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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.