Wilkes-Barre, and Conservation Pennsylvania, recently organized a seminar in Scranton to help local nurses identify the symptoms which indicate exposure to the chemicals in natural gas drilling.

“Our job is to take care of the people in our hospitals and it’s our responsibility to learn about new potential health threats, like gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale,” stated Roben Schwartz, a PASNAP member and a Registered Nurse employed at the Community Medical Center.

Ms. Schwartz joined other nurses and citizens at the Station Hotel in Scranton on December 6th for a discussion about the impacts of gas drilling on human health. Also attending were physicians and conservationists.

“Gas drilling on a huge scale is new to Pennsylvania and it comes with real risks to human health. Our nurses have dedicated their lives to keeping their neighbors healthy and they took time to come to this class to make sure that they’re ready to handle this new danger to the region’s families,” added Ms. Schwartz.

Scientists suspect that some wastewater from the process called hydraulic fracturing that is used to unlock the gas from shale rock might migrate into deep rock formations, causing water wells to become contaminated and earthquakes.

On January 1st, the State of Ohio halted natural gas drilling operations in the Youngstown area because of repeated earthquakes including one of December 31st.

Similar links between disposal wells, a disposal of millions of gallons of brine and other waste liquids produced at natural gas wells, have been suspected in Texas and Arkansas. Colorado also has banned hydraulic fracturing.

The moratorium on injection of drilling waste in Ohip took place after a 10th earthquake, a 2.7 temblor occurred less than 2,000 feet below the well on December 24th but a stronger quake occurred less than 24 hours later and then again on December 31st.

At the seminar Ms. Schwartz was joined by Fran Prusinski, a nurse at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital and Chapter President of the PASNAP unit at the medical facilty, and Dr. Al Rodriguez, a nephrologist and president of the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition of Luzerne County and other environmental activists.

“People with serious health problems should always see a medical professional, but everyone should know what symptoms of exposure to these chemicals looks like because early detection can make a huge difference,” stated Ms. Prusinski.

The panel called for more research into the health effects of natural gas extraction and public education about the potential risks. They stated Pennsylvania has done too little to fund and coordinate research about the issue and has let drilling proceed without appropriate study or safeguards.