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Rally and March for State Workers in Philadelphia


Rally and March for State Workers in Philadelphia

By John Oliver Mason

State employees, affiliated with Local 668 of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), held a rally at JFK Plaza (aka Love Park), 15th Street and JKF Boulevard in Philadelphia, on Monday, June 3, 2013.

The rally participants protested cuts in services to the handicapped and indigent proposed by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, whom the protestors called “One Term Tom.”

Christine Haftl, a participant in the rally, said, “I want to support the people who are caseworkers in the Department of Public Welfare.” Governor Corbett, she said, “is trying to slash benefits, especially Food Stamps and other benefits for poor people who are trying to survive in this economy. (There are) three people for every job that’s out there, and (Corbett) already took away the cash benefits for anyone that didn’t have dependents. There are a lot of people relying on those cash benefits, people who are fighting drug and alcohol addiction who need to go to rehab and want to get clean and become healthy and productive members of society, (also) homeless people trying to get off the street and reestablish themselves and reenter the work force…A lot of (homeless people) have kids, a lot of them are couples, a lot of them have nowhere to go at this time.”

Also, disabled people, added Haftl, “want to have jobs, they want to work, and a lot of disabled people just can’t work, and they need (cash assistance) to survive.” Meanwhile, Governor Corbett has given money to the (natural gas industry which has performed hydraulic “fracking” polluting water tables across Pennsylvania and across the country.”

Ray Martinez, a member of the staff on Local 668, said that the rally “is mainly to send a message to the governor, (who) is not being very kind to us. He’s anti-labor, anti-worker, anti-middle class, a typical Republican who cares about giving tax breaks to the major corporations, and (for) blaming all of our problems on government workers, in this case state workers. We’re in the middle of a budget battle, where he is not funding our programs, he’s cutting them by twenty percent. So our programs, which are already under funded, are now, based on this budget, are going to be (funded) below” what they are now.

Martinez added, “We represent a lot of folks who work in the social services, and folks need services. The economy is bad, people are unemployed, people need mental health counseling, and (Governor Corbett) seems to be anti all of that.”

The rally began with the chanting of such slogans as:

“Who’s got the power?
We got the power!
What kind of power?
Union power!”

“What’s disgusting?
Union busting!”

“Union yes! Corbett no!
Union busting has to go!”

Ray Martinez addressed the crowd, saying, “This is part two of what we started earlier today. We started a day of action which took part all over the state, and specifically in Philly, at all the welfare offices and some other state agencies as well. we want to send a message to the Governor…who is clearly anti-worker, anti-middle class. We have to fight this guy, we can’t sit back.”

After the rally, members marched and chanted to the entrance of the Bellevue Hotel, Broad and Walnut streets, where the governor’s Philadelphia office is located.

Building Trade Unions again under attack in Harrisburg


JUNE 2013, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Building Trade Unions again under attack in Harrisburg


REGION, May 9th- 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. The committee is chaired by Monroe County Representative Mario Scavello (Republican-176th Legislative District).

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 the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act.

Also, Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s) are again under attack 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 anti-prevailing wage 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-union 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

Direct-care workers outpacing labor supply throughout nation


JUNE 2013, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Direct-care workers outpacing labor supply throughout nation


REGION, May 20th- The demand for direct-care workers, particularly those employed in home and community settings, will continue to outpace supply, states the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI), a national group that studies the direct-care industry and workforce.

According to data provided by PHI, as many as 3.3 million direct-care workers, including nursing home aides, home health aids, and personal care aides, were employed in 2010 and 1.6 million new positions are projected by 2020. The direct-care workforce is projected to be the nation’s largest occupational grouping by 2020.

Direct-care occupations will outnumber all retail sales workers as well as all teachers from kindergarten through high school.

“Pressure is building to improve the quality of diect-care jobs. The economy’s booming demand for direct-care workers, particularly home health aides and personal care aides, means that it is now essential than ever to attrack workers to these jobs by making them competitive with other occupations. This is especially true at this time when fewer women are entering the labor force,” stated PHI Policy Research Director Dorie Seavey, Ph.D.

Demand for direct-care workers is projected to increase by 48 percent during this decade, but the main labor pool from which the workforce is drawn, women aged 25-54, is expected to grow by only 1 percent. This compares to a 14 percent increase in the number of women in this group from 1988 to 1998, PHI analysis indicates.

Personal care aides and home health aides are projected to be the fastest growing occupations in the nation between 2010 and 2012, increasing by 71 percent and 69 percent, respectively.

Personal care aides and home health aides rank third and fourth on the list of top ten occupations projected to generate the most jobs. This growth will result in home and community-based direct-care workers outnumbering facility workers by two to one by the end of the decade.

However, even with the demand for this workers, they remain among the lowest paid workers in the nation, averaging $10.59 per hour.