Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

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.