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Cutting Saturday mail service will impact annual food drive

04.08.13

APRIL 2013, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Cutting Saturday mail service will impact annual food drive

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, March 20th- This year could be the last National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Union annual food drive to be held on a Saturday if in fact the United States Postal Service (USPS) cuts mail delivery to five days a week.

The USPS announced in February it wants to end Saturday mail service to save money. Mail delivery will be from Monday to Friday.

The NALC with support from the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation have conducted the annual food drive, which customers of the USPS are asked to place non-perishable food donations near their mailboxes so that the letter carriers can collect them while they deliver mail, since 1992.

The food collected each year is used to replenish food banks which helps feed the 50 million Americans, one-third of them childeren, who live in families that lack sufficient food.

In 2012, more than 70 million pounds of food was collected by members of the NALC.

However, the elimination of Saturday mail service could decrease the amount of food collected and volunteers needed for the event. Thousands of volunteers from labor organizations participate in the one-day food drive.

Moving the event to another day of the week could prove costly because many of the volunteers work during the week and will be unavailable or be forced to take a day-off from their regular job.

Approximately 1,600 NLAC Branches nationwide are involved in the food drive, which is held on the first Saturday of each May.

The elimination of Saturday mail delivery adds to the impact of the USPS actions of closing of 13,000 post offices, cutting hours of operation, shuttering hundreds of mail processing centers, and lowering the standards for mail delivery to the country’s homes and businesses.

The labor organization’s that represent the APWU and the Pennsylvania American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Harrisburg, are attempting to either have the USPS reverse the Saturday mail delivery decision or put pressure on the United States Congress, which must approve the change, preserve Saturday service.

Richard Bloomingdale, President of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, formerly represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union, stated eliminating Saturday mail service will mean less good paying goods and is part of a long-term plan for the privatization of the postal service.

“The harm to Pennsylvania workers and the Pennsylvania economy resulting from the double whammy of the Tea Party austerity at the state level and the Postal Service’s march toward privatizing mail delivery presents a serious blow to our state’s economic recovery, especially at a time when the Commonwealth’s unemployment rate is now hovering at or just above the national rate,” said Mr. Bloomingdale.

“We understand the USPS has financial challenges. However, much of it is a mess of Congress’s making stemming from an unsustainable congressional mandate requiring the USPS to pre-fund healthcare benefits for future retirees and to do so within a 10 year window. No other entity, public or private carriers this load. The mandate has created a $5.5 billion dollar annual expense since 2007,” added Mr. Bloomingdale.

The National Association of Letters Carriers Union and the American Postal Workers Union represent the majority of the USPS workers with a combined membership of nearly 410,000 workers. If the Saturday mail service is discontinued thousands of jobs will be eliminated.

AFSCME files complaint’s against Lehigh Valley employer

04.08.13

APRIL 2013, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

AFSCME files complaint’s against Lehigh Valley employer

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, March 12th- The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 88 Union filed at least two labor complaint’s with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia, alleging a Lehigh Valley employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

AFSCME filed the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges against Person Directed Supports Inc., New Tripoli, which provides support for individuals with disabilities.

According to one of the two ULP’s that were filed on February 27th, 2013, AFSCME alleges the employer violated the NLRAct by discharging employee Manuel Matos and suspended employee Cynthia Rodriquez in retaliation for their support of the Union.

AFSCME was selected as the bargaining representative of Person Directed Supports Inc. employees during a representation election conducted by the NLRB in November 2012. However, since the election the employer has violated the NLRAct by retaliating against their employees for supporting AFSCME.

A second ULP filed against the company alleges the NLRAct was violated when several other employees were interrogated about their Union activity or sentiments, and soliciting employees’ grievances and promising benefits in order to discourage employees’ support the Union.

District Council 88, Walton Road in Plymounth Meeting, represents AFSCME members throughout the Lehigh Valley.

Attorney John Bielski filed both ULP’s on behalf of AFSCME.

According to the labor complaints, Person Directer Supports Inc. employs 63 workers at the New Tripoli facility.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters Union Local 773 files labor complaints

04.08.13

APRIL 2013, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters Union Local 773 files labor complaints

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, March 18th- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 773, Hamilton Street in Allentown, filed several labor complaints with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia, alleging a Lehigh Valley employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The Unfair Labor Practice’s (ULP’s) were filed on behalf of Local 773 by Philadelphia Attorney Jeremy Meyer.

The newspaper discovered the ULP’s while reviewing labor complaints and representation petition’s filed at the NLRB. The Union News is the only member of the local media to review the information.

According to a ULP filed on March 7th, 2013, Local 773 alleges Pratt Corrugated Logistics violated the NLRAct when the employer issued Guillermo Mejia a “Final Written Warning” because of his Union activity and/or his testimony in a NLRB proceeding.

A second ULP was filed by IBT Local 773 on March 8th, 2013 and alleges Pratt Corrugated Logistics representatives violated the NLRAct when employee Francis Ortiz interrogated employee Denis Cortes, about his testimony in a NLRB proceeding.

Both ULP’s identify Erin Culter, Pratt Human Resources Officer, as the company representative to be contacted.

Rally held to stop the elimination of Saturday mail delivery service

04.08.13

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

Rally held to stop the elimination of Saturday mail delivery service

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 29th- The National Association of Letters Carriers (NALC) Union Branch 17 in Scranton held a rally on Lackawanna County Courthouse grounds in Scranton on March 24th to show support of the United States Postal Service (USPS) and inform the public why it is a bad idea to cut mail delivery service to five-days a week.

The USPS announced several months ago five-day mail delivery will begin in August 2013, Monday through Friday. However, the NALC is hopefull of getting the United States House of Representatives to kill the proposal.

Congressman Matt Cartwright (Democrat-17th Legislative District) attended the rally and voiced his support of the Postal Service Protection Act of 2013, which has a six-day-a-week mandate.

The USPS operates as an independent agency but is subjected to Congress oversight.

The House of Representatives passed the legislation which was wrapped into a government spending bill.

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.

Branch 17 members were joined by other union members from throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania to show support for the USPS, holding signs stating “Don’t dismantle our postal service.”

Tom Gavin, President of Branch 17, stated should mail delivery be cut to five-days approximately 22,500 jobs will be lost immediately.

The postal office cutbacks have already effected the region.

The USPS moved all out-going mail from the Scranton Mail Processing Center in South Scranton to the Lehigh Valley during the last weekend of January.

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.

State Representatives Marty Flynn (Democrat-113th Legislative District) and Sid Michaels Kavulich (Democrat-114th Legislative District) also attended the rally and spoke how cutting the mail service is a bad idea and would hurt small businesses that operate on Saturdays.

Mike Gintoff, a Trustee of Branch 17 helped coordinate the rally by reaching-out to the labor community and the media.

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

IAM members laid-off at Tobyhanna Army Depot

04.08.13

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

IAM members laid-off at Tobyhanna Army Depot

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 30th- A rally was held at the Pittston Area High School to critized sequestration which has resulted in job losses and worker furloughs at the Tobyhanna Army Depot. House of Representative Matt Cartwright (Democrat-17th Legislative District) organized the rally, which was attended by approximately 200 people including Tobyhanna workers, other members of the labor community and several local labor leaders.

Because of mandated spending cuts under the Budget Control Act of 2011, Tobyhanna has laid-off around 418 workers. The workers are employed by URS Federal Support Services Inc, a contractor that provides industrial trade and electronics workers.

The International Association of Machinists (IAM) Union Local Lodge 1717, represent the workers that were cut on March 15th, with a second phase scheduled for April 15th and yet another phase planned for April 30th.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Union Local 1647 represent approximately 2300 of the around 5,100 Tobyhanna workers. Union security clauses are forbidden in labor agreements that represent federal government workers. Therefore, each hire must be approach and encourage to join the union.

However, the AFGE does not attempt to encouage the employees of contractors from becoming members of Local 1647. Local 1647 will only attempt to get employees that are actually employed by the United States Army to join the union.

IAM Local Lodge 1717 President Joe Gerrity told the newspaper many of his members are taking the lay-off hard. “It’s a bad economy. Where are they going to find a job,” stated Mr. Gerrity.

Tobyhanna Depot workers will be forced to take 14 unpaid furlough days in 2013. It was first reported that the employees would be forced to take 22 days, however, the Defense Department cut 8 days.

The depot is Northeastern Pennsylvania’s largest employer and cutbacks will likely harm the local economy with laid-off employees not buying food supplies or other items needed for work.

Something Mr. Cartwright pointed-out at the rally. He said sequester may cost the private sector more than 750,000 jobs nationwide. He called the situation a “ticking time bomb.”

Meaning when all is said and done, the region, which already has the highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania, can not afford to lose jobs because political parties can not reach an agreement on national debt reduction.

“Slashing jobs will not revive the budget,” added Mr. Cartwright.

The Politics behind the Killing of Americans

04.05.13

by Walter Brasch

Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) opposes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), and vows to block the expansion of Medicaid in his state. At a news conference this past week, Perry, flanked by conservative senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, declared “Texas will not be held hostage by the Obama administration’s attempt to force us into the fool’s errand of adding more than a million Texans to a broken system.” About one-fourth of all Texans do not have health care coverage.

According to an analysis by the Dallas Morning News, if Texas budgeted $15.6 billion over the next decade, it would receive more than $100 billion in federal Medicaid funds, allowing the state to cover about 1.5 million more residents, including about 400,000 children.
Texas isn’t the only state to politicize health care.

Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) says that expanding Medicaid is the “right thing to do,” but the Republican-dominated state legislature doesn’t agree. Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) is having the same problem with his Republican legislature, although participation in Medicaid would save the state about $1.9 billion during the next decade. Gov. Jan Brewer (R-Ariz.), one of the nation’s most vigorous opponents of the ACA, surprisingly has spoken in favor of Medicaid expansion to benefit her state’s residents.

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) and the Republican legislature oppose implementing the ACA and Medicaid expansion. Jindal says the expansion would cost Louisiana about $1 billion during the next decade. However, data analysis by the state’s Department of Health and Hospitals reveals that if Louisiana accepted the federal program, which would benefit almost 600,000 residents, the state would actually save almost $400 million over the next decade. About one-fifth of all Louisianans lack health insurance.

Pennsylvania, by population, is a blue state, but it has a Republican governor, and both houses of the Legislature are Republican-controlled. Gov. Tom Corbett says he opposes an expansion of Medicaid because it is “financially unsustainable for Pennsylvania taxpayers” and would require a “large tax increase.” This would be the same governor who believes that extending a $1.65 billion corporate welfare check to the Royal Dutch Shell Corp., a foreign-owned company, is acceptable but protecting Pennsylvanians’ health is not.

Fifteen states, dominated by Republican governorships and legislatures, by declaring they won’t allow Medicaid expansion, are on record as placing political interests before the health of their citizens. Another 10 states are “considering” whether or not to implement additional health care coverage for their citizens. The Republican states, pretending they believe in cost containment, claim they oppose Medicaid expansion because of its cost, even though the entire cost for three years is borne by the federal government, the states would pay only 10 percent of the cost after that. The cost to the states would average only about 2.8 percent, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget office.

If all states agreed to the ACA expansion of Medicaid, 17–21 million low-income individuals would receive better health care. Among those would be about 500,000 veterans who do not have health insurance and whose incomes are low enough to qualify for health care, according to research compiled by the Urban Institute. Veterans don’t automatically qualify for VA benefits. Even those who do qualify for VA assistance may not seek health care because they don’t live close to a VA medical facility, and can’t afford health care coverage closer to home. Spouses of veterans usually don’t qualify for VA benefits.

Under the ACA, Medicaid health care would cover persons whose incomes are no more than 138 percent above the federal poverty line. That would be individuals earning no more than $15,856 a year, only about $800 above minimum wage. Among those covered by Medicaid expansion would be women with breast and cervical cancer, and those with mental or substance abuse problems.

Because they have no health insurance, 6.5 to 40.6 percent of Americans, depending upon the county they live in, delay necessary medical treatment, according to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The 6.5 percent rate is for Norfolk, Mass.; the 40.6 percent rate is in Hidalgo, Texas. (Most of Pennsylvania falls in the 6.5–13.4 percent rate.) Texas and Florida have the highest rates of residents who delay getting proper medical care because of a lack of adequate insurance.

Low-income individuals who delay getting medical care because of the cost often develop further complications, some of them catastrophic. The medical bill that might be only a few hundred dollars, which would be covered if the recalcitrant states approved Medicaid expansion, could now become a bill in the thousands of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The hospitals would have to absorb those costs or force the patient into bankruptcy, which could impact dozens of other businesses. The Missouri Hospital Association reported if the state refused to accept Medicaid expansion, the state’s health care industry would be forced to accept more than $11 billion in uncompensated costs.

But, let’s assume that the medical condition isn’t catastrophic, but just serious. Low-wage employees, most of whom have limited sick leave, might be forced to come to work so as not to lose the limited income they already earn. If their illness is a cold or flu, or some other contagious illness, they could infect others, both employees and customers. A waitress, fry cook, or day laborer in the agricultural fields with no health insurance could cause massive problems.

Medical problems, such as rheumatoid arthritis, not treated early would also lead to a severe physical disability, forcing the employee into becoming unable to work even a minimum-wage job. This, of course, reduces both income that could be put into the local business economy and a corresponding decrease in amount of taxes paid. That would trigger disability payments, which could raise taxes for those who are not yet disabled.

Research conducted by the Harvard University School of Public Health, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, concluded that expanding Medicaid coverage would result in a 6 percent reduction of deaths among adults 20 to 64 years old. According to that study, “Mortality reductions were greatest among older adults, nonwhites, and residents of poorer counties.” For Texas, according to the research, expansion of the Medicaid coverage would result in about 2,900 fewer deaths; for Florida, it would be about 2,200 fewer deaths; for Pennsylvania, it would result in about 1,500 fewer deaths.

But, the real reason Republicans may not want Medicaid expansion could be for the same reason they have been pushing oppressive Voter ID laws to correct a problem that doesn’t exist. Those who are most affected are those who generally are the low income wage earners and persons of color, most of whom—at least according to recent elections—don’t vote for Republicans.

[Dr. Brasch’s latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, which looks at the health, environmental, geological, and economic impact of natural gas horizontal fracturing. He also investigates political collusion between the natural gas industry and politicians.]