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IBEW Local 81 conducts annual Bowling Tournament

05.16.13

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

IBEW Local 81 conducts annual Bowling Tournament

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 15th- The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 81, Wyoming Avenue in Scranton, recently held the 11th annual Toby Joyce Memorial No-Tap Doubles Bowling Tournament at South Side Bowl in South Scranton.

According to Geno Arcurie Jr., IBEW Local 81 Membership Development Representative, the bowling tournament is held for two reasons.

The first is to keep the memory of a good friend and member of Local 81, who participated in the event right-up to the time he passed away from cancer, and the second is eleven years ago the Union looked for a worthy cause that they could donate proceeds made from the tournament to. The proceeds benefit the Friendship House.

“Each year this tournament continues to grow, allowing us to give the Friendship House a sizable donation.

We have bowlers come from near and far such as areas of Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Ashley, Pittsburgh, Binghamton and Syracuse,” stated Mr. Arcurie.

Mr. Arcurie added that other labor organizations, electrical contractors, local banks, and businesses participate by sponsoring bowling lanes, in which there name is placed on a 2 foot by 4 foot sign which is hung on the top of the lane the day of the tournament. The sponsorship is a major factor in helping Local 81 raise the much needed money for the Friendship House.

In this years event 149 bowlers participated, which was the most ever and there were 36 lane sponsors.

“Once the tournament concluded we all headed to the Waldork Park where we enjoyed a wonderful hot buffet,” added Mr. Arcurie.

The tournament raised $4,600 for the Friendship House.

Lackawanna County Commissioner praises prison guards

05.16.13

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

Lackawanna County Commissioner praises prison guards

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 23rd- Former member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union Local 2736, which represents Correction Officers (CO’s) of the Lackawanna County Prison in Scranton, and current Republican Lackawanna Minority Commissioner Patrick O’Malley, believes the killing of CO Eric Williams at the federal Penitentiary at Canaan in Wayne County on February 25th only shows most people don’t understand the duties and dangers of the job.

“Once they enter the prison, there are the prison walls, fences with rolls of concertina wire on top, and gates. I would like the readers to recognize that Correction Officers only carry on their person handcuffs, a radio, their training and use of common sense, which is paramount for their job,” said Mr. O’Malley.

Mr. O’Malley told the newspaper that most CO’s work in an environment where there are more inmates than staff and that also is dependent upon the activities that are going on.

“Correction Officer Eric Williams, gave everything he had, including his life, to make sure that our community is safe.

Inmates always outnumber staff. The average shift is 8 hours but can lead to 16, which is mandatory overtime. The prison must be manned 24/7 without question. The prison never closes or shuts down,” added Mr. O’Malley.

The CO’s at the federal prison where Mr. Williams worked are represented by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Union, but he was not a member.

Mr. O’Malley pointed-out that CO’s are multi-taskers at work, taking care of medical , nutritional, and religious needs, preventing and stopping fights, cell extractions, preventing suicides if possible, financial or sexual extortion of inmates, gambling, and cell searches for contraband. They are the first responders that arrive on the scene to access the medical situation.

Luzerne County Controller candidate seeking labor support

05.16.13

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

Luzerne County Controller candidate seeking labor support

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, May 1st- Luzerne County Controller candidate Michelle Bednar, 47 of Wapwallopen, is requesting the support of the labor community for the May 21st Primary Election. She is one of four Democratic candidates seeking the nomination.

During a interview by the newspaper, Mrs. Bebnar stated both of her parents were union members and her husband John is a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 163 in Wilkes-Barre. Mike Kwashnik, Business Manager of Local 163, told the newspaper Mr. Bednar has been a member of the union in good standing for more than a decade.

Mr. Kwashnik said the labor community needs to do better in getting pro-labor political candidates elected to office because all too often elected officials have a “negative” opinion of labor unions and their members and work against them legislatively.

“I have no doubt, if elected she would support the labor community,” Mr. Kwashnik stated.

Local 163 recently held a fund raising event in Nanticoke to help Mrs. Bednar’s campaign.

“I support the right for workers to collectively bargain,” Mrs. Bednar stated.

The current Luzerne County Democratic Controller Walter Griffith is facing a lawsuit by Judd Shoval, a member of the board of CityVest, a nonprofit organization that once attempted to revitalize the Hotel Sterling, for recording telephone conversation without knowledging Mr. Shoval. Mr. Shoval is seeking damages for the violation of Pennsylvania’s wiretap law and invasion of privacy. Mrs. Bednar made no mention of the lawsuit during the interview with the newspaper.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union District Council 87 represents one worker of the Luzerne County Controllers office. AFSCME Local 1398 had represented more of the workers but under a dispute with the current County Manager the union classification is under review.

Mrs. Bednar has worked as a branch manager of investment securities, a payroll broker commission’s assistant supervisor, an administrative assistant of corporate leading and a corporate trust supervisor. She studied corporate trust operations at the Cannon Financial Institute within the University of North Carolina and studies accounting at Penn State University.

The controller oversees couty fiscal and management activities.

During the interview Mrs Bednar made it clear she is not a part of a political machine or clique and would run the Luzerne County Controller’s office in that manner.

Mohegan Sun officials conduct construction ceremony

05.16.13

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

Mohegan Sun officials conduct construction ceremony

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 20th- Mohegan Sun Casino officials recently held a ceremony in front of the legalized gambling facility in Plains Township, Luzerne County, hoisting a evergreen tree on top of the $50 million construction project which involves the building of new hotel and convention center. The hoisting of the tree is a ironworker ceremony indicating that were no workers killed during the steel erection of the building under construction.

The more than 20,000 squre foot convention center is still under construction and will stand adjacent to a 238 guest room hotel. The project is expected to be completed by the fall of 2013.

However, most labor organizations affiliated with the building and construction trades council are not celebrating because nearly all have seen their work being done by nonunion workers, sometimes workers from out-of-the-area.

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

Union construction workers have protested in front of the construction site during the project expressing their displeasure of not being hired. Mohegan Sun responded by setting-up two gates to the construction site, one for nonunion workers and one for union tradesmen.

Most recently, members of the International Brotherhood of Carpenters Union Local 645 Pear Street in Scranton, have held a banner stating Mohagan Sun officials should be ashamed of themselves for not hiring local construction workers to proform work usually done by Local 645 members.

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 when the main casino building was built in 2005, a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) was used. But, Mohegan Sun would not sign a PLA for these projects.

In the past 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.

Mike Kwashnik, Business Manager of Local 163, said unlike most building trades union members, which did get some of the work of the project(s), no IBEW members were hired.

Employer using “delay tactics” in AFSCME requested election

05.16.13

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

Employer using “delay tactics” in AFSCME requested election

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, May 1st- The operators of a Hazleton nursing home are pulling out all of the stops in attempting to keep employees of the facility from voting on whether they want to be represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union District Council 87 in Dunmore. Council 87 represents AFSCME members throughout nine counties of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

AFSCME filed a representation petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia on March 18th, 2013 requesting the agency conduct a election to determine if full-time and regular part-time Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN’s) and other professional employees of the Manor and Pavilion at St. Luke’s Village nursing home on Stacie Drive in Hazleton want to be represented by AFSCME. District Council 87 represents other employees including aids and food service workers, of the nursing home.

The newspaper discovered the petition while reviewing representation petition’s filed by labor organizations and any Unfair Labor Practice’s (ULP’s) labor complaints filed at the NLRB office in Philadelphia. The newspaper is the only member of the media in Northeastern Pennsylvania that reviews the information, including other newspapers, television stations and radio outlets.

The petition was filed by Robin Calabria, a union organizer for AFSCME Council 13 in Harrisburg, which District Council 87 is affiliated.

AFSCME withdrew the petition on April 1st, 2013 but refiled it on the same day. However, the employer has challenged the right of whether the LPN’s have the right to become union members claiming they are supervisors and under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct) are ineligible from joining unions, something AFSCME is disputing.

The employer’s legal representation has objected to the attempt by the union to represent the LPN’s and have challenged the right of the workers to participate in the election.

The NLRB has instructed both sides to file legal briefs by May 1st and will make a determination if the employees should be allowed to participate in a NLRB conducted election. Under NLRB rules a labor organization must receive 50 percent plus one of the eligible to participate employees in a election to become their bargaining representative for the purpose of collective baragining.

Often employers fearing they would lose an election will challenge the right of workers from participating in elections or made other challenges to delay a election hoping to be able to influence workers not to support unionization.

According to the petition, AFSCME requested that approximately 42 workers participate in the NLRB conducted election.

Wilkes-Barre Labor Council conducts event to mark OSHAct of 1970

05.16.13

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

Wilkes-Barre Labor Council conducts event to mark OSHAct of 1970

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 29th- The Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council (GWBLC) labor federation, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) in Washington DC, and its Community Services Committee recently held their “9th Annual Workers Memorial Candlelight Vigil” at the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union Local 1776 building on Highway 315 in Pittston.

The ALF-CIO request their affiliated labor councils to conduct an event each year around April 28th to mark the anniversary date of the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHAct) in 1970.

According to Walter Klepaski, the AFL-CIO United Way Community Services Liaison, the go-between the labor community and the community based organization, the virgil is held each year by the labor federation to memorialize Luzerne County residents who died in work related accidents or incidents.

In addition to honoring the hundreds of local individuals who died over the years, many in coal mines, special honor was paid to those who lost their lives since last year’s program.

Those individuals include: Charles Kratz of Plymouth, died in September 2012 as a result of a fork lift accident at Core Mark in Hanover Township; Shailskumar Patel of Duryea, died September 2012, when struck by a piece of equipment at Letica Corporation of Pittston; Michael Martin of Hazleton, died in November 2012, while participating in a fire brigade training exercise at Luzerne County Community College (LCCC); and Eric Williams of Wapwallopen, died in February 2013, a federal Corrections Officer (CO) after being killed by an inmate at the Federal Penintentiary at Canaan.

Ed Harry, President of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council, Wayne Namey, a UFCW Local 1776 member, and Joe Padavan, President of the United Steelworkers of America (USW) Union Local 15253, were principal speakers and called on elected officials to strengthen job safety laws. They stated that although workplace safety has improved since congress enacted the OSHAct still too many workers remain at serious risk of injury, illness or death.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4,690 workers were killed on the job, an average of 13 workers each day, and an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases, in 2010, the latest data available.

Anti-Prevailing Wage legislation out of labor committee

05.12.13

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

Anti-Prevailing Wage legislation out of labor committee

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 24th- Legislation was voted out of committee by the Pennsylvania House Labor and Industry Committee so they may be considered by the full Pennsylvania House of Representatives that could effect labor organizations affiliated with the building and construction trade unions.

On April 16th the House Labor and Industry Committee voted two anti-prevailing wage bills out of committee that adds to the number of bill’s that have been introduced in this legislative session in the Pennsylvania General Assembly that attacks provisions of Prevailing Wage Agreements (PLA’s) that help state building and construction union workers gain employment that is at least partially funded by taxpayer money.

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.

The legislation is supported by the anti-union, pro-business members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

Frank Sirianni, President of the Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council in Harrisburg, which is a labor federation representing labor unions that members are employed within the building and construction trade industry, stated the bills are just two of a large package of new anti-PLA bills that have been recently introduced and represent a bold new set of attacks on workers by this misguided anti-worker agenda.

House Bill (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 Pennsylvania 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 the commonwealth.

The Keystone Research Center (KRC), a progressive economic think tank in Harrisburg, released a study that indicated prevailing wage laws help prevent the construction industry from degenerating into destructive wage and price competition, which drives skilled and experienced workers from the industry, reduces productivity, and quality, and leads to poverty-level jobs, without saving construction customers any money.

The Keystone Research Center stated claims by opponents that prevailing wage laws costs as much as 30 percent is implausible hypothetical calculations and not based on actual numbers.

In Pennsylvania labor compensation on construction projects accounts for only 24 percent of total costs on average. Also, the hypothetical calculations assume that when wages and benefits drop, everything else, including worker skill levels and productivity, remain unchanged.

Mr. Sirianni stated that if Pennsylvania policy makers want to save money of public construction, the best route would be to shift public construction to periods of higher unemployment. Pennsylvania should launch a “Buy Low” initiative by increasing the state’s bond-financed investments in schools, transportation, and infrastucture.

Scranton City Council candidates support labor issues

05.12.13

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

Scranton City Council candidates support labor issues

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 27th- There are six Democratic candidates vying for the nomination of their party for three four-year seats on Scranton City Council for the May 21st primary election and the three that were interviewed all stated they did not support the privitization of the Scranton Department of Public Works (DPW) and would not vote to rescind the Project Labor Agreement (PLA) law.

The only incumbent council member seeking re-election is Democrat Pat Rogan.

Most recently the newspaper interviewed Democratic party candidate Bill Gaughan, age 26 from the Minooka section of Scranton, and he told the newspaper that he onced worked within the Doherty Administration as the Equal Opportunity Specialist in the Office of Economic and Community Development (OECD). He stated part of his job was to make sure construction workers on city building projects were paid properly under the David-Bacon Act.

Mr. Gaughan stated if elected he would not support the privitization of the DPW, which has been discussed in recent years at Scranton City Council meetings. The DPW workers are represented by the International Association of Machinists Union (IAM) Union Local Lodge 2305.

Mr. Gaughan is a substitute teacher in the Scranton School District. His parents were also employed by the Scranton School District in the maintenance department and members of the union. The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers represent the maintenance department of the Scranton School District.

Meanwhile, Joe Wechsler, 54 of East Scranton, told the newspaper he would also not support the privitization of the DPW and would not vote to rescind the PLA law. The PLA was signed into law by former Scranton Mayor Jimmy Connors and 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.

Mr. Wechsler is plant manager of the North American Manufacturing facility. The workers of the plant are nonunion.

Both candidates stated the relationship between City Council and the Mayor’s office must inprove if Scranton is to solve their financial crisis. Mr. Wechsler added the labor organizations that represent Scranton’s workers must have a seat at the table and feel like they are partners.

Nicholas DeSando seeking labor support for Sheriff

05.12.13

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

Nicholas DeSando seeking labor support for Sheriff

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 29th- Former union member and Dunmore Borough resident Nicholas DeSando, is requesting the support of the labor community in the May 21st Primary Election for Lackawanna County Sheriff.

Mr. DeSando is one of three seeking the Democratic party nomination for Sheriff. There are two candidates seeking the Republican party nomination.

The other two Democats seeking their party nomiation are Rob Mazzoni of Archbald and Mark McAndrew of Mayfield. The two Republican candidates are Dominick Manetti of Old-Forge and Joe Albert of Scranton.

Current Lackawanna County Sheriff John Szymanski announced earlier this year he would retire after this current four-year term expires at the end of the year.

The Lackwanna County Commissioners want to eliminate the citizens from electing their Sheriff and make the position an appointed position. The Sheriff Department mostly transports prison inmates, serves lawsuits, serves warrants, sells delinquent tax properties and provides security at county parks and events.

However, most political pundits believe the citizens will reject the commissioner’s proposal. During a interview by the newspaper Mr. DeSando stated he has always believed in the right of collective bargaining.

Mr. DeSando has more than 23 years of law enforcement experience, including beginning his career as a Dunmore Borough Police Officer, where he was a member of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Union Lodge 2, which also represents the Scranton Police. He was the first Police Bike Patrol Officer of Lackawanna County and was involved in the Lackawanna County Drug Task Force, Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program (DARE).

If elected Mr. DeSando stated a priority of his will be to provide more accessibility to the sheriff’s office and attempt to utilize it as a countywide police agency by assisting other municipalities round-the-clock.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA’s unemployment rate remain the highest in Pennsylvania

05.12.13

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

MSA’s unemployment rate remain the highest in Pennsylvania

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, May 2nd- According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, the region’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 9.6 percent, decreasing by three-tenths 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, decreased by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,508,000 with 512,000 not working and 5,995,000 with employment. Pennsylvania’s unemployment increased by three-tenths of a percentage point over the past year.

The national unemployment rate is 7.6 percent, decreasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report. The national unemployment rate fell by six-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. The reason the unemployment rate dropped both in the state and nation was because of civilians that have stopped looking for work and are no longer counted in the labor force.

There are 11,742,000 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 9.2 percent, the Philadelphia MSA has the third highest at 8.4 percent with the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA fourth at 8.3 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.9 percent. The Lebanon MSA and the Lancaster MSA are tied with the second lowest unemployment rate at 6.5 percent. The Harrisburg MSA has the third lowest unemployment rate at 7.1 percent followed by the Pittsburgh MSA at 7.3 percent.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA has the fifth largest labor force in Pennsylvania with 286,200 civilians and 27,600 of them are without employment.

The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor-force in Pennsylvania at 3,023,700 with 254,700 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor-force at 1,257,900 with 91,300 without jobs; and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force at 437,400 with 36,200 not working.

The Williamsport MSA has the smallest labor force in Pennsylvania with 64,300 civilians and 5,200 of them have no jobs. The Altoona MSA has the second smallest labor-force with 65,200 civilians with 4,700 without employment and the Johnstown MSA is third with a labor-force of 68,800 and 6,300 of them are not working.

Lackawanna County continues to have the lowest unemployment rate in the MSA at 8.4 percent, decreasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. Lackawanna County has a civilian labor force of 107,100, and 9,000 civilians are without employment.

Luzerne County has the highest unemployment rate within the MSA at 9.5 percent, decreasing by five-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and rising by two-tenths points from twelve months ago. Luzerne County has the largest civilian labor-force in the MSA at 161,600 and 15,400 of them are unemployed.

Wyoming County unemployment rate is 9.4 percent, decreasing by eight-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. Wyoming County has a civilian labor-force of 14,500, with 1,400 unemployed.