Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

State Store System survives until at least the fall legislative session

07.30.13

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

State Store System survives until at least the fall legislative session

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, July 1st- Pennsylvania Minority Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa led it be known if Republican Governor Tom Corbett gets his wish of the privatization of the state’s very profitable liquor store system it will be without the support of his party.

The Republicans outnumber Democrats in the Pennsylvania Senate, 27 to 23. However, at least four Republican Senators have supported the labor community in the past and may not vote for privatization.

The State Senate is 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 Governor Corbett’s push for privatization.

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 in May. The legislation would allow some grocery stores and beer distributors to sell liquor.

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

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

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 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. Under the plan Pennsylvania public education would be financed by booze sales. The plan of privatization included using the revenue from the selling of the system to fund public education and programs that Mr. Corbett cut in previous budgets.

However, because of the failure of the Senate not taking any action on the privitization issue, Pennsylvania’s General Assembly recessed for the summer without passing any anti-union bills regarding the liquor store system. Mr. Corbett plans to “revisit” the privitization issue in the fall and is hopeful to dismantle it after the Legislature reconvenes.

The PLRB state store system creates approximately $500 million in profits and taxes a year for Pennsylvania, which benefits all taxpayers.

The was pressure being applied to Republican State Senators by Mr. Corbett, their party leaders, and those in business that want a piece of the profits of the selling of liquor was high leading-up to the summer recess. The labor organizations that represent the states stores employees were hoping the Republican Senators that have express reservations of selling the state-stores would not weaken from the pressure. Supporters of selling the system have not yet given a good reason why increasing liquor sales to citizens would be a good thing for Pennsylvanians other than it would create more revenue for profiteers and businesses.

Mr. Costa stated the 23 members of his party are united in supporting a plan to modernize the liquor system not privatizing it. He added that the Democratic votes are for keeping the 600-plus state stores and improving them by expanding hours and improved flexibility in pricing.

Wendell Young, President of UFCW Local 1776, Plymouth Meeting, stated clearly selling the system would replace many good paying family sustaining jobs with lower paying jobs.

Supporters of selling the state stores are led by pro-business groups, profiteers and the corporate owned main-stream media members which are unfriendly to labor unions.

Many of the daily pro-business anti-worker newspapers throughout the state have editorialized in favor of privitization including the Scranton Times-Tribune and the Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice.

Labor Day Festival planned for Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre

07.30.13

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

Labor Day Festival planned for Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, June 30th- The Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council (GWBLC) labor federation, Route 315 Pittston, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), are planning a Northeastern Pennsylvania Labor Day Festival and Celebration for 2013.

The event is scheduled for Labor Day, Monday, September 2nd for downtown Wilkes-Barre Public Square and nearby Kirby Park.

The Labor Day Festival will benefit the Keystone Wounded Warrior Project and the unionized Wilkes-Barre Veterans Hospital.

Wayne Namey, a delegate to the GWBLC for his union, the United Food and Commerical Workers (UFCW) Union Local 1776, works as a clerk for the Pennsylvania Liquor Stores in Luzerne County, and helped organized the committee for the labor federation to discuss and co-ordinate the event.

Activities for the event will begin at 7:30 am at Kirby Park with a home-run hitting contest. Children will be able to participate for a $3 donation and adults will be able to participate for $5.

The Keystone Wounded Warrior Project is affiliated with the Wounded Warrior Project, a national organization which aims to bring awareness to get the public involved for the needs of injured military service members.

Mr. Namey has been involved in other causes such as working to have the United States Postal Service (USPS) issue a mailing stamp honoring the contributions of coal miners.

The event will include lots of food, refreshments, entertainment and a silent auction.

Also, in other activities planned for the day, the Eckley and Patchtown Players will hold costumed plays about the region’s labor history and the contributions the labor community has made to the success of the nation.

Mr. Namey stated a special celebration recognizing the past and current labor heritage and the showcasing of local Northeastern Pennsylvania industries, products and employers, will be conducted.

Edward Harry, President of the GWBLC, is hopeful the labor community from throughout the region will plan to attend the event.

Planning for the festival is continuing with meetings being held at the UFCW Local 1776 building in Pittston.

Mr. Namey can be contacted at (570)466-3385.

Many in labor believe Tom Corbett most anti-union Governor ever

07.30.13

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

Many in labor believe Tom Corbett most anti-union Governor ever

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, July 1st- Many in the labor community throughout Pennsylvania believe Republican Tom Corbett is the most anti-union Governor in the state’s history.

The labor community has put a high priority on defeating Mr. Corbett in 2014, if he seeks a second four-term term as Pennsylvania Governor.

He is currently serving the third year of a four-year term in Harrisburg and has supported many anti-union initiatives while being governor.

Mr. Corbett supports the privitization of Pennsylvania State Liquor Stores, which would put more than 5,000 family sustaining jobs at risk, supports charter schools, supports legislation that would make Pennsylvania a right-to-work state, supports the elimination or making changes to the state prevailing wage law, and awarded a contract to let a British company manage the Pennsylvania Lottery System, a nearly totally unionized system, that would have resulted in those jobs put in harms way. Pennsylvania Attorney Kathleen Kane rejected his plan in February and the system remains operated by the state.

Legislation supported by Mr. Corbett was voted out of committee by the Pennsylvania House Labor and Industry Committee in April that would effect labor organizations affiliated with the building and construction trades.

Frank Sirianni, President of the Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council, stated the bills were more bold attacks on workers by a anti-worker agency.

The Corbett agenda has hurt all three groups of the labor community, the building and construction trades, the public sector, and the industrial unions.

NLRB rules PSEA complaint against college has no merit

07.30.13

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

NLRB rules PSEA complaint against college has no merit

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, June 30th- The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia did not find merit in the labor complaint filed by the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) labor organization alleging a local higher education institution violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The PSEA, 1188 Highway Route 315 in Wilkes-Barre, filed a lengthly labor complaint with the NLRB alleging Lackawanna College, 501 Vine Street in Scranton, violated the NLRAct by implementing their last contract offer for a successor agreement between the parties.

The Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) was filed by the PSEA against Lackawanna College on May 1st, 2013. The labor organization represents educators of Lackawanna College.

According to the complaint, which was discovered by the newspaper while reviewing ULP’s and petition‘s filed at the NLRB office, management Attorney Robert Ufberg represents the secondary education facility, which was once the site of Scranton Central High School.

The ULP was filed on behalf of the PSEA by Staff Attorney Jeffrey Husisian.

The two parties have been in labor contract negotiations for several years after the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) expired on June 30th, 2010. The previous CBA provided that the terms and conditions would continue in effect until either party gave sixty days written notice of intent to terminate the agreement.

In February, 2012 management gave written notice that the CBA would expire on June 30th, 2012. After June 30th, 2012 the two parties engaged in negotiations for a successor contract and regularly met for that purpose.

However, according to the ULP the College engaged in bad faith bargaining for a successor CBA including conducting surface and regressive bargaining.

On February 25th, 2013 Lackawanna College declared a impasse and unilaterally implemented new terms and conditions, which significantly changed the previous CBA working conditions language.

The PSEA alleged the implementation of the new terms and conditions were a violation of the NLRAct because the two parties never reached a lawful impasse, therefore had no right to unilaterally implement the new contract language.

However, the NLRB disagreed with the PSEA and dismissed their ULP.

AFSCME meeting with Lackawanna County for new contract

07.30.13

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

AFSCME meeting with Lackawanna County for new contract

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, July 2nd- The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union District Council 87 continues to negotiate with Lackwanna County for a new successor Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) for Correction Officers (CO’s) of the county prison in Scranton.

The bargaining unit previously voted in early 2013 not to accept the Lackawanna County’s one year contract proposal of a 2 percent pay increase with no contract language changes for 2013.

AFSCME’s other bargaining unit, which includes employees of the Children and Youth Department of Lackawanna County and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Pennsylvania Social Services Union (PSSU) Local 668, Dickson City, which represents mostly clerical, maintenance, and 911 center workers, voted to extend the previous pacts with Lackawanna County. The previous contract agreements expired on December 31st, 2012.

The two AFSCME bargaining units were previously in one local union, however, in 2012 were split into two separate units one for the CO’s and one for the employees of children and youth.

Majority Democratic Lackawanna County Commissioners Jim Wansacz and Corey O’Brien requested the labor organizations that represent county workers accept a one year entension of the CBA’s with a 2 percent wage increase rather than a long pact because of the unknown ramifications of the new federal health care law. The commissioners did not want to lock the county into something that might unexpectedly cost less under the new law. Therefore, the commissioners office did not want to negotiate any long-term contracts until the new health care insurance law is in effect.

The 2 percent increase for the bargaining units that approved the extension began receiving retroactive pay from January 1st, 2013, despite the county first requesting they would not agree to employees receiving the calculated hourly increase from the first day of the year.

Meanwhile, following the CO’s unit voting not to accept the one-year extension of the CBA, officials of Lackawanna County and the union contract negotiating committee, which includes Eric Schubert, AFSCME Representative, have been conducting successor contract negotiating meetings at the District Council 87 building in Dunmore. At least five meetings have been held since the unit declined the extension proposal.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA’s unemployment rate remains Pennsylvania highest

07.30.13

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

MSA’s unemployment rate remains Pennsylvania highest

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, July 2nd- According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, the region’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 9.3 percent, decreasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report, which was released approximately four weeks before. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) includes Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wyoming Counties of Pennsylvania. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was 9.4 percent.

The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 7.5 percent, also dropping by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,521,000 with 488,000 not working and 6,033,000 with employment. Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate increased by four-tenths of a percentage point over the past year.

The national unemployment rate is 7.6 percent, increasing 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.

There are 11,760,000 civilians in the nation reported to be unemployed. That number also does not include civilians that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and have stopped looking for work.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA continues to have the highest unemployment rate among the 14 MSA’s within Pennsylvania.

The Johnstown MSA has the second highest unemployment rate in the commonwealth at 8.9 percent, the Philadelphia MSA has the third highest at 8.1 percent with the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA and the Williamsport MSA are tied for fourth at 7.9 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.7 percent. The Lebanon MSA and the Lancaster MSA are tied with the second lowest unemployment rate at 6.2 percent. The Harrisburg MSA has the third lowest unemployment rate at 6.8 percent, followed by the Altoona MSA at 6.9 percent.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA has the fifth largest labor force in Pennsylvania with 285,800 civilians and 26,500 of them are without employment.

The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor-force in Pennsylvania at 3,023,200 with 245,400 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor-force at 1,262,300 with 87,100 without jobs; and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force at 439,400 with 34,800 not working. The Harrisburg MSA has the fourth largest labor force in Pennsylvania with 288,200 civilians with 19,500 not working.

The Williamsport MSA has the smallest labor force in Pennsylvania with 64,200 civilians and 5,100 of them have no jobs. The Altoona MSA has the second smallest labor-force with 64,800 civilians with 4,500 without employment and the Johnstown MSA is third with a labor-force of 68,400 and 6,100 of them are not working.

Wyoming County has the lowest unemployment rate in the MSA at 8.8 percent, dropping by five-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. Wyoming County has a civilian labor-force of 14,600, with 1,300 unemployed. Luzerne County has the highest unemployment rate within the MSA at 9.4 percent, decreasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report. Luzerne County has a civilian labor force of 163,500 with 15,300 of them not employed.

Lackawanna County unemployment rate is 8.9 percent, rising by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report. Lackawanna County has a civilian labor force of 109,100, and 9,700 civilians are jobless.

Legislature recesses without Pension System changes

07.30.13

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

Legislature recesses without Pension System changes

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, July 1st- The Pennsylvania State General Assembly did not make changes to the state’s public employee pension system before they recessed for the summer break. Changing the pension system was a major priority of Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett.

Governor Tom Corbett solution for reducing the pension cost of state workers included freeing-up money and putting it back into programs that he slashed in previous state budgets.

However, the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives and the Senate voted on June 30th, with only two hours to spare before the midnight deadline, a state budget that did not include the pension system changes Mr. Corbett pushed. Under Mr. Corbett’s plan the employee retirement funds would be weaken and eventually cost state taxpayers $170 million more a year and add approximately $5 billion to unfunded pension liabilities by 2019 and more afterward.

The public sector unions in Pennsylvania have been battling with Mr. Corbett as he attempted to cut retirement benefits.

Mike Crossey, the President of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), which represents approximately 190,000 active and retired school teachers and employees in Pennsylvania, noted that the public employees of Pennsylvania and taxpayers did not create the pension problem.

Mike Crossey emphasized that teachers, nurses, and other public employees across the Commonwealth already pay for a significant portion of their pensions, and have made their contributions on time. The pension shortfall was caused by politicans who failed to make their appropriate contributions to the pension system.

The state caused the pension problem by increasing employee benefits during boom years while reducing school districts and government contributions to the pension fund.

Mr. Corbett linked pension cost cuts to restoring funding cuts to education that he has made over the past several budgets to get more school districts across the commonwealth to support his plan.

However, under the budget bill passed by both chambers spending for basic education was increased by around $122 million despite the pension system not being address, that Mr. Corbett proposed.

“In reality, it is Covernor Corbett’s prior budgetary decisions that are the true cause of Pennsylvania’s budget problem. Governor Corbett made a conscious policy decision to provide more than $800 million in corporate tax breaks, including the capital stock and franchise tax and bonus depreciation credit, which cost the state $760 million, more than the projected pension debt owed in 2013-2014 fiscal year,” stated Mr. Crossey.

A report suggest there is a $19.7 billion unfunded liability of the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System and the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System, which covers more than 100,000 active employees and provides for 100,000 retirees as well as their beneficiaries.

Mr. Crossey added that just two years ago public employees in Pennsylvania helped pass Act 120 to pay down the debt employers owe the pension systems. Act 120 was passed by the General Assembly in 2010 to prevent a 500 percent increase in 2012 of the government’s contribution to state and school employee pension plans.

The legislation lowered the amount a pension increased a year of employment from 2.5 percent of pay to 2 percent, and also raised the time of vesting from five years to ten years and made teachers wait until they are 65 years old to start receiving pension payments. Previously teachers could begin receiving benefits at 62 years old. The new rules applied to newly hired teachers. Also, the legislation forces employees, the state government, and school districts to pay more into the funds when the market drops.

Security union unsuccessful in NLRB election

07.30.13

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

Security union unsuccessful in NLRB election

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, June 30th- The International Union, Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America (SPFPA) of Roseville, Michigan 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 PPL security employees at the Berwick Pennsylvania nuclear energy power plan want to be represented by the union for the purpose of collective bargaining.

SPFPA first filed the petition on May 10th, 2013 but, later withdrew it. However, the union refiled the petition and on June 27th and June 28th the NLRB conducted an election.

The union was unsuccessful in the representation election receiving only 27 votes while 93 employees voted not to be represented by SPFPA. There were 144 eligible to participate in the election employees at the PPL power plant in Berwick. The workers perform guard duties at the power plant.

Under NLRB rules, a labor organization must receive 50 percent plus one of the eligible to participate employees to become their bargaining representative for the purpose of collective bargaining.

Also, the union needed at least 30 percent of the employees to sign a petition requesting the NLRB conduct a election.

Most of PPL’s employees are represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 1600, Trexlertown. Local 1600 represents all maintenence employees among other workers of the electrical energy utility company.

Despite delay nursing home workers still vote for AFSCME

07.30.13

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

Despite delay nursing home workers still vote for AFSCME

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, July 1st- Despite the spending of tens of thousands of dollars on anti-union attorney’s and employment consulting firms the operators of a local nursing were unsuccessful in convincing their employees from voting for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union District Council 87 as their representative for the purpose of collective bargaining.

In the previous edition of the newspaper it was “exclusively” reported that AFSCME Council 87 in Dunmore 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 the union. District Council 87 represents other St. Luke’s employees including aids and food service workers.

The operators of the Hazleton nursing home hired a lawfirm to represented them that specializes in attempting to delay representation elections.

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

It was reported that AFSCME withdrew the petition on April 1st, 2013 but refiled it on the same day. However, the employer 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 disputed. The employer’s legal representation objected to the attempt by the union to represent the LPN’s and challenged the right of the workers to participate in the election.

The NLRB ruled in favor of AFSCME and scheduled a election for June 13th, 2013.

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

The fourty-three workers eligible to participate in the election voted in the NLRB conducted election to be represented by AFSCME, 26 to 12.

A labor organization must receive 50 percent plus one of the participating employees to become their bargaining representative.

SEIU member files complaint against Keystone Job Center

07.30.13

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

SEIU member files complaint against Keystone Job Center

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, June 28th- A member of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Pennsylvania Social Services Union (PSSU) Local 668, Main Street in Dickson City in Lackawanna County, filed a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging his employer, Keystone Job Corp Center, violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

Keystone provides job training for disabled individuals between 16 and 24 year olds.

The SEIU represents three separate bargaining units of Keystone Job Corps Center including one comprising of maintenance, dietary and transportation employees, one comprised of residential advisor employees and one comprised of instructors, counselors, nurses and other employees.

The Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) was filed by Keystone Job Center employee Patrick Mauriello of Pittston on behalf of himself.

“For the past several months, my employer has ignored repeated requests from me, and the Union that represents me, to adjust my union dues check-off deduction to the reduced sum that is permitted as a result of my being a “Beck” objector to union membership and expenditures.

Despite my request and written requests from the Union to make the reduction, the Employer persists in deducting 100 percent of dues,” states the ULP which was filed on May 23rd, 2013.

SEIU Local 668 has approximately 130 members employed by Keystone Job Corporation, which is operated by Management and Training Corporation of Centerville Utah.

However, according to the ULP filed by Mr. Mauriello Keystone Job center has approximately 167 employees.

Annual NALC Food Drive held nationally and regionally

07.30.13

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

Annual NALC Food Drive held nationally and regionally

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, May 29th- The annual highly successful nationwide food drive conducted by the National Association of Letter Carriers and other members of the labor community was held on Saturday May 11th throughout the nation and Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The NALC’s annual one-day food drive is the largest in the nation and is held each year on the second Saturday in May in more than 10,000 cities and towns in all fifty states of the union, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam. This was the 21st annual NALC Food Drive to help “stamp” out hunger.

“The results will enable the food pantries that we supply across the country to help feed the 50 million Americans, one-third of them children, who live in families that lack sufficient food.

Six days a week, as we deliver mail to every address in America, letter carriers see first-hand the needs in the communities we work in, and we’re privileged to lead an effort that brings out the best in so many Americans,” stated NALC International President Fredric Rolando.

This year could have been the last food drive conducted on a Saturday because of the United States Postal Service (USPS) plan to eliminate Saturday mail delivery to American homes and businesses throughout the nation. However, the agency at the very least postponed the elimination of six-day a week mail delivery because the United States House of Representatives passed legislation to force the USPS to continue the Saturday mail delivery, which was wrapped into a government spending bill.

Approximately 50 union members in the Wyoming Valley volunteered to participate in the May 11th event including twenty-six who spent four hours at the Pittston Meals on Wheels Food Bank.

NALC Branch 115 in Wilkes-Barre and Branch 162 in Pittston helped collect food for over 30 local food banks in the Wyoming Valley. The NALC Food Drive represents approximately one-third of the food they will distribute throughout the year, stated Walter Klepaski, the America Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation United Way of the Wyoming Valley Community Services Labor Liaison.

The largest union member group outside of the NALC to participate in the this years event were apprentices of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 163 in Wilkes-Barre. Approximately 20 Local 163 members volunteered.

Penn Foster parent company bankruptcy results in lay-offs

07.30.13

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

Penn Foster parent company bankruptcy results in lay-offs

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, May 30th- Lay-offs of local workers have resulted since the parent company of the Scranton based Penn Foster Career School has filed for bankruptcy protection.

The Boston based Education Holdings 1 Inc., filed for Charpter 11 bankruptcy in Delaware claiming $100 million to $500 million in assets and an equivalent level of liabilities.

Penn Foster has two facilities in Northeast Pennsylvania including the education center on Oak Street in Scranton and a warehouse facility in Ranson Township. The company was once known as the Intermational Correspondence School (ICS).

Most of the former ICS employees are represented by the United Steelworkers of America (USW) Union Local 5652 including the education center and the warehouse. However, the company has met with the union and announced they plan to close the warehouse.

USW officials have met with management to discuss a new Collecive Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and effects bargaining for laid-off workers and future lay-offs.

However, during negotiation meetings between the two parties company representatives have proposed changing Article 8 of the current CBA attempting to cut or eliminate employees severance pay.

Under the CBA, all regular full-time employees that are permanently terminated from employment with the Company because of closing, subcontracting, or discontinuance of a unit or department, are entitled to severance pay, which the employer representatives proposed to eliminate.

Labor organizations believe USPS will try again to cut service

07.30.13

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

Labor organizations believe USPS will try again to cut service

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, June 1st- Despite the United States Postal Service (USPS) delaying its plan to discontinue Saturday mail delivery the labor organizations that represent the workers believe the postal service will try yet again to cut the mail delivery from six-days a week to five.

The USPS wanted to eliminate six-day mail delivery in August 2013 but because of mandates passed by the United States House of Representatives the agency announced in April they would discontinue the plan. The USPS operates as an independent agency but is subjected to Congress oversight.

After Congress passed legislation to continue six-day a week delivery the anti-union, pro-business Republican members of the House of Representatives stated the USPS agreed to keep six-day mail delivery because of the “special-interest organizations,” (labor organizations) lobbying and intense political pressure.

However, thousands of businesses that operate six or seven-days a week complained the cutting of Saturday mail delivery would harm their business.

After the USPS announce they would cut the Saturday mail delivery service the labor organizations that represent their workers began conducting rally’s and other events to get the public informed why cutting the service would be wrong.

The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Union which represents USPS mail delivery workers, stated the cutting of Saturday mail delivery would cost approximately 22,500 of their members jobs immediately.

However, two other unions that represent USPS workers have already lost jobs due to the agency closing or merging of mail processing centers across the nation.

Thousands of jobs represented by the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPMHU) have already been elimimated over the past several years.

Annual United Way “Bianco” Labor Award presented to UFCW Local 1776

07.30.13

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

Annual United Way “Bianco” Labor Award presented to UFCW Local 1776

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, June 1st- Walter Klepaski, the Wyoming Valley United Way American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) Labor Liaison, the go-between the labor community and the community-based organization, told the newspaper the local labor movement has had a working partnership spaning for more than 60 years, with the organization and deserves to be recognized for it.

The United Way of Wyoming Valley in 1977 created a award to recognized financial and voluntary contributions of labor organizations and their members. Several years ago the award was named after the late labor leader Sam Bianco, who served as an active volunteer for the United Way for 55 years.

“I am happy to announce that this year’s award winner is the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1776, who under the leadership of Michele Kessler, have a long history of supporting United Way and community services projects and activities,” stated Kerri Gallagher, a member of United Way Labor Participation Committee and a Staff Representative of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union District Council 87.

The UFCW allows a United Way representative to address their workforce requesting funds, which has increased five years in a row. Also, Local 1776 has produced the 5th highest number of labor leadership givers.

President of Building Trades hopeful legislation will not pass

07.30.13

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

President of Building Trades hopeful legislation will not pass

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, June 2nd- 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, is hopeful anti-labor legislation that was recently voted out of committee by the Pennsylvania House Labor and Industry Committee so they may be considered by the full Pennsylvania House of Representatives will not be passed.

The committee is chaired by Monroe County Representative Mario Scavello (Republican-176th Legislative District). The legislation could effect labor organizations affiliated with the building and construction trade unions.

In April 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.

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

Mr. Sirianni after being contacted by phone at his Harrisburg office stated the bills if passed would hurt members of the building trades unions and is another attempt by anti-union legislators to feed work to out-of-the-state nonunion contractors.

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. The bill is a transparent effort to undermine prevailing wage laws in the commonwealth, Mr. Sirianni said.

PSEA files lengthly complaint against Lackawanna College

07.30.13

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

PSEA files lengthly complaint against Lackawanna College

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, May 27th- The Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) labor organization filed a lengthly labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging a local higher education institution violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) was filed by the PSEA, 1188 Highway Route 315 in Wilkes-Barre, against Lackawanna College, 501 Vine Street in Scranton on May 1st, 2013. The labor organization represents educators of Lackawanna College.

According to the complaint, which was discovered by the newspaper while reviewing ULP’s and petition‘s filed at the NLRB office, management Attorney Robert Ufberg represents the secondary education facility, which was once the site of Scranton Central High School.

The ULP was filed on behalf of the PSEA by Staff Attorney Jeffrey Husisian.

The two parties have been in labor contract negotiations for several years after the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) expired on June 30th, 2010. The previous CBA provided that the terms and conditions would continue in effect until either party gave sixty days written notice of intent to terminate the agreement.

In February, 2012 management gave written notice that the CBA would expire on June 30th, 2012.

After June 30th, 2012 the two parties engaged in negotiations for a successor contract and regularly met for that purpose.

However, according to the ULP the College engaged in bad faith bargaining for a successor CBA including conducting surface and regressive bargaining.

On February 25th, 2013 Lackawanna College declared a impasse and unilaterally implemented new terms and conditions, which significantly changed the previous CBA working conditions language.

The PSEA alleges the implementation of the new terms and conditions are a violation of the NLRAct. According to the ULP, the PSEA alleges the two parties never reached a lawful impasse, therefore had no right to unilaterally implement the new contract language.

Also, the labor organization alleges the College has terminated at least two members of the PSEA pursuant to its implementation of the new terms and conditions which contains different provisions regarding tenure and job security.

SEIU Local 668 files complaint against Keystone Job Center

07.30.13

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

SEIU Local 668 files complaint against Keystone Job Center

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, May 28th- The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Pennsylvania Social Services Union (PSSU) Local 668, Main Street in Dickson City in Lackawanna County, filed a labor complaint on May 10th, 2013 with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging Keystone Job Corp Center management violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) was filed on behalf of the SEIU by Kimberly Yost, Local 668 Business Representative.

According to the ULP, the labor organization has approximately 130 members employed by Keystone Job Corp, which is operated by Management and Training Corporation of Centerville Utah.

Keystone provides training for disabled individuals.

The SEIU represents three separate bargaining units of Keystone Job Corps Center including one comprising of maintenance, dietary and transportation employees, one comprised of residential advisor employees and one comprised of instructors, counselors, nurses and other employees.

According to the ULP, on or about April 2012 the two parties entered into negotiations for a successor Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) for the maintenance unit with no contract agreement yet being reached.

In December the Union filed an ULP against the employer for failing to bargain in good faith.

However, on or about April 4th, 2013 the Employer provided proposals to the Union which clearly appeared to be punitive in nature, the ULP states.

Also, on March 28th, 2013 the Union requested information in regard to a grievance, which was never provided.

Discussion continues regarding Governor’s Pension plan

07.29.13

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

Discussion continues regarding Governor’s Pension plan

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, June 1st- Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett solution for reducing the pension cost of state workers to free up money and put it back into programs that he slashed in previous state budgets is being criticized by labor organizations that represent workers in the system and others in the media.

Under Mr. Corbett’s plan the employee retirement funds would be weaken and eventually cost state taxpayers $170 million more a year and add approximately $5 billion to unfunded pension liabilities by 2019 and more afterward.

The public sector unions in Pennsylvania are battling with Mr. Corbett and conservatives in the state General Assembly as they attempt to cut retirement benefits.

Mike Crossey, the President of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), which represents approximately 190,000 active and retired school teachers and employees in Pennsylvania, noted that the public employees of Pennsylvania and taxpayers did not create the pension problem.

Mike Crossey emphasized that teachers, nurses, and other public employees across the Commonwealth already pay for a significant portion of their pensions, and have made their contributions on time. The pension shortfall was caused by politicans who failed to make their appropriate contributions to the pension system.

The state caused the pension problem by increasing employee benefits during boom years while reducing school districts and government contributions to the pension fund.

Mr. Corbett linked pension cost cuts to restoring funding cuts to education that he has made over the past several budgets to get more school districts across the commonwealth to support his plan. Most recently the Abington Heights School Board president in Lackawanna County stated that teacher pensions are” devouring school revenue”.

“In reality, it is Covernor Corbett’s prior budgetary decisions that are the true cause of Pennsylvania’s budget problem. Governor Corbett made a conscious policy decision to provide more than $800 million in corporate tax breaks, including the capital stock and franchise tax and bonus depreciation credit, which cost the state $760 million, more than the projected pension debt owed in 2013-2014 fiscal year,” stated Mr. Crossey.

A recent report suggest there is a $19.7 billion unfunded liability of the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System and the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System, which covers more than 100,000 active employees and provides for 100,000 retirees as well as their beneficiaries.

Mr. Crossey added that just two years ago public employees in Pennsylvania helped pass Act 120 to pay down the debt employers owe the pension systems.

Overall, in the past two budgets Mr. Corbett has cut more than $1 billion in education funds which has caused havoc on Pennsylvania school districts, forcing them to dramatically reduce or eliminate student programs and causing them to raise property taxes.

Act 120 was passed by the General Assembly in 2010 to prevent a 500 percent increase in 2012 of the government’s contribution to state and school employee pension plans.

The legislation lowered the amount a pension increased a year of employment from 2.5 percent of pay to 2 percent, and also raised the time of vesting from five years to ten years and made teachers wait until they are 65 years old to start receiving pension payments. Previously teachers could begin receiving benefits at 62 years old. The new rules applied to newly hired teachers.

Also, the legislation forces employees, the state government, and school districts to pay more into the funds when the market drops.

Scranton senior housing project going nonunion

07.29.13

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

Scranton senior housing project going nonunion

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, June 4th- Members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters Union Local 645 protested the future site for a senior housing facility at an former block plant in the lower Greenridge Section of Scranton.

Affordable Senior Housing Opportunties of New York Inc., is constructing a 115,000 square-foot three-story building at the former Daron Northeast plant on Dickson Avenue.

The group received tax breaks from Scranton and the Scranton School Board for the project. The for-profit company requested the tax-breaks in March 2012.

Drew Simpson, Representative of Local 645, Pear Street in Scranton, stated the union conducted several days of protest at the site because the developer hired nonunion out-of-the-state workers instead of his members. The contractor hired for the work that would have been done by Local 645 members is from Illinois.

Jack Greenwood, Business Manager of the United Association of Pipefitters and Plumbers Union Local 524, Corey Avenue in Scranton, stated a signatory contractor of his union was not hired for the project either. “That job will most likely go totally nonunion,” said Mr. Greenwood.

Bob Sheridan, Vice President of the Scranton School Board, and a former member of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Union Lodge 2, told the newspaper he is disappointed that local members of the building trade unions are not being hired for the construction project.

Mr. Sheridan made an issue of the hiring of local union construction workers when officials of the project requested the tax abatement from the Scranton School Board last year. “It sounded like they wanted to work things out with the building trades. I guess not,” Mr. Sheridan stated.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA’s unemployment rate at 9.4 percent, state’s highest

07.29.13

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

MSA’s unemployment rate at 9.4 percent, state’s highest

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, June 2nd- According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, the region’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 9.4 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 9.2 percent.

The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 7.6 percent, dropping by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,505,000 with 496,000 not working and 6,008,000 with employment. Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate increased by two-tenths of a percentage point over the past year.

The national unemployment rate is 7.5 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 11,659,000 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 9.1 percent, the Philadelphia MSA has the third highest at 8.2 percent with the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA fourth at 8.1 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.8 percent. The Lebanon MSA and the Lancaster MSA are tied with the second lowest unemployment rate at 6.4 percent. The Harrisburg MSA has the third lowest unemployment rate at 6.9 percent.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA has the fifth largest labor force in Pennsylvania with 285,400 civilians and 27,000 of them are without employment. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor-force in Pennsylvania at 3,022,100 with 249,700 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor-force at 1,259,400 with 89,100 without jobs; and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force at 437,800 with 35,300 not working.

The Williamsport MSA has the smallest labor force in Pennsylvania with 64,200 civilians and 5,200 of them have no jobs. The Altoona MSA has the second smallest labor-force with 65,000 civilians with 4,600 without employment and the Johnstown MSA is third with a labor-force of 68,500 and 6,200 of them are not working.

Lackawanna County continues to have the lowest unemployment rate in the MSA at 8.8 percent, increasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. Lackawanna County has a civilian labor force of 108,200, and 9,600 civilians are without employment.

Luzerne County has the highest unemployment rate within the MSA at 9.5 percent, decreasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report.

Wyoming County unemployment rate is 9.4 percent, unchanged from the previous report. Wyoming County has a civilian labor-force of 14,600, with 1,400 unemployed.