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Lehigh Valley unemployment rate decreases three-tenths of a percentage point to 8.4 percent

03.04.12

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

Lehigh Valley unemployment rate decreases three-tenths of a percentage point to 8.4 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, February 7th- According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Center for Workforce Information and Analysis in Harrisburg, the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 8.4 percent, decreasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. The Metropolitan Statistical Area includes Lehigh, Northampton, and Carbon Counties of Pennsylvania and Warren County, New Jersey. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was 9.2 percent.

There are fourteen Metropolitan Statistical Area’s in Pennsylvania and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area is tied with the Philadelphia MSA for the second highest unemployment rate.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 8.9 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 Pennsylvania at 6.0 percent and the Lansaster 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 seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 7.6 percent, decreasing by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report, which was released approximately four weeks ago. There are 485,000 Pennsylvania residents without jobs, but that number does not include residents that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and stopped looking for work.

Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted workforce of 6,351,000 and 5,865,000 of them have employment. The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was reported to be 8.5 percent, decreasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report.

The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force in Pennsylvania with 416,400 civilians, decreasing by 3,000 during the past twelve months. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force 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; the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force in the commonwealth at 279,200 with 24,800 civilians without jobs. The Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fifth largest labor force at 279,000 with 19,300 unemployed civilians.

There are 13,097,000 residents nationally unemployed but counting workers that have exhausted their unemployment benefits or have been unable to find full-time work there are more than 17.5 million Americans without jobs. After workers have exhausted their unemployment benefits they are no longer counted as unemployed unless they continue to apply for work.

Carbon County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 10.4 percent, decreasing by four-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. Carbon County has a civilian labor force of 31,100 with 3,200 residents without jobs.

Northampton County has the lowest unemployment rate within the MSA at 8.1 percent, decreasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. Northampton County has a civilian labor force of 151,000. Northampton County has 12,200 residents without jobs.

Lehigh County has a unemployment rate of 8.4 percent, decreasing by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. Lehigh County civilian labor force is 175,200, with 14,700 of them without employment.

Painters Union withdraws labor complaint against employer

03.04.12

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

Painters Union withdraws labor complaint against employer

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, February 17th- The Painters and Allied Trades International Union (PATIU) District Council 21, which members work within the construction trade industry, have withdrawn their labor complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia that alleged a Lehigh Valley employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRact).

In the January edition of the newspaper it was exclusively reported that PATIU District Council 21 filed Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges against Valley Wide Painting and Decorating, 2222 West Columbia Street in Allentown, alleging the company violated the National Labor Relations Act.

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

According to the ULP, District Council 21 alleged Valley Wide Painting violated Section 8(a), subsections (1) and (5) of the NLRAct. The complaint was filed on behalf of the Union by PATIU District Council 21 office in Drums, Luzerne County. District Council 21 Business Agent Ken Kraft was identified on the ULP as the contact representative for the union.

Local Union 1269 represents PATIU members throughout the Lehigh Valley.PATIU alleged on the complaint the company failed to make payments to the union stated within the collective bargaining agreement between the parties for employees working for the painting contractor. Also, the company did not make fund payments as per the contract agreement and coerced members of the Union to drop their membership in PATIU and go to work with Valley Wide Painting as a nonunion employee.

The NLRB comfirmed that the ULP was withdrawn by the Union in January, however the actual date was not comfirmed.

The Union first filed the ULP on November 21st, 2011 but amended the complaint on November 30th, 2011.

Teamsters Union and pipeline contractors agree to extension

03.04.12

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

Teamsters Union and pipeline contractors agree to extension

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, February 1st- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union went on strike against and the Pipe Line Contractors Association (PLCA), and the workers returned to their jobs without reaching a new pact but the sides did agree to a three-month contract extension of the previous agreement.

According to Craig Pawlik, Secretary/Treasurer and Principal Officer of IBT Local 229 in Scranton, which had members working on the Appalachian Pipeline Contractors site near Tunkhannock and Otis Eastern Services site near Towanda, which was involved in the work stoppage, the main reason the IBT called the strike was because the group of contractors affiliated with the Pipe Line Contractors Association wanted to make major changes to their members pension plan. He told the newspaper there are approximately 70 pipeline construction companies affiliated with the PLCA.

The PLCA initial contract proposal was to withdraw from the IBT Central States pension plan, decrease Teamsters jurisdiction and the removal of classifications that would have reduced the number of their member jobs by 30 percent.

The PLCA offered to start a new defined benefit plan similar to the one that already exists with other union’s that the group has labor agreements with. In short, the PLCA proposal would do away with the IBT pension and substitute it with a 401(k) plan.

The PLCA also has labor agreements with the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), the United Association of Pipefitters and Plumbers (UA), and the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA).

The IBT members, which operate dump trucks and other vehicles that haul pipes and other materials to pipeline construction sites, went on strike on January 1st, 2012. However, the IBT did not call a national strike instead conducted a “selective work stoppage” that involved the local pipelines several weeks later.

There were around 26 members of the IBT involved in the local dispute including Local 229 members and IBT Local 401 members in Wilkes-Barre.

James Murphy, President and Business Representative of Local 401 told the newspaper the two unions shared the jurisdiction of the pipeline construction that were involved in the strike.

The IBT members returned to their jobs on January 13th following an agreement between the PLCA and the union after the two sides agreed to extend the previous labor agreement for three months. The previous contract expired on January 31st, 2011. The two parties agreed to extend the pact two other times. The full term of the recent extension will run from November 15th, 2011 to April 13th, 2012.

Pat Connors, Secretary/Treasurer and Principal Officer of Local 401, stated he was greatly disappointed with several local union officials for instructing their members to cross the IBT picket line at the Tunkhannock pipeline work site.

Mr. Connors told the newspaper the Business Manager of Local 542 admitted to Mr. Murphy at the strike site that he told his members to cross the Teamsters picket line and do their bargaining unit work.

First annual Sam Bianco Golf Tournament to be held on May 19th

03.04.12

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

First annual Sam Bianco Golf Tournament to be held on May 19th

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION- February 4th- The “Sam Bianco Bianco Memorial Scholarship Fund Golf Tournament” will be held on Saturday, May 19th, 2012 at the Sugarloaf Golf Club in Sugarloaf Township, Luzerne County.

According to John Rusak, Business Representative of the United Food and Commerical Workers (UFCW) Union Local 1776, the cost to participate in the day of golfing is $75.00 per golfer. The funds raised will go to the scholarship fund named after the legendary labor leader.

“We need golfers. We have sponsors, but the course will not tie-up the club unless there are enough participants,” stated Mr. Rusak. He added at least 128 golfers are needed.

“I encourage union’s that are affiliated with the labor council to buy tickets to participate in the golf,” Mr. Rusak said.

Mr. Bianco served as President of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council labor federation, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) in Washington, DC, from 1978 to September 28th, 2010 when he passed away from complications related to cancer at the age of 88.

Mr. Bianco on the weekend before he died participated in helping pro-labor political candidates get elected during 2010 election campaign.

He was a retired District Manager of the International Ladies Garment Workers (ILGWU). The ILGWU once represented thousands of workers, mostly women, and garment shops throughout the region. Only a hand-full of shops remain today.

Also, Mr. Bianco represented the labor community on numerous boards and committees throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania including: Northeast Pennsylvania Area Labor Management Council, which recently folded; the United Rehabilitation Services; the United Way of the Wyoming Valley; St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen; and the American Red Cross Wyoming Valley Chapter.

Mr. Rusak stated the golf tournament will begin at 12 noon with registration and the cost includes golf, food and prizes.

“For all the things Sam did for the labor community and political leaders, there should be a lot of golfers at the event,” stated Gilbert Cooney, a long-time friend of Mr. Bianco and has been a member of the labor community for more than six decades.

Current Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council President Edward Harry, stated Sam Bianco made sure the labor federation was involved with not only the labor community but also the community at-large. “Lets hope that the labor community really comes out and supports Sam,” said Mr. Harry.

In April, 2010 the labor federation held a dinner to honor Mr. Bianco at the Genetti’s Hotel and Conference Center in downtown Wilkes-Barre. Approximately 300 people attended, which included members of the labor community, political officials and other dignitaries.

Mr. Rusak stated anyone wanting to participate or sponsor a hole they can contact him at (800) 635-6994, extension 305.

Building Trades Union’s criticizes rejection of pipeline

03.04.12

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

Building Trades Union’s criticizes rejection of pipeline

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, January 20th- President Barack Obama rejected a Canadian company’s plan to build a pipeline spanning the United States intended to carry oil across six states to Texas refineries on January 18th citing environmental concerns.

The 1,700 mile pipeline was to carry oil from western Canada to Texas passing through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. The plan was proposed by the Calgary based TransCanada which was part of the Keystone XL project and would cost around $7 billion.

The decision by Mr. Obama was praised by environmental groups and others including the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington, DC.

Republicans and some labor organizations assailed the decision as a “job-killer” and said they would fight-on for passage of the pipeline plan.

The United States State Department said the decision was made “without prejudice,” meaning TransCanada can submit a new application once the environmentally sensitive areas is established.

The Chief Executive Officer of TransCanada said the company plans to do that.

“As the State department made clear last month, the rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on the by congressional Republicans prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment,” Mr. Obama said in a Whitehouse press released.

Mark Ayers, President of the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO criticized Mr. Obama’s decision.

“Today, the words “We Can’t Wait” truly ring hollow for skilled craft construction professionals across the nation. Those are the words that have been uttered by President Obama time and time again as he states he will work around an obstructionist United States Congress to take action to address our nation’s continuing unemployment crisis. One clear opportunity to demonstrate his commitment to unemployed Americans was the approval of the construction permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.

With a national unemployment rate in construction at 16 percent, it is beyond disappointing that President Obama placed a higher priority on politics rather than our nation’s number one challenge, jobs,” stated Mr. Ayers.

The Building and Construction Trades Department is an alliance of 13 national and international unions that collectively represent over 2 million skilled craft professionals in the United States and Canada.

“Envirnmental activists who are not saddied with the economic and psychological scars that accompany long-term unemployment will applaud the fact that they successfully induced the White House to block this project. Meanwhile, thousands of proud Americans throughout the heartland will once again be faced with the terrifying prospect of losing their homes and their livelihoods as they struggle to find work.

Jobs remain at the top of the list of voters concerns heading into the 2012 elections. Our members has anxiously embraced the hopeful rhetotic of “We Can’t Wait” in response to an unproductive Congress that seems incapable of acting on meaningful job creation initiatives,” added Mr. Ayers.

03.04.12

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

Anti-union group files challenge against NLRB appointments

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM
LEHIGH VALLEY, January 21st- The anti-union National Right-to-Work foundation attorney’s have joined other pro-business groups in challenging the legality of President Obama’s recent recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The organization filed a motion in federal court on January 13th, 2012 challenging the legality of the recess apppointments to the five-member NLRB. The legal challenge is part of a larger case involving new NLRB rules that require every employer to post complete information about employee rights online and in the workplace, even if they’ve never violated federal labor law.

The organization also opposes new NLRB standards that would shorten when workers could vote whether they want to be represented by a labor union for the purpose of collective bargaining.

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 NLRB 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,” 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 threat them better if they vote gainst unionization.

In motion papers, the Right-to-Work foundation argue that the appointees to the NLRB are not legitimate because the U.S. Senate was still in session during the holiday season, therefore there was no “recess” for the President to make the appointments.

Republicans have failed to vote on Mr. Obama’s appointments despite the fact the NLRB could not conduct business because it lack a quorum with only two standing members.

CWA applaudes ruling involving FAA union elections

03.04.12

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

CWA applaudes ruling involving FAA union elections

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, January 13th- 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 was again front and center after congress returned 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.

Transportation Unions unhappy with FAA legislation

03.04.12

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

Transportation Unions unhappy with FAA legislation

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, February 2nd- The labor organizations that represent workers employed in transporation are disappointed with Democratic party leadership compromise on proposed amendments as part of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) re-authorization bill.

In late summer 2011, there was a partial shutdown of the FAA because of the failure of Congress to agree on a new re-authorization plan mostly because of several anti-union proposals introduced by Republicans.

Congressional Republican’s attempted to overturn National Mediation Board (NMB) rule changes adopted by the in 2010 that was designed to hold union elections within the industry to the same basic principles as other elections in the nation.

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

The amendments to the Railway Labor Act is part of the FAA re-authorization bill and according to the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Union, the new bill is a direct attack on the NMB 75 years of expertise in conducting representation elections in the air and rail industries.

The CWA stated GOP House members insisted last year 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 wanted a rule that would allow workers that did not cast ballots in union elections be counted as “no” votes, rather than ballots actually cast.

Under the compromise that was reached between Democratic Senate Speaker Harry Reid, and Republican House Speaker John Boehner, new roadblocks for employees seeking union representation will be implemented.

“Despite the reports that the proposed changes represent a ‘compromise’ between Congressional leaders, the proposal is a compromise in name only and would have the effect of rewarding House Republicans’ union-busting and intransigence,” said Shane Larson, CWA Legislative Director.

The new agreement would require that at least 50 percent of employees must sign authorization cards just to have an union election. Also, management controls the lists of terminated and furloughed employees that could be counted as eligible voters.

Fired UAW Shop Steward files complaint against employer

03.04.12

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

Fired UAW Shop Steward files complaint against employer

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 19th- The union that represent workers employed at Bridon American Corporation, Stevens Lane in Exeter, 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 United Auto Workers Union (UAW) Local 1612 represents approximately 300 workers employed at the fabricated wire products facility.

The complaint was filed by Todd Morgans, identified on the complaint as UAW Local 1612 Shop Steward on December 20th, 2011.

The Employer Representative named on the ULP to be contacted is Bob Marcaroi. Mr. Marcario position with Bridon American Corporation is Plant Management.

“On or about July 10th, 2011 the company’s agent representative, or delegate disciplined and suspended 3rd shift Union Officer Todd Morgans, an action leading to eventual termination.

The policy allegedly utilized in this case was not an active or agreed-upon company policy at the time of the alleged incident, the initial suspension, or, to the best of my knowledge, the subsequent termination. The actions of the company leave them clearly guilty of wrongful termination, discrimination, and retaliation against a Union Officer. The company is in violation of Section 8 (a)(1) in that it did knowingly interfere with and restrain Mr. Morgans from exercising rights set forth in Section 77 of the NLRA,” states the ULP.

The company is in violation of Section 8 (a)(5) in that it did interfere with the administration of a labor organization by harassing a Union agent and preventing him from adequately performing duties required of him as a Shop Steward,” continued the ULP.