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House Representative Kevin Murphy receiving support of labor community

04.24.12

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

House Representative Kevin Murphy receiving support of labor community

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 2nd- Former union member and incumbent Pennsylvania House of Representative Kevin Murphy (Democrat-112th Legislative District) is receiving the support of the labor community for a third two-year term in Harrisburg.

Mr. Murphy is being challenged by fellow Democrat Marty Flynn for their party nomination of the 112th Legislative seat.

Mr. Murphy was endorsed by the Pennsylvania American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Harrisburg. The Scranton Central Labor Council (SCLU) labor federation, which is affiliated with the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, recommended that Mr. Murphy be endorsed. According to Nancy Krake, President of the SCLU, Mr. Murphy was the only political candidate to receive the support of the Lackawanna County based labor federation.

“Kevin Murphy has shown his support for firefighters,” stated David Gervasi, Greivance Chairman of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Union Local 60 in Scranton.

Paul Casparro, President of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 81 in Scranton, stated Mr. Murphy deserves the support of the labor community for his involvement in labor issues since being a member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

Eric Schubert, Business Representative of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 87 Union, stated Mr. Murphy was the only member of the General Assembly to show support for the public employees unions’ by standing with them on the steps of the Capitol Building during the budget crisis in Harrisburg last year.

Bill Herbert, Treasurer of the United Steelworkers of America (USW) Union Local 5652 in Wilkes-Barre, said Mr. Murphy when ever asked helped defeat or supported any bill that concerned working men and women.

Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act again under attack

04.24.12

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

Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act again under attack

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION- April 2nd- Republican House of Representatives in Harrisburg are again attempting to repeal the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act.

The Prevailing Wage Act was implemented in Pennsylvania more than 50 years ago to stop the practice of out-of-the-state workers, often from the South, of being brought to the North to undercut local labor on construction projects. Jobs on construction projects being funded by taxpayers were being lost to workers that would return to their home state without having any or little economic benefit to Pennsylvania. Without the legislation many local laborers wouldn’t get the jobs and unemployment within the industry increased.

The Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act was modeled after the national prevailing wage law passed in 1931.

Republican House of Representative John Bear (97th Legislative District), is a co-signer of the lastest legislation that is intended to repeal the Prevailing Wage Act.

Mr. Bear has sponored other anti-union legislation in Harrisburg including the prohibiting the use of Project Labor Agreement (PLA’s) on public projects in Pennsylvania.

A PLA is a comprehensive agreement signed by a builder and local craft unions under which a defined construction project is agreed to be completed by workers from local union halls, in return for the union’s guarantee of no strikes, a steady labor supply, and general labor peace.

Despite Mr. Bear’s obvious anti-union opinions he has always been accessible to the newspaper.

Mr. Bear stated it’s time the state Legislature repeals the prevailing wage law. “The mandate adds as extra 5 percent onto the costs of public school, municipal and state building projects compared with private sector costs.”

“Weakening prevailing wage laws is a failed policy that Pennsylvania already tried in the late 1990’s and that didn’t work. When it comes to construction work, you get what you pay for. Prevailing wage laws help ensure the use of more skilled and experienced workers on state projects,” stated Dr. Stephen Herzenberg, economist and Executive Director of the Keystone Research Center, a ecomomy think-tank in Harrisburg.

“At a time when Pennsylvania needs every middle-class job it can find, it makes no sense to weaken a law that ensures that state projects hire local workers that spend their earnings at local businesses,” added Mr. Herzenberg.

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04.23.12

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AFTRA and SAG members overwhelmingly approve merger

04.23.12

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

AFTRA and SAG members overwhelmingly approve merger

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 30th- There is one less union affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington, DC after the membership of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) International Union’s overwhelmingly voted to merge and form SAG-AFTRA.

SAG 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 digital 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.

The two union’s sent out ballots of the proposed merger to approximately 131,000 members of both labor organizations in early March. Both labor organizations are headquartered in Los Angeles, California. The ballots needed to be received by the post office box no later than 10 a.m., March 30th.

According to SAG-AFTRA, the members of SAG voted 82 percent in favor of the merger while the AFTRA members voted in favor of the merger by 86 percent, exceeding the 60 percent threshold needed for both unions’ membership for passage.

The merger is effective immediately with 53 percent of SAG returning ballots and 51.7 percent of AFTRA members mailing back their merger ballots.

“The merger of these two unions is a huge victory for our members, and it is a monumental achievement for the labor moverment. I applaud every member who voted, and invite all members, locally and nationally, to join with us in building a successor union worthy of AFTRA and SAG,” stated SAG-AFTRA Co-President Roberta Reardon.

Additional lay-offs scheduled for Eynon tank plant

04.23.12

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

Additional lay-offs scheduled for Eynon tank plant

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 1st- Officials of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Bureau of Workforce Development Partnership have scheduled a meeting with workers of General Dynamics Land Systems plant in Eynon that have been notified they will be laid-off without recall.

Cuts in the United States defense budget has resulted in lay-offs at the plant, located in Eynon, Lackawanna County.

The United Auto Workers of America (UAW) Union Local 1193 represent the workers employed at the plant, which reconditions parts for the M1A1 Abrams battle tank. The tank was used in combat in Irag and Afghanistan.

Local 1193 had approxiamtely 200 members at the Eynon facility in 2010, however more than 50 workers have been laid-off since, many maybe permanently, due to cut-backs in defense spending in Washington, DC.

The budget cuts in defense spending have resulted in lay-offs across the industry that produces, re-manufactures or provides support for the military.

Ken Klinkel, President of Local 1193, stated the union was notified an additional ten workers will be laid-off without recall, meaning the job loss of the affected workers could be permanent, effective April 13th for a total of sixteen workers laid-off so-far in 2012.

Mr. Klinkel told the newspaper the tank was heavily used during the war in Irag, but with the “pull-back” of American forces in the middle-east, funding for the tank program has been cut.

Mr. Klinkel stated with problems currently on-going with Iran, which has threatened to attack American ships and has stated would attempt to stop oil from being shipped from the region, now is not the time to make further cuts to the Abrams tank program.

Mr. Klinkel stated should the tank program be shutdown, the United States would not be producing or refurbishing any battle tanks for the first time since World War 2.

“There is talk about shutting down the program for four years and then restarting it. We doubt that would happen. The restart costs would be unbelievable and our members would need to find other jobs,” Ken Klinkel, President of Local 1193 told the newspaper in a previous edition.

The Department of Labor, Rapid Response Team includes officials which represent agencies that assist laid-off or soon to be laid-off workers in gaining new employment, signing-up for unemployment benefits, and explaining to them other programs that are available to help them with the job loss.

According to Ronald Vogel Jr., DOL’s, Regional Representative of the Rapid Response Coordination Services, the scheduled meeting with the affected workers is Monday, April 23rd at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 87 Union building in Dunmore. The event will begin at 1 P.M.

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

04.23.12

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

MSA’s unemployment rate decreases to 8.9 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 4th- 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 by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report, which was released approximately two weeks before. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) includes Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wyoming Counties of Pennsylvania. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was 9.2 percent.

The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 7.6 percent, unchanged from the previous report. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,389,000 with 483,000 not working and 5,906,000 with employment. The national unemployment rate is 8.3 percent, also unchanged from the previous report. The unemployment rate does not include civilians who unemployment benefits have expired and stopped looking for work.

There are 12,806,000 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 MSA continues to have the highest unemployment rate among the 14 MSA’s within Pennsylvania.

The Philadelphia MSA has the second highest unemployment rate in the Commonwealth at 8.3 percent. The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easston MSA and the Johnstown MSA are tied for the third highest unemployment rate at 8.1 percent. The Reading MSA has the fourth highest unemployment rate at 7.5 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.5 percent. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in the state at 5.9 percent, while the Lancaster MSA has the third lowest unemployment rate at 6.3 percent. The Altoona MSA has the fourth lowest unemployment rate at 6.5 percent.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA has the fourth largest labor force in Pennsylvania at 284,300 civilians with 25,200 not working. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force in Pennsylvania at 2,975,300 with 247,000 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor force at 1,235,200 with 82,300 without jobs; and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force at 425,000 with 34,300 not working.

The Williamsport MSA has the smallest labor force in Pennsylvania with 61,900 civilians. The Altoona MSA has the second smallest labor force with 65,400 civilians and the Lebanon MSA is third with a labor force of 73,000.

Lackawanna County has the lowest unemployment rate within the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA at 7.5 percent, decreasing by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and dropping by eight-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Lackawanna County has a civilian labor force of 108,100, rising by 700 from the previous report.

Luzerne County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 9.0 percent, decreasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report and also dropping by one-tenth of a percentage point from twelve months before.

Luzerne County has the largest civilian labor-force in the MSA at 161,800, increasing 1,600 from the previous report and rising by 1,700 during the past twelve months.

Wyoming County has a unemployment rate of 8.9 percent, rising by four-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and dropping by nine-tenths of a percentage point during the past twelve months.

Wyoming County has the smallest civilian labor force in the MSA at 14,400, unchanged from twelve months ago.

In the MSA total nonfarm jobs have increased by 3,900 during the past twelve months to 254,200. Service providing jobs rose by 3,900 during the period while manufacturing jobs have dropped by 400 from twelve months before.

Meanwhile, retail jobs have dropped by 100 during the last twelve months, but general merchandise stores jobs have increased by 100 during the period.

Government jobs have dropped by 800 during the past year with local government leading the way by losing 400 jobs. Federal government and state government jobs declined by 200 each during the past twelve months.

Postal Union files complaint against USPS Supervisor

04.23.12

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

Postal Union files complaint against USPS Supervisor

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 29th- A labor organization that represent workers of the United States Postal Service (USPS) in Luzerne County filed a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia, alleging the postal agency violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Branch 115 in Wilkes-Barre, which represent workers of the USPS that deliver mail to homes and businesses in Luzerne County, alleges the mail delivery service violated the NLRAct during a meeting being held between the union and an member of management.

The complaint was filed on behalf of the Union by Matthew Slivinski, identified on the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) as NALC Branch 115 Shop Steward and an employee of the USPS. The ULP was filed on March 19th, 2012.

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

“During a Postal Discipline Interview (PDI) of an employee under my charge as Union Steward, I was told by supervisor Kratz to “Be Quiet.” That it was “Her Show” and I was not to speak until the Grievance procedure.

I feel the “Gag Order” is a clear violation of 8(a) and the “Weingarten Rights” as stated in the contract in article 12 of the NALC,” states the ULP.

The Employer Representative named on the Unfair Labor Practice to be contacted is Lisa Kratz. Ms. Kratz is a supervisor of the USPS in Luzerne County.

The NALC Branch 115 represents approximately 150 workers of the USPS.

Congressman Tim Holden seeking labor community votes in April election

04.22.12

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

Congressman Tim Holden seeking labor community votes in April election

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, March 21st- Both Democratic party candidates seeking the nomination of the newly established boundaries of the 17th Legislative District in the United States House of Representatives is seeking the support of the labor community.

Incumbent Congressman Tim Holden is being challenged by Lackawanna County Attorney Matt Cartwright for the Democratic nomination in the 17th Legislative District. Because of the newly redrawn boundaries in Pennsylvania, due to a loss of one congressional seat after the 2010 census, approximately 75 percent of the territory in the 17th Legislative District will be new.

Currently the Lehigh Valley is represented in Washington by the 15th Legislative District. The seat is held by Republican Charlie Dent, who is serving his fourth two-year term. However, because of re-districting the region will be represented by two congressional districts in Washington beginning in January 2013.

The new district will include the Cities of Easton, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties will be represented in Washington by three Legislative Districts.

Mr. Holden is seeking a eleventh two-year term in the House of Representatives. Mr. Cartwright is running for political office for the first time.

During a interview by the newspaper, Mr. Holden stated he has a 92 percent voting ranking for supporting labor issues by the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation during the 20 years he has been in Washington. He told the newspaper he was a co-sponsor for legislation that raised the minimum wage, voted against any attempt to weaken the Davis-Bacon Act, and voted for the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCAct/Card Check legislation.

“Throughout my career in Congress, I have held true to my roots and stood up to the Republican Party time after time as they attempted to take away the rights of middle class workers. In my first term, I was one of the few freshman Democrats that stood up for working people and opposed NAFTA and I have never wavered from the opposition to unfair labor agreements and regulations since,” Mr. Holden stated.

Mr. Holden did not like comments made by Mr. Cartwright in the previous edition of the newspaper regarding that he voted to extend the Bush era taxcuts to the wealthy.

“I voted with President Obama in 2011. The President asked us to vote in favor of the taxcuts, because the middle class would have also seen a tax increase,” Mr. Holden said. “I voted against the taxbreaks for the richest Americans during the Bush presidency.”

Mr. Holden defended his vote gainst President Obama’s healthcare reform legislation. “I voted against it because of the $500 billion of medicare cuts.”

The Republicans have always out-numbered Democrats in the legislative districts Mr. Holden has represented. However, Mr. Holden stated if elected to represented the new 17th Legislative District, which Democrats will out-number Republicans, his overall voting record in supporting Democratic party legislation will rise. He has the distinction of being called a “Blue Dog” Democrat, meaning Mr. Holden’s voting record indicates he hasn’t always supported Democratic party legislation.

Report indicates long-term unemployed experiencing hardship

04.22.12

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

Report indicates long-term unemployed experiencing hardship

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, March 18th- A new report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), an Washington DC based independent think tank that does studies on economic and social issues in the workplace, indicates overall unemployment has ticked down slightly from peeks of the recession, but long-term unemployment remains historically high. The report shows the high long-term unemployment rate threatens the long-term economic security of workers and the nation as a whole.

The new CEPR report sheds light on the demographics of the millions of workers struggling with employment and under-employment.

The report the “Long-term Hardship in the Labor Market” breaks out workers considered long-term unemployed by the official United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics standard according to race and gender, education, and age. The authors also expand the conventional concept of long-term unemployment and capture further dimensions of long-term hardship including discouraged workers, workers marginally attached to the workforce, and workers who are part-time for economic reasons.

“The recovery, which officially started in the summer of 2009, has provided almost no relief to those experiencing long-term hardship in the labor market,” stated John Schmitt, senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research and co-author of the report.

Large numbers of workers are not accounted for under the traditional measure of long-term employment. As a result, millions of workers fall outside of official tallies and face significant and long-lasting loss of earnings, deterioration of skills, poverty and even higher rates of divorces and reduced physical and mental health.

The report indicated that this is a burden borne disproportionately by blacks and latinos, less educated workers and younger workers, all of whom are more likely to face extended periods of long-term hardship.

The CEPR also recently released a report that showed 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 report shows that this standard measure estimate understates the extent of long-term hardship in the United States labor market.

“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 Mr. Schmitt.

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. Schmitt added.

Teamsters Union Local 773 unsuccessful in winning election because of tie

04.22.12

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

Teamsters Union Local 773 unsuccessful in winning election because of tie

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, March 15th- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 773, Hamilton Street 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 of a employer in Brieigsville wanted to be represented by the union for the purpose of collective baragining.

In the February edition of the newspaper it was reported that Local 773 filed the petition on January 12th, which was discovered while reviewing labor complaints and petitions filed at the NLRB office. The newspaper is the only member of the local media that reviews the information and publishes the findings.

The IBT Local 773 wanted to represent all full-time and regular part-time truck drivers of KEHE Distributors, 860 Nestle Way, in Brienigsville.

The petition was filed on behalf of Local 773 by Dennis Hower, Vice-President of the union.

According to the NLRB, the agency conducted the election on February 24th and there were 27 eligible to vote employees. The IBT Local 773 received 13 votes while 13 workers voted not to be represented by the Union.

Under NLRB rules, a union must receive 50 percent plus one of the eligible to vote employees in a agency election to become the bargaining representative of the workers. Therefore, Local 773 was unsuccessful because the vote was a “tie”. However, if the one eligible to vote employee that did not participate in the election voted for unionization, the union would have won the right to represent the workers in collective bargaining.

The company operates a transportation facility at the Brieigsville location.

Report warns of crisis for public schools in Pennsylvania

04.22.12

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

Report warns of crisis for public schools in Pennsylvania

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, March 20th- According to the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) Union, the state’s largest labor organization that represents teachers and other school employees, the reality of unprecedented school funding cuts is forcing dramatic cuts in student programs and pushing a growing number of public schools to the financial brink.

The PSEA released a study on March 12th called, “Sounding The Alarm.” The report uses research to illustrate a series of systemic problems in state public education policy that are compounding the impact of nearly $1 billion in state funding cuts and pushing many school districts into financial distress.

The President of the PSEA has continued to attack Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett’s state budget proposal for education. On February 8th, Michael Crossey, President of the Pennsylvania State Education Association Union, which represents approximately 193,000 future, active and retired teachers and school employees in Pennsylvania, stated Mr. Corbett used a complicated fiscal shell game to “redesign school and district” basic education funding and his budget proposal represents an unwise experiment that will cause chaos in the public school system. He also added the proposal would eliminate research-testing, and classroom-proven programs.

Mr. Crossey has been very critical of Governor Corbett’s cuts in education since he signed into law in June 2011 a state budget that cut $860 million from public schools. This year’s budget included another round of cuts to education and cuts to essential public school programs is inevitable.

“Every day, we hear about more cuts to programs that have helped students succeed in the classroom. Every day, the school funding crisis gets worse. If we don’t do something about it, it will escalate and even more students will loss the programs they need to get the education they deserve,” stated Mr. Crossey. Mr. Crossey is a special education teacher in the Keystone Oaks School District.

Mr. Corbett, and other state legislators, mostly Republicans, also support creating a taxpayer-funded voucher system, which if becomes law would take even more money from the public school system that have suffered hugh cuts in funding received from Pennsylvania despite a Madonna Opinion research poll showing the public does not like the voucher plan.

Mr. Crossey stated as school districts struggle to compile their 2012-2013 budgets, districts are being forced to cut more essential programs.

Mr. Crossey stated the governor’s 2012 budget proposal uses an accounting gimmick, combining line items for employee Social Security contributions and transporation costs in an attempt to create the appearance of an increase in the state’s main basic education subsidy to public schools.

The PSEA report identifies five key problems that have combined to create a financial crisis in the Pennsylvania public schools which includes:

• State Budget cuts. Unprecedented state funding cuts and the elimination of key funding programs have compounded underlying, systemic programs, particularly for lower-wealth districts.
• Charter School Payments. Charter and cyber charter school laws result in a net increase in costs to school districts.
• Declining Tax Base and Rate Limits. Declining local property values and caps on property tax increases have eroded school districts’ tax bases and curtailed their ability to raise much needed revenues; and
• Pension Cost increases. A decade-long “holiday” that allowed employers to avoid paying their share of retirement contributions, coupled with investment losses from 2008 and 2009, forced the current increase in employer payments.

Unemployment rate for black workers improves

04.20.12

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

Unemployment rate for black workers improves

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, March 4th- According to the Department of Labor (DOL), the national unemployment rate decreased by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report to 8.3 percent and dropped by 0.8 percentage points over the past twelve months.

However, the unemployment rate for African American men dropped by 3.0 percentage points since December 2011 with their overall rate falling by 2.2 percentage points during the past year to 13.6 percent, the lowest since March, 2009.

The unemployment rate for African American men over 20 years old fell by 3.0 percentage points to 12.7 percent, the lowest level since November, 2008. The drop for women over 20 years old was 1.3 percentage points to 12.6 percent.

Also, the Department of Labor reported the unemployment rate for Hispanics dropped during the period by 0.5 percentage points to 10.5 percent, the lowest since January, 2009.

During the period, the gains for whites were more modest, the overall unemployment rate down by 0.1 percentage points to 7.4 percent. The unemployment rate for white men over 20 years old fell by 0.2 percentage points to 6.9 percent, while it was unchanged for white women over 20 years old at 6.8 percent.

Other DOL data in the household survey were mixed. There was a rise in the number of workers unemployed involuntarily, although the rise followed sharp declines the prior two months. The percentage of unemployment due to people quiting edged up, but remains low and even below the levels of the last quarter of 2011.

Manufacturing employment increased by 50,000 since January, after rising by 32,000 in December, 2011. Most jobs came in fabricated metal, machinery and the transportation sectors. Construction also had strong growth for the second-consecutive month, adding 21,000 jobs so-far in 2012 after an increase of 31,000 jobs in December 2011.

The gains in construction jobs were undoubtedly because of the unusually good weather in the Northeast and Midwest, one reason why the jobs increases could be only temporary.

Pennsylvania Governor Corbett signs voter ID legislation

04.20.12

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

Pennsylvania Governor Corbett signs voter ID legislation

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, March 17th- Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett signed into law just hours after the Pennsylvania State House passed House Bill 934. The legislation will require voters to present photo identification beginning in the fall election.

Mr. Corbett stated the “so-called voter ID bill” will bring greater integrity to the election process and would protect honest voters. However, most Democrats of the Pennsylvania General Assembly opposed the legislation believing the law will result in longer lines at polls and was nothing but a Trojan horse designed to tip election battles in Republicans’ favor.

During the debate many raised questions, including Democrats and the Pennsylvania American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Harrisburg, about the bill’s necessity and its intent.

Many other state legislatures have been working overtime to pass law to restrict and disenfranchise many voters, mostly students, people of color, and lower income citizens. Republican party members and their supporters are behind the legislation.

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

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 erros, not deliberate fraud by people who appeared to have mistakenly filled out registration forms or misunderstood eligibility rules.

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 low-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.

The Republican leaning Tea Party Association praised Governor Corbett for signing the Voter ID Bill. “The Association is grateful to Governor Corbett for advancing the cause of voter integrity in Pennsylvania,” stated Association President Teri Adams.

However, the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale called the legislation “the Voter Suppression Bill.”

He stated the bill could disenfranchise nearly 700,000 Pennsylvanians, specifically senior citizens, the disabled, and lower-income workers who may not have a valid driver’s license. Mr. Bloomingdale added the Voter ID law will cost Pennsylvania $11 million in taxpayer money. “The AFL-CIO supports creating jobs, saving jobs, and strengthening our economy, not denying citizens their rights.”

Verizon workers still without contracts following strike

04.20.12

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

Verizon workers still without contracts following strike

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 2nd- Members of the Communications Workers of America International Union (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union that are employees of Verizon conducted a “day of action” against the corporate communications giant. There were 23 events held throughout Pennsylvania on March 22nd including in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Dickson City. Also, 270 events were held across the country.

The rally’s were held to protest what the CWA stated was Verizon’s corporate greed, support good jobs and the United States Call Center Worker and Consumer Act.

On August 7th, 2011 members of the two international unions went on strike against Verizon because of the failure of reaching a successor labor contract. The previous contract expired on August 6th, 2011.

The workers returned to their jobs without reaching new pacts on August 23rd, 2011 with the understanding that negotiations would continue and the workers would work under the “terms and conditions” of the expire contract agreements.

The strike effected approximately 45,000 union verizon workers which included 35,000 workers represented by CWA Local 13000 and CWA Local 13500. The IBEW represents around 10,000 of the employees.

The CWA stated the two sides were unable to reach an agreement because of Verizon’s management insistence of contract “give-backs” and job cuts, due to thousands of American jobs being moved overseas. The company also wanted to outsource even more jobs, gut pensions, charge current and retired employees more for health insurance benefits, and make cuts to disability benefits for workers injured on the job.

Union members have been randomly conducted informational picketing and leafleting at Verizon Wireless stores throughout the region since last August but the most recent action was held at more locations on the same date and time.

According to the CWA, Verizon has made tens of billions in profits and its top executives walked away with $283 million in the last four years. But, when it comes to the 45,000 union workers the company cries “bloke.” Verizon made more than $3 billion during the first seven months of 2011 leading-up to the strike.

The CWA stated for six months the company has “played hardball” with workers who only want a fair contract and a decent middle-class life.

Poll shows young Americans are unhappy with economy and Washington leadership

04.12.12

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

Poll shows young Americans are unhappy with economy and Washington leadership

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, March 19th- While the main-stream corporate media has reported that the unemployment numbers have improved during the past several months according to findings of Generation Opportunity, a non-profit, 501 (c)(4) organization that seeks to engage young adults, college students, service men and women, early career professionals and other Americans who are dissatisfied with the status quo, young workers trying to enter the workforce have few opportunities.

“We talk about how historic these numbers are, not since World War 2 have we seen this level of unemployment persist. But, the bigger story is what it represents, millions of lives, moms, dads, brothers and sisters, construction workers, veterans, young Americans, and many more trying to enter a workfoce with fewer and fewer opportunities.

These figures represent denied opportunity, heartache and angst for millions of Americans, and young Americans are being hit especially hard,” stated Generation Opportunity President Paul Conway, former Chief of Staff of the United States Department of Labor under Secretary Elaine Chao.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke recently told the Congress that “the job market remains far from normal. The Unemployment rate remains elevated, long-term unemployment is still near record levels, and the number of persons working part-time for economic reasons is very high.”

Mr. Conway pointed out that the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded a 63.7 percent civilian labor force participation rate, a 30 year low, which revealed that more than one million Americans simply gave up looking for work, dropping out of the labor force.

The unemployment numbers without seasonal adjustment, have risen from 8.6 percent in January to 9.1 percent in February, following an upward trend from 8.5 percent in December, 2011.

Mr. Conway released a new poll that contacted young Americans ages 18 years old to 29 years old.

The number show that 43 percent of the group are not satisfied with the current level of employment. Other results of the poll found:

• 77 percent of young people either have or will delay a major life change or purchase due to economic factors.
• 44 percent are delaying buying a home.
• 28 percent are delaying saving for retirement.
• 27 percent are delaying paying off student loans or other debt.
• 27 percent are delaying going back to school or getting more education or training.
• 23 percent are delaying starting a family.
• 26 percent are delaying changing jobs and or cities; and
• 69 percent say the current leadership in Washington fails to reflect the interests of the younger generation.
“While young Americans are being denied opportunities today, they are being saddled with record levels of debt to pay off tomorrow,” added Mr. Conway.

UPWU Local 268 President defends his Union members

04.12.12

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

UPWU Local 268 President defends his Union members

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, March 14th- The President of the labor organization that represent workers of the United States Postal Service (USPS) that are members of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 268, believes a news article published in the previous edition of the newspaper makes it appear his members are less productive than workers doing the same classification of work in Scranton.

In the March edition of the Union News, APWU Local 101 President Kevin Gallagher in Scranton stated that workers at the USPS mail processing center in Scranton are more “productive and efficient” than the workers at the Lehigh Valley center. The newspaper was reporting on the USPS announcement that mail processing centers will be closed or merged. According to the agency, the service lost more than $3.3 billion in the last three months of 2011.

There are around 487 mail processing centers throughout the nation, including one in Scranton and the Lehigh Valley. Local 268 represent workers that sort mail at the USPS processing center in Bethlehem Township.

The USPS announced the mail processing center in Scranton would be eliminated with the operations being moved to the Lehigh Valley. Under the plan, the Lehigh Valley facility would gain jobs with many of the workers in Scranton being offered the opportunity to work in the center.

The major reason the USPS loses money is because of legislation that was passed in 2006 that forces the agency to fund pensions for workers that have not yet even been born. The pensions for the future workers must be funded 75 years in advance by 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.

The labor organization’s that represent the employees of the USPS believe one of the biggest reasons legislators in Washington supported the pension plan was because of them being anti-union. The USPS employs more union workers than any other employer in the United States and often supported Democratic party candidates.

President of Local 268 Bernie Ogozalek, disagreed with the Mr. Gallagher’s opinion regarding Scranton’s workers being more productive and efficient than the workers in the Lehigh Valley. “He declined to mention the obvious reason that it costs less to handle mail in Scranton than it does in the Lehigh Valley. Which is because the Lehigh Valley plant processes and sorts Scranton’s mail before it gets to Scranton. This drives up the costs of handling mail in the Lehigh Valley and reduces the cost for Scranton,” stated Mr. Ogozalek.

Mr. Ogozalek told the newspaper the APWU does not want any mail processing centers closed. “It is very unfortunate that the USPS decided to close the Scranton mail processing facility, but the hard working Union members in the Lehigh Valley had nothing to do with the decision,” added Mr. Ogozalek.

Reality, News Perception, and Accuracy

04.12.12

By WALTER BRASCH

She quietly walked into the classroom from the front and stood there, just inside the door, against a wall.

I continued my lecture, unaware of her presence until my students’ eyes began focusing upon her rather than me.

“Yes?” I asked. Just “yes.” Nothing more.

“You shouldn’t have done it,” she said peacefully. I was confused. So she said it again, this time a little sharper.

“Ma’am,” I began, but she cut me off. I tried to defuse the situation, but couldn’t reason with her. She pulled a gun from her purse and shot me, then quickly left. I recovered immediately.

It took less than a minute.

The scene was an exercise in a newswriting class, unannounced but highly planned. My assignment was for the students to quickly write down everything they could about the incident. What happened. What was said. What she looked like. What she was wearing. Just the facts. Nothing more.

Everyone got some of the information right, but no one got all the facts, even the ones they were absolutely positively sure they saw or heard correctly. And, most interestingly, the “gun” the visitor used and which the students either couldn’t identify or misidentified was in reality a . . . banana; a painted black banana, but a banana nevertheless. The actual gun shot was on tape broadcast by a hidden recorder I activated.

It was a lesson in observation and truth. Witnesses often get the facts wrong, unable to distinguish events happening on top of each other. Sometimes they even want to “help” the reporter and say what they think the reporter wants to hear.

Reporters are society’s witnesses who record history by interviewing other witnesses, and they all make mistakes not because they want to but because everyone’s experiences and perceptions fog reality.

Of the infinite number of facts and observations that occur during a meeting, reporters must select a few, and then place them in whatever order they think is most important. Which few they select, which thousands they don’t select–and, more important–which facts they don’t even know exist–all make up a news story, usually written under deadline pressure. Thus, it isn’t unusual for readers to wonder how reporters could have been in the same meeting as they were since the published stories didn’t seem to reflect the reality of the meeting.

But there are some facts that are verifiable. We know that a South American country is spelled “Colombia,” not “Columbia.” We know that Theodore Roosevelt was a progressive Republican. And we know that the current World Series champions are the St. Louis Cardinals not, regrettably, the San Diego Padres.

But, for far too many in my profession, facts and the truth are subverted by a process that has become he said/she said journalism. We take notes at meetings, recording who said what. If there are conflicting statements, we try to quote all the opinions, even the dumb ones, believing we are being “fair and balanced.” If a news source says the world is flat, we write that, and then see if we can find someone who will say that it is round—or maybe square.

When we write features and personality profiles, we tend to take what we are told, craft it into snappy paragraphs, and hope the readers don’t fall asleep. If someone shyly tells us he earned a Silver Star for heroism during the Vietnam War, we don’t demand to see the certificate—or question how a 50 year old, who was wasn’t even in his teens when the war ended, could actually have served during the Vietnam war.

At the local level, although we’re trained to be cynical, we aren’t. If a mayor or police chief tells us something, we attribute the quote, figuring we did our duty. Maybe we ask a couple of questions, but we tend not to pursue them—we have far too many stories to write and far too little time. Besides, if the facts are wrong, we believe we’re “protected,” since it’s not we who said it but someone else. Legally, of course, we’re still responsible for factual error even if someone else said it and we accurately quote that person, but we don’t worry about the technicalities.

Adequate reporters get their facts from people in authority; the great reporters know truth is probably known by the secretaries, custodians, and other workers. We just have to find the right sources, dig out the facts, and verify them.

And now comes another presidential election, and we continue to perpetuate lies by not challenging those who spout them. Rick Santorum says California’s public colleges don’t teach American history—and we write down his lie. Mitt Romney claims he never said the Massachusetts health care plan was a model for the entire country, that Barack Obama never mentioned the deficit during his state of the union or that the President is constantly apologizing for America, and we write that without challenge. Newt Gingrich, like most Republican candidates for president and Congress, wants us to believe he’s an “outsider” and a fiscal conservative, and we go along with the fiction. Barack Obama said he’d be a leader for defending Constitutional rights, yet willingly signed an extension of the PATRIOT Act, which curtails civil liberties.

Pick a candidate—any candidate, any party—and we think we’re “fair” because we record what he or she said, even of it’s a lie, a half-truth, an exaggeration, a distortion, or a misconception. Perhaps American politicians have internalized the wisdom of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels who said “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

Quoting people isn’t journalism—it’s clerking. We’re merely taking words, transcribing them, and publishing them. Journalism demands we challenge our sources and find the truth. As one grizzled city editor said in the late 19th century, if your mother claims to be your mother, demand a birth certificate. It was good advice then; it is even better advice now.

[In a 40-year career as a journalist and professor, Dr. Brasch has won more than 200 awards for excellence in journalism in investigative reporting, feature writing, and for his weekly column. His current book is the critically-acclaimed novel Before the First Snow, which helps explain the rise of the Occupy and anti-fracking movements. The book is available in both ebook and hardcover formats.]

Fired nursing home employee files labor complaint

04.11.12

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

Fired nursing home employee files labor complaint

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION- March 1st- A fired employee of the Mountain City Nursing and Rehabiliation Center, Hazle Township Boulevard in Hazle Township, Luzerne County, 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 filed by Peter DeMarco, North 3rd Street in West Hazleton, the employer has approximately 240 employees.

Mr. DeMarco filed the Unfair Labor Practice charge on behalf of himself. The ULP states he was discharged on May 16th, 2011.

The Employer Representative named on the complaint to be contacted is Mary Ann Chaklos. Her position with the employer is not identified on the labor complaint.

Mr. DeMarco alleges the nursing home violated the NLRAct by issuing a discharge warning disciplinary action because he engaged in union and protected concerned activities.

“The Employer violated Section 8 (a)(1) and (3) of the Act on or about April 15th, 2011 when it unlawfully banned DeMarco from working on the third floor because he engaged in union and protected concerted activities,” states the complaint, which was reviewed by the newspaper.

The Union News is the only member of the local media that reviews and publishes complaints and petitions filed at the NLRB Region Four office.

Mr. DeMarco also alleges the employer violated the NLRAct when it threatened him with further discipline (suspension) because he exercised his Weeingarten rights and engaged in other union activities.

According to the ULP, Mr. DeMarco was unlawfully suspended and discharged for engaging in union and protected concerted activities in 2011.

GCC/IBT Union files complaint against printing plant

04.11.12

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

GCC/IBT Union files complaint against printing plant

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, February 28th- The union that represent workers employed at Quad Graphics, 594 Can Do Expressway in Hazleton, 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 735S, represents approximately 250 workers employed at printing facility.

The complaint was filed by Harrisburg Attorney Ira Weinstock, identified on the complaint as GCC/IBT Local 735S legal counsel.

The Employer Representative named on the ULP to be contacted is David McCarthy, Quad Graphics Human Resources Director.

“On or about January 6th, 2012, the Employer required bargaining unit employees to sign a “Quad/Card Acknowledgement”. The employees were required to agree to the use of their photograph and other items which affect their privacy. This is a term and condition of employment and an unilateral change by the Employer. The Union never agreed to this change. This action by the Employer is a violation of Section 8 (a)(5) of the Act,” states the ULP.

“On or about January 1st, 2012, the Employer unlaterally changed the health and welfare contribution for all employees to 35 percent (single), 32 percent (husband and wife) and 30.5 percent (family). The contractual amount was 29 percent under the current contract. The contract expired on April 30th, 2011 and the parties have continued to work under the terms and conditions of the present contract and have been in negotiations. The unilateral change was never agreed to by the Union and is a violation of Section 8(a)(5) of the Act,” the ULP added.

Teamsters Union Local 401 members ratify new five-year contract at Mohegan Sun Casino

04.11.12

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

Teamsters Union Local 401 members ratify new five-year contract at Mohegan Sun

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 3rd- Members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 401, South Washington Street in Wilkes-Barre have ratified a new five year labor agreement with the operators of the Mohegan Sun Casino at Pocono Downs in Plains Township.

The five-year pact took effect on February 1st, 2012 and will expire on January 31st, 2017. The previous pact was also a five year agreement.

Most of the Mohegan Sun employees are nonunion. However, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union District Council 87 and IBT Local 401 represent some of the employees of the casino/racetrack.

The IBT jurisdiction of workers includes: landscaping workers; general painting; plumbing; general carpenter work; general electrical work; snow removal; and all drivers with the exception of shuttle buses. The union represents approximately 25 Mohegan Sun employees.

The union represented 16 workers when Penn National, the previous owner and operator of the racetrack. However, after Mohegan Sun purchased the facility, they recognized IBT Local 401 as the bargaining representative of the additional workers.

Under the new contract IBT members will receive a three percent wage increase each year. The workers will receive a 3.5 percent wage increase for the fifth and final year of the pact.

Highlights of the pact include:

•reduced probationary period from 90 to 60 days;
•employees can now roll over up to three unused sick days to following
year to maximum of nine days per year;
•added a short-term disability policy;
•$300.00 allowance for tools and safety shoes;
•$150.00 allowance for safety shoes; and
•wages will average between $16.84 to $19.81 at the end of pact.