Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

Pennsylvania teachers pension plan liabilities increasing

01.22.13

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

Pennsylvania teachers pension plan liabilities increasing

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 5th- A recent report by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) estimates teacher pension plans nationwide have almost $325 billion in unfunded liabilities. In Pennsylvania it is estimated there is an unfunded liability of $19.7 billion. The report suggests the pension problem is worse due to unrealistic assumptions and projections about what returns will be made on investments.

The teacher unions and other public sector unions in Pennsylvania are getting ready for another battle with Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett and conservatives in the state General Assembly in 2013 when they will attempt to cut retirement benefits.

Mike Crossey, the President of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), which represents approximately 190,000 active and retired school teachers and employees in Pennsylvania, reacted to the Keystone Pension Report which was released on December 3rd by Governor Corbett’s budget secretary.

Mr. Crossey noted that the report stated what PSEA has said all along, that the public employees of Pennsylvania and taxpayers did not create the pension problem.

Mike Crossey emphasized that teachers, nurses, and other public employees across the Commonwealth already pay for a significant portion of their pensions, and have made their contributions on time. The pension shortfall was caused by politicans who failed to make their appropriate contributions to the pension system. Many schools districts across Pennsylvania have not made their contributions to the pension system.

“To blame Pennsylvania’s budget problems on debts employers owe to the pension systems is to make a scapegoat of working people who have contributed to their Pensions, year in and year out,” Mr. Crossey stated.

He emphasized that the report’s vague suggestions to change the future retirement benefits of current workers are unconstitutional, unethical, and won’t solve the problem since it would not address the pension debt.

“And in reality, it is Covernor Corbett’s prior budgetary decisions that are the true cause of Pennsylvania’s budget problem. Governor Corbett made a conscious policy decision to provide more than $800 million in corporate tax breaks, including the capital stock and franchise tax and bonus depreciation credit, which cost the state $760 million, more than the projected pension debt owed in 2013-2014 fiscal year.

The National Council on Teacher Quality report notes Pennsylvania’s pension system is 75.1 percent fully funded, better than 28 of the 50 states. The most unfunded is Indiana at 44.3 percent of liabilities.

Some states, including Pennsylvania, have attempted to change the pension system. In 2010 the Pennsylvania legislature passed Act 120, which lowered the amount a pension increases a year of employment from 2.5 percent of pay to 2 percent. Also, the vested time was raised from five years to ten and required most teachers to wait until they are 65 to start receiving pension payments. The new rules apply to newly hired teachers.

Mr. Crossey added that the PSEA and other public employees in Pennsylvania helped pass Act 120 to pay down the debt employers owe the pension systems. “Now, the governor wants to walk away from it and break a promise of retirement security for teachers, nurses, libraians, and public safety workers, in order to honor a no-tax pledge to Grover Norguist,” added Mr. Crossey.

The NCTQ suggest that increasing pension vesting time is the wrong way to go because it restricts teachers moving from one state to another, recommending instead a maximum of three years. The report suggest setting a uniform age, such as 65 years old, for the start of pension payments, making the plan fair to all teachers.

SMWIA Local 44 files complaint against Penn Refrigeration

01.22.13

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

SMWIA Local 44 files complaint against Penn Refrigeration

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 3rd- The Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA) Union Local 44, Parrish Street in Wilkes-Barre, filed a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia, alleging a Luzerne County employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

According to the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge, Local 44 alleges the employer violated Section 8 (a), subsections (1) and (5) of the NLRAct.

The complaint was filed on December 18th, 2012 and alleges Penn Refrigeration, Woodbury Street in Wilkes-Barre, violated the NLRAct by imposing a mass lay-off, closed plant/shop with no expectation of re-opening, disregarded the unions efforts to effects bargain or seek reasonable information pertaining to the preparation and initiation of effect bargaining as well as avoiding required grievance/arbitration procedures pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement.

The ULP was filed on behalf of Local 44 by Warren Faust, Business Manager of the union.

The SMWIA represent workers within the construction industry that install vents and sheet metal in building construction.

However, Local 44 represents approximately 31 production and installation employees of Penn Refrigeration, which principal product was the manufacturing of walk-in cooler boxes made of sheet metal.

The ULP also alleges Penn Refrigeration has begun to stop benefits due to bargaining unit employees and is attempting to sell the company and assets without bargaining with the Union on the plant closure effects bargaining.

The Employer Representative named to be contacted on the ULP is Albert Finarelli.

More work at Mohegan Sun goes to out-of-the-area workers

01.22.13

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

More work at Mohegan Sun goes to out-of-the-area workers

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 4th- The percentage of nonunion construction workers that have been hired for the $50 million construction project at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Plains Township, which is building a new hotel and convention center, is increasing. The project was devided into two parts, the construction of the hotel and the construction of the convention center.

Members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 163 in Wilkes-Barre picketed outside of the Mohegan Sun for several days protesting the hiring of a Missouri-based contractor for the electrical work.

Mohegan Sun responded by setting-up two gates to the construction site, one for nonunion workers and one for union tradesmen. IBEW members were then forced to picket only the nonunion worker gate, so not to cause delays in the construction schedule after other union construction members began not to cross the information picket line.

Michael Kwashnik, Business Manager of Local 163 was unvailable for this story.

Mike Rozitski, President of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council labor federation told the newspaper he is disappointed nearly every construction union affiliated with the labor organization are not being hired for some of the work construction.

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.

Bobby Sober, former President and CEO of Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, stated in mid-October 2012 that more than 90 precent of construction workers on the project were supplied by the 14 local unions affiliated with the building trades council.

However, Mike Bean, who replaced Mr. Sober, stated in December after the IBEW began picketing the hotel and convention center construction, that approximately 50 percent of the workers hired were union. Something, Mr. Rozitski disputes. “It would be more like 40 percent.”

Mr. Rozitski told the newspaper it is encouraged for union members to travel a little further to Mount Airy Casino to gamble because they hire local unionized construction workers. “It is time to send Mohegan Sun a message. They want local people to spend their money there, then hire local people,” added Mr. Rozitski.

Painting contractor owners file personal bankruptcy

01.22.13

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

Painting contractor owners file personal bankruptcy

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 3rd- John Gatto, Assistant Business Manager of International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) District Council 21, Azalea Drive in Drums, told the newspaper the owners of a signatory painting contractor of the Union has filed personal bankruptcy and he is not optimistic of recouping any funds owed to the IUPAT.

It has been exclusively reported in previous edition’s of the newspaper that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia issued a complaint against Accents Painting and Wallcovering, LLC Accents Contracting, a signatory contractor of IUPAT District 21, for failure to make employee fund payments as per District Council 21’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The union filed a Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge with the NLRB against the contractor during the summer of 2012 alleging the operators of the painting contractor, Jennifer and Ken Phillips, failed to properly pay their workers. The company has since filed chapter 7 bankruptcy.

“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 ruled the owners of Accents Painting and Wallpapering, LLC Accents Contracting, Church Road in Mountain Top, Luzerne County, must provide business bank records, including bank statements, cancelled checks and deposit records, to the agency to determine how much money is owed to their employees which are represented by IUPAT District Council 21.

However, Mr. Gatto stated Ken and Jennifer Phillips have filed personal bankruptcy and most likely other creditors will be paid before IUPAT receives any funds owed. Mr. Gatto does not know how much the union is owed by Ken and Jennifer Phillips.

The company failed to provide the NLRB the financial information that was requested instead the company filed bankruptcy.

Under the NLRB ruling, the Phillips were ordered to provide the company’s business ledger for the period from January 1st, 2012 to the present. Also they were to provide the complete list of Accents Painting and Wallcovering financial liabilities among other financial information.