Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

Pennsylvania public employees pension plans under attack

02.26.13

MARCH 2013, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Pennsylvania public employees pension plans under attack

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, February 15th- The Pennsylvania public pension cost issue is heating-up in Harrisburg with Republican Governor Tom Corbett announcing he wants to reduce the pension cost to free up money and put it back into programs he has slashed in previous state budgets.

Governor Corbett’s Budget Secretary, Charles Zogby, released a report of the long-term sustainability of the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System and the Pennsylvania State Employees’ retirement System.

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.

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. 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.

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.

The PSEA released a study of their own which indicated the major contributing factors of the pension crisis was investment losses that were incurred in two recessions within one decade and employer underfunding.

Mr. Corbett has linked the pension cost cuts to restoring funding for education and social programs, a proposal he hopes will get members of the General Assembly to support the pension cuts.

Mr. Crossey emphasized that the Keystone Pension Report vague suggestionsto 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.

The Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System covers more than 100,000 active employees and provides for 100,000 retirees as well as their beneficiaries.

Former Governor Ed Rendell signed Act 120 into law that preserved all benefits now in place for current members however, mandated benefit reductions for future members effective January 1st, 2011. Mr. Corbett was aware of the pension cost problem when he took office in 2012 but he gave tax credits to businesses which has made the problem worse.

Attorney General Kane says Lottery deal violates state constitution

02.26.13

MARCH 2013, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Attorney General Kane says Lottery deal violates state constitution

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, February 15th- Pennsylvania Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane on February 14th rejected a contract awarded by Republican anti-union Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett that was to let a British company manage the Pennsylvania Lottery System.

The Corbett Administration awarded the British lottery company, Camelot Global Services, a 20-year contract to privately manage the Pennsylvania Lottery System before the Pennsylvania Senate Finance Committee hearing was even held on the privitization plan. Mr. Corbett awarded the contract to Camelot Global Services on January 11th, three days before the public hearing was to be held by the Senate Committee.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union represent 170 of the 230 state workers employed by the lottery system.

The office of the governor released a summary of his intension and the terms and conditions of the Private Management Agreement (PMA) 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 Corbett Administration released a summary in 2012 of his intent of privitizing the lottery system, which had $3.5 billion in sales last year, stating the PMA will be a contract between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and a private industry expect structured to assure funding to support lottery-funded senior citizen programs, the summary stated.

However, what Mr. Corbett’s summary did not state is why he found 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 lone bidder for the PMA was Camelot Global Services of Great Britain, however apparently two other companies pulled out for unknown reasons.

Camelot Global Services has guaranteed him they will double lottery profits over 20 years. These are profit thresholds that must be achieved by the manager in order for the manager to earn any incentive compensation.

Mr. Corbett is attempting to sell the Pennsylvania Lottery System without any checks and balances or involvement with the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

Mrs. Kane stated the Camelot deal violated the state constition and other parts are not authorized by state law, including the expansion of gambling that the agreement would permit. Under the contract Camelot would be allowed the expansion of gambling with the inclusion of keno and online games. Her power as Attorney General halted the completion of the deal because of the office to review the legality of state contracts.

Mr. Corbett has since been granted a extension by Camelot Global Services until February 23rd to respond to Mrs. Kane decision and gives him time to seek implementation of the deal.

AFSCME District Council 13 in Harrisburg, praised Mrs. Kane decision.

David Fillman, Executive Director of AFSCME Council 13 questions why the Corbett adminstration wanted to fix something that was not broken for a so-called guarantee from a foreign-run company.

You Can’t Wash Away Fracking’s Effects

02.21.13


by WALTER BRASCH

José Lara just wanted a job.

A company working in the natural gas fields needed a man to power wash wastewater tanks.
Clean off the debris. Make them shining again.

And so José Lara became a power washer for the Rain for Rent Co.

“The chemicals, the smell was so bad. Once I got out, I couldn’t stop throwing up. I couldn’t even talk,” Lara said in his deposition, translated from Spanish.

The company that had hired him didn’t provide him a respirator or protective clothing. That’s not unusual in the natural gas fields.

José Lara did his job until he no longer could work.

At the age of 42, he died from pancreatic and liver cancer.

Accidents, injuries, and health problems are not all that unusual in the booming natural gas industry that uses horizontal hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, to invade the earth in order to extract methane gas.

Of the 750 chemicals that can be used in the fracking process, more than 650 of them are toxic or carcinogens, according to a report filed with the U.S. House of Representatives in April 2011. Several public health studies reveal that homeowners living near fracked wells show higher levels of acute illnesses than homeowners living outside the “Sacrifice Zone,” as the energy industry calls it.

In addition to toxic chemicals and high volumes of water, the energy industry uses silica sand in the mixture it sends at high pressure deep into the earth to destroy the layers of rock. The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) issued a Hazard Alert about the effects of crystalline silica. According to NIOSH there are seven primary sources of exposure during the fracking process, all of which could contribute to workers getting silicosis, the result of silica entering lung tissue and causing inflammation and scarring. Excessive silica can also lead to kidney and autoimmune diseases, lung cancer, tuberculosis, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). In the Alert, NIOSH pointed out that its studies revealed about 79 percent of all samples it took in five states exceeded acceptable health levels, with 31 percent of all samples exceeding acceptable health levels by 10 times. However, the Hazard Alert is only advisory; it carries no legal or regulatory authority.

In addition to the normal diesel emissions of trucks and trains, there are numerous incidents of leaks, some of several thousand gallons, much of which spills onto roadways and into creeks, from highway accidents of tractor-trailer trucks carrying wastewater and other chemicals.

The process of fracking requires constant truck travel to and from the wells, as many as 200 trips per day per well. Each day, interstate carriers transport about five million gallons of hazardous materials. Not included among the daily 800,000 shipments are the shipments by intrastate carriers, which don’t have to report their cargo deliveries to the Department of Transportation. “Millions of gallons of wastewater produced a day, buzzing down the road, and still nobody’s really keeping track,” Myron Arnowitt, the Pennsylvania state director for Clean Water Action, told AlterNet.

Drivers routinely work long weeks, have little time for rest, and hope they’ll make enough to get that house they want for their families.

But fatigue causes accidents. And contrary to industry claims, workers don’t always wear protective gear when around toxic chemicals they put into the earth, and the toxic chemicals they extract from the earth. Or the toxic chemicals they drive on public roads.

In the Great Recession, people become desperate for any kind of job. And the natural gas industry has responded with high-paying jobs. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is ecstatic that a side benefit of destroying the environment and public health is an improvement in the economy and more jobs—even if most of the workers in Pennsylvania now sport license plates from Texas and Oklahoma.

The drivers, and most of the industry, are non-union or are hired as independent contractors with no benefits. The billion dollar corporations like it that way. It means there are no worker safety committees. No workplace regulations monitored by the workers. And if a worker complains about a safety or health violation, there’s no grievance procedure. Hire them fast. Fire them faster.

No matter how much propaganda the industry spills out about its safety record and how it cares about its workers, the reality is that working for a company that fracks the earth is about as risky as it gets for worker health and safety.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued Rain for Rent nine violations for exposing José Lara to hydrogen sulfide and not adequately protecting him from the effects of the cyanide-like gas.

It no longer matters to José Lara.

The effects from fracking should matter to every everyone else.

[Dr. Brasch is an award-winning journalist and professor emeritus of mass communications. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an in-depth analysis of the effects of fracking upon public health, the environment, worker safety, and agriculture. Dr. Brasch also investigates the history of energy policies in the U.S. and the relationships between the energy companies and politicians at local, state, and federal levels. The book is available at amazon.com, http://www.greeleyandstone.com, or local bookstores.]

General Dynamics continues to cut jobs at Eynon plant

02.15.13

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

General Dynamics continues to cut jobs at Eynon plant

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 29th- The lay-offs at the General Dynamics Land Systems plant in Eynon have increased during the past month and the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Bureau of Workplace Development Partnership Rapid Response Team held a information session on January 10th. The laid-off workers get help with learning how to receive unemployment benefits and what other programs are available to help them and their families cope with the job-loss.

The workers at the Eynon plant are represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW) Union Local 1193 in Eynon and have more than 100 members currently on lay-off.

The International Association of Machinists (IAM) Union Local 847 represent the other General Dynamics plant in the region located on Cedar Avenue in Scranton. The IAM also has members on lay-off although they did not participate in the Rapid Response Team information session held at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 87 Union building in Dunmore.

The General Dynamics Land System plant recondition parts for the United States Army M1A1 battle tank while the Scranton plant mostly produces military projectiles.

The reason for the lay-offs is because of the cutbacks in defense spending, a situation that can get worse should a budget deal in Washington, DC fail to be reached in several weeks. If no deal is reached between the United States Congress and President Obama automatic cuts, called “sequestration” will take place making substantial cuts to the defense budget, effecting military contractors such as General Dynamics.

General Dynamics has been the most effected of the big military contractors with the withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Department of Labor Rapid Response Service Coordinator Ronald Vogel moderated the information session and other agencies affiliated with the group participated. The group includes representatives in finance management, career planning, reemployment services, healthcare options, unemployment benefits knowledge and supportive community services.

Ken Klinkel, President of Local 1193, attended the session and stated “sequestration” must be avoided at all cost and people should contact their federal elected officials to express that.

Cascade Tissue files labor complaint against USW Local 1448

02.15.13

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

Cascade Tissue files labor complaint against USW Local 1448

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 17th- In previous editions of the newspaper it has been reported that the United Steel Workers (USW) Union filed labor complaints with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging a local employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

In news articles published in the Union News it was reported the USW filed at least six ULP’s against Cascade Tissue, 901 Sathers Drive in Pittston over a 10 day period in December, however Cascade Tissue has filed a ULP of their own against USW Local 1448.

The newspaper discovered the Unfair Labor Practice while reviewing complaints and petitions filed at the NLRB.

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 collectively 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.

The USW filed two more ULP’s on November 5th, 2012 alleging the company violated the NLRAct.

The union alleges in one of those ULP’s that the company is repudiating the collective bargaining agreement grievance proceedure by not scheduling grievance meetings.

The second ULP alleges the company withdrew and implimented their own set of rules, which was negotiated and agreed to by both parties and would become part of the labor contract.

Cascade Tissue representative Roger Marron on December 26th, 2012 filed a ULP against the Union alleging Local 1448 has failed to bargain in good faith with the Employer since on or about a time of six months of the ULP filing.

SEIU files labor complaints against Keystone Job Corp Center

02.15.13

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

SEIU files labor complaints against Keystone Job Corp Center

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, February 2nd- The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Pennsylvania Social Services Union (PSSU) Local 668, Main Street in Dickson City, filed several labor complaints with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging a regional job training organization violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The SEIU filed at least two Unfair Labor Practices (ULP’s) against Management Training Corporation, which does business as Keystone Job Corp Center, which is headquatered in Centerville, Utah.

The newspaper discovered the complaints while reviewing representation petitions and ULP’s filed at the NLRB office. The newspaper is the only member of the local media that reviews and publishes news articles about their findings.

Both complaints were filed on the same day, December 26th, 2012, and filed on behalf of the SEIU by Kimberly Yost, Local 668 Business Agent.

The SEIU represent workers employed by Keystone Job Corp Center. The Union has three separate bargaining units at Keystone, which includes maintenance, dietary, transportation, residential advisor, instructors, counselors, nurses and other professional employees.

According to the ULP’s, the Union and the Employer have been negotiating for a successor labor agreement for the maintenance unit since on or about April 2012, without being able to reach an accord.

Also, on or about June 2012, the parties entered into contract negotiations for a wage reopener for the residential advisor unit and the professional unit, without also reaching an agreement.

The ULP alleges on or about June 29th, 2012 the Union sent a information request to the employer needed to continue meaningful negotiations. On October 10th, 2012, an employer representative sent an e-mail where she refused to provide all of the requested information.

The Union contends the Employer’s refusal to provide requested information constitutes an violation of the NLRAct, limiting the ability to meaningfully negotiate a successor contract agreement and wage reopener, creating a “chilling effect on the members and violates Section 8(a)(1) and (5) of the Act,” states the ULP.

The Employer Representative to be contacted is Martha Amundsen. Ms. Amundsen position with Keystone is not identified on the complaint’s.

Both percentage and number of union members decline

02.15.13

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

Both percentage and number of union members decline

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, February 2nd- According to figures provided by the federal government, union membership in 2012 plummeted to the lowest level of percentage of American workers since World War II and have decreased in total numbers.

The major reason for the drop was largely due to job losses in public-sector jobs and the decline of attempts by the labor community to organize more workers. Both public-sector jobs have declined in 2012 and the number of representation petitions filed by organized labor has dropped from 2011.

The United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the percentage of American workers represented by labor unions fell to 11.3 percent last year, the biggest drop in six years.

Public-sector union membership rate in 2012 decreased to 35.9 percent from 37 percent, a steeper decrease than the private-sector drop to 6.6 percent from 6.9 percent.

The biggest reason public-sector jobs declined was because of cut-backs along all sectors of governments, but mainly state and local governments.

Overall, union membership fell by around 400,000 workers to 14.4 million with more than half the loss 240,000 coming from government workers, including firefighters, teachers, and public administrators.

In 1935 union membership was 13.2 percent and after President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct), which provided labor organizations stronger rules for union organizing, more workers became union represented. In the 1950’s approximately 1 of every 3 workers were in a labor union. By 1983, around 20 percent of American workers were union members.

In recent years the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation have pointed-out that while the percentage of workers have declined the actual number of workers represented by labor organizations remained about the same. Because of the increase of the workforce the percentage would decline but the total number of members would remain about the same or rise.

Michele Kessler, Secretary-Treasurer of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union Local 1776 in Pittston, said not all of the 2012 news regarding union membership was bad.

The number of union membership is growing among non-white workers that are now just beginning to show meaningful job growth, she said.

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

02.11.13

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

MSA’s unemployment rate increases to 9.5 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, February 4th- According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania, Department of Labor and Industry, the region’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 9.5 percent, increasing 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 9.1 percent.

The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 7.9 percent, rising by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,559,000 with 517,000 not working and 6,042,000 with employment. Pennsylvania’s unemployment increasedby two-tenths of a percentage point over the past year.

The national unemployment rate is 7.8 percent, unchanged from the previous report. The national unemployment rate decreased by seven-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. The unemployment rate does not include civilians that unemployment benefits have expired and stopped looking for work.

There are 12,206,000 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, the Philadelphia MSA has the third highest at 8.7 percent. The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the fourth highest unemployment rate at 8.6 percent, with the Williamsport MSA fifth at 8.2 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.7 percent. The Lebanon MSA and the Lancaster MSA are tied with the second lowest unemployment rate at 6.7 percent. The Harrisburg MSA has the third lowest unemployment rate at 7.2 percent followed by the Pittsburgh MSA at 7.3 percent.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA has the fourth largest labor force in Pennsylvania with 292,300 civilians and 27,700 of them are without employment. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor-force in Pennsylvania at 3,027,500 with 262,000 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor-force at 1,268,100 with 92,000 without jobs; and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force at 433,800 with 37,200 not working.

The Williamsport MSA has the smallest labor force in Pennsylvania with 63,900 civilians and 5,200 of them have no jobs. The Altoona MSA has the second smallest labor-force with 66,400 civilians with 4,800 without employment and the Johnstown MSA is third with a labor-force of 69,500 and 6,200 of them are not working.

Lackawanna County continues to have the lowest unemployment rate in the MSA at 9.2 percent, increasing by five-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and rising by four-tenths of a percentage point during the past year. Lackawanna County has a civilian labor force of 110,600. There are 10,200 civilians without employment in Lackawanna County, rising by 600 from the previous report and increasing by 800 over the past year.

Wyoming County has the highest unemployment rate within the MSA at 11.5 percent, increasing by one and three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. Wyoming County has a civilian labor-force of 15,100, with 1,700 unemployed, rising by 200 from the previous report and increasing by 800 during the past twelve months.

Luzerne County has a unemployment rate of 10.1 percent, increasing by eight-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and rising by a full percentage point from twelve months ago. Luzerne County has the largest civilian labor-force in the MSA at 166,400 and 16,800 civilians are unemployed increasing by 3,300 from the previous report and rsing by 2,200 during the past year.

PPL employee files complaint against the utility provider

02.11.13

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

PPL employee files complaint against the utility provider

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 18th- An employee of PPL Electric Utilities, in Allentown, filed a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia, alleging the distributor of electricity utility company violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 1600 in Trexlertown, represent line workers of PPL Electric Utilities. The utility company provides electricity to approximately 1.4 million customers in Pennsylvania including throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania.

According to the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge, IBEW Local 1600 member James Caffrey alleges PPL violated the NLRAct when on July 3rd, 2012 he was disciplined for leaving early from a work shift the employee was filling on a voluntary overtime basis.

“The employee was not scheduled to work on the date of the alleged infraction. There have been other NLRB charges on behalf of the employee in the past,” states the ULP.

The complaint was filed on December 26th, 2012 by Mr. Caffrey.

Mr. Caffrey is Local 1600 Chief Steward and in July, 2012 PPL suspended and placed him in a “Responsible Behavior Program” until July 27th, 2014.

In July, 2012 Local 1600 filed a ULP against PPL on behalf of Mr. Caffrey after he was suspended for one day and given the 24 month “time-in-effect” and placed on the “Responsible Behavior Program” for what PPL stated was the failure to adhere to “Troubleman” expections and failure to communicate with “Dispatch”.

The Union stated that no bargaining unit employee has ever been disciplined for such an alleged infraction.

Posting comments on articles and signing up as blog users

02.08.13

If you wish to do either, please email Stephen Crockett at demlabor@aol.com.

Because of automated spammers, most comments just get deleted without reading. We get hundreds every day that have zero to do with the articles.

We got the same with User sign-ups. We will create User accounts for those with a real connection to the Labor Movement.

Lackawanna County Public Defenders seek unionization

02.08.13

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

Lackawanna County Public Defenders seek unionization

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 30th- Lackawanna County Public Defenders, First Assistants and Assistant Public Defenders are seeking to become members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 229, North Main Avenue in Scranton.

According to Craig Pawlik, Secretary/Treasurer and Principal Officer of Local 229, which represents IBT members throughout Lackawanna County, there are employment issues currently within the Lackawanna County Public Defenders office that has resulted in the employees seeking the protection of a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with Lackawanna County.

Mr. Pawlik told the newspaper the Union filed a Representation Petition with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) in Harrisburg after first requesting the Lackawanna County Commissioners Office recognize Local 229 as the employees bargaining representative. Mr. Pawlik stated Lackawanna County Democratic Majority Commissioners, Corey O’Brien and Jim Wansacz refused. The request was made on January 8th, 2013 and was refused on January 9th, 2013.

Nine of the ten employees of Lackawanna County Public Defenders office signed authorization cards seeking the PLRB conduct an election to determine if they want IBT Local 229 to represent them for the purpose of collective bargaining.

“We really believed they should have just recognized us since we had 9 out of the 10 to sign cards, but they declined,” stated Mr. Pawlik.

According to the PLRB the petition was received on January 28th and has been processed. A election was not yet scheduled at press time.

A labor organization must receive fifty percent plus one of the participating eligible to vote employee to become their bargaining representative.

The Luzerne County Public Defenders office employees are represented by IBT Local 401, South Washington Street in Wilkes-Barre.

According to James Murphy, President and Business Representative of Local 401, the employees of Luzerne County Public Defenders office and the Assistant District Attorneys have been represented by the IBT since 2005.

Mr. Murphy stated the CBA expires in December 2013. The IBT has approximately 25 employees in the bargaining unit.

Iron Workers Union the latest not to get work at Mohegan Sun

02.08.13

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

Iron Workers Union the latest not to get work at Mohegan Sun

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, February 2nd- The percentage of nonunion construction workers that have been hired for the $50 million construction project at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Plains Township, is getting even larger with the hiring of iron workers from out-of-the-area. Mohegan Sun is building a new hotel and convention center.

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

In December 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.

Kevin McHugh, Business Manager of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union Local 489, told the newspaper a nonunion out-of-the-area contractor has been hired for the construction of the reinforcing iron neccessary for the building of the convention center.

Local 489 members were hired during the hotel phase of the construction project. However, Mr. McHugh feared during that project his members would not be hired for the construction of the convention center.

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.

Mr. Rozitski feels that less than 40 percent of the work being done at Mohegan Sun involves tradespeople of the building trade unions.

Anti-union legislation being created for current session of Legislature

02.08.13

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

Anti-union legislation being created for current session of Legislature

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 25th- There will be many issues important to members of the labor community on the political agenda in Harrisburg during the current session of the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

Pennsylvania Republican anti-union Governor Tom Corbett recently stated he will not push for passage in 2013 for the state to become the twenty-fifth state that now has “right-to-work”, or “no-rights-at-work”, laws on the books. Michigan became the twenty-fourth state in the nation to pass the anti-union legislation in early December 2012.

Mr. Corbett recently said other issues other than right-to-work were more pressing however, Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Snyder also stated in 2012 he did not believe the legislation was important but signed the legislation into law only an hour after the Republican controlled legislature in Michigan passed it.

Anti-union Pennsylvania House of Representative Daryl Metcalfe (Republican-112th Legislative District) introduced a right-to-work measure called the “Open Workforce Initiative” Bill. The legislation would ban union security clauses in labor bargaining agreements.

Approximately 20 states have introduced “no-rights-at-work” bills in 2012 but most were bogged down in committees. However, banning of union security clauses in Michigan have given backers, mostly profiteers and their supporters in the legislature, renewed hope that similar legislation could be passed in the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

Mr. Metcalfe stated what happen in Michigan and before that in Indiana created more energy for the anti-union forces in Pennsylvania to pass the no-rights-at-work legislation.

Before Indiana passed the anti-union legislation in 2011 and Michigan in 2012 the last state to successfully pass right-to-work laws was Oklahoma in 2001.

Democratic governors in New Hampshire, Kentucky and Missouri have stated they would veto the anti-union legislation should their legislators passed it. Also, Ohio pro-business legislators have pledged to attempt to make their state a no-rights-at-work state in 2013. Missouri is surrounded by six states that have no-rights-at-work laws on the books.

Labor organizations in Ohio have already began to rally their members and have pointed to their success in helping to overturn a Republican-backed law in 2011 that would have severely restricked public employees unions to negotiate contracts with government, both statewide and local.

Meanwhile, legislation that would ban Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s) on public construction projects such as schools and public office buildings; the privitization of the Pennsylvania Wine and Spirits Shops; and allowing the further expansion of charter schools, has been introduced or have been promised by anti-union, pro-business members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly during the 2013 session.

A PLA is a comprehensive agreement signed between 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 the union’s guarantee of no strikes, a steady well trained labor supply, and general labor peace. Under a PLA, a nonunion contractor could still be hired for a project, however if they are selected, local unionized workers must be hired.

On January 30th, Mr. Corbett unveiled yet another privitization plan of the state owned liquor and wine stores that if passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly would expand outlets where liquor is sold attempting to drive-up consumption throughout the state.

In his unveiling of the new privitization plan there was no mention why he believed making liquor more easily availible would be a good thing for the citizens of Pennsylvania.

Privitization of the Pennsylvania Wine and Spirits stores would likely replace good paying family sustaining jobs with lower paying jobs.