Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

Discounting Lives to Maximize Profits

11.30.12


by WALTER BRASCH

Imitating Sgt. Schultz of “Hogan’s Heroes,” Walmart executives claimed they knew nothing—NOTHING—about working conditions in a garment factory in Bangladesh where 112 workers died and more than 150 were injured in a fire.

Tazreen Fashions made Walmart’s Faded Glory brand clothes, as well as clothes for Sears and other dozens of other major retailers. Walmart officials told the news media they had previously terminated Tazreen as a direct supplier because of concerns about fire hazards, but that another supplier had subcontracted the work to Tazreen. Walmart refused to identify the supplier. In an official statement, Walmart said that the fire was “extremely troubling to us, and we will continue to work with the apparel industry to improve fire safety education and training in Bangladesh.”

News reports indicate that survivors said fire extinguishers didn’t work, exit doors were locked, and there were no emergency exits. The AP reports that most fire extinguishers were not used, the workers having no knowledge of how to use them. According to the AP, most of the workers, about 70 percent of them women, were from the poorest sections of Bangladesh. More than 700 workers have died since 2005 from fires in the Bangladesh’s growing clothing manufacturing industry, according to the International Labor reporting Forum.

As with the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in New York in 1911, where 146 women, most of them recent Jewish and Italian immigrants working in sweatshop conditions, the workers at Tazreen were burned alive trying to get through the doors that never opened, died from smoke inhalation, or jumped to their deaths. Many of the dead in both fires were buried in unmarked graves, their bodies unrecognizable. The Triangle fire eventually led to improved safety conditions and the rise of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union to protect workers from management callousness.

Walmart has a fierce anti-union policy for its own stores and employees, but doesn’t say much about working conditions in companies that supply merchandise, nor does it actively oppose unions in other companies overseas. There is no organized representation for most of the workers in Bangladesh sweatshops. Most workers earn $8.50 to $12.50 for a 48 hour work week, with mandatory overtime that can push them to as many as 80 hours. They receive two or three days off in a month. If Americans wonder why their clothes may not be as good as American-made clothes produced in union shops, the answer could be that the workers in Bangladesh may be mentally and physically fatigued, and that multinational corporations pressure suppliers to cut costs on material and labor. Bangladesh, now competing with China, shipped about $18 billion worth of merchandise to American and European corporations last year.

About 40 percent of all merchandise sold by Walmart is produced by contracts with manufacturers (most overseas), where low wages, excessive work hours, and poor working conditions are accepted practice. Walmart doesn’t make public the names of the companies which produce those “low prices” merchandise. However, it is known that it has contracts with several Bangladesh companies, as well as more than 20,000 Chinese manufacturers.

With revenue of more than $447 billion a year and about a 25 percent profit, Walmart is the largest public company in income in the world. But with its “low prices” slogan comes significant risk.

Walmart and other corporations have pushed American suppliers to outsource their own merchandise to overseas suppliers. More than 3.3 million American jobs will have been outsourced by 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. However, Goldman Sachs projects that as many as seven million jobs will have been lost by 2014. Most are in clothing and computer/electronics manufacturing, and in service centers where American customers call “help” lines and often get a heavily-accented representative who says his name is “Sam.” What most politicians, business people, and the public don’t understand is there is a direct correlation between the number of jobs outsourced and high unemployment in the U.S.

Walmart, which originally established a “Buy American” slogan before strutting its “lower prices” philosophy, now claims that over half its merchandise is made in America. This may or may not be accurate—Walmart doesn’t give specifics. But, if accurate, most of that is from its expanded grocery stores. Clothing, electronics, household goods, and thousands of other products are still made overseas—usually in conditions that are, at best, sweatshops; at worst, death traps. Every Congressional bill to ban the import of products produced in sweatshop conditions has been smothered in the committee process.

It’s possible that Walmart executives and upper management of the 2.2 million employee corporation that has eyes in almost every spot of the world did not know about working conditions in Tazreen—or any of the other sweatshops in Asia. It’s also possible they did know, but did a PR shuffle to explain their indifference. It really doesn’t matter.

The sweatshops allow the corporations to sell the cheap merchandise that results in higher return on investment for American corporations that rely upon American consumers who want cheap merchandise, and don’t seem to care where it comes from or how it’s produced.

But, even those Americans who do care, and would pay higher prices for merchandise produced by workers in unionized American manufacturing plants, usually don’t have a choice. It’s hard to find “Made in America” labels on clothes and numerous other products sold by major retailers that have largely ignored sweatshop conditions in order to maximize profit.

[Walter Brasch’s latest book is Before the First Snow, which looks at working conditions. Assisting on this column was Rosemary R. Brasch]

Annual Ed O’Brien Dinner-Dance held on October 28th in Bethlehem

11.17.12

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

Annual Ed O’Brien Dinner-Dance held on October 28th in Bethlehem

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, November 2nd- The annual United Steelworkers of America (USW) Union Local 2599 Ed O’Brien Legislative Dinner-Dance was held on October 28th. The event is held at the USW building on East Lehigh Street in Bethlehem.

Local 2599 is one of the largest labor organizations in the Lehigh Valley and once represented workers employed at Bethlehem Steel Works the current site of the Sands Casino.

The annual dinner has been held since the 1960’s but was renamed after Mr. O’Brien in 2000, to honor the long-time USW member and officer.

This as in past years attendees of the Dinner-Dance included active and retired USW members, elected political officials, political candidates and other members of the labor community.

The Keynote Speaker of the event was Pennsylvania Senate Minority Floor Leader Jay Costa (Democrat-43rd Legislative District).

Also attending was Rick Daugherty. Mr. Daugherty was the Democratic challenger to House of Representative Charlie Dent (Republican-15th Legislative District) on November 6th. Mr. Dent won another two-year term in Washington.

Jerry Green, long-time President of Local 2599, told the newspaper Mr. Costa and Senator Lisa Boscola (Democrat-18th Legislative District) held a round-table discussion at the USW building on October 29th, regarding a project they are working on together that is aimed at creating jobs called ‘PA Works.’

Mr. O’Brien was twice the Democratic party nominee for the 15th Legislative District seat. He was defeated by the Republican nominee.

He first joined the Union in 1964 and served in many positions both in the Lehigh Valley and with the International Union.

Lehigh Valley unemployment rate increases to 8.8 percent

11.17.12

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

Lehigh Valley unemployment rate increases to 8.8 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 2nd- 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 8.8 percent, increasing by one-tenth 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 also at 8.8 percent.

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

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA continues to have the highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 9.6 percent. The Johnstown MSA has the second highest unemployment rate at 9.0 percent with the Williamsport MSA fourth at 8.3 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 for the second lowest unemployment rate in the state at 6.7 percent.

The Pittsburgh MSA and the Harrisburg MSA are tied for the third lowest at 7.4 percent.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 8.2 percent, rising by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report and increasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before.

There are 530,000 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 6,504,000 and 5,974,000 of them have employment.

The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was reported to be 7.8 percent, dropping by three-tenths 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 nation unemployment was down one and two-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before.

The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force in Pennsylvania with 432,200 civilians, increasing by 500 from the previous report and rising by 1,500 during the past twelve months.

The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force at 3,007,500 with 264,200 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor force at 1,259,700 with 93,100 without jobs; and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force in the commonwealth at 288,800 with 27,600 civilians without jobs. The Harrisburg MSA is the fifth largest labor force in Pennsylvania with 288,400 civilians and 21,400 of them are without jobs.

There are 12,086,000 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 16.8 million Americans without jobs.

Northampton County has the lowest unemployment rate in the MSA at 8.6 percent, unchanged from the previous report.

Carbon County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 10.2 percent, rising by four-tenths of a percentage point from the month before. Lehigh County has a unemployment rate of 8.7 percent, unchanged from the previous report.

Security Union attempting to organize courthouse workers

11.17.12

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

Security Union attempting to organize courthouse workers

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 4th- The United Government Security Officers of America Union, Westminister, Colorado, filed a petition with the The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia requesting the agency conduct a election to determine if security workers at several government offices in Pennsylvani,a including in the Lehigh Valley, want to be represented by the union for the purpose of collective bargaining.

According to the petition, which was discovered by the newspaper while reviewing representation petitions and labor complaints filed at the NLRB Region Four Office, the United Goverment Security Officers of America wants approximately 17 workers to be involved in the representation election.

The Poughkoepsie, New York office of the United Government Security Officers of America union filed the petition on October 23rd requesting the election.

Under National Labor Relations Board rules at least 30 percent of the unit of employees must support the election before a labor organization can file a petition.

Akal Security Inc. provides security services for government buildings in Pennsylvania including the United States Courthouse in Allentown and the United States Federal Building in Reading, which are the two courthouses the employes work that the union is attempting to organize.

The union request that all full-time and share-time Court Security Officers, Lead Court Security Officers, Special Security Officers, and Lead Special Security Officers, employed by Akal Security Inc. at those two courthouses participate in the election by the NLRB.

A labor organization must receive 50 percent plus one of the eligible voting workers in the election to become their bargaining representative for the purpose of collective bargaining.

The union request that all office clerical employees, professional employees, confidential employees, and supervisors as defined under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct) be excluded in participating in the representation election.

The petition was filed on behalf of the union by Travis Mastroddi, 42nd Street in New York City.

Moving processing center operations to region postponed

11.17.12

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

Moving processing center operations to region postponed

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 2nd- The United States Postal Service (USPS) has postponed moving the operations of the Scranton processing center to the Lehigh Valley until at least February 2014.

Kevin Gallagher, President of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 101 in Scranton, stated he is still hopeful the USPS will yet decide against moving the Northeastern Pennsylvania mail processing operations in 2014.

The USPS announced last year it would consolidate 48 mail processing centers throughout the nation in 2012 including moving their operations from Scranton to the Lehigh Valley. The plan would save the agency nearly $1.2 billion a year, according to information provided by the USPS.

The elimination of the Scranton facility would impact approximately 200 jobs, mostly members of Local 101. However, the USPS stated it plans no layoffs but the effected workers would need to travel to the Lehigh Valley processing center for employment.

The USPS first stated it would close about 250 processing centers after their plan is fully implemented. Overall, approximately 5,000 workers would be affected by the consolidation. The plan was to consolidate 92 mail processing centers in February 2013, and 89 more in 2014. There are currently around 487 mail processing centers in the United States.

The agency stated the move of consolidation of mail processing centers is intended to be a cost saving plan. The reason for the cutbacks is because of declining mail volume caused by customers no longer using the mail service.

However, the USPS is losing money mainly because of an 2006 law that forces the agency to fund the pensions of workers 75 years into the future. The USPS estimated that the post office department would have made a profit in 2010 and 2011 if not for the provision of the pension issue.

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

Meanwhile, 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, Scranton Local Branch 308 President.

The jobs most effected by the Scranton mail processing center operations being moved to the Lehigh Valley are members of APWU Local 101 and Local Branch 308. Local 268 repressents APWU members at the Lehigh Valley processing center.

APWU Local 268 President Bernie Ogozalek previously told the newspaper he disagrees with the USPS decision to close the Scranton facility. Mr. Ogozalek stated the APWU does not want any mail processing centers closed.

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 NPMHU Local 308 represents workers both at the Scranton and the Lehigh Valley processing centers.

Labor helps President Barack Obama win second four-year term

11.15.12

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

Labor helps President Barack Obama win second four-year term

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 7th- President Barack Obama was reelected to a second four-year term defeating Republican candidate former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney on November 6th. Mr. Obama needed 270 electoral votes to continue as president of the United States and recived more than 330.

Democrat Robert Casey Jr., defeated Republican businessman Tom Smith for a second six-year term in the United States Senate.

The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation again was involved nationwide and throughout Pennsylvania in the election by contacting union members about voting for Mr. Obama and other political candidates that supported or vowed to support the labor community.

“While not considered a “Battleground State” by some so-called “political pundits”, Pennsylvania’s union members realized a war was waged against working families in 2010. We did not start the war but November 6th, will be the beginning of the end of the anti-worker, wage destoying, vote suppressing, education elimination, and health care acess, Social Security, and medicare crushing agenda,” stated Rick Bloomingdale, President of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO in Harrisburg.

Mr. Obama won Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and the state of Ohio, which secured his victory for a second term.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) was the top spender for Democratic candidates nationwide. The union funded $70 million of campaign donations, television advertisements, and get-out-the-vote efforts.

Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO in Washington DC said it registered more than 450,000 new voters from union households nationwide over the 18 months leading-up to election day.

According to the labor federation, the tally including about 68,000 new voters in Ohio, and thousands of other union friendly voters in swing states like Colorado and Nevada. Mr. Obama won all three states on November 6th.

Voters from union households have traditionally favored Democratic candidates and that trend continued this year despite efforts by Republican leaders to weaken collective bargaining rights in Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana and other states.

“This is the first time we’ve made this big an effort to increase registration. We’re really proud that more union members are going to be engaged. Whoever they vote for, the fact is we’re increasing civic participation,” stated AFL-CIO political director Mike Podhorzer.

Mr. Podhorzer said the plan began in March 2011 when the labor federation began matching lists of union households members with voter registration files in every state.

The grassroots AFL-CIO labor federation political program was again conducted throughout the nation, Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. The 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.

“Working families clearly understand who is on their side on the core economic issues,” added Mr. Bloomingdale.

USPS jobs to stay in region until at least February 2014

11.11.12

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

USPS jobs to stay in region until at least February 2014

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 18th- The United States Postal Service (USPS) has postponed moving the operations of the Scranton processing center until at least February 2014.

Kevin Gallagher, President of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 101 in Scranton, stated he is still hopeful the USPS will yet decide against moving the Northeastern Pennsylvania mail processing operations in 2014.

The USPS announced last year it would consolidate 48 mail processing centers throughout the nation in 2012 including moving their operations from Scranton to the Lehigh Valley. The plan would save the agency nearly $1.2 billion a year, according to information provided by the USPS.

The elimination of the Scranton facility would impact approximately 200 jobs, mostly members of Local 101. However, the USPS stated it plans no layoffs but the effected workers would need to travel to the Lehigh Valley processing center for employment.

The USPS first stated it would close about 250 processing centers after their plan is fully implemented. Overall, approximately 5,000 workers would be affected by the consolidation. The plan was to consolidate 92 mail processing centers in February 2013, and 89 more in 2014. There are currently around 487 mail processing centers in the United States.

The agency stated the move of consolidation of mail processing centers is intended to be a cost saving plan. The reason for the cutbacks is because of declining mail volume caused by customers no longer using the mail service.

However, the USPS is losing money mainly because of an 2006 law that forces the agency to fund the pensions of workers 75 years into the future. The USPS estimated that the post office department would have made a profit in 2010 and 2011 if not for the provision of the pension issue.

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

Mr. Gallagher stated the agency notified the APWU that 10 motor velicle driver jobs in Lackawanna County would be eliminated and a independent contractor would be hired. The drivers haul mail from the processing center in Scranton to post offices throughout Lackawanna County.

APWU Local 101 requested information regarding the move but the agency has not yet provided the material.

United Steel Workers files multiple labor complaints against Cascade Tissue

11.11.12

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

United Steel Workers files multiple labor complaints against Cascade Tissue

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 19th- The United Steel Workers (USW) Union filed multiple labor complaints with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging a Pittston employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The newspaper discovered the Unfair Labor Practices (ULPs) while reviewing complaints and petitions filed at the NLRB.

The USW filed at least six ULP’s against Cascade Tissue, 901 Sathers Drive in Pittston over a 10 day period.

All complaints were filed on behalf of USW Local 1448, which represents approximately 220 Cascade Tissue employees at the Pittston facility, by Liz Bettinger. Ms. Bettinger is a Staff Representative for the USW. The plant is a paper mill and paper converting manufacturing facility.

The USW alleges the employer has failed to bargain collectivly and in good faith with the Union. “More specifically, on or about June 25th, 2012, and at various times thereafter, the above named Employer, by its agents and representatives has unilaterally and without bargaining, changed the disciplinary notification procedure,” states the first ULP that was filed on October 1st, 2012.

The other five ULP’s were filed on October 10th, 2012, also by Ms. Bettinger, and alleges the Employer has violated the NLRAct by repudiating multiple clauses in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the parties.

Also, a complaint alleges a USW member was denied his rights under the NLRAct.

Awards presented to labor community members by United Way

11.11.12

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

Awards presented to labor community members by United Way

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 19th- The United Way of Wyoming Valley’s Labor Participation Department presented the “Unsung Labor Hero Awards” at their recently held annual United Way Kick-Off event. The award is the way the organization recognizes those union members who provides special assistance in a vaiety of ways to the agencies of the Wyoming Valley United Way and the community at-large.

According to Walter Klepaski, the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) United Way of Wyoming Valley Community Services Liaison, this years three recipients of the Unsung Labor Hero Award personify and serve as an example of the great monetary and voluntary work humbly being done throughout the area by the labor community.

Mr. Klepaski added he hopes that the award serves as a way to show that the time and effort being put forth by members of organized labor in supporting their community is not going unnoticed by him and the United Way.

This year’s recipients were Gil Cooney, a United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1776 Union retiree and President of the NEPA Retirees Alliance District 3; James Murphy, President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 401; and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 163.

Thomas Raub, President of IBEW Local 163 and Michael Kwashnik, Business Manager of IBEW Local 163, represented their union and received the award at the event.

Mr. Cooney has been a supporter of the United Way since 1947, going back to the time when he first represented the Boot & Shoe Workers Union and solicited funds for the community organization. He currently is a generous donor and is serving as a co-chair for a special fund raising campaign among union retirees.

Mr. Murphy has also been a generous donor and is part of the Labor Leadership Giving Society, at the Platinum Level, which is $1,000 or more. He helps annually toward the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council/United Way Christmas project, soliciting for donations from IBT shops to fill 500 stockings for needing kids.

Local 163 Apprenticeship Program for the past 5 years has provided members to help with the annual NALC Food Drive each May. Also, each year IBEW volunteers help postal carriers unload donated food collected by NALC members.

AFL-CIO registers more than 450,000 new voters for 2012

11.05.12

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

AFL-CIO registers more than 450,000 new voters for 2012

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 20th- The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington, DC, says it has registered more than 450,000 new voters from union households nationwide over the past 18 months.

The labor federation endorsed President Barack Obama for a second four-year term in the White House for the November 6th General Election.

The AFL-CIO stated the push to swell the ranks of Democratic-leaning voters is intended to help Mr. Obama win re-election.

According to the labor organization, the tally includes about 68,000 new voters in Ohio, a key battleground state, and thousands of other union friendly voters in swing states like Colorado and Nevada.

Mr. Obama defeated Republican Presidential nominee John McCain in 2008 by a little more than 200,000 votes in Ohio out of about 5 million votes cast in the state.

Voters from union households have traditionally favored Democratic candidates with that trend expected to continue this year despite of efforts by Republican leaders to weaken collective bargaining rights in Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana and other states.

Meanwhile, according to a poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal/ NBC, Mr. Obama has a larger margin of support among union households that he did in 2008. Also, Mr. Obama has a 71 percent to 22 percent lead over Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney among Latino voters.

“This is the first time we’ve made this big an effort to increase registration. We’re really proud that more union members are going to be engaged.

Whoever they vote for, the fact is we’re increasing civic participation,” stated AFL-CIO political director Mike Podhorzer.

Mr. Podhorzer said the plan began in March 2011 when the labor federation began matching lists of union households members with voter registration files in every state.

Machinists Union files complaint against nursing home

11.05.12

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

Machinists Union files complaint against nursing home

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 13th- The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) Union District 1 filed a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia, alleging a Monroe County nursing home 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 IAM alleges Whitestone Healthcare Croup LLC nursing home in Stroudsburg, violated Section 8 (a), subsection (1) and (3) of the NLRAct.

The complaint states the nursing home/extended care facility employs approximately 49 workers.

“Within the last six months, the above named Employer, through its officers, agents and representatives, has interfered with, restrained and coerced employees of Whitestone Healthcare Group LLC in the exercise of their rights guaranteed in Section 7 of the ACT.

On or about September 6th, 2012, the above named Employer, by its officers, agents and representatives, terminated the employment of Eric Bell because of his activities on behalf of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO District 1, a labor organization, and at all times since such date the Employer has refused and does now refuse to employ the above-named employee,” states the ULP.

The ULP was filed on behalf of the IAM by James Smith, identified as an IAM Grand Lodge Representative states the complaint.

The Employer Representative identified to be contacted is Vito Ruggerio, Nursing Home Administrator.

Some within labor believe voter ID ads are deceiving

11.05.12

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

Some within labor believe voter ID ads are deceiving

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 19th- On October 2nd Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson blocked the state’s voter identification requirement from going into effect on Election Day, November 6th, but some members of the labor community believe Pennsylvania is continuing to place advertisements that suggest voters still need ID’s.

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.

However, Pennsylvania is continuing to place advertisements suggesting voters should still bring identification to the polls on November 6th.

Rosemary Boland, President of the Scranton Federation of Teachers (SFT) Union, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in Washington DC, stated taxpayer paid advertisements regarding the blocked voter identification law is deceiving because people are told to still bring identification to the polls. The SFT represent teachers of the Scranton School District.

Ms. Boland also feels the Pennsylvania American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation, the Democratic party or both, should place their own advertisements in newspapers and/or radio stations stating identification is not needed on November 6th.

“There is no question the ads are confusing and a attempt to get people to not vote,” stated Ms. Boland.

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.

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.

Roxanne Pauline, Field Representative of the Northeastern Labor Federation (ALF), said people need to know that Pennsylvania voters are no longer required to show a photo ID in order to vote and you may be asked to show your ID at your polling place but is it not required to vote.

Ms. Pauline agreeds with Ms. Boland’s opinion regarding Pennsylvania’s advertisements for the November 6th election. “They should be running ads that state plainly, no photo ID is needed,” she stated.

Administration makes awards to encourage U.S. investment

11.05.12

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

Administration makes awards to encourage U.S. investment

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 16th- The Obama administration recently announced that 10 public-private partnerships will receive $20 million in total awards to help manufacturing and encourage companies to invest in the United States.

The 10 partnerships were selected through the Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, which is a competitive multi-agency grant process announced in early 2012 to support initiatives that strengthen advanced manufacturing at the local level.

The partnerships consist of small and large businesses, colleges, nonprofits, and other local stakeholders that “cluster” in a particular area. The funds will help the winning clusters support local efforts to spur job creation through a variety of projects, including initiatives that connect innovative small suppliers with large companies, link research with the startups that can commercialize new ideas, and train workers with skills that firms need to capitalize on business opportunities.

“By partnering across the federal government, these grants will help us leverage resources and ensure that training programs for advanced manufacturing careers provide the skills, certifications and credentials that employers want to see from day one,” stated Hilda Solis, Secretary of Labor.

She added that in order to create an economy built to last, America needs to make more things the rest of the world wants to buy. After losing millions of good manufacturing jobs in the years before and during the deep recession, the economy has added nearly 500,000 manufacturing jobs since February 2010, the strongest period of sustained job growth since the 1990’s.

“A strong manufacturing base in America is critical to the health of the United States economy, and these awards further demonstrate the Obama administration’s commitment to keeping this country on the cutting edge of innovation in manufacturing. This investment will help accelerate and unleash the most promising ideas in advanced manufacturing, and bring those ideas to market. This will lead to good jobs for American workers, increase the nation’s competitiveness, and strengthen an economy that’s built to last,” stated Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank.

In Pennsylvania those that received awards were:

•The Greater Philadelphia Advanced Manufacturing Innovation and Skills Accelerator, a project of the Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center ($1,892,000); and

•The Agile Electro-Mechancial Product Accelerator, a project of Innovation Works, the Catalyst Connection, the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining and the Westmoreland Workforce Investment Board ($1,862,150).

Unions not sure if members will be hire for Casino projects

11.02.12

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

Unions not sure if members will be hire for Casino projects

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 22nd- Progress has been slow but affiliated union members of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council labor federation are beginning to get work at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Plains Township which is building a new hotel and convention center.

The two daily newspapers of Wilkes-Barre recently published articles regarding a letter mailed to members of the building trades unions requesting they return their Mohegan Sun Players Club cards to their labor organization. The unions’ intend to present the cards to Mohegan Sun officials if they failed to hire union workers from the area for the $50 million construction project.

The project was devided into two parts, the construction of the hotel and the construction of the convention center.

Kevin McHugh, Business Manager of the Iron Workers Union Local 489 in Yatesville, told the newspaper he wasn’t optimistic his members would be hire for the building project. However, several weeks later Mr. McHugh informed the newspaper that his members have been hired for some of the work but out-of-the-area nonunion iron workers were also hired. Some members of Local 489 have returned their Player Club cards, Mr. McHugh told the newspaper.

Mike Rozitski, President of the labor federation, told the newspaper he is continuing to meet and communicate with Mohegan Sun officials regarding hiring local union tradespeople for the projects. He stated signatory contractors of at least 5 local unions have been hired so-far for at least one of the projects. There are 14 local unions affiliated with the labor federation.

Mr. Rozitski said in 2005, when the main casino building was built, a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) was used. But, Mohegan Sun would not sign a PLA for these projects. A PLA is a comprehensive agreement signed by a builder and local craft unions under which a defined construction project is agreed to be completed by workers from local union halls, in return for a guarantee of no strikes, a steady labor supply, and labor peace. Under a PLA, a nonunion contractor could still be hired for a project, but if selected, local unionized workers must be hired.

Paul Johnson, Secretary/Treasurer of the labor federation and President of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators Union Local 38 in Wilkes-Barre, stated he is holding the cards that the members of the building trades have returned. Mr. Rozitski said at least 500 members have turned-in their cards so far.

“We are trying to work this out. They should think it over. If workers are hired from out of the area, do they think those workers will be spending their money in Wilkes-Barre. Our members go there, they should think about that,” stated Mr. Rozitski.

Scranton hires IBT members fired by new parking garages operators

11.02.12

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

Scranton hires IBT members fired by new parking garages operators

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 24th- One of the first things Central Parking management did after being hired to operate the facilities formerly run by the Scranton Parking Authority (SPA) was fire the employees, which are represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 229, North Main Avenue in Scranton.

Former Lackawanna County Democratic Commissioner Mike Washo, who while serving as Commissioner claimed to support the labor community, was appointed in August by a Lackawanna County Court judge as receiver to oversee the operations of the five parking garages and financial obligations of the Scranton Parking Authority. The court action was sought by the trustee who represented the people who held bonds for the construction and renovation of the Authority’s parking garages.

The holder of the bonds, Well Fargo Bank, sued to have a receiver appointed after the Scranton Parking Authority defaulted on a $1 million bond payment.

The SPA failed to be able to pay the bonds because of mis-management and Scranton would not back the bonds, causing the organization to not make payments on the bonds.

Mr. Washo announced just days after taking control of the Scranton Parking Authority assets, Central Parking would be hired to operate the parking garages. The company then fired the 12 members of Local 229 that were employed by the SPA and advertised for their jobs.

Craig Pawlik, Secretary-Treasurer and Principal Officer of Local 229, told the newspaper Central Parking is the largest parking garage operator in the United States and is anti-union. The IBT represent workers at Central Parking operated garages in Boston, Detroit and Philadelphia and they have had labor-management problems with the company.

Mr. Pawlik said his union contract with the Scranton Parking Authority does not expire until November 5th, 2012. The previous labor agreement expired on July 5th, 2012, however the two sides agreed to extend the pact until November 5th, 2012.

The union filed grievances over the termination of the IBT members, which includes maintenance employees, meter people, and a secretary.

At first Mr. Pawlik believed the union would file charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over the termination of his members but he later said Local 229’s legal counsel advised pursuing the lay-offs through the labor contract before an arbitrator.

“I’m disappointed with Mike Washo. We supported him when he ran for Lackawanna County Commissioner and now he won’t even return my phone calls,” stated Mr. Pawlik. The newspaper did not speak to Mr. Washo regarding this story because he failed to return phone messages.

The meter people have since been hired by the City of Scranton and are working under the terms and conditions of the IBT contract with the Scranton Parking Authority, Mr. Pawlik stated.

Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty did return our phone message and stated he met with Mr. Pawlik and told him he would negotiate with Local 229 for a contract between the city and the IBT for the meter personnel.

Scranton hired the six people that collect money from the parking meters. Mr. Doherty explained the city receives 10 percent of all the money collected through the meters and the municipality can not afford to lose that income.

UNI Global Alliance launches drive to change Walmart

11.02.12

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

UNI Global Alliance launches drive to change Walmart

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 20th- The UNI Global Alliance, a international network of labor unions headquartered in Switzerland, is conducting a world drive to force Walmart to change their business practices and respect workers’ rights.

The UNI pledged to fight for fairness, decent working conditions and a union voice for Walmart workers at its inaugural meeting in Los Angles on October 5th.

“Walmart affects the lives of many millions and is the single most influential private actor on the planet ” stated Alke Boessiger, Head of UNI Global Alliance.

UNI Global Alliance released a report “Walmart’s Global Strategy: Undercutting Workers’ Rights” which focuses on Walmart’s global track record of disrespecting workers’ rights and lowering wages.

Los Angeles Walmart workers went on strike, the first strike action in the company’s 50 year history in the United States, on October 3rd and UNI Global Alliance held their meeting in California to show support for the workers.

Walmart spokesperson stated the strike action by their workers was a stunt for the benefit of the UNI delegation that visited Los Angeles to launch the Alliance.

“Once again Walmart is out of touch with reality on the ground in their own stores. People were matching because they wanted to impress on Walmart that they have had enough of the company crushing the opportunties for workers to form a union and because of poor working conditions,” said UNI General Secretary Phillip Jennings.

“It’s time to face down the bully. Walmart should accept the new reality. They now face a global alliance that is prepared to take a stand for decent work and for the rights of Walmart staff worldwide,” added Mr. Jennings.

Walmart has resisted labor union organizing for their stores. Walmart has went as far as to close a store that workers voted for unionization and reopened at another site avoiding bargaining for a collective bargaining agreement with a union.

UNI Global Alliance is supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union in Washington, DC which has attempted to organize Walmart workers for several decades. The retailer has opposed UFCW organizing attempts.

If we band together and act as one, we can change Walmart,” stated UFCW President Joe Hanson.