Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

Fiscal Chicken

12.27.12


by Walter Brasch

Talk show hosts and other bloviators have spent hours giving their versions of the fiscal cliff.

In fewer than 750 words, I’ll explain the truth.

Taxes and the deficit are intertwined. If Congress can’t come up with a plan to solve those problems, the U.S. will jump into the abyss of a deeper recession than existed under the latter years of the Bush–Cheney administration.

Let’s first look at taxes.

The Bush tax cuts expire at the end of this year. The idea of the cuts was to spur the economy and give what is loosely called the “jobs creators” a slight push to hire more people.

But, the millionaire “jobs creators” held onto their money. They continued to downsize and outsource jobs, making even more money—which they used to buy whatever trinkets that rich people spend money on.

If Congress can’t agree on tax rates, beginning Jan. 1, 2013, every American will see a restoration of tax rates to a level that is about what they were before the Bush tax cuts. The lower- and middle-classes will be hit harder than the upper class.

President Obama, contrary to what the screaming harpies of the extreme Rightwing claim, doesn’t want to raise taxes. He wants the tax cuts to continue for 98 percent of all Americans—the ones making less than $250,000 a year. He wants to restore—note that word, restore, not raise—the tax liability for the richest 2 percent of Americans. The rate to the rich would still be below the rates they paid during most of the latter half of the 20th century. Even billionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet agree that the rich need to be paying more.

The Republicans, knowing where their financial base is, demand that the tax cuts be extended to everyone. Their compromise was to allow the cuts to apply to everyone making $1 million a year or less. That would be net income, not gross income. Millionaires could still make $3 million a year if they can scam $2 million in deductions. Their rates would still be lower than almost any time since the income tax was first created in 1913.

The President countered with a $400,000 limit. That would include about 99 percent of all Americans. House Speaker John Boehner, however, found that a segment of his Republican party don’t want a compromise; they are determined to uphold some kind of a non-legal pledge to Grover Norquist that there would be no tax increases—ever—even if it is to restore, not raise, tax rates.

The second part of the problem is that of entitlements. The Republicans are willing to do some horse-trading. They won’t continue to hold 99 percent of Americans hostage if there are cuts in “entitlements” and programs that would significantly reduce the deficit. These entitlements benefit mostly the 99 percent. The Republicans even say they’ll consider closing some tax loopholes used extensively by the upper class. But, they won’t tell us what those loopholes are, even though the President has several times asked for specifics. Apparently, the Republicans believe releasing such information is classified, much like battle plans in Afghanistan or the number of toilet paper rolls the Pentagon buys.

The President has already compromised several times, but every time he makes a concession, the Republicans want even more. He has proposed an orderly reduction of the deficit by $1.6 trillion. Not good enough, say the dogma-driven Republicans. They want even more. And they want it now. They are aware that if the tax cuts expire all at once, the deficit immediately decreases, something that makes them drool in ecstasy. However, almost every economist of every political persuasion says a severe decrease in the deficit would lead the U.S. into an even worse recession than the one created by the Bush–Cheney administration.

Behind a wall of political gesturing, the Republicans are doing nothing, while blocking those who can do something. John Boehner now acknowledges he is blocked by party dogma and can’t control the Republican majority in the House who want the government to several cut entitlements while continuing all Bush tax cuts, even to millionaires who, not surprisingly, make up the majority of Congress. Their actions are driving America into fiscal cliff suicide.

The obstructionists in Congress need to realize this isn’t a deserted two-lane highway, and Americans don’t want the Republicans playing chicken with our nest eggs.

[Walter Brasch, a social issues columnist, has covered politics and government for four decades. His latest book is Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, which has a strong pro-union theme.]

Wilkes-Barre Labor Council gives Meany Award to Michael Bilski

12.27.12

DECEMBER 2013, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

Wilkes-Barre Labor Council gives Meany Award to Michael Bilski

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 4th- The Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council labor federation, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) in Washington DC, recently presented their 24th George Meany Scouting award to Michael Bilski, President of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Union Local 102. Local 102 represents the Wilkes-Barre firefighters.

IAFF Local 102 is currently feuding with Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton because eleven firefighters were recently laid-off due to budget shortfalls.

Mr. Bilski has been employed as a firefighter and EMT for the City of Wilkes-Barre for the past 19 years. During that time he has held various offices within Local 102 including treasurer, secretary and for the past two years president.

Additionally he is a member of the Northeast Professional Firefighters Association and served as treasurer for nine years.

Since the George Meany Award was introduced in 1974 by the AFL-CIO, central labor councils and state federations have presented the honor to union members, men and women, who have made a significant contribution to the youth of their communities. The award is named for the AFL-CIO’s first president who gave strong support to Scouting throughout the nation over the years.George Meany Awards may be presented annually by each AFL-CIO central labor council and be each AFL-CIO state federation. The central labor council selects their own recipients.

According to Walter Klepaski, the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations United Way of Wyoming Valley Community Services Liaison, Michael Bilski was selected by the Greater Wilkes-Barre Community Services Committee as the award recipient, among other outstanding candidates. “Unfortunately, according to AFL-CIO guidelines, each central labor council can only present one award annually”, stated Mr. Klepaski, who will retire in 2013.

In addition to the award recipient Mr. Bilski has also participated in labor studies and classes at the George Meany Center and currently serves as Cubmaster for Boy Scout Pack 100.

Mr. Bilski has completing numerous Boy Scouts of America training programs and has served as the assistant coordinator for the Muscular Dystrophy Association Boot Drive.

Teamsters Union Local 229 announces recipients of College Scholarship Program

12.27.12

DECEMBER 2013, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

Teamsters Union Local 229 announces recipients of College Scholarship Program

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 5th- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 229, North main Avenue in Scranton, recently announced their 2012/2013 College Scholarship Program winners.

Craig Pawlik, Secretary/Treasurer and Principal Officer of Local 229, which represents IBT member in and around Lackawanna County, stated he along with the union’s executive board is proud to announce the two winners of the program.

The two winners in this years program is Kira Graziano, daughter of Local 229 member Donna Graziano, who is the recipient of the first year scholarship.

Ms. Graziano is a freshman attending King’s College in Wilkes-Barre.

The Continuing Education Scholarship was awarded to Amanda Holyk, daughter of Local 229 member Joan Holyk.

Ms. Holyk is continuing her studies at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre.

“Teamsters Local Union 229 would like to extend our contratuations and very best to all two winners and their parents,” stated Mr. Pawlik.

The region’s IBT members are represented by Local 229 in Scranton and Local 401 in Wilkes-Barre.

Local 229 represents IBT members in Lackawanna, Wayne, Mornoe and Susquehanna Counties.

Local 401, South Washington Street in Wilkes-Barre represents IBT members in Luzerne and Wyoming Counties.

The union’s members are employed in warehousing, municipal, truck drivers and manufacturing.

USPS to move out-going mail to Lehigh Valley in February 2013

12.27.12

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

USPS to move out-going mail to Lehigh Valley in February 2013

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 3rd- According to Kevin Gallagher, President of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 101 in Scranton, the United States Postal Service (USPS) plans to move all out-going mail to the Lehigh Valley on February 21st, 2013.

The United States Postal Service announced several months ago they postponed moving the operations of the Scranton processing center to the Lehigh Valley until at least February 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.

Mr. Gallagher stated the agency notified the APWU that 10 motor vehicle 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.

The latest change will effect 23 jobs currently at the processing facility in South Scranton.

Mr. Gallagher stated under the USPS plan mail will be processed in the Lehigh Valley and then brought back to the region for delivery to customers effective February 2013.

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.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA’s unemployment rate decreases to 9.5 percent

12.27.12

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

MSA’s unemployment rate decreases to 9.5 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 2nd- According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania, Department of Labor and Industry, the region’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 9.5 percent, decreasing by one-tenth 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 9.3 percent.

The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 8.1 percent, dropping by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,536,000 with 528,000 not working and 6,009,000 with employment. The national unemployment rate is 7.9 percent, decreasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report. The national unemployment rate decreased by one-tenth of a percentage point from twelve months ago. The unemployment rate does not include civilians that have had their unemployment benefits expired and stopped looking for work.

There are 12,258,000 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 and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA tied for third at 8.7 percent. The Williamsport MSA has the fourth highest unemployment in the state at 8.3 percent. The Reading MSA has the fifth highest unemployment rate Pennsylvania at 8.0 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.9 percent. The Lebanon MSA and the Lancaster MSA are tied with the second lowest unemployment rate at 6.7 percent. The Pittsburgh MSA and the Harrisburg MSA are tied for the third lowest unemployment rate at 7.3 percent.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA has the third largest labor force in Pennsylvania with 290,700 civilians and 27,600 of them are without employment. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force in Pennsylvania at 3,015,200 with 263,700 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor force at 1,264,600 with 92,600 without jobs; and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force at 434,300 with 37,900 not working.

The Williamsport MSA has the smallest labor force in Pennsylvania with 64,000 civilians and 5,300 of them have no jobs. The Altoona MSA has the second smallest labor force with 65,500 civilians with 4,900 without employment and the Johnstown MSA is third with a labor force of 69,000 and 6,100 of them are not working.

Lackawanna County continues to have the lowest unemployment rate in the MSA at 8.7 percent, decreasing by four-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. Lackawanna County has a civilian labor force of 110,900. There are 9,700 civilians without employment in Lackawanna County, dropping by 300 from the previous report.

Wyoming County has the highest unemployment rate with in the MSA at 10.1 percent. Wyoming County has a civilian labor force of 15,000, rising by 700 during the past twelve months with 1,500 unemployed, unchanged from the previous report.

Luzerne County has a unemployment rate of 9.5 percent, decreasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report. Luzerne County has the largest civilian labor-force in the MSA at 166,800 and 15,900 civilians are unemployed dropping by 400 from the previous report.

Sheet Metal Workers files petition, NLRB conducts election

12.27.12

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

Sheet Metal Workers files petition, NLRB conducts election

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 24th- The Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA) Union Local 19 in Philadelphia, which represents SMWIA members throughout the Lehigh Valley, 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 workers employed at a local construction contractor 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 SMWIA Union Local 19 filed the petition on September 14th, 2012 requesting the agency conduct an election to determine if that employees of M.B.I. HVAC, 450 Business Park Lane in Allentown, want the union to represent them for the purpose of collective bargaining.

The union requested that all service employees of the company participate in the election while all sheet metal workers, pipefitters, laborers, supervisors, professionals, secretaries, guards, office personnel and other workers be excluded from participating in the representation election.Local 19 Area Marketing Representative William Dorward filed the petition on behalf of the union. Mr. Dorward is a resident of the Lehigh Valley. His father was also a Local 19 representative.

The NLRB conducted the election on November 16th.

There were 8 eligible to vote employees and 3 workers voted for union representation and 3 voted against. Under NLRB rules a labor organization must receive 50 percent plus one of the voting employees to become their bargaining representative.

However, Local 19 challenged two of the workers eligibility to participate in the election.

Also, according to the NLRB, the Union also filed objections and the agency has scheduled a hearing on the matter for December 3rd.

M.B.I. is a HVAC construction and service work contractor.

The employer representative named on the petition to be contacted is Mark Berean.

Governor Corbett proposes privitizing State Lottery System

12.27.12

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

Governor Corbett proposes privitizing State Lottery System

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 22nd- Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett has made it known he will attempt to privatize the state lottery system in 2013.

The office of the governor released a summary of his intension and the terms and conditions of the Private Management Agreement (PMA) recently which includes the suggestion that privitizing the system would “provide more reliable and predictable revenue to ensure the continued strength and viability” of the Pennsylvania Lottery system.

The PMA will be a contract between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and a yet-to-be-determined private industry expect structured to assure funding to support lottery-funded senior citizen programs, the summary states.

The PMA will establish the management relationship between Pennsylvania and a private manager which will govern day-to-day operations of the Pennsylvania Lottery, define the scope and duties of services to be provided by the private manager, establish expectations on Lottery growth opportunities, employ industry best practices for marketing and management of the Lottery by which the contractor will be measured to ensure the Commonwealth is getting expected results.

However, what Mr. Corbett’s summary does not state is why he finds it neccessary to privitize the state lottery system which makes millions of dollars for the Commonwealth each year that supplies funds for many programs for the elderly.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union represents many of the workers employed by the Pennsylvania Lottery System.

Currently AFSCME officials are meeting with the Corbett Administration discussing the reason the contract is being considered and proposing alternate methods for the results the PMA would achieve.

The summary states the PMA would contractually bind a manager to 20 years of annual profit commitments. These are profit thresholds that must be achieved by the manager in order for the manager to earn any incentive compensation.

If a private manager fails to meet these annual profit commitments, the Commonwealth will draw shortfall payments down from the $150 million cash collateral provided by the manager to secure its performance in order to preserve funding for programs benefitting older Pennsylvanians, the summary states However, no funding projections are yet available.

Mr. Corbett has proposed privitizing the Pennsylvania State Stores and other services during his first two-years as Governor.

Under the plan, the PMA manager would provide to Pennsylvania $150 million in cash collateral. It is against this cash collateral that any shortfall payments would be drawn, if the PMA manager fails to meet its annual profit commitment in any year.

If the cash collateral is depleted to less than $50 million at any point in the contract term, then the manager would obtain letters of credit of $50 million to ensure the financial and performance based obligations of the agreement.

Bidders must invite the current Lottery employees to apply for job opportunities during the employment transition period that may take up to a year. However, the manager could use subcontractors and vendors to provide products or services for the management of the Lottery.

The manager must submit a business plan each year that must include details regarding organizational structure, tactics for growing the customer base, projected income statements and information regarding subcontractors.

Steelworkers file complaint against cement manufacturer

12.27.12

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

Steelworkers file complaint against cement manufacturer

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, November 13th- The United Steelworkers Union (USW) Local 10-00018 and the USW District Council Number 1 filed a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia, alleging a Lehigh Valley employer 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 USW alleges Ess/oc Italcementi Group, Bath Pike, Nazareth, of violating Section 8 (a), subsections (1) and (3) of the NLRAct.

The Union represents approximately 150 employees of the company, which is a cement manufacturer.

The ULP alleges the company disciplined Local Union President Cliff Rose without completing a full investigation of the facts, as a means of intimidation and discrimination against him.

“At a later date, during a 4th step grievance meeting (that did not involve Local President Rose), a representative of the Company made a derogatory comment, regarding Mr. Rose, to which the Company grievance committee laughed blatantly over. The Company’s actions demean Local President Rose in front his Union Committee and local union membership; making it unduly difficult for Mr. Rose to represent the members who have rightly elected him as their representative”, states the complaint.

The ULP was filed on behalf of the union by Sean Kirchhofer, identified as an USW Staff Representative, states the complaint.

The Employer Representative identified to be contacted is Paul Stewart. Mr. Stewart position with the employer is not identified on the ULP.

Wal-Mart employees protest poor working conditions

12.27.12

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

Wal-Mart employees protest poor working conditions

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 23rd- Current and former Wal-Mart employees protested the retailers poor treatment of workers throughout the United States on November 23rd, the day after Thanksgiving.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is a notoriously lousy employer which makes billions of dollars each year but pays their workers poorly. The company is the largest retailer in the world and has been found in the past of not paying their workers proper overtime payments and of violating other employment regulations.

Wal-Mart officials sought a injunction to stop worker protest at its stores over the Thanksgiving holiday by filing an Unafir Labor Practice (ULP) complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleging the United Food and Commerical Workers (UFCW) Union in Washington, DC was behind the action of their employees and former workers.

The UFCW denies being involved with the Organization United for Respect at Wal-Mart, which was a leading player behind the protest.

The worker organization called for protest at 1,000 Wal-Mart stores in the nation for the day after Thanksgiving, one of the biggest if not the biggest shopping days of the year.

In October the UNI Global Alliance, a international network of labor unions headquartered in Switzerland, began 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.

The retailer builds most of the stores with nonunion construction workers and has been found by the United States Department of Labor of not paying employees proper overtime wages.

Employees, which the Wal-Mart calls associates, are required to view anti-union videos telling them why labor unions should not be considered should they attempt to represent them.