Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

Hurricane Sandy message from Richard Trumka- President, AFL-CIO


I’m in Washington, D.C., right now and conditions are getting progressively worse.

I hope you and your family are staying safe. We wanted to share with you some resources and tips for dealing with Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath.

Click here to check out this information now.

I also wanted to take a minute to thank all the workers who began preparing for the storm early, will be working through it and will keep up their work long after it passes to help repair and rebuild our communities.

Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO, said it best in a statement yesterday:

We’re hopeful that preparations will prove unnecessary, but we have peace of mind knowing that union workers–public sector, private sector and building trades–will be there for us: supermarket and retail workers making sure that supplies are available; utility and communication workers laboring day and night to keep the lights and phones on; police officers, firefighters and EMS professionals maintaining our safety; transportation workers preserving our subway, commuter rail and bus infrastructure; state, county and municipal employees keeping the roads clear; construction workers repairing our homes, businesses and communities; hospital workers providing care to our family, friends and neighbors; teachers and child care workers keeping our children safe until we can be with them; and hotel workers making sure there is a place to stay for those who cannot remain home.

Their work and the work of others will get our communities back up and running.

Find important resources and information for dealing with Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath at the link below:

We hope you and your family and friends stay safe. Thanks for all you do.

In Solidarity,

Richard Trumka
President, AFL-CIO

Pennsylvania House candidate pledges to support labor


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

Pennsylvania House candidate pledges to support labor


REGION, October 3rd- Ransom Young, Democratic party candidate for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives 116th Legislative District, pledges to support the working people in Harrisburg if elected on November 6th.

Mr. Young spoke to the delegates attending the meeting of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council labor federation on September 27th and stated he was a member of the United Steelworkers of America (USW) Union and his wife Deborah was a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union for 32 years.

“I’m a fourth generation farmer and have been a Butler Township supervisor for 29 years,” stated Mr. Young to the delegates.

The Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council is affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) in Washington and Harrisburg. The organization meets every fourth Thursday of the month.

Mr. Young is challenging incumbent Republican Representative Tarah Toohil.

Ransom Young is 58 years old, a Hazleton High School graduate and is married to Deborah Jones, formerly of West Hazleton.

According to his wife, her father is a member of the Intenational Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union and her brother is a union member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. “We are not strangers to the workings of union policies and the benefits they bring to the work place,” stated Mrs. Young.

Mr. Young is endorsed by the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO and has the support of the labor community including the Northeastern PA Building and Construction Trades Council.

The farm Mr. Young operates is enrolled in Luzerne County Agricultural Preservation Program, which means his farm must remain ‘green space’ for perpetuity.

Mr. Young told the newspaper he supported the signing of Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s) with the building and construction trades unions while being the Butler Township supervisor and will not support legislation in Harrisburg that would weaken the law.

“I will oppose any attempt to make Pennsylvania a Right-to-Work state,” added Mr. Young.

The issue of making Pennsylvania a Right-to-Work state has been discuss for several years. Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett stated he would sign the legislation into law should it reach his desk.

Mr. Young stated he is very concerned about funding cuts of education in Pennsylvania. Also, he feels a major issue that needs attention is legislation related to Macellus Shale. He stated the result of Macellus Shale legislation is that discretionary decisions of local elected officials has been removed.

Labor Community reaching-out to members regarding election


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

Labor Community reaching-out to members regarding election


REGION, September 17th- The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation and the rest of the labor community have begun reaching-out to their membership requesting they support Democratic United States of America President Barack Obama and vote on November 6th.

According to Roxanne Pauline, Field Representative of the Northeastern Area Labor Federation (ALF), which labor councils throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania are affiliated including the Scranton Central Labor Union and the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council, the grassroots political program “Labor 2012″ is underway.

The program is intended to better educate union members and their households about how Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney if elected would not support the working people and legislation important to the labor community.

The grassroots political program includes visits by fellow union members at unionized job sites, making phone calls to members homes, and knocking on doors of union members. The home addresses and phone numbers are provided by the members labor organizations.

Ms. Pauline stated visits to union members homes is underway and fliers provided by the AFL-CIO in Washington are being left at union members homes.

According to a flier, Mitt Romney has been called a “pioneer” of outsourcing jobs as CEO of Bain Capital, and supports a tax plan that will encourage companies to ship even more jobs overseas.

Mr. Romney stated we should, “Let Detroit go bankrupt,” the flier points-out. The AFL-CIO stated Mr. Romney’s opinion makes sense considering he made his fortune destroying American companies and forcing them to close plants, lay-off workers and eliminate pensions and health care.

According to all major polls in Pennsylvania, Mr. Obama has a big lead over Mr. Romney.

On September 15th the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper reported Mr. Obama leads his Republican opponent by 11 percentage points in Pennsylvania.

Also, Republican affiliated super PAC’s have cut or stopped advertising on television since Labor Day in the state instead investing into other swing states like Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Virginia and Wisconsin. According to the Wall Street Journal on September 14th, Mr. Obama holds leads outside the margin of error in Ohio, Florida and Virginia.

Ms. Pauline stated it has been difficult finding volunteers from the labor community to conduct phone banks and make door-to-door visits to members homes.

“The participation has been terrible. We are finding it difficult to get members involved,” stated Ms. Pauline.

She believes one of the problems has been the poll numbers. Members most likely believe the election in Pennsylvania in over. “Ignore the polls. Anything can happen,” she said.

Anyone wanting to volunteer for phone banks or labor walks can call Roxanne Pauline at (570)840-1650.

Union’s reach tentative contract agreement with Verizon


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

Union’s reach tentative contract agreement with Verizon


REGION, October 1st- The Communications Workers of America (CWA) Union and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union have reached a tentative agreement of new labor contracts with Verizon Communications.

Members of those two unions have been working under the terms and conditions of the previous pacts since returning to their jobs after striking for more than two weeks in August of 2011.

The CWA and IBEW members have been without new labor agreements 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 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 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 Don Engleman, President of CWA Local 13000 Unit 34, ratification ballots must be received by the International Union in Washington DC no later than October 25th. Mr. Engleman stated the new contract agreements are not great for the membership but under the circumstances the pacts are better than what the employer wanted to give. “There is no question, they are not great contracts,” said Mr. Engleman.

Under the agreements, members will receive a 8.2 percent wage increase over the next three years and an $800.00 signing bonus and annual corporate profit sharing bonus of at least $700.00 providing the membership votes to accept the labor agreements.

The unions were successful in reducing the company’s ability to contract out bargaining unit work. In fact under the agreement, more bargaining unit jobs are likely.

For the first time union members will make a contribution to the cost of their healthcare under the new contracts.

Several former employees of Old-Forge employer files ULP’s


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

Several former employees of Old-Forge employer files ULP’s


REGION, September 15th- Two former employees of East Coast Logistics and Distribution Inc., 105 North Keyser Avenue in Old-Forge, Lackawanna County, filed labor complaints 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’s (ULP’s), which were discovered by the newspaper while reviewing representation petitions and labor complaints filed at the NLRB office, East Coast Logistics Inc. operates a load and unload goods for shipments warehouse in Old-Forge.

Keith Kester of Scranton filed a ULP on August 27th, 2012 alleging East Coast Logistics management violated Section 7 of the NLRAct. Mr. Kester stated more than 15 workers are employed by East Coast Logistics at the Old-Forge facility.

“On May 8th, 2012, I, along with a co-worker, was discriminated against, retaliated against and ultimately terminated from my position by my former employer when my shift was changed, and I was not permitted to maintain my current shift, and I was thus terminated, following my efforts in April/May 2012, and specifically on May 4th, 2012, and May 7th, 2012 to exercise my rights under Section 7 to form a union at my place of employment in violation of Section 8(a) of the NLRA,” states the complaint. The union involved was not identified.

Mr. Kester’s co-worker is Jacob James Moraski also of Scranton. Mr. Moraski filed a ULP against the company on August 28th, 2012 alleging he too was terminated for union protected activity.

The employer representative identified on both ULP’s to be contacted is Joseph Talarico. Mr. Talarico position with the employer is not identified on either complaint.

Publication available explaining American workers job rights


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

Publication available explaining American workers job rights


REGION, October 1st- A new publication by authors Suzanne Kleinberg and Michael Kreimeh titled, “Employee Rights and Employer Wrongs” gives workers a manual to their rights in the workplace.

The newspaper reviewed the publication and it is available in paperback via the authors website:

Suzanne Kleinberg has provided consulting services to some of the most prestigious corporations in the American marketplace, not-for-profit organizations and individual clients. She has worked in a variety of fields including stock brokerage, advertising, television production and financial.

The introduction states many employees put up with unwarranted stress, excessive workloads, and violation of rights because they are either in fear of losing their jobs, unsure of their legal rights or a combination of both.

“Over the past several decades, American employees have been slowly stripped of their rights as workers and as humans,” Ms. Kleinberg stated.

She points out that compared to the rest of the industrialized world and many nonindutrialized countries, the United States has fallen behind in protecting its labor force. Unions and labor rights groups have been defanged. And when groups start to stand up for these rights, the elite label them as “socialists” to scare everyone.

According to the book 49 percent of American employees have been affected by workplace bullying, either being a target themselves or having witnessed abusive behavior against a co-worker. Approximately 65 percent of people in the United States say they have experienced discrimination of some type.

Also, less than 5 percent of the wrongful dismissal cases actually go to court due to quick settlements. The small percentage reflects only the cases that have actually been pursued which are a small fraction of potential cases of unfair termination.

The publication explains employee and employer rights including the terms of labor regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSAct). Also laws governing the federal and state minimum wage.

Terms of employment are also explained including hours of work, overtime and breaks. All 50 states employment regulations is charted.

The book shows workers how to identify employee abuse and is written for the non-unionized worker who doesn’t understand the legal jargon and doesn’t know where to turn.

NLRAct violating contractor files chapter 7 bankruptcy


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

NLRAct violating contractor files chapter 7 bankruptcy


REGION, September 25th- The painting contractor that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four in Philadelphia issued a complaint against for violating the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct) has filed bankruptcy.

It was exclusively reported in the previous edition of the newspaper that the NLRB issued a complaint against Accents Painting and Wallcovering, LLC Accents Contracting, Church Road in Mountain Top, a signatory contractor of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) District Council 21, Azalea Drive in Drums, Luzerne County.

The union filed a Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) with the NLRB against the contractor alleging the operators failed to make employee fund payments as per District Council 21’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.

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.

Accents Painting and Wallcovering, LLC Accents Contracting refuse to furish District Council 21 with requested information for collective bargaining, the ULP alleges.

“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.

IUPAT represent painters and drywall construction workers within the building and construction trades industry.

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

John Gatto, Assistant Business Manager of IUPAT District Council 21, told the newspaper the Phillips filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Under chapter 7 the company assets will be dissolved to pay creditors. The IUPAT will be one of the creditors. Mr. Gatto stated it is not yet known how much money is owned to the union.

The hearing is scheduled for November 8th at the Ramada Inn in Wilkes-Barre which Mr. Gatto will attend.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA’s unemployment rate increases to 9.4 percent


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

MSA’s unemployment rate increases to 9.4 percent


REGION, October 2nd- According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania, Department of Labor and Industry, the region’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 9.4 percent, an increase of two-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 also 9.4 percent.

The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 8.1 percent, rising by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,475,000 with 525,000 not working and 5,950,000 with employment. The national unemployment rate is 8.1 percent, decreasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. The national unemployment rate is unchanged from twelve months ago. The unemployment rate does not include civilians who unemployment benefits have expired and stopped looking for work.

There are 12,544,000 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.

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 8.8 percent followed by the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA at 8.7 percent. The Reading MSA has the fifth highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 8.0 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 6.0 percent. The Lebanon MSA and the Lancaster MSA are tied with the second lowest unemployment rate at 6.6 percent. The Pittsburgh MSA has the third lowest unemployment rate at 7.3 percent. The Harrisburg MSA has the fourth lowest unemployment rate at 7.4 percent.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA has the fourth largest labor force in Pennsylvania with 288,200 civilians and 27,200 of them are without employment. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force in Pennsylvania at 3,000,400 with 262,800 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor force at 1,255,800 with 92,100 without jobs; and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force at 431,800 with 37,600 not working.

The Williamsport MSA has the smallest labor force in Pennsylvania with 63,500 civilians and 5,300 of them have no jobs. The Altoona MSA has the second smallest labor force with 64,800 civilians with 4,900 without employment and the Johnstown MSA is third with a labor force of 68,200 and 6,100 of them are not working.

Lackawanna County continues to have the lowest unemployment rate in the MSA at 9.1 percent, unchanged from the previous report and dropping by one-tenth of a percentage point from one year ago. Lackawanna County has a civilian labor force of 109,400, with 10,000 civilians without employment, unchanged from the previous report.

Luzerne County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 9.9 percent, decreasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report but rising by three-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Luzerne County has the largest civilian labor-force in the MSA at 164,300 and 16,200 civilians are unemployed.

Wyoming County’s unemployment rate is 9.8 percent, increasing by five-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. Wyoming County has a civilian labor force of 14,600, with 1,400 unemployed.

Pennsylvania voter identification law halted for 2012


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

Pennsylvania voter identification law halted for 2012


REGION, October 4th- Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson blocked the state’s voter identification requirement from going into effect on Election Day, Novemer 6th. Judge Simpson said in his ruling that he was concerned by Pennsylvania’s efforts in making sure voters would be able to get a photo identification and would not rely on the assurances of Republican government officials that every voter would be able to get a valid identification.

The Pennsylvania American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) in Harrisburg called on Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett to immediately begin a new public education campaign which will clearly and accurately inform all voters that the requirement of showing a valid ID has been delayed and will not be required to vote on November 6th.

“We applaud Judge Simpson for delaying full implementation of the act; however, it is critical that the Department of State immediately inform all voters of the changes based upon Judge Simpson’s decision,” stated Rick Bloomingdale, Presidert of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.

Judge Simpson’s ruling will allow the law to go into full effect in 2013, through he could still decide to issue a permanent injunction as part of the legal challenge to the photo idenification law constitutionality.

Pennsylvania has spend millions of dollars on an advertising campaign on television, radio, billboards and mailing about to new photo identification requirement.

“All the advertising should be pulled today and a new advertising campaign should be deployed immediately informing all registered voters and poll workers of the changes ordered by Judge Simpson. We will continue our non-partisan campaign of helping registered voters obtain a valid photo identification but the Administration must take the lead in educating and informing all registered voters that they will be able to vote even if they do not have a valid photo ID. We are going all out to make sure every vote counts, in this critical election and future elections,” stated Frank Snyder, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer.

The photo identification law was mostly supported by Republican party members and they cited the reason for the legislation was because of “voter fraud.”

However, according to studies the problem is not an issue.

A five-year study by the Bush Administration Justice Department found virtually no evidence of voter fraud involving impersonation and only a few mistakes that 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 cast nationwide

Romney v. Obama: The Debate That Wasn’t



What passed as a presidential debate, Wednesday evening, was nothing more than a series of carefully-rehearsed, often rambling, mini-speeches that were more focused on generalities than on specifics.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, experienced debaters and strong orators, each threw out several points at once, hoping a few would stick; the rebuttals were a counter-speech, most of which didn’t address the points at all. The party nominees talked over one another, and both talked over the moderator. More important, numerous critical domestic issues, the first debate’s primary topic, were never discussed. Part of the problem was that Jim Lehrer, executive editor and anchor of “PBS NewsHour,” who had moderated 12 previous debates, didn’t control the candidates or the debate, nor ask probing follow-up questions. The direction of the debate became quickly obvious when strict time limits were shattered on the first question and every question after that.

Even the most pro-Obama supporter would have to acknowledge that Romney had exceeded expectations and was able to dominate the President, who was not as sharp as he needed to be. Romney was strong and skillful, perhaps surprising even his own campaign staff. President Obama failed to adequately challenge Romney’s vacillating record and statements that may have bordered on truth, nor did he defend his own record as vigorously as necessary. The President’s closing two-minute speech was, at best, lame and not indicative of either his presidency or his oratorical ability. This was not a time for the professorial “No Drama Obama” personality to dominate. Indeed, this debate was nothing like the much-remembered Lincoln–Douglas debates of 1858 or even the quality of the average debate by college teams in hundreds of tournaments each year.

The third presidential debate, Oct. 22, will focus upon foreign policy. The format is the same—six segments of 15 minutes each, with each candidate being given two minutes to answer the question. In between will be a town meeting debate, Oct. 16. Non-committed citizens chosen from a Gallup poll will ask questions. A candidate has two minutes to answer the question; the other candidate has two minutes to respond.

The vice-presidential debate is Oct. 11, with nine segments of 10 minutes each.

The Democratic and Republican teams argue for months about format and direction. In two of the three debates they know the topics well ahead of time. For the third debate, the “town meeting,” they can pretty much guess what the questions will be. Each campaign staff has been preparing for weeks to answer and spin the prepared questions. As a result, what passes as debates is little more than rehearsed political monologues between nominees for two political parties. Spontaneity and a quick wit, which President Obama has, was missing at this debate.

But, there is a greater concern than long-winded speeches that don’t give specifics. There is no reason why only Democratic and Republican nominees are allowed to debate. This essentially reaffirms the belief that the U.S. has a two-party system, approved by the mass media, which leaves out significant candidates whose ideas and opinions need to be heard. While a debate with more than a hundred declared candidates is unreasonable, it isn’t unreasonable for the debates to include Libertarian Party candidate Gov. Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein. Both are on the ballots of most states. Both have good views that should be heard. And, both are the only minority party candidates who can mathematically get the 270 electoral votes for elections. Rocky Anderson, whose views are important enough to be heard on a national stage, isn’t on enough state ballots to be eligible to receive a majority of the Electoral College.

The first televised debate was in September 1960 between Vice-President Richard M. Nixon and Sen. John F. Kennedy. Independent polls, and those who only heard the debate on radio, had suggested that Nixon was the winner, but those who watched it on television overwhelming believed it was Kennedy. Nixon, underweight because of an extended hospital stay, appeared sickly; he also refused makeup to cover a 5 o’clock shadow. Kennedy, however, was tan, handsome, and charming. Two more televised debates followed, but it was the first one that mattered. From then on, candidates knew that image mattered over substance.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan scored points with a famous, “There you go again” zinger casually tossed at President Jimmy Carter. In 2000, Al Gore, who appeared to be defeating George W. Bush, lost any advantage when the TV cameras, and subsequent clips, showed Gore sighing over and over.

Nevertheless, no matter how much we wish to believe that debates matter, numerous polls over the past five decades have shown that voters pretty much have their minds already made up, and the debates serve only to reinforce voter intent. As far as the facts? Moderators don’t challenge the nominees, and if the opponent is too busy preparing his next statement and doesn’t immediately respond, the facts are little more than casualties in this war of words.

Certainly, with a campaign buy of more than one billion dollars just in TV advertising, the voters have already been subjected to enough of what PR people call “messaging.” The debates are just more of that packaged and sanitized “messaging.”

[Walter Brasch is an award-winning journalist who has covered political campaigns and politics for four decades. He is also the author of 17 books; his latest is the critically-acclaimed Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution.]