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Verizon and union’s still meeting regarding labor pacts

08.28.12

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

Verizon and union’s still meeting regarding labor pacts

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, August 18th- Members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Union and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union are still without new collective bargaining agreements with Verizon.

The CWA and IBEW members have been without new labor agreements with Verizon since August 6th, 2011.

Recently in an attempt to gain new contracts, the unions asked for federal mediation through the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) in Washington. Verizon first declined the request for mediation but later agreed and negotiation meetings have been held with the FMCS present. Meetings between the parties have been suspended several times but were continued after taking several days away from conducting negotiations.

On August 7th, 2011, approximately 45,000 union Verizon workers, which included 35,000 workers represented by the CWA and 10,000 employees represented by IBEW, went on strike.

The union’s and Verizon were unable to reach an agreement because of managements insistence of give-backs and job cuts. The give-backs included higher healthcare benefit cost and jobs being outsourced to private contractors.

The unions stated the strike occured because Verizon came to negotiations with an extreme set of contract proposals and would not move off of them.

The workers returned to their jobs on August 23rd, 2011 without receiving new contracts but had the understanding negotiations would continue and the workers would work under the “terms and conditions” of the previous pact.

The CWA and the IBEW felt working under the terms and conditions of the expired contract would be better for their members than agreeing to a “bad” contract in which pensions would be cut and current and retired employees health insurance would cost more.

According to CWA Local 13000, several issues remain in the way from the parties reaching successor contracts. The union’s have attempted to keep at least two issues on the bargaining table to prohibit the company from declaring a “impasse” and posting conditions on their members.

The unions fear Verizon may attempt to implement new contracts now that the one-year anniversity of the expiration of the previous contract’s has been achieved. Should the communications giant “post conditions” workers could be forced to work under it’s “terms and conditions” or go back on strike.

Lehigh Valley unemployment rate rises to 8.5 percent

08.28.12

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

Lehigh Valley unemployment rate rises to 8.5 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, August 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 8.5 percent, increasing by four-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report, which was released approximately four week before. 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 8.8 percent.

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

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA continues to have the highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 9.3 percent. The Johnstown MSA has the second highest unemployment rate at 8.9 percent with the Philadelphia MSA third at 8.7 percent.

The Lebanon MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 6.4 percent. The State College MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 6.8 percent and the Pittsburgh MSA has the third lowest at 7.1 percent.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 7.5 percent, rising by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report but dropping by five-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before.

There are 488,000 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 6,469,000 and 5,981,000 of them have employment.

The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was reported to be 8.2 percent, unchanged from the previous report. That number also does not include civilians that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and have stopped looking for work. The nation unemployment was down nine-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before.

The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force in Pennsylvania with 430,900 civilians, increasing by 4,200 from the previous report and rising by 9,400 during the past twelve months.

The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force at 3,000,800 with 259,700 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor force at 1,252,100 with 89,200 without jobs; the Harrisburg MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force in the commonwealth at 287,100 with 20,800 civilians without jobs. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA is the fifth largest labor force in Pennsylvania with 287,800 civilians and 26,900 of them are without jobs.

There are 12,749,000 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 16.4 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 9.7 percent, increasing by seven-tenths of percentage point from the previous report.

Lehigh County has the lowest unemployment rate in the MSA at 8.5 percent, rising by five-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report.

Northampton County unemployment rate is 8.8 percent, increasing by eight-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report.

Vouchering an Educational Adventure

08.18.12

by WALTER BRASCH

I hadn’t talked with Marshbaum for a couple of years, ever since he left newspaper journalism for more lucrative work in the fast food industry. But here he was in my office to ask if I would publicize his new educational adventure.

“That’s great!” I said. “You’re finishing the last three years of college.”

“I own the school. CEO of Little Minds Charter and Voucher Corp. We’re on the leading edge of the trend to privatize schools.”

“How does mumbling into a broken speaker box make you qualified to run a school?” I asked.

“Interpersonal communication skills,” he replied. “That, and knowing how to count change and arrange work schedules for the three minimum-wage high school kids on my late night shift. It’s all administration and proper marketing.” He thrust a full-color three-panel promotional flyer at me. Buried in small print was the tuition cost.

“That’s a bit high, isn’t it?” I asked.

“With loans, grants, and governmental assistance, it’s almost affordable.”

“Governmental assistance?”

“We’d be bankrupt if we didn’t get it,” said Marshbaum. “Because the state wants to privatize everything, it gives families a yearly check to send their uncultured little cookie crumblers wherever they want. Family gives us the money, and we teach their children the importance of sexual abstinence and the free enterprise system.”

“I suppose you’re making radical changes in education,” I snickered. Marshbaum didn’t disappoint me.

“You bet your Number 2 we are. We’re on track to become the state’s most cost-effective school. Conservative politicians love us. Cutting expenses is where it’s at.”

“What did you cut?”

“First thing we did was order our classroom supplies from China. That saved us over 50 percent. Got a great deal on ugly desk-chairs.”

“You obviously don’t understand the concept of ‘Buy American’,” I suggested.

“Not true, Ink Breath. We get our school uniforms from Wal-Mart. An all-American company.”

“You are aware,” I pointed out, “that most of the clothing in Big Box stores is made by exploited children and their impoverished parents in Third World Countries.”

“Exactly!” beamed Marshbaum. “Cheaper that way. Besides, we use the labels to teach about world geography. That’s a two-fer!”

“How else are you re-defining education?” I asked, knowing Marshbaum wouldn’t disappoint me.

“Downsized the faculty. All those rich college graduates were hurting our bottom line. Hated to downsize Greenblatt, though. Thirty years on the job. Twice recognized as the state’s best history teacher”

“You fired a tenured history teacher?”

“Had to. He was at the top of the salary schedule. Besides, he was teaching about the rise of the middle class and how unions helped get better wages and benefits for the masses. That’s just downright unpatriotic. He refused to be a team player.”

“What you did is probably illegal!” I said.

“We’re a corporation,” said Marshbaum smugly. “We can do anything we want. We’ll be dumping math next.”

“That’s absurd! Of the industrialized nations, the U.S. is already near the bottom in math and science.”

“No one gives a rotten apple’s core about when trains at different speeds leave their stations and pass each other in Wichita.”

“So you don’t have any faculty?” I asked incredulously.

“Don’t be ridiculous. We outsourced our teaching. There’s Bierschmaltz in Austria and Wang Lin in Laos and—”

“I suppose you have them lecturing by speaker phone,” I said sarcastically.

“Even better. They create the lessons, have some teenage videohead record them, and the students can see it on their own computers. Distance Education and Technology is where it’s at. Besides, it’s cheaper than paying live people who demand a lunch break after five classes, and call off sick just because they broke a hip or some other useless joint.”

“If you’re dumping courses, downsizing and outsourcing, how are you going to improve the scores?”

“Not a problem,” Marshbaum said, explaining that the state has specific questions to which the students must know the answers. “We just make sure we drill the students on what they’ll be tested upon.”

“That’s not education, that’s teaching to the test. Your students may get high scores, but they probably won’t get much knowledge.”

“So where’s the problem?”

And with that, Marshbaum grabbed his backpack and went out to recruit more voucher-laden students.

[Walter Brasch spent 30 years as a university professor of mass communications, while continuing his work as a journalist. Now retired from teaching, he continues as a journalist/columnist. His latest of 17 books is the critically-acclaimed novel, Before the First Snow, which looks at critical social issues through the eyes of a ’60s self-described “hippie chick” teacher who is still protesting war, and fighting for the environment, due process issues, and the rights of all citizens to have adequate health care.]

Teamsters Local 229 members vote to ratify new labor agreements

08.16.12

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

Teamsters Local 229 members vote to ratify new labor agreements
BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, July 31st- Union members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 229 in Scranton have ratified several labor agreements involving several employers in Lackawanna County.

According to Charlie Miller, Vice President and Business Representative of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 229, workers at Pepsi Company, North Main Avenue in Scranton, and Verrastro Distributors, Moosic Road, have ratified new labor agreements with their employers.

The Teamsters represent approximately 55 workers employed at Pepsi Company. The North Main Avenue facility does not bottle any Pepsi product. Mr. Miller was not sure were the Pepsi products sold in the area were bottled.

Mr. Miller stated the previous contract agreement between the Teamsters and the company expired on March 31st, 2012 and the new contract was approved by the membership on June 26th, 2012. The vote for ratification was held at the Local 229 building, which is located across the street from the Pepsi Company facility. The two parties had agreed to work under the “terms and conditions” of the previous contract while negotiations continued for a successor labor contract.

The new pact will expire on March 31st, 2016. Under the agreement bargaining unit workers, which include drivers, sales personnel, and warehousemen, will receive wage increases of 45 cents an hour the first, second and third year of the contract while the hourly employees will receive an increase of 45 cents an hour the fourth and final year of the agreement. The bargaining unit employees that work on sales commission, will also see their wages increased under the new bargaining agreement.

Mr. Miller added that there was minor changes to the contract language from the previous pact. Also, employees pensions will increase under the new agreement.

“During a bad ecomonic time, we negotiated a good contract,” stated Mr. Miller. He said the membership overwhelmingly approved the new agreement.

Local 229 represents IBT members in Scranton and the surrounding areas while Local 401 in Wilkes-Barre represents IBT members in Wilkes-Barre and the surrounding areas.

Local 229 represents Verrastro Distributors employees, including truck drivers and warehouse personnel. The company warehouses and delivers beverage products throughout the region. Verrastro was located for many years on Lackawanna and 7th Avenue’s in Scranton but re-located to a larger facilty on Moosic Road in Old-Forge.

The members ratified the new five-year contract agreement by a 36 for to 28 against margin.

Under the new contract, employees pensions will increase, healthcare coverage cost will stay the same, and sickness benefits will rise. Workers wages will increase by 50 cents an hour each year of the five-year pact.

Postal Union files labor complaint regarding processing center

08.16.12

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

Postal Union files labor complaint regarding processing center

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, July 30th- The National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPMHU) Local Branch 308 in Scranton, filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging the United States Postal Service (USPS) violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The Union believes the USPS is acting improperly by moving the mail processing center operations from Stafford Avenue in Scranton to a facility in the Lehigh Valley.

The Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge was filed on behalf of the NPMHU Local Branch 308 by Robert Glycenfer, Local Branch 308 President.

The USPS announced in May it would consolidate 48 mail processing centers throughout the nation including moving the operations of one in Scranton to the Lehigh Valley. The agency stated consolidating the mail processing centers would save nearly $1.2 billion a year. Approximately 5,000 workers will be immediately affected by the consolidation including around 300 in Scranton, which will be offered jobs at the Processing Center in the Lehigh Valley. There are currently around 487 mail processing centers in the United States.

The USPS stated it plans to close about 250 processing centers after their downsizing plan is fully implemented in 2014, which the unions are attempting to stop. Many of the the jobs affected are American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and NPMHU members.

The reason for the cutbacks is because of the declining mail volume caused by the recession and customers no longer using the mail service.

The jobs that will be most effected by the Scranton mail processing center operations being moved to the Lehigh Valley are members of Local Branch 308 and the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 101 in Scranton.

The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) and the American Postal Workers Union represent the majority of USPS workers with a combined membership of nearly 410,000 workers.

The major reason the USPS loses money is because of legislation that was passed in 2006 that forces the agency, which is not funded through any government program but only through postage income, to fund pensions for workers that have not even been born. The pensions for the future workers must be funded 75 years in advance.

According to the ULP, which was discovered by the newspaper while reviewing petitions and ULP’s filed at the NLRB office, NPMHU Local Branch 308 alleges the USPS will not supply information pertaining to the study that was used to justify the removel and consolidation of the mail processing center to the Lehigh Valley.

The complaint alleges NPMHU requests for the information was given to the plant manager and the USPS Labor Relations Manager in Harrisburg, but the information was not received.

“Without this information the USPS has in it’s possession the Union is “blinded” to the truth and cannot property seek justice through the grievance arbitration process over the decision to consolidate mail processing without having the full facts of the case,” states the ULP.

The ULP states the employer representative to be contacted is Sean Kesler, identified as the Plant Manager.

Verizon and Unions continue to negotiate for new pacts

08.16.12

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

Verizon and Unions continue to negotiate for new pacts

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, July 25th- Members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Union and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union are still without new collective bargaining agreements.

The CWA and IBEW members have been without new labor agreements with Verizon since August 6th, 2011.

Recently in an attempt to gain new contracts, the unions asked for federal mediation through the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) in Washington. Verizon first declined the request for mediation but later agreed and several negotiation meetings have been held with the FMCS present.

On August 7th, 2011, approximately 45,000 union Verizon workers, which included 35,000 workers represented by the CWA Local 13000 and CWA Local 13500 and 10,000 employees represented by IBEW, went on strike.

The union’s and Verizon were unable to reach an agreement because of managements insistence of give-backs and job cuts. The give-backs included higher healthcare benefit cost and jobs being outsourced to private contractors.

The unions stated the strike occured because Verizon came to negotiations with an extreme set of contract proposals and would not move off of them.

The workers returned to their jobs on August 23rd, 2011 without receiving new contracts but had the understanding negotiations would continue and the workers would work under the “terms and conditions” of the previous labor agreement.

The CWA and the IBEW felt working under the terms and conditions of the expired contract would be better for their members than agreeing to a “bad” contract in which pensions would be cut and current and retired employees health insurance would cost more.

According to CWA Local 13000, not much progress has been made at the bargaining table leading-up to federal mediation and the one year anniversity date of the expired contract will be held without a successor pact being reached.

Without reaching new pacts, the unions fear Verizon may implement new contracts on their members, following the one-year anniversity of the expiration of the previous contract. Should the communications giant “post conditions” workers could be forced to work under it’s terms and conditions or go back on strike.

As of press time, negotiations between the parties and the FMCS were continuing.

”Sam Bianco Labor Award” recipient is Kerri Gallagher

08.16.12

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

”Sam Bianco Labor Award” recipient is Kerri Gallagher

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, July 30th- This year’s recipient of the “United Way of Wyoming Valley’s Sam Bianco Labor Award” is American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union District Council 87 Staff Representative Kerri Gallagher.

The award was originally created in 1977 to recognize either a union member or labor organization for their monetary or voluntary support to the United Way, their member agencies or community in general.

After the legendary labor leader Sam Bianco died in 2010, the United Way of the Wyoming Valley changed the name of the award to honor Mr. Bianco for his more than 55 years of volunteer service to the community based organization.

Mrs. Gallagher received the award on May 30th at the annual meeting of the organization, which was held a the Mohegan Sun Casino at Pocono Downs. She was presented with the award by the United Way of the Wyoming Valley President Bill Jones.

Walter Klepaski, the United Way of the Wyoming Valley’s American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) Community Services Liason, the go-beteen the labor community and the United Way, stated Mrs. Gallagher deserved the award because of her wide variety of volunteer activities, as well as her generous financial support to the organization over the years.

She is a current United Way board member and Labor Participation Committee member and chairs the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council (GWLC) labor federation Community Services Committee and their Workers Memorial Day Program.

Also, Mrs. Gallagher volunteers for the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Annual Food Drive in May, and the GWBLC’s Labor Christmas Stocking Project in December.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA’s unemployment rate increases to 9.3 percent

08.15.12

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

MSA’s unemployment rate increases to 9.3 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, July 30th- According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania, Department of Labor and Industry, the region’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 9.3 percent, an increase of six-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report, which was released approximately four 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 9.4 percent.

The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 7.5 percent, rising by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,469,000 with 488,000 not working and 5,981,000 with employment. The national unemployment rate is 8.2 percent, unchanged from the previous report. The national unemployment rate has decreased by nine-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. The unemployment rate does not include civilians who unemployment benefits have expired and stopped looking for work.

There are 12,749,000 civilians in the nation reported to be unemployed. That number also does not include civilians that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and have stopped looking for work. During the past several weeks more than 190,000 long-timed jobless workers have exhausted their unemployment benefits and are no longer counted as unemployed.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA continues to have the highest unemployment rate among the 14 MSA’s within Pennsylvania.

The Johnstown MSA has the second highest unemployment rate in the commonwealth at 8.9 percent with the Philadelphia MSA third at 8.7 percent. The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the fourth highest unemployment rate at 8.5 percent. The Reading MSA has the fifth highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 7.9 percent, followed by the York MSA at 7.8 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.8 percent. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in the state at 6.4 percent, while the Lancaster MSA has the third lowest unemployment rate at 6.5 percent. The Pittsburgh MSA has the fourth lowest unemployment rate at 7.1 percent.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA has the fourth largest labor force in Pennsylvania with 287,800 civilians and 26,900 of them are without employment. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force in Pennsylvania at 3,000,800 with 259,700 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor force at 1,252,100 with 89,200 without jobs; and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force at 430,900 with 36,700 not working.

The Williamsport MSA has the smallest labor force in Pennsylvania with 63,500 civilians and 5,100 of them have no jobs. The Altoona MSA has the second smallest labor force with 64,500 civilians with 4,800 without employment and the Johnstown MSA is third with a labor force of 67,900 and 6,000 of them are not working.

Lackawanna County continues to have the lowest unemployment rate in the MSA at 8.6 percent, increasing by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and dropping by six-tenths of a percentage point from one year ago. The County has a civilian labor force of 108,800, unchanged from the previous report but increasing by 1,800 during the past twelve months. There are 9,300 civilians without employment in Lackawanna County, rising by 200 from the previous report but dropping by 600 during the past twelve months.

Luzerne County continues to have the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 8.9 percent, increasing by eight-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and rising by three-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before. Luzerne County has the largest civilian labor-force in the MSA at 164,400, increasing by 1,000 from the previous report and rising by 4,600 during the past twelve months. Luzerne County has 16,200 civilians unemployed, increasing by 1,400 from the previous report and rising by 1,300 from one year ago.

Wyoming County’s unemployment rate is 8.9 percent, increasing by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and dropping by seven-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. The County has a civilian labor force of 14,500, unchanged from the previous report with 1,300 unemployed, also unchanged from the previous report.

IBEW Local 1600 files complaint against PPL Utility

08.15.12

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

IBEW Local 1600 files complaint against PPL Utility

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, July 24th- The labor organization that represents employees of the PPL Corporation filed a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia, alleging the utility provider violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

According to the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP), which was discovered by the newspaper while reviewing representation petitions and labor complaints filed at the NLRB office, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 1600 alleges PPL violated the NLRAct by suspending Chief Steward Jim Caffrey and placed him in a “Responsible Behavior Program” until July 27th, 2014.

The Union News is the only member of the local media, including newspapers, television or radio stations, that reviews and publishes the information.

IBEW Local 1600, Trexlertown, represents approximately 1,000 of the 4,700 PPL employees. The utility company provides electricity to approxmately 1.4 million customers in Pennsylvania including throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The ULP was filed on July 9th, 2012 and states the company representative to be contacted is Stacy Simpson, a PPL Foreman.

The complaint alleges Mr. Caffrey was suspended for one day and given a 24 month “time-in-effect” and placed in a “Responsible Behavior Program” for the “Failure to adhere to Troubleman expections and failure to communicate with Dispatch. The union stated that no bargaining unit employee has ever been disciplined for such an alleged infraction. In fact, the ULP continued, the “Responsible Behavior Program” and the “Troubleman expectations” policy were never bargain with the Union and is not a part of the contract.

NLRB finds merit in IUPAT complaint, schedules hearing

08.13.12

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

NLRB finds merit in IUPAT complaint, schedules hearing

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, July 30th- The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia found merit in the complaint filed by the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) District Council 21, Azalea Drive in Drums, Luzerne County, against a local painting contractor and scheduled a hearing.

In the previous edition of the newspaper it was reported that IUPAT District Council 21 filed a Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge alleging an signatory contractor with the Union violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

According to the Unfair Labor Practice charge, which was discovered by the newspaper while reviewing representation petitions and labor complaints filed at the NLRB Region Four office, the IUPAT represents approximately four workers of the company.

The Union News is the only member of the local media, including newspapers, television or radio broadcasters, that reviews and publicizes the information.

The complaint was filed on May 23rd, 2012 against Accents Painting and Wallcovering, LLC Accents Contracting, Church Road in Mountain Top.

The ULP was filed against the painting contractor on behalf of the Union by John Gatto, identified as the Assistant Business Manager of IUPAT District Council 21. IUPAT represent painters and drywall construction workers within the building trade industry.

“On or about March 23rd, 2012 Accents Painting and Wallcovering refused to furish District Council 21 with requested information for collective bargaining.

Since September 2011 Accents Painting and Wallcovering has not made fund payments as per District Council 21’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Since approximately January 2012 the officers of Accents Painting and Wallcovering have been running Accents Contracting, a non signatory alter ego, within the same industry,” stated the labor complaint.

The NLRB has issued a complaint against the operators of the painting company, Jennifer and Ken Phillips. The agency has scheduled a hearing for October 24th, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. at the NLRB office in Philadelphia.

Mr. Gatto told the newspaper the employer refused to pay their obligations under the IUPAT contract and their legal counsel has made contact with the Union attempting to settle the issue, which Mr. Gatto indicated isn’t likely.

Iron Workers members protest at Wilkes University

08.13.12

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

Iron Workers members protest at Wilkes University

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, July 28th- Members of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union Local 489, Brown Street in Yatesville, picketed in front of the new Wilkes University science building construction site recently because of the hiring of nonunion out-of-town construction workers for the project.

The project is valued at $35 million and the Union is disappointed the Wilkes-Barre located University hired a contractor from out of the area, which in turn employs workers from outside the region, stated Kevin McHugh, Business Manager of Local 489.

Iron Workers members place structural steel in place in building construction.

Mr. McHugh stated the contractor hired for the new science building is from the Lancaster area, and he questions why a local higher education institution would not insist that local workers be hired for a project. “Are guys could have really used the work,” said Mr. McHugh.

According to Drew Simpson, Representative for the International Brotherhood of Carpenters Union Local 645, one of the Union’s signatory contractors was hired for the project and his members will get work at the 72,500 square-foot science building. “We are good there,” stated Mr. Simpson.

John Gatto, Assistant Business Manager of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) District 21 in Drums, told the newspaper his members have also been hired for both the painting and dry-walling portion of the project.

Mr. McHugh pointed-out that when out-of-town workers are hired for local building projects, those workers take the earnings made here back to their home regions to spend the money, which does nothing for the local economy.

Worker files petition, Machinist Union files labor complaint

08.07.12

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

Worker files petition, Machinist Union files labor complaint

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, July 19th- A petition was filed at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia requesting the agency conduct a election to determine if employees of Five Star International, Hanover Avenue in Allentown, want to continue to be union represented.

However, the union that represents the workers have filed a labor complaint with the NLRB alleging the company violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

According to the petition, which was discovered by the newspaper while reviewing representation petitions and labor complaints filed at the NLRB Region Four office, an employee who resides on Walnut Street in Lansdale, requested the agency conduct a election to determine if approximately 11 Five Star International employees want to continue to be represented for the purpose of collective bargaining by the International Association of Machinists (IAM) Union Local Lodge 447.

The petition was filed by Justin Allen Scheetz on July 12th, 2012 requesting that all full-time and regular part-time automotive mainterance and service employees that are currently members of the bargaining unit be allow to participate in the attempt to remove the IAM as their bargaining representative.

The IAM on July 18th filed a Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge against Five Star International management alleging the company violated the NLRAct by conducting surface bargaining and by assisting Five Star International employees in an attempt to decertify the Union.

Local Lodge 447 is affiliated with IAM District 15 in Cincinnati, Ohio the ULP indicates.

Lehigh Valley unemployment rate unchanged from previous report at 8.1 percent

08.07.12

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

Lehigh Valley unemployment rate unchanged from previous report at 8.1 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, July 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 8.1 percent, unchanged from the previous month. 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 8.7 percent.

There are fourteen Metropolitan Statistical Area’s in Pennsylvania and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third highest unemployment rate.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA continues to have the highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 8.7 percent. The Philadelphia MSA and the Johnstown MSA are tied for the second highest unemployment rate at 8.2 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.5 percent, unchanged from the previous report, which was released around four weeks before. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 6.1 percent and the Lancaster MSA has the third lowest at 6.2 percent.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 7.4 percent, also unchanged from the previous report and dropping by six-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before.

There are 475,000 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 6,452,000 and 5,977,000 of them have employment with 475,000 without jobs.

The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was reported to be 8.2 percent, increasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report. That number also does not include civilians that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and have stopped looking for work.

The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force in Pennsylvania with 425,900 civilians, increasing by 200 from the previous report and rising by 2,700 during the past twelve months.

The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force at 2,992,800 with 245,400 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor force at 1,244,100 with 84,500 without jobs; the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force in the commonwealth at 286,600 with 26,000 civilians without jobs. The Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fifth largest labor force at 284,700 with 19,500 unemployed civilians.

There are 12,720,000 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 16.3 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. During the past four-weeks more than 115,000 workers unemployment benefits expired.

Carbon County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 9.0 percent, unchanged from the previous report and dropping by one full percentage point from twelve months ago. Carbon County has a civilian labor force of 31,900, with 2,900 residents without jobs.

Northampton County unemployment rate is 8.0 percent, increasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and dropping by six-tenths of a percentage point during the past twelve months. Northampton County has a civilian labor-force of 153,200, with 12,200 without jobs.

Lehigh County also has a unemployment rate of 8.0 percent, unchanged from the previous report and dropping by six-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Lehigh County has a civilian labor force of 181,000 with 14,400 residents jobless.

Teamsters Union Local 773 files additional complaints against Pratt Logistics

08.07.12

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

Teamsters Union Local 773 files additional complaints against Pratt Logistics

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, July 15th- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 773, Hamilton Street in Allentown, which represents IBT members throughout the Lehigh Valley, filed additional labor complaints against a Lehigh Valley employer, the newspaper has discovered.

In the previous edition of the Union News, it was reported Local 773 filed several Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging Pratt Corrugated Logistics, 7533 Industrial Parkway in Macungie, violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

On June 8th, the agency conducted a Representation Election at the workplace of Pratt Corrugated Logistics to determine if employees of the paper products manufacturer wanted to be represented by Local 773 for the purpose of collective bargaining.

The union filed a petition with the NLRB on May 2nd, 2012 requesting the agency conduct the election. The petition requested that Pratt employees, including all full-time and regular part-time delivery and pick-up drivers including yard jockey positions, participate in the election.

Employees of Pratt voted 4 against becoming Local 773 members to 1 for. However, because of the 12 challenged ballots, the outcome of the election is not yet known.

During a review of ULP’s filed at the NLRB office, the newspaper discovered at least three more charges were filed against Pratt management for violating the NLRAct.

The additional complaints were filed on June 28th and all allege the employer unlawfully fired employees during Local 773’s organizing campaign.

The labor complaints indicate that as many as 13 employees were fired by management because of their support and/or activities on behalf of Local 773.

Workers that help the laid-off are being cut themselves

08.07.12

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

Workers that help the laid-off are being cut themselves

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, July 18th- Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Union’s have been notified they will be laid-off by Pennsylvania. The workers are employed in the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Department which includes workers in the Unemployment Compensation Service Centers (UCSC) and the State Workers Insurance Fund (SWIF).

Some of the lay-offs effect workers that help the jobless learn how to apply for unemployment benefits. Their jobs are to answer the phones and to process unemployment claims.

Recently Pennsylvania made it more differcult for laid-off workers to obtain benefits and continue to receive them by making the unemployed worker prove they are looking for work. Also new eligibility rules have been inplemented with various federal benefits being phased out.

When contacted by the newspaper, Pennsylvania Labor and Industry Secretary, Julia Hearthway in a statement claimed the reason for the lay-offs were because of unemployment claims dropping since the recession ended. “We aren’s back to the level of prerecession claims, but the volume has dropped to the point where the need for higher capacities and greater expense isn’t there,” she stated.

However, in reality many Pennsylvanian workers have been unemployed “long-termed” and have exhausted their unemployment benefits. Those workers are no longer considered unemployed.

According to the most recent data provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry’s, Center for Workforce Information and Analysis Department, approximately 475,000 workers in Pennsylvania are unemployed. That number does not count the long-termed unemployed that have exhausted their benefits.

Laid-off workers must call UCS Center’s after being laid-off and wait until their call is received. Pennsylvania is laging behind many states in its ability to deliver initial unemployment benefits in a timely manner and the lay-offs of AFSCME and SEIU members will likely cause even more delays in laid-off workers receiving benefits.

Postal Service Unions battle in Washington to save USPS

08.01.12

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

Postal Service Unions battle in Washington to save USPS

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, July 15th- The unions that represent workers of the United States Postal Service (USPS) are continuing their battle in Washington to save the mail delivery service from deep cuts that the unions state are politically motivated and unnecessary.

The unions have gained the support among a bipartisan majority in the United States House of Representatives for several bills that would maintain six-day delivery and recalulate the current system for pre-funding retiree benefits. The pre-funding legislation was passed in 2006 and forces the agency to fund pensions for workers 75 years in advance, meaning funds are being used to pay for retirement benefits for workers that have not even been born yet. Without that provision of the pension issue the USPS would have made a profit the unions maintain.

The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) and the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) represent the majority of USPS workers with a combined membership of nearly 410,000 workers.

The two unions have argured that no other business in the nation faces pension funding requirements. Also, they have pointed out the USPS has already downsized by more than 110,000 jobs since 2008.

The USPS announced in May it would consolidate 48 mail processing centers throughout the nation including moving the operations of one in Scranton to the Lehigh Valley. The agency stated the consolidating the mail processing centers would save nearly $1.2 billion a year. Approximately 5,000 workers will be immediately affected by the consolidation including around 300 in Scranton, which will be offered jobs at the Processing Center in the Lehigh Valley. There are currently around 487 mail processing centers in the United States.

The USPS stated it plans to close about 250 processing centers after their downsizing plan is fully implemented in 2014, which the unions are attempting to stop. Many of the the jobs affected are APWU members. Local 268 represents APWU members in the Lehigh Valley.

The reason for the cutbacks is because of the declining mail volume caused by the recession and customers no longer using the mail service.

Several Republican House of Representatives are pushing legislation in Washington that would force radical changes to the USPS and would virtually eliminate contractural bargaining rights for USPS workers. The USPS employs more union workers than any other employer in the nation.

Verizon Communications workers still without labor agreements

08.01.12

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

Verizon Communications workers still without labor agreements

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, July 18th- Members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Union and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union that are employees of Verizon are continuing to protest in front of selective stores of the corporate communications giant because of the failure of the parties to negotiate new collective bargaining agreements.

The CWA and IBEW members have been without a new labor agreement with Verizon since August 6th, 2011.

On August 7th, 2011, approximately 45,000 union Verizon workers, which included 35,000 workers represented by the CWA Local 13000 and CWA Local 13500 and 10,000 employees represented by IBEW, went on strike.

The union’s and Verizon were unable to reach an agreement because of managements insistence of give-backs and job cuts. The give-backs included higher healthcare benefit cost and jobs being outsourced to private contractors. The unions stated the strike occured because Verizon came to negotiations with an extreme set of contract proposals and would not move off of them.

The workers returned to their jobs on August 23rd, 2011 without receiving new contracts but had the understanding negotiations would continue and the workers would work under the “terms and conditions” of the previous labor agreement.

The CWA and the IBEW felt working under the terms and conditions of the expired contract would be better for their members than agreeing to a “bad” contract in which pensions would be cut and current and retired employees health insurance would cost more.

According to CWA Local 13000, not much progress has been made at the bargaining table during the past six months and the one year anniversity date of the expired contract may be held without a successor pact being reached.

During the past six months the unions have held “Verizon Day of Action” events. The first event was held in March and others have been held, including in the Lehigh Valley, in which Verizon workers and other supporting union members walked in front of company stores protesting the lack of progress at the bargaining table.

Recently in an attempt to gain new contracts, the unions asked for federal mediation through the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in Washington.

However, Verizon declined the request for mediation.

Labor community getting ready for the fall political campaign

08.01.12

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

Labor community getting ready for the fall political campaign

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, July 20th- The labor community will be active during the 2012 fall political campaign with all of the United States House of Representative seats up, one of the Pennnsylvania Senate seat, and a campaign for the United States Presidency.

One of the races that the nation will be watching will be Incumbent Democratic Senator from Pennsylvania Robert Casey Jr.’s attempt to gain a second six-year term in Washington. Mr. Casey defeated Republican right-wing Senator and failed 2012 Presidential candidate Rick Santorum in 2006.

Robert Casey, a Scranton resident, is the son of the late former Governor of Pennsylvania Robert P. Casey and a former state treasurer and state auditor general. Should he win on November 6th it would send him into a third decade in elected political office.

The Pennsylvania American Federatrion of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Harrisburg already endorsed Mr. Casey and Democratic President Barack Obama for the November election.

During the first term in Washington, Senator Casey supported legislation important to the labor community including voting for the increase of the federal minimum wage, supported the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act/Card Check legislation, which was never implemented, and voted in favor of extending unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed workers.

Mr. Casey is being challenged by conservative Republican candidate Tom Smith, which has made an issue of the support Mr. Casey has shown for legislation President Obama supported. However, Senator Casey did oppose the trade deals with Panama, South Korea and Colombia that Mr. Obama and Republicans supported in 2011. The trade deals were passed in 2011 in rapid succession, which lowered or eliminated trade tarriffs with those three countries. The trade agreements were supported by many Democratic legislators in both chambers that have in the past received labor support and promised to support pro-labor legislation. The labor community were against the trade deals, citing the negative effects on the American workers cause by past trade deals.

Mr. Smith has made it clear if elected he would oppose any attempt to allow tax rates on the rich and high earners to rise. Also, he will reject any Republican congressional leaders compromise to allow an increase in the nation’s borrowing cap unless it is offset by more cuts to social programs.Mr. Smith is 64 years old and lives on a family owned farm in Armstrong County, approximately 40 miles of Pittsburgh. He wade his fortune owning a coal mine.

In late 2011 Newsweek magazine placed Mr. Casey on their “endangered list” for the 2012 election season. However, Mr. Casey is leading in every major poll heading into August.

Mr. Obama will attempt to gain a second four-year term as President in the fall election. Despite the failing of his administration to pass much of the “pro-labor” legislation that was discussed during the 2008 political campaign, the labor community is supporting him for re-election mainly because the current Republican party and their Presidential candidate Mitt Romney are anti-union. Mr. Romney has made it clear he believes the American economy can be fix by cutting taxes to the mega-millionaires.

Current PA registered voters that lack proper ID is huge

08.01.12

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

Current PA registered voters that lack proper ID is huge

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, July 22nd- Republican members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly estimate during the debate leading-up the passage of the Pennsylvania’s new voter Identification (ID) Law that 99 percent of current registered voters will still be able to vote in the November election was not even close to how many will be denied their United States Constitutional right.

Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett signed into law just hours after the Pennsylvania State House passed House Bill 934 that will force voters to show photo ID in the November election.

Mr. Corbett stated in April after signing the legislation that the so called “Voter ID bill” will bring greater integrity to the election process and would protect honest voters. However, most Democrats of the 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.

Analysis of the new law indicates nearly 10 percent of all voters in Pennsylvania will not be able to participate in the November election unless they get the required ID cards. Computer data developed by the Pennsylvania Department of State and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation concluded that almost 8.2 million Pennsylvania voters lack proper ID, with the majority living in the most populous areas of the state, the cities where Republicans are greatly out-numbered. Almost a fifth of Pennsylvanians over 65 also lack proper identification.

Republican House of Representatives Majority Leader Mike Turzai bragged at a party gathering that voter ID would help the GOP win Pennsylvania in the fall election, making it clear the new law had nothing to do with the integrity of the election process.

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

In a five-year study released by the Bush Administration Justice Department found virtually no evidence of voter fraud and only a few mistakes that had allowed ineligible voters to participate in elections. From 2002 to 2007, the Bush Administration ordered its United States Attorney Generals in every state in the union 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.

Observers have pointed-out the new voter ID rules passed by Republicans in 2012 in the nation, including in Pennsylvania, has to do with brining down the number of voters in November. In the last presidential election 63 percent of the eligible voters case ballots, the best showing in 48 years.

However, the Center for the Study of the American Electorate report stated the GOP has seen an erosion of support in New England, the mid-Atlantic, the West and mountain states including Colorado. The study observed the only demographic group from which the GOP draws significant numbers is white men, which will be soon in the minority.