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Department of Labor releases fiscal year 2014 budget request

04.27.13

MAY 2013, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Department of Labor releases fiscal year 2014 budget request

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, April 11th- Acting United States Secretary of Labor Seth Harris recently released the United States Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) fiscal year 2014 budget request, which supports President Obama’s plan to strengthen the economy and grow the middle class through continued investments in training and resources for job seekers. “The DOL’s fiscal year 2014 budget request is a critical ingredient in the Obama’s administration’s plan to grow the economy from middle class out, not from the top down,” said Secretary Harris.

The budget for the DOL requests $12.1 billion in discretionary funding. It invest in programs in services for workers and job seekers by modernizing the federal job training system and creating employment opportunities for the long-term unemployed and low-income adults and youths. The request devotes significant resources to putting veterans, particularly those with disabilities or other significant barriers to employment, back to work. It also provides improved re-employment services that enable individuals newly separated from the military to successfully transition into civilian careers.

The budget also proposes a new Universal Displaced Worker program that will reach more than a million workers a year with a set of services, replacing two more narrowly-targeted programs and ensuring that all dislocated workers receive high-quality job search assistance.

In addition, the budget provides $150 million for a competitive Workforce Innovation Fund to test new evidence-based workforce development strategies and bold systemic reforms from states and localities. Of that amount, $50 million will be used to identify strategies to help veterans, military family members, and members of the National Guard and Reserve, and $10 million will be focused on identifying effective strategies to improve outcomes for disconnected youths. The budget proposals $8 billion for a Community College to Career Fund, to be administered jointy with the United States Department of Education, that will invest in partnerships between community colleges and business to train workers in high-growth and high-demand industries. It would begin in 2015 as a successor to the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training program.

The budget also includes a $4 billion Re-employment NOW program, which incorporates a number of reforms to help Unemployment Insurance claimants and other-term unemployed individuals get back to work more quickly.

The budget request will surely face obstacles by Republicans that oppose any budget request that provides funds for unemployed workers.

USPS plan to eliminate Saturday mail delivery delayed

04.27.13

MAY 2013, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

USPS plan to eliminate Saturday mail delivery delayed

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, April 12th- The United States Postal Service (USPS) delayed its plan to discontinue Saturday mail delivery because of mandates passed by the United States Congress. The USPS announced several months ago five-day mail delivery will begin in August 2013, Monday through Friday.

The USPS operates as an independent agency but is subjected to Congress oversight. The House of Representatives passed legislation to force the USPS to continue the Saturday mail delivery, which was wrapped into a government spending bill. Congress passed the Postal Service Protection Act of 2013, which has a six-day-a-week mandate.

Congressman Matt Cartwright (Democrat-17th Legislative District) supported the legislation and publicly voiced his support for the labor organizations that represent workers of the USPS. Mr. Cartwright has a legislative office in Easton.

After the USPS announced their plan to eliminate six-day mail delivery, the National Association of Letters Carriers (NALC) Union held several rally’s throughout the state to inform the public why it is a bad idea to cut mail delivery service to five-days a week. The NALC members held signs stating “Don’t dismantle our postal service.” The reason the postal service gave for cutting the mail delivery to five-days was because of financial losses.

The NALC represents the postal service mail carriers.

The major reason the USPS loses money is because of legislation that was passed in 2006 that forces the agency, which is not funded through any government program but only through postage income, to fund pensions for workers that have not even been born. The pensions for the future workers must be funded 75 years in advance, something no other business, private or public, needs to do.

The USPS management suggest cutting Saturday mail delivery would save as much as $2 billion a year. They claimed the agency lost $15.9 billion last year, however, without the pension funding requirement the agency would have made money.

The NALC stated should mail delivery be cut to five-days approximately 22,500 jobs will be lost immediately.

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

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.

The anti-union pro-business Republican House of Representatives stated the USPS agreed to keep six-day mail because of “special-interest (labor organizations) lobbying and intense political pressure.”

However, many small businesses that are opened on Saturdays disliked the elimination of Saturday mail delivery. Should Monday be a federal holiday with no postal service businesses would have no mail delivery from Friday to Tuesday.

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

Lehigh Valley unemployment rate at 8.6 percent

04.27.13

MAY 2013, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Lehigh Valley unemployment rate at 8.6 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, April 5th- 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 8.6 percent, decreasing 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 at 8.2 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 9.8 percent. The Johnstown MSA has the second highest unemployment rate at 9.4 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 6.0 percent. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest rate at 6.7 percent and the Lancaster MSA has the third lowest at 6.8 percent. The Harrisburg MSA has the fourth lowest unemployment rate at 7.3 percent while the Pittsburgh MSA has the fifth lowest at 7.4 percent.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 8.1 percent, dropping by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report and increasing by five-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before.

There are 532,000 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 6,540,000 and 6,009,000 of them have employment.

The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was reported to be 7.7 percent, decreasing by two-tenths from the previous report. That number also does not include civilians that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and have stopped looking for work. The national unemployment was down six-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before, because of a decrease in the workforce.

The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force in Pennsylvania with 436,800 civilians, increasing by 1,000 from the previous report and rising by 13,800 during the past twelve months.

The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force at 3,037,800 with 262,600 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor force at 1,265,100 with 94,000 without jobs; and the Harrisburg MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force in the commonwealth at 290,800 with 21,300 civilians without jobs. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA has the fifth largest labor force in Pennsylvania with 290,100 civilians and 28,500 of them are without jobs.

Northampton County has the lowest unemployment rate in the MSA at 7.9 percent, dropping by one full percentage point from the previous report and decreasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from twleve months ago.

Carbon County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 10.1 percent, decreasing by six-tenths of a percentage point from the month before and rising by one and six-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago.

Lehigh County has a unemployment rate of 8.2 percent, dropping by six-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report but increasing by three-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago.

IUOE Local 542 unsuccessful in NLRB conducted election

04.27.13

MAY 2013, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

IUOE Local 542 unsuccessful in NLRB conducted election

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, April 4th- The International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 542, Virginia Drive, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, was unsuccessful in their attempt to represent several workers of a local heavy equipment contractor.

Local 542 represent members of the IUOE throughout the Lehigh Valley. IUOE members operate heavy construction equipment on construction sites, including cranes and bulldozers.

The IUOE filed a representation petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia requesting the agency conduct a election to determine if two employees of Great Western Services Inc., 3rd Street in Allentown, wanted to be represented by Local 542 for the purpose of collective bargaining.

Frank Bankard, Local 542 Organizer, filed the petition on behalf of the Union on March 1st, 2013.

According to the NLRB, the Union received one vote while one employee voted against unionization.

Under NLRB rules, a labor organization must receive 50 percent plus one of the eligible to vote employees to become their bargaining representative for the purpose of collective bargaining. Therefore, the tie vote indicates the union was unsuccessful in their attempt to represent the Great Western Services workers.

According to the petition, which was reviewed by the newspaper, the Union requested all mechanics employed in the shop and or doing field repair work participate in the election.

Local 542 requested that all other employees, including supervisors, managers, clerical and guards be excluded from participating in the election.

The NLRB conducted the representation election on March 21st, 2013.

SMWIU Local 19 alleges company violated NLRAct

04.27.13

MAY 2013, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

SMWIU Local 19 alleges company violated NLRAct

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, April 5th- The attorney that represents the Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA) Union Local 19 in Philadelphia, which represents SMWIA members throughout the Lehigh Valley, alleges numerous violations were conducted by management of a Lehigh Valley construction company of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The newspaper in previous editions have reported Local 19 filed multiple Unfair Labor Practices (ULP’s) against M.B.I. HVAC Inc., 450 Business Park Lane in Allentown with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging the company violated several sections of the NLRAct.

The agency conducted a representation election of employees of M.B.I. HVAC Inc., on November 16th 2012. 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 at least 50 percent plus one of the voting employees to become their bargaining representative. However, Local 19 challenged two of the workers eligibility to participate.

Attorney Martin Milz, who represents Local 19, has filed at least four ULP’s against M.B.I. HVAC Inc.

Mr. Milz alleges the employer stated on multiple occasions that it would “never sit down with Local 19″ and “never reach an agreement if the Union were successful in the election”. Also, the employer told a group of bargaining unit employees they would “lose pay and be made apprentices in the event the Union was successful”.

Job market improves, but may have more to do with weather

04.27.13

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

Job market improves, but may have more to do with weather

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 28th- The decline in the national unemployment rate has more to do with a drop in the labor force participation than a huge inprovement in the economy. The Labor Department reported recently the economy added 236,000 jobs in February, with a small downward revision in job growth over the prior two months.

The employment-to-population ratio (EPOP), was unchanged at 58.6 percent, exactly the same as the rate in February 2012 and 0.4 percentage points above the summer of 2011. This compares with an EPOP of 63.0 percent in 2007. The 54.8 percent employment to population ratio for women is 0.2 percentage points above the low hit last month.

According to Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Ecomomic and Policy Research (CEPR) in Washington, DC, an progressive economic think-tank, the decline in labor force participation in this cycle has been striking.

While the unemployment rate has dropped more than 40 percent of the way back to its pre-recession level, the unemployment-to-population ratio is still far closer to its trough than its pre-recession peak. While women have fared better than men, this is because they did not see the same sort of steep hit to employment at the start of the downturn. In the last couple of years the gap in performance has been closing with the EPOP for men rising and the EPOP for women drifting lower.

Also, African Americans have fared much worse than whites in the downturn. The fall in the EPOP for black women has been almost as sharp as for men. The drop in the EPOP for black men has been by far the sharpest. Their EPOP has edged up slighly in the last two years but is still almost 8 percentage points below the pre-recession level, Mr. Baker stated.

Among the big jobs gainers during the month of February was construction, which added 48,000 jobs after adding 25,000 in January. Given the uptick in housing the economy should expect to see more construction employment, but this jump was likely driven in large part by unusually good winter weather. Good weather likely also contributed to the 23,700 jobs added in retail after an increase of 29,000 in January.

The healthcare sector added 32,000 jobs, offsetting a weak rise of 13,000 in January. Restaurants added 18,800, roughly their average over the last year, while the employment services sector added 21,100 jobs. Mr. Baker stated this could be a sign of increased permanent hires in the future, but may also just be an anomaly. The motion picture industry added 20,800 jobs.

The CEPR reported there was some modest good news on the wage front with the average hourly wage increasing at a 2.85 percent rate in the last three months compared to the prior three. This would indicate some acceleration and actual real wage growth, but it is too early to assume the pattern with continue.

The EPOP with less than a high school degree is almost back to its pre-recession level. It rose by 1.9 percentage points in February to 41.9 percent. This compares with a 43.3 percent average for 2007. As the aging of the population is a factor depresses EPOP the decline should show up clearly among those less than a high school degree since these are disproportionately older workers.

The fact that EPOP’s have not fallen much for this group suggests that the aging of the population is not an important factor behind declining EPOP’s.

Mr. Baker added that the new jobs reported for February is a good sign but there is the risk that this is being driven by unusually good winter weather. This could lead to a situation like we saw last year with the very weak job growth in the spring as the result of hiring being pulled forward.

USW Union files labor complaint against InterMetro

04.27.13

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

USW Union files labor complaint against InterMetro

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 29th- The United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union, commonly known as the United Steelworkers Union (USW), Local 5652-00 filed a labor complaint against a Luzerne County employer.

The Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge was filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia and alleges InterMetro Industries Inc., North Washington Street in Wilkes-Barre, violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

InterMetro principal product is the manufacturing of stainless steel utility shelving trays.

The ULP was filed by USW District 10 Sub-District Director Joseph Pozza III, Berwick on March 1st, 2013.

According to the ULP, which was reviewed by the newspaper, the USW alleges the Company has refused to bargain collectively with the Union regarding provisions of Section 9(a), and Section 159(a) of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the parties.

The newspaper is the only member of the media that reviews ULP’s and Representation Petitions filed at the NLRB office and publishes their findings.

“About December 2012, Union President Dave Carey, was handed a paper titled “Powered Material Handling Equipment”. On January 3rd, 2013, his Union Representation sent a letter to the Company Safety Director. Shortly thereafter the Company required a bargaining unit employee to take a full physical. A grievance has also been filed,” states the labor complaint.

The Employer Representatives identified on the ULP to be contacted is Darrin Woodruff, Vice President/Human Resources officer.

Lackawanna County Public Defenders become IBT members

04.24.13

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

Lackawanna County Public Defenders become IBT members

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 25th- Lackawanna County Public Defenders, First Assistants and Assistant Public Defenders have 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, the County Democratic Majority Commissioners, Corey O’Brien and Jim Wansacz, agreed to recognize IBT Local 229 as the employees collective bargaining representative after first refusing to do so.

The issue of the approximately ten employees of the Lackawanna County Public defenders office attempting to become members of the IBT for the purpose of collective bargaining was exclusively published in the February edition of the Union News.

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 told the newspaper Mr. O’Brien and Mr. Wansacz were asked to recognize Local 229 as the employees bargaining representative however they first refused. The request was made on January 8th, and was refused on January 9th, Mr. Pawlik stated.

Nine of the ten employees of Lackawanna County Public Defenders office signed authorization cards requesing the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board conduct a representation election to determine if they wanted Local 229 to represent them for the purpose of collective bargaining.

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

Mr. Pawlik told the newspaper there are employment issues currently within the Lackawanna County Public Defenders office that have resulted in the employees seeking the protection of a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with Lackawanna County.

Officials of Local 229 and Lackawanna County have began to bargain for a first-time labor agreement for the employees.

SEIU wins election for Wilkes-Barre nursing home LPN’s

04.24.13

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

SEIU wins election for Wilkes-Barre nursing home LPN’s

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 22nd- The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Pennsylvania Union, North Second Street in Harrisburg, won the right to represent Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN’s) in collective bargaining employed at a Wilkes-Barre nursing home.

The SEIU/Healthcare Pennsylvania Union filed a representation petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia on February 14th, 2013 requesting the agency conduct a election to determine if approximately 21 LPN’s employed at Golden Living Center Summit, 50 North Pennsylvania Avenue in Wilkes-Barre, wanted the Union to represent them for the purpose of collective bargaining.

According to the petition, which was discovered by the newspaper while reviewing labor complaints and petitions filed at the NLRB, the SEIU requested that all LPN’s who work an average of full hours or more per week be allowed to participate in the election.

Under NLRB rules, a labor organization must receive 50 percent plus one of the workers eligible to participate in the election to become their bargaining representative.

The petition was filed on behalf of the SEIU by Julia Watkins, identified as an organizer of HealthcarePennsylvania.

Before a representation petition can be filed at least 30 percent of the unit of employees must support the request.

According to the NLRB, the union received seventeen votes while two employees voted against being represented by the SEIU.

The SEIU represents other nurses throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania including the Regional Hospital in Scranton and Geisinger Wyoming Valley Hospital in Wilkes-Barre.

The SEIU/Healthcare Pennsylvania have been negotiating since December, 2012 attempting to gain a successor contract agreement with Regional Hospital

Privatization of state liquor stores takes step forward

04.20.13

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

Privatization of state liquor stores takes step forward

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 28th- The last hope for the labor organizations that represent workers of the Pennsylvania’s approximately 600 state-operated wine and liquor stores to save their members jobs from becoming a casualty of Republican Governor Tom Corbett push for privatization is the state senate.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed the Republican plan to phase-out the ownership of the state operated stores and sell licenses to private businesses by a 105 to 90 vote.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) currently operates the wine and spirits shops and enploys more than 5,000 workers.

The United Food and Commerical Workers (UFCW) Union represent the majority of the workers which are employed as clerks and shelve stockers.

The anti-union Corbett unveiled his plan earlier in 2013 to get the state out of the liquor business that would lead to the elimination of family sustaining jobs and having twice as many private outlets selling both beer and wine.

Mr. Corbett announced his plan on January 30th stating the expansion would create consumption and therefore more tax revenue. He did not state why the selling of more liquor would be a good thing for Pennsylvanians.

Mr. Corbett’s lastest plan of privatization included using the revenue from the selling of the system to help fund school programs that he has cut in previous budgets.

The Independent State Store Union (ISSU) represent most lower supervisors of the system and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union represent mainly office employees including the PLRB auditors.

Under Mr. Corbett’s latest plan all 600-plus state stores would be closed and the employees would be fired. In place licenses to sell wine and liquor would be sold to generate revenue, Mr. Corbett stated. Under the plan public education would be financed by booze sales.

The system currently creates more than $500 million in profits and taxes a year for Pennsylvania, which benefits all taxpayers.

The legislation will now go before the state senate where Republicans hold the majority, 27 to 23. However, at least four Republicans have express reservations of selling the state-stores. The union organizations are hoping the Republican senators do not weaken from pressure applied by their party leaders and vote to dismantle the current system.

Keystone Job Corps files labor complaint against SEIU

04.20.13

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

Keystone Job Corps files labor complaint against SEIU

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 27th- In a apparent attempt to intimidate the Union that represent workers of the Keystone Job Corps, West Foothills Drive in Drums, Luzerne County, the company headquaters in Utah filed a labor complaint against the Union.

In previous edition’s of the newspaper, it was exclusively reported that the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Pennsylvania Social Services Union (PSSU) Local 668, Main Street in Dickson City, filed several Unfair Labor Practices (ULP’s) against Management Training Corporation, which does business as Keystone Job Corp Center. The company is headquatered in Centerville, Utah.

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.

In the previous edition of the Union News it was reported the SEIU filed a ULP against the Employer on January 28th, 2013 and alleges Keystone Job Corp Center violated the NLRAct when management held a meeting with a bargaining unit worker and alleged several students had made allegations against her, which the employee denied.

The union member was told she could write a statement of the allegation and she was informed she would receive a verbal warning regarding the statement allegedly made.

The employee refused to provide a statement because she denied anything was said inappropriately to any student.

Lori Thuringer, Human Resource Manager of Keystone Job Center, later sent an e-mail to the employee requesting a statement and suggested discipline was made because she refused to provide a statement.

A grievance was filed on behalf of the employee and processed, but Keystone Career Transition Readiness Counselor Heather Rebarchak later e-mailed the only way for the employee to avoid potential discipline was for her to withdraw the grievance.

Management filed their ULP with the NLRB alleging the SEIU failed to bargaing in good faith with the Employer. Also, Keystone Job Corp alleges the SEIU is interferring with the Employer’s choice of representation for collective bargaining.

The Employer ULP was filed by Utah Attorney Martha Amundsen.

Sam Bianco Golf Tournament to be held on May 11th

04.20.13

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

Sam Bianco Golf Tournament to be held on May 11th

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 29th- The Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council, Highway 315 in Pittston, will hold their annual Sam Bianco Memorial Scholarship Fund Golf Tournament on Saturday May 11th, 2013 at the Sugarloaf Golf Club.

All proceeds benefit the Scholarship Fund, which is named after the late labor leader, who died in September 2010.

Mr. Bianco served as President of 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., from 1978 until his death from complications related to cancer. He was 88 years young.

He was a retired District Manager of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU). The ILGWU once represented thousands of workers and hundreds of garment shops throughout the region. Only a hand-off of shops remain today.

He also represented the labor community on numerous boards and committees throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania including; the Northeast Pennsylvania Area Labor Management Council; the United Rehabilitiation Services; the United Way of the Wyoming Valley; St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen; and the American Red Cross Wyoming Valley Chapter.

Mr. Bianco involvement with the labor community for decades was legendary and he even participated in union activities while ill with cancer.

The Golf Tournament registration begins at 9:00 am, with a shotgun start. The cost is $75.00 per golfer, which includes golf, food and prizes.

John Rusak, Business Representative of the United Food and Commericial Workers (UFCW) Union Local 1776, in Pittston, stated individual golfers are welcomed, meaning two or four golfers are not needed to participate in the event.

For directions to the golf course or for any questions regarding the tournament including availability of hole sponsorship, Mr. Rusak can be contacted at 1-(800)-635-6994.

FMLA celebrates its 20th anniversity with proven success

04.20.13

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

FMLA celebrates its 20th anniversity with proven success

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 26th- According to a survey released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), an independent progressive economic think tank, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has been successful but more can be done.

FMLA celebrated its 20th anniversity this February and CEPR stated it was a huge step forward for workers in the nation, which lags behind nearly all other developed countries in enabling people to take the time they need, without worrying that they may be fired from their jobs to care for themselves and their families when faced with serious illness or welcoming a new child.

Data indicates FMLA has been used 100 million times in the last 20 years, benefiting families and without burdening employers. But, there remain millions of American who are not covered by the FMLA, they can still be fired if they get sick, have a baby, or need to care for a serious ill family member. And millions more are eligible but do not take the time off because they do not know they are eligible or can’t afford to go without pay.

CEPR senior economist Eileen Appelbaum recently wrote a series of posts to review the findings of the FMLA surveys and draw lessons about what to do next.

According to the survey, about a third of all workers still have not heard about FMLA. A significant share of employers who are covered by FMLA do not comply with all of its provisions. Nearly a quarter of work sites subject to FMLA, employing nearly a tenth of all workers, do not know that the FMLA applies to them. One in five work sites covered by the FMLA do not permit employees to take leave for one or more qualifying reasons for leave. And nearly a third of workers are employed at these work sites.

In part 2 of the survey it was discussed that 20 years of experience with the FMLA has created the beginnings of a culture change among employers. Many businesses that are too small to be covered by FMLA either believe that they are covered and offer leaves for FMLA-qualified reasons to their employees or, even knowing they are not required to do so, allow workers to take leave for many of the FMLA-qualified reasons. Ms. Appelbaum feels it seems that expanding FMLA to cover work sites with fewer than 50 workers would not be a heavy lift for smaller businesses. Expanding the coverage of FMLA to smaller businesses would level the playing field for good employers.

The final entry in the survey series examined the experiences of employers with FMLA and found that it’s basically a non-event for them. Meaning, the warnings from business lobbyists that it would impose burdens and lead to fraud and abuse have proven to be unwarranted. More than 9 out of 10 of covered employers reported any confirmed cases of misuse, and only 1 in 40 report suspicion of misuse of FMLA leaves. Most covered work sites found it easy to administer and comply with FMLA, more than 8 in 10 employers stated that compliance was easy or had no noticeable effect.

Overall, the most important takeaway from the Department of Labor surveys of employee and employer experiences with FMLA is that it has greatly benefited workers who have access to job protection leave to care for their families without unduly burdening employers, for whom it has largely been a non-event. Also, expanding coverage to worksites with fewer than 50 employees will not be a heavy lift for small employers, many of whom already allow employees to take leaves for FMLA-qualifying reasons.

Ms. Appelbaum concluded that a Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program to provide paid leaves would ease the financial burden on many families that do not have access to employer-provided pay.

Scranton Mayoral candidate Bill Courtright states he would support labor if elected

04.17.13

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

Scranton Mayoral candidate Bill Courtright states he would support labor if elected

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 29th- Former Democratic Scranton City Council member and current Scranton Tax Collector Bill Courtright stated if elected Mayor of the electric city he would support many of the issues important to the labor community.

During a interview by the newspaper Mr. Courtright, A West Scranton resident, stated he has been reaching-out to candidates seeking to become members of the Scranton City Council. There are five council seats and three of them are available in 2013. Only incumbent Pat Rogan is seeking re-election, meaning there will be at least two new members on Scranton City Council in 2014.

“I’ve contacted all of the candidates, including current members, to build a positive relationship so hopefully if I’m elected we can work together to solve the city’s problems,” stated Mr. Courtright.

There were three Democrats that filed petitions seeking to become mayor. Current three-term Democratic Mayor Chris Doherty is not seeking a fourth four-year term in city hall.

One of Mr. Courtright’s Democratic opponents, Elizabeth Randol, was interviewed by the newspaper in the previous edition.

Mr. Courtright and Ms. Randol both stated they would not support the privatization of the Scranton Department of Public Works (DPW). The issue has been raised over the past several years at Scranton City Council meetings.

The International Association of Machinists (IAM) Union Local Lodge 2305 represent the DPW workers. Local Lodge 2305 relationship with Mr. Doherty has been better than the relationships he has maintained with the other labor organizations that represent Scranton employees.

Both Mr. Courtright and Ms. Randol also stated they would not attempt to rescind Scranton’s Project Labor Agreement (PLA) contract with the affiliated labor organizations of the Scranton Building and Construction Trades Council. In fact Mr. Courtright added he would veto any legislation that if passed by council would rescind the PLA law.

The employees of the Scranton Tax Office are represented by the International Association of Machinists (IAM) Union Local Lodge 2462. Mr. Courtright said in the more than three years he has served as Tax Collector not one grievance has been filed by Local 2462

Scranton School Board candidate supports PLA’s

04.17.13

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

Scranton School Board candidate supports PLA’s

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 30th- Scranton Democratic School Board candidate Douglas Miller stated during a interview with the newspaper if elected to serve he would not vote to overturn the Project Labor Agreement (PLA) between the School District and the affiliated labor organizations of the Scranton Building and Construction Trades Council.

A PLA is a comprehensive agreement signed between a builder or a government body and local craft unions under which a construction project(s) 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.

The agreement between the parties has been in place for more than a decade and the building of the high school in Scranton along with the new elementary school and the removation of a elementary school in South Scranton was done under the terms of the PLA.

Mr. Miller is 23 years old and had previously unsuccessfully attempted to gain a seat on Scranton City Council.

Four of the nine seats of the Scranton School Board are available in 2013.

Mr. Miller told the newspaper he is not running as any part of a team of candidates, stating that is part of the problem with Scranton politics, elected officials vote as a team rather than support legislation that is good for the people.

There are eleven candidates seeking to be nominated in the May election. Three of the candidates, including Mr. Miller, are seeking the Democatic party nomination and the others have cross filed.

SMWIU Local 19 files at least one more ULP against M.B.I.

04.17.13

APRIL 2013, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

SMWIU Local 19 files at least one more ULP against M.B.I.

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, March 17th- The Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA) Union Local 19 in Philadelphia, which represents SMWIA members throughout the Lehigh Valley, filed at least one more labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging a Lehigh Valley construction company violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

In previous news articles, including in the March edition, published by the newspaper it was reported Local 19 filed multiple Unfair Labor Practices (ULP’s) against M.B.I. HVAC Inc., 450 Business Park Lane in Allentown with the NLRB alleging the company violated several sections of the NLRAct.

The agency conducted a representation election of employees of M.B.I. HVAC Inc., on November 16th 2012. 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 at least 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 and have filed at least five ULP’s since the election was conducted alleging the Employer violated the NLRAct.

On February 28th, 2013 Attorney Martin Milz, who represents Local 19, filed a ULP alleging the HVAC construction company violated the NLRAct by threatening, and intimidating employees during the election campaign by interfering with the laboratory conditions necessary to conduct a fair election.

Job market improves, but may have more to do with weather

04.17.13

APRIL 2013, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Job market improves, but may have more to do with weather

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, March 20th- The decline in the national unemployment rate has more to do with a drop in the labor force participation than a huge inprovement in the economy. The Labor Department reported recently the economy added 236,000 jobs in February, with a small downward revision in job growth over the prior two months.

The employment-to-population ratio (EPOP), was unchanged at 58.6 percent, exactly the same as the rate in February 2012 and 0.4 percentage points above the summer of 2011. This compares with an EPOP of 63.0 percent in 2007. The 54.8 percent employment to population ratio for women is 0.2 percentage points above the low hit last month.

According to Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Ecomomic and Policy Research (CEPR) in Washington, DC, an progressive economic think-tank, the decline in labor force participation in this cycle has been striking.

While the unemployment rate has dropped more than 40 percent of the way back to its pre-recession level, the unemployment-to-population ratio is still far closer to its trough than its pre-recession peak. While women have fared better than men, this is because they did not see the same sort of steep hit to employment at the start of the downturn. In the last couple of years the gap in performance has been closing with the EPOP for men rising and the EPOP for women drifting lower.

Also, African Americans have fared much worse than whites in the downturn. The fall in the EPOP for black women has been almost as sharp as for men. The drop in the EPOP for black men has been by far the sharpest. Their EPOP has edged up slighly in the last two years but is still almost 8 percentage points below the pre-recession level, Mr. Baker stated.

Among the big jobs gainers during the month of February was construction, which added 48,000 jobs after adding 25,000 in January. Given the uptick in housing the economy should expect to see more construction employment, but this jump was likely driven in large part by unusually good winter weather. Good weather likely also contributed to the 23,700 jobs added in retail after an increase of 29,000 in January.

The healthcare sector added 32,000 jobs, offsetting a weak rise of 13,000 in January. Restaurants added 18,800, roughly their average over the last year, while the employment services sector added 21,100 jobs. Mr. Baker stated this could be a sign of increased permanent hires in the future, but may also just be an anomaly. The motion picture industry added 20,800 jobs.

The CEPR reported there was some modest good news on the wage front with the average hourly wage increasing at a 2.85 percent rate in the last three months compared to the prior three. This would indicate some acceleration and actual real wage growth, but it is too early to assume the pattern with continue.

The EPOP with less than a high school degree is almost back to its pre-recession level. It rose by 1.9 percentage points in February to 41.9 percent. This compares with a 43.3 percent average for 2007. As the aging of the population is a factor depresses EPOP the decline should show up clearly among those less than a high school degree since these are disproportionately older workers.

The fact that EPOP’s have not fallen much for this group suggests that the aging of the population is not an important factor behind declining EPOP’s.

Mr. Baker added that the new jobs reported for February is a good sign but there is the risk that this is being driven by unusually good winter weather. This could lead to a situation like we saw last year with the very weak job growth in the spring as the result of hiring being pulled foward.

House Labor and Industry Committee Approves Two Anti-Prevailing Wage Bills

04.17.13

House Labor and Industry Committee Approves Two Anti-Prevailing Wage Bills

E-MAIL YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVE

Today the House Labor and Industry Committee voted two anti-prevailing wage bills out of committee so that they may be considered by the full house. These were just two of a large package of new anti-prevailing wage bills that have been introduced this session, and represent a bold new set of attacks on workers by this misguided anti-worker agenda. We have already seen that this legislature is willing to pass anti-worker legislation, as demonstrated by the recent vote to privatize the state Wine and Spirits stores.

As a unified labor movement, we must draw a line in the sand. We must continue to fight the privatization battle in the state senate and win; we must make our voices clearly heard in the state house on prevailing wage; and we must leave no doubt that right-to-work is a non-starter in Pennsylvania. We must do all of these things as a united labor movement, and prove to those who would take away our rights that they will not succeed in their ‘divide and conquer’ strategy.

CLICK HERE to e-mail your state legislator today, tell them to oppose HB 665, HB 796, and any other anti-prevailing wage legislation that comes before the state house. Share this page with your friends, co-workers, neighbors, and social networks and encourage them to join you in opposing this latest attack on middle class working families.

Here is a look at the current prevailing wage bills that have been voted through committee:

HB 665 would change the definitions of “construction” and “maintenance” projects, so that more public projects would be classified as “maintenance” and therefore be exempt from prevailing wage laws. “Maintenance” projects under this proposed legislation would include full replacement of guide rails, curbs, pipes and other road equipment as well as repaving up to 3 1/2 inches of road surface, including associated milling. This would exempt a huge number of construction crews from prevailing wage protections.

HB 796 would amend the Prevailing Wage Act to raise the threshold from $25,000 to $100,000 for projects that would be subject to prevailing wage laws. This bill is a transparent effort to undermine prevailing wage laws in Pennsylvania, which have protected workers from exploitative labor practices for generations.

These bills represent a misguided attack on workers by contractors who are more concerned with having a low-wage workforce than providing the Commonwealth with quality products and services.

www.paaflcio.org

Mitch McConnell’s ‘Whack-a-Mole’ Dirty Politics Campaign

04.11.13

by Walter Brasch

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was mad. Not the kind of mad you get when your favorite team blows a big lead and loses its eighth straight game, but Red-Faced-Exploding-Blood-Pressure Mad.

“This is what you get from the political Left in America,” McConnell bellowed to the media. “That is what the political Left does these days.”

McConnell’s campaign manager, Jesse Benton, added his opinion—“We’ve always said the Left would stop at nothing to attack Sen. McConnell.” They demanded the FBI launch a criminal investigation. The FBI response to the media was, “[W]e are looking into the matter.” Not long after, McConnell approved a campaign slogan, exhorting voters to “Stand with McConnell against the liberal media’s illegal and underhanded tactics.”

What McConnell and Benton were furious about was a leaked tape that revealed possible tactics they would use against movie star Ashley Judd if she were to oppose McConnell in the 2014 Senate race.

McConnell had no evidence there was any liberal plot or that the tape was the result of a bug deliberately planted in campaign headquarters, but tried to spin in circles to make people believe it was a liberal invasion of his soul.

David Corn of Mother Jones, which this week published a transcript of the tape that was made Feb. 2, said the tape was not the result of any bugging operation. It is entirely possible that the tape was made by someone in that room, not unlike the videotape of Mitt Romney who told a fundraising meeting of wealthy supporters that 47 percent of Americans were takers. However, unlike McConnell’s fury, Romney took the high road and tried to dance around his words rather than blame the liberals for leaking the tape that may have been the turning point in the campaign.

But the tactics of a five-term senator and his senior staff may be just as damaging to their campaign as the “47 percent tape” was to Romney’s. McConnell said he and his campaign should launch a “whack-a-mole” campaign—“when anybody sticks their head up, do them out.” In this case, McConnell’s team planned to attack Judd’s mental health, her political activism, her loyalty to President Obama, and that she is an “out of touch” Hollywood liberal.

“She’s clearly, this sounds extreme, but she is emotionally unbalanced,” said one of the staff, emphasizing the campaign could go after Judd for past bouts of depression that led to her being hospitalized. Laughter about her depression could be heard on the tape. Judd readily acknowledged that time in her life, even including it in her autobiography, All That is Bitter and Sweet.

A staff aide called Judd “critical . . . of traditional Christianity [and] anti-sort-of-traditional American family.” What the aide meant was that Judd opposes sexism in the Christian church, supports the Affordable Care Act, is pro-choice, believes in the rights of gays to marry, is an animal rights advocate who spoke against Sarah Palin’s campaign to eradicate wolves by shooting them in their dens, and opposes the use of coal and other fossil fuels to try to avoid climate change that could destroy the earth’s ozone layer.

McConnell and the staff also didn’t say that while McConnell has led the “Party of No” into blocking almost all major appointments and meaningful legislation, Judd is a recognized humanitarian who has worked vigorously to expose the wrongs committed against society’s most vulnerable. They also didn’t mention she is a Phi Beta Kappa honors graduate of the University of Kentucky, and earned a master’s in public administration from Harvard. They seemed more focused upon sliming her personal life and the fact her cell phone has a San Francisco area code.

In a subsequent story, Mother Jones revealed that some of the staff in the room when the recording was made, and that others who did the research about Judd, were Senate staffers. If they did the work on their own time, did not use any federal resources (including telephones and other communications devices), and did not do their work in any federal office they would not have violated the Senate’s own ethics standards. However, as Mother Jones reported, the three senior McConnell staffers they contacted “did not respond.”

Bound in a political black hole from which truth never escapes, McConnell and his staff launched a “scorch-earth” attack to divert the public from the facts on the leaked tape was the far greater sin than what was said.

Innumerable politicians, especially in the past decade, have proven that dirty politics has become the politics of choice. By attacking how the information was obtained and disseminated, unable to defend his own words and tactics, McConnell has made it obvious that truth and decency no longer have a place in either his campaign or his elected position.

[Dr. Brasch’s current book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an in-depth investigation of the controversial practice of hydraulic horizontal fracking. The book looks at the health, environmental, worker safety, and economic impact of fracking, and also discusses the collusion between politicians and Big Energy.]

U.S. Senate Opposes Plan to Cut Social Security by Changing Formula to Set Benefits

04.09.13

By GREGORY N. HEIRES
www.thenewcrossroads.com

The plan to gut Social Security by changing the inflation formula used to calculate benefits is running into trouble.

The budget resolution passed by the U.S. Senate on March 30 includes an amendment opposing the funding formula known as the “chained CPI.”

Labor, veteran, senior and progressive groups have been lining up against the benefit cut since late last year when the Obama administration floated the proposal during the negotiations to avert the country from falling off the “fiscal cliff.” The administration has continued to support the proposal as it prepares to reach a “grand bargain” over the deficit.

“We are very pleased to see the Senate firmly reject chained CPI,” said Barbara J. Easterling, president of the Alliance for Retired Americans, an AFL-CIO group. “Retirees and veterans paid into the system and they deserve their full Social Security benefits.”

Currently, Social Security benefits are determined by the Consumer Price Index, the most widely recognized inflation rate.

The “chained CPI” would create a formula linked to how seniors alter their consumption in response to price changes. The change, though, would reduce benefit increases.

“This is a strong signal that when push comes to shove the Senate is going to oppose any effort to balance the budget on the backs of seniors, disabled veterans and their survivors,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the amendment’s sponsor, after the vote.

Typical 65-year-old retirees would lose more than $650 a year by their 75th birthday and more than $1,000 a year would be cut from their benefits once they reach 85, according to Sanders.
Supporters of Sanders’ amendment included AARP, the AFL-CIO, the National Organization for Women, the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, AMVETS and others.

Sanders is chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and the founder of the Defending Social Security Caucus.

The proposed change also would affect more than 3.2 million disabled veterans receiving disability compensation benefits from the Dept. of Veterans Affairs. Veterans who started receiving VA disability benefits at age 30 would have their benefits reduced by $1,425 at age 45, $2,341 at age 55 and $3,231 at age 65, according to Sanders. Benefits for more than 350,000 surviving spouses and children also would be cut.

In a meeting with Republicans on March 13, President Barack Obama discussed an offer he made to House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) during talks in December about the $1.2 trillion spending cuts over 10 years known as the sequester. Obama’s plan would scrap those automatic cuts and implement an alternative plan that would include $700 billion in new tax revenue and an additional $400 billion in savings from Medicare and $130 billion from Social Security through the chained CPI.

The Senate vote on the amendment comes after growing opposition to the chained CPI.

In January, Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, said at a news conference that the labor federation would launch a “full mobilization” against the chained CPI that would include leafleting, workplace visits and lobbying.

More than 100 Democrats in February signed a letter opposing entitlement cuts, including the chained CPI. In March, AARP sent out a letter to its members soliciting financial support for its campaign against the change.

Fifty-six million people receive Social Security. Considering that the typical recipient gets about $15,000 a year, the $675 cut resulting from the change in the inflation formula would represent a significant hit.

The reduction would be especially hard on women. Social Security is the only income of an estimated 70 percent of retired women.

This post was originally was published on the Daily Kos.