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Allentown Mayor Pawlowski receives several labor endorsements

12.30.13

JANUARY 2014, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Allentown Mayor Pawlowski receives several labor endorsements

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, December 14th- the labor community has begun to take sides in the May 2014 Democratic party race that will determine who will get the chance to run against the current anti-union Republican Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett in November 2014.

Currently, there are at least seven candidates that have put there names in for consideration for the Democratic party 2014 gubernatorial nomination, including Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski.

Mr. Pawlowski along with Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord and United States House of Representative Allyson Schwartz (13th Legislative District) in a recently released statewide poll had higher numbers head-to-head than Mr. Corbett.

Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,061 registered voters throughout Pennsylvania and Mr. Pawlowski, Mr. McCord and Ms. Schwartz lead Mr. Corbett leading into the 2014 gubernatorial campaign. Meanwhile, the labor community have begun to endorse for the 2014 primary election.Treasurer McCord has been endorsed by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District 13 in Harrisburg and the Pennsylvania Conference of Teamsters for the 2014 primary. Mr. Pawlowski was endorsed by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 375 on Liberty Street in Allentown and the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union Local 420 in Reading, which represents Iron Workers union members throughout the Lehigh Valley. Local 420 merged with Local 36 during 2013. Local 36 was previously located in Whitehall Township and represented Iron Workers members throughout the Lehigh Valley.

“Mayor Pawlowski’s record of supporting working families is second to none. Just look what he has done in Allentown, putting hundreds of men and women to work with the downtown arena project. It’s all about jobs, and Mayor Pawlowski is creating more jobs in Allentown every day, and he’ll do the same as our next Governor,” stated Paul Anthony Jr., Business Manager and Principal Officer of Local 375.

Meanwhile Gary Martin, Business Manager and Principal Officer of Local 420 said Mr. Pawlowski has shown his support for the labor community by being involved with the recently held anti-right-to-work rally at the Yuengling Brewery in Pottsville.

“Mayor Pawlowski gas supported working families throughout his term as Mayor, and we’re proud to endorse him. He’s done a great job putting our brothers and sisters in labor back to work in Allentown, and we’re confident he will do the same around the state as Governor of Pennsylvania,” said Mr. Martin.

Lehigh Valley’s unemployment rate drops to 7.7 percent

12.30.13

JANUARY 2014, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Lehigh Valley’s unemployment rate drops to 7.7 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, December 9th- According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Center for Workforce Information and Analysis in Harrisburg, the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 7.7 percent, decreasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report. The Metropolitan Statistical Area includes Lehigh, Northampton, and Carbon Counties of Pennsylvania and Warren County, New Jersey. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was at 8.7 percent. The last time the unemployment rate was lower was in February 2009, the agency reported.

There are fourteen Metropolitan Statistical Area’s in Pennsylvania and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the fourth highest unemployment rate.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 9.2 percent. The Johnstown MSA has the second highest unemployment rate at 8.6 percent, and the Philadelphia MSA is third at 7.9 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.8 percent. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.9 percent, the Lancaster MSA is third at 6.1 percent, while the Harrisburg MSA has the fourth lowest at 6.6 percent.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 7.5 percent, dropping by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report, and decreasing by five-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before.

There are 485,000 Pennsylvania residents without jobs, but that number does not include residents that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and stopped looking for work.

Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted workforce of 6,471,000 and 5,987,000 of them have employment.

The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was reported to be 7.3 percent, an increase of one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report. The national unemployment rate was down six-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before.

There are 11,272,000 civilians nationwide without employment but that number also does not include workers that have exhausted their unemployment and stopped looking for work.

The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force in Pennsylvania with 437,300 civilians and 33,600 have no employment. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest seasonally adjusted labor force at 3,004,600 with 236,400 not working; and the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor force at 1,257,000 with 84,200 without jobs. The Harrisburg-Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force at 284,200.

Carbon County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 8.7 percent, decreasing by four-tenths of a percentage point from the month before. Carbon County has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 32,300, the smallest within the MSA, with 2,800 unemployed.

Northampton County has the highest unemployment rate within the MSA at 7.7 percent, unchanged from the previous report but dropping by one and one-tenth of a percentage point from twleve months ago. Northampton County has a civilian labor force of 155,800. There are 12,000 civilians unemployed within the county.

Lehigh County’s unemployment rate decreased by five-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and one and two-tenths of a percentage point from one year before to 7.5 percent. Lehigh County has the largest civilian labor force in the MSA with 185,500. Lehigh County has 14,000 civilians unemployed, decreasing by 1,000 from the month before and 2,500 from the year before.

Union to Represent Low-Wage Food Workers at Two Smithsonian Museums

12.20.13

Union to Represent Low-Wage Food Workers at Two Smithsonian Museums

PORTSIDE.ORG

After a series of one-day strikes, marches and demonstrations, about 220 food-service workers at two Smithsonian Institution museums will be represented by a union in contract negotiations for the first time, organizers said Monday…

Read the rest of this article at https://portside.org/2013-12-18/union-represent-low-wage-food-workers-two-smithsonian-museums

More than 50 percent of General Dynamics Eynon plant off

12.15.13

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

More than 50 percent of General Dynamics Eynon plant off

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, November 30th- Both local General Dynamics plants have workers on lay-off but the Eynon facility in Lackawanna County has more than 180 workers off.

In the previous edition’s of the newspaper, it was exclusively reported that the two General Dynamic plants in Lackawanna County recalled some laid-off workers.

Both plants have seen lay-offs during the past several years because of cutbacks in defense spending. General Dynamics has been the most effected of the big military contractors with the army withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The United Auto Workers of America (UAW) Union Local 1193 represent workers employed at the General Dynamics Land Systems plant in Eynon and has approximately 180 members on lay-off. The company employs around 130 workers including management at the Eynon plant, the union stated. The UAW represents approximately 100 workers at the Eynon plant.

The General Dynamics Land System plant recondition parts for the United States Army M1M1 battle tank.

Meanwhile, the International Association of Machinists (IAM) Union Local Lodge 847 represents the other General Dynamics plant located on Cedar Avenue in Scranton. The Scranton plant mostly produces military projectiles for the United States Army.

However, because of a contract to produce pipeline elbows for the natural gas industry, some workers have been recalled. According to the union approximately 200 workers are back in the plant.

The IAM represents around 236 workers with more than 30 still on lay-off. The newspaper previously reported the Scranton plant recalled approximately 42 Local Lodge 847 members since June.

Wilkes-Barre General Hospital operators hire scabs

12.15.13

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

Wilkes-Barre General Hospital operators hire scabs

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 4th- Registered Nurses (RN’s) affiliated with the Wyoming Valley Nurses Association (WVNA), which is an affiliate of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professional union (PASNAP), Conshohocken, went on strike for one day on December 3rd to protest the lack of progress at the bargaining table for a successor Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the operators of Wilkes-Barre General Hospital. However, the Community Health Systems (CHS), headquatered in Franklin Tennessee, responded by hiring scab nurses and locking-out PASNAP members for a additional two days.

The union went on strike accusing the operators of the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, of bargaining in bad faith and denouncing the dangerous and numerous violations of a Pennsylvania law that makes it illegal to mandate a nurse to work overtime, as well as consistently insufficient staffing levels in the hospital.

PASNAP and CHS have been unsuccessful in obtaining a successor CBA between the two parties for the nurses. The previous labor agreement expired on April 30th, 2013.

During negotiations according to Terry Marcavage, Staff Representative of PASNAP, management has proposed a wage freeze while demanding other contract concessions including the removal of the union security clause from the CBA. Under the clause it is mandated that new nursing hires would join the union.

Ms. Marcavage stated the contract expired more than six months ago and the lack of progress during negotiations has left the nurses questioning the hospital’s commitment to recruiting and retaining a dedicated staff and providing safe patient care to the community.

Community Health Systems is one of the largest for-profit medical center operators in the United States. They also operate the Regional Hospital of Scranton in the city’s hill section.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Healthcare Pennsylvania Union, represents nearly 80 percent of the Regional Hospital workforce including the nurses. Before CHS purchased the medical center several years ago it was called Mercy Hospital.

The SEIU members recently ratified a new short-term CBA with CHS which includes a 2.1 percent wage increase. The previous contract expired on February 28th, 2013.

Consolidation of USPS processing centers quietly delayed

12.15.13

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

Consolidation of USPS processing centers quietly delayed

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 2nd- The United States Postal Service (USPS) quietly suspended closing the mail processing centers that were previously slated for closure or merging across the nation.

The USPS announced last year it would consolidate 48 mail processing centers throughout the nation including moving their operations currently in Scranton to the Lehigh Valley. Out-going mail from Scranton was moved to the Lehigh Valley earlier in 2013 but incoming mail was still being processed at the facility. However, the USPS stated there would be no job losses by the consolidation. It is not yet known what the future is for the Scranton mail processing center.

The agency stated in 2012 the move of consolidation of mail processing centers was intended to be a cost saving plan. The reason for the cutbacks is because of declining mail volume.

After the out-going mail was moved to the Lehigh Valley facility all out-going mail is being processed in the Lehigh Valley and then brought back to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton region for delivery to customers.

The American Postal Workers Union (APWU) represent the USPS workers that process the mail.

The USPS first stated it would close about 250 processing centers after their plan was fully implemented. Overall, approximately 5,000 workers were to be affected by the consolidation. The plan was to consolidate 92 mail processing centers in February 2013 and 89 more in 2014. However, the USPS recently reversed that decision and has not announced why or whether they intended to continue with the plan of consolidation at a later date.

APWU Local 268 in Scranton represents the USPS workers at the Scranton facility.

Food-stamp recipients in Pennsylvania begin getting cuts

12.15.13

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

Food-stamp recipients in Pennsylvania begin getting cuts

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 2nd- Recipients in Pennsylvania of food-stamps have begun receiving notices of how much their benefits will be slashed because of cuts made to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by the Republican controlled United States House of Representatives in Washington, DC.

The Republican’s agenda included cutting taxes for what they call the “job creators” but 48 million Americans, and around 1.8 million Pennsylvanians, took a cut in federal food-stamp benefit beginning November 1st.

Enrollment in the food-stamp program surged since more Americans have qualified for the benefits because of the recession and the pro-business political agenda which has seen workers wages not keep up with inflation due to economic policies that included the elimination of union represented workers.

The federal goverment stimulus program increased the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits in 2009, however, the temporary increase expired on November 1st, dropping the amount allotment by around 5.4 percent.

SNAP benefits were increased under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRAct) of 2009, which was a federal stimulus package passed in response to the 2007- 2009 recession.

The program is funded through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and is administered by Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare.

According to Department of Agriculture, the cuts will result in taking a estimated $16 billion out of grocery spending over the next three years.

With Democratic party opposition the Republican controlled Congress passed a bill in September curtailing spending on the federal food-stamp program by 5 percent, or approximately $40 billion over the next decade. The Democratic controlled United States Senate passed legislation calling for a cut of about $4 billion.

In the budget battle in Washington, Senate Democrats wanted to reduce federal food-stamp spending by $4.5 billion over 10 years, however, Republicans want to cut $40 billion.

According to Department of Agriculture, more than 90 percent of food-stamp benefits go to families living below the poverty line, and almost two-thirds of the program recipients are children, the elderly or the disabled.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress appear ready to implement even more cuts in the food-stamp program as lawmakers have resumed talks over a new farm bill, which the federal food-stamp program is funded. The farm bill also provides subsidies not for just farmers but to 50 billionaires to not grow crops on their land throughout the nation including states that have very little farms and land good for farming.

Republicans often attempt to cast the reason for the food-stampt cuts on wanting to slash fraud within the program. However, in Pennsylvania according to data released by the Pennsylvania Office of Inspector General, program fraud is a fifth of the United States average.

The office, which investigates fraud in the food stamp program and public programs, through the Department of Public Welfare, showed from 2010 to 2012 the annual average food stamp violation was $1.9 million, a fraction of the nation’s 1.3 percent fraud rate. Total state food stamp benefits during 2010 to 2012 averaged approximately $2.57 billion each year.

According to data from the United States Department of Agriculture, which provides the funding for the food stamp program, the fraud amount throughout the nation averaged around $858 million each year.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania denied applications of more than 111,200 households between August 2011 and February 2013 because the applicants failed to submit the proper paperwork.

Republicans in Washington have also pushed as part of the farm bill, on making qualifications tougher.

Tom Corbett considered most vulnerable in 2014 by GOP

12.15.13

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

Tom Corbett considered most vulnerable in 2014 by GOP

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 3rd- Heading into the 2014 campaign incumbent anti-union Republican Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is considered one of the most “vulnerable” by GOP political pundits.

The labor community has put a high priority on defeating Mr. Corbett in 2014. 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. The Pennsylvania Lottery System is nearly totally unionized, and privitizing it would result in those jobs being put in harms way because the new operators have not pledged to obtain the current workers.

Nearly all of Mr. Corbett’s legislative initiatives involve union represented workers being eliminated. The Corbett political agenda has hurt all three groups of the labor community, the building and construction trades; the public sector unions; and the unions that represent workers employed within the industrial sector of the economy.

Unlike most elected political officeholders, that deny being anti-union and for lower wages and less benefits, Mr. Corbett appears to enjoy being considered being the most anti-union Governor in the state’s history.

In 2014 twenty-two of thirty Republican governors must face re-election including seven in states where President Obama won easily in 2012.

Mr. Corbett has pushed for corporate tax cuts while cutting funding for Pennsylvania higher education and public schools. He also rejected the expansion of Medicare spending under the 2010 federal healthcare law, while allowing the out-of-state gas-drilling companies to not pay their fair share of taxes.

At least seven Democrats will attempt to win their party’s nomination in the spring 2014 so they can attempt to deny Mr. Corbett a second term.

NLRB tells Wal-Mart to settle with protesting workers

12.15.13

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

NLRB tells Wal-Mart to settle with protesting workers

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, November 30th- The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington, DC encouraged their affiliated central labor councils throughout the nation to conduct a “Walmart Black Friday” protest on November 29th in front of the retailers stores.

Many current and former Wal-Mart employees have spoken against the retailers poor treatment of workers throughout the United States in recent years.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is a notoriously lousy employer which makes billions of dollars each year but pays their workers poorly. The company is the largest retailer in the world and has been found in the past of not paying their workers proper overtime payments and of violating other employment regulations.

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, made his request on November 6th, stating with the holiday season upon us, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union is leading a growing coalition in an escalation to ensure the Wal-Mart workers see justice.

“As many of you know, thousands of Wal-Mart workers from across the country have joined together through Organization United for Respect to offer strength and support in addressing the challenges that arise in Walmart stores every day,” stated Mr. Trumka.

Wal-Mart has resisted labor union organizing for their stores. The retailer has went as far as to close a store that workers voted for unionization and reopened at another site several miles away avoiding bargaining for a collective bargaining agreement with a union.

Last year similar protest was held on the day after Thanksgiving and Wal-Mart seeked a federal injuction to stop the worker protest by filing a labor complaint against the UFCW in Washington DC, alleging the labor organization was behind the action of employees and former workers that participated.

The UNI Global Alliance, a international network of labor unions headquartered in Switzerland, conducted a world drive to force Wal-Mart to change their business practices and respect workers’ rights.

Meanwhile, the NLRB recently announced it is prepared to file complaints against Wal-Mart alleging the company violated workers’ rights to protest, unless the parties settle first.

How FirstEnergy CEO Is a ‘Poster Child for What Is Wrong in Our Country Today’

12.13.13

How FirstEnergy CEO Is a ‘Poster Child for What Is Wrong in Our Country Today’

FirstEnergy Corp.’s lockout of 150 utility workers in central Pennsylvania has stirred up a hornet’s nest that CEO Anthony Alexander already regrets.

Throwing workers off their jobs right before the holidays has energized working families in four states and focused negative international attention on the nation’s largest investor-owned electric utility company. As a result, Alexander has made himself the poster child for what is wrong in our country today.

“Our members were exercising their legal right to collectively bargain, something FirstEnergy obviously does not respect,” Utility Workers (UWUA) President D. Michael Langford said Nov. 25, the day the company locked out UWUA Local 180 members employed by the company’s Penelec utility in central Pennsylvania…

(read more of this article by clicking on the link below)

http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Organizing-Bargaining/How-FirstEnergy-CEO-Is-a-Poster-Child-for-What-Is-Wrong-in-Our-Country-Today

Nursing home operators finally responds to NLRB complaint

12.10.13

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

Nursing home operators finally responds to NLRB complaint

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, November 30th- The operators of a Luzerne County nursing home has finally responded to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia claim that they violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

In the previous edition of the newspaper it was reported the National Labor Relations Board found merit in a labor complaint filed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union District Council 87 against the Manor and Pavilion at St. Luke’s Village Nursing Home on Stacie Drive in Hazleton.

AFSCME filed the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) complaint against the nursing home operators because management clearly stated they have no intention of negotiating for a first-time labor agreement for the newly created bargaining unit.

The newspaper in previous articles reported that AFSCME was successful in winning a representation election conducted by the NLRB at the Manor and Pavilion at St. Luke’s Village Nursing Home and the union was not able to get a meeting with management representatives to begin bargaining for a first-time labor contract.

Matt Balas, Business Representative of AFSCME District Council 87 in Dunmore, which represents AFSCME members throughout nine counties of Northeastern Pennsylvania, stated management believes the employees are excluded from being represented by a labor organization because the workers are “management”.

AFSCME won the right to represent all full-time and regular part-time Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN’s) and other professional employees of the nursing home after easily winning a NLRB conducted election despite the objections of the nursing home operators. The NLRB disagreed with their opinion that the workers are “management” and excluded under the NLRAct from participating in unionization. Mr. Balas told the newspaper the NLRB has scheduled a hearing on the ULP for February 2014 on the matter.

Also, the employer delayed responding to the alleged NLRAct violation for several months but has recently told the NLRB that they are under the opinion of legal counsel they have no intention of negotiating with AFSCME because the workers are management, and excluded from joining a labor organization.

District Council 87 represents other St. Luke’s employees including aids and food service workers.

Treasurer McCord calling for Tom Corbett to stop lottery sell

12.10.13

DECEMBER 2013, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Treasurer McCord calling for Tom Corbett to stop lottery sell

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 14th- The Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord and 2014 Democratic party candidate for Governor called on anti-union Republican Governor Tom Corbett to stop his bid to privatize management of the Pennsylvania Lottery System.

The Corbett Administration on January 11th awarded the British lottery company, Camelot Global Services, a 20-year contract to privately manage the Pennsylvania Lottery System before the Pennsylvania Senate Finance Committee even held a hearing on the privitization plan.

However, Pennsylvania Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane on February 14th rejected the contract.

Mrs. Kane stated the Camelot deal violated the state constitution and other parts are not authorized by state law, including the expansion of gambling that the agreement would permit. Under the contract Camelot would have been allowed the expansion of gambling with the inclusion of keno and online games. Her power as Attorney General halted the completion of the deal because of the office to review the legality of state contracts.

Mr. Corbett attempted to sell the Pensylvania Lottery System without any checks and balances or involvement with the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Mr. Corbett promised to attempt to continue to sell the Lottery System.

In 2012 the Pennsylvania Lottery System had approximately $3.5 billion in sales with the profits funding many programs for the elderly.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union represents around 170 of the 230 state workers employed by the lottery system and the privitization would have put those jobs in harms way.

David Fillman, Executive Director of AFSCME Council 13 in Harrisburg, questions why the Corbett Administration continues to want to fix something that is not broken for a so-called guarantee from a foreign-run company.

Mr. McCord called upon Governor Corbett to “scrap” his bid to privatize the system stating the attempt was “misguided.”

He stated almost $3.5 million has already been spent on legal fees and consultants during the attempt.

Mr. McCord is currently one of at least seven Democrats that are seeking their party’s nomination in May 2014 for a chance to attempt to deny Mr. Corbett of a second four-year term as Pennsylvania Governor which would begin in January 2015.

Treasurer McCord has been endorsed by AFSCME for the 2014 primary election. The Pennsylvania Conference of Teamsters has also endorsed Mr. McCord.

Food stamp recipients receive cuts in federal program

12.10.13

DECEMBER 2013, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Food stamp recipients receive cuts in federal program

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 12th- While the Republican controlled United States House of Representatives agenda includes cutting taxes for what they call the “job creators” more than 48 million Americans, around 1.8 million Pennsylvanians, took a cut in federal food-stamp benefit beginning November 1st.

Enrollment in the food-stamp program surged since more Americans have qualified for the benefits because of the recession and the pro-business political agenda which has seen workers wages not keep up with inflation due to economic policies that included the elimination of union represented workers.

The federal goverment stimulus program increased the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in 2009, however, the temporary increase expired on November 1st, dropping the amount allotment by around 5.4 percent.

SNAP benefits were increased under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRAct) of 2009, which was a federal stimulus package passed in response to the 2007- 2009 recession.

The program is funded through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and is administered by Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare.

According to Department of Agriculture, the cuts will result in taking a estimated $16 billion out of grocery spending over the next three years.

With democratic party opposition the Republican controlled Congress passed a bill in September curtailing spending on the federal food-stamp program by 5 percent, or approximately $40 billion over the next decade. The Democratic controlled United States Senate passed legislation calling for a cut of about $4 billion.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress appear ready to implement even more cuts in the food-stamp program as lawmakers have resumed talks over a new farm bill.

Republicans can’t blame fraud as a reason to cut the food stamp program in Pennsylvania according to data released by the Pennsylvania Office of Inspector General.

The office, which investigates fraud in the food stamp program and public programs, through the Department of Public Welfare, showed from 2010 to 2012 the annual average food stamp violation was $1.9 million, a fraction of the nation’s 1.3 percent fraud rate. Total state food stamp benefits during 2010 to 2012 averaged approximately $2.57 billion each year.

According to data from the United States Department of Agriculture, which provides the funding for the food stamp program, the fraud amount throughout the nation averaged around $858 million each year.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania denied applications of more than 111,200 households between August 2011 and February 2013 because the applicants failed to submit the proper paperwork

Lehigh Valley MSA’s unemployment data cancelled because of shutdown

12.10.13

DECEMBER 2013, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

MSA’s unemployment data cancelled because of shutdown

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 9th- Because of the federal shutdown from October 1st to the 16th, the Department of Labor and Industry, Center for Workforce Information and Analysis, the monthly Pennsylvania labor data was cancelled. However, the newspaper will print the lastest Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) information available.

The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA includes Lehigh, Northampton, and Carbon Counties of Pennsylvania and Warren County, New Jersey.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 7.8 percent, increasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report.

Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was at 8.7 percent.

There are fourteen Metropolitan Statistical Area’s in Pennsylvania and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA is tied with the Williamsport MSA for the fourth highest unemployment rate.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 9.2 percent. The Johnstown MSA has the second highest unemployment rate at 8.7 percent, and the Philadelphia MSA is third at 8.0 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 6.0 percent. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 6.2 percent, the Lancaster MSA is third at 6.4 percent, while the Harrisburg MSA and the Pittsburgh MSA are tied for the fourth lowest at 6.8 percent.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 7.7 percent, rising by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report, but dropping by four-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before.

There are 501,000 Pennsylvania residents without jobs, but that number does not include residents that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and stopped looking for work. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted workforce of 6,512,000 and 6,011,000 of them have employment.

The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force in Pennsylvania with 441,800 civilians and 34,300 have no employment. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest seasonally adjusted labor force at 3,036,300 with 243,100 not working; and the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor force at 1,265,400 with 86,200 without jobs. The Harrisburg-Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force at 287,600.

Carbon County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 8.9 percent, increasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the month before. Carbon County has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 32,800, the smallest within the MSA, with 2,900 unemployed.

Northampton County and Lehigh County have the same unemployment rate at 7.7 percent. Lehigh County’s unemployment rate increased by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report. Lehigh County has the largest civilian labor force in the MSA with 188,200. Lehigh County has 14,600 civilians unemployed.

Northampton County’s unemployment rate rose by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and decreased by nine-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Northampton County has a civilian labor force of 158,000. There are 12,200 civilians unemployed within the county.

Retail trade jobs was the biggest loser during the past year, decreasing by 400 to 39,500. Leisure and Hospitally jobs grew the most during the period, increasing by 5,500 to 41,900.

Overall there are 353,700 nonfarm jobs within the MSA, rising by 10,900 during the past tweleve months. The data indicated there are 49,900 goods-producing jobs within the MSA.

AFL-CIO wants affiliates to protest Wal-Mart on black Friday

12.10.13

DECEMBER 2013, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

AFL-CIO wants affiliates to protest Wal-Mart on black Friday

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 12th- The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington, DC has encourage their affiliated central labor councils throughout the nation to conduct a “Walmart Black Friday” protest on November 29th in front of the retailers stores. Protest are expected in the Lehigh Valley.

Many current and former Wal-Mart employees have spoken against the retailers poor treatment of workers throughout the United States in recent years.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is a notoriously lousy employer which makes billions of dollars each year but pays their workers poorly. The company is the largest retailer in the world and has been found in the past of not paying their workers proper overtime payments and of violating other employment regulations.

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, made his request on November 6th, stating with the holiday season upon us, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union is leading a growing coalition in an escalation to ensure the Wal-Mart workers see justice.

“As many of you know, thousands of Wal-Mart workers from across the country have joined together through Organization United for Respect to offer strength and support in addressing the challenges that arise in Walmart stores every day,” stated Mr. Trumka.

Wal-Mart has resisted labor union organizing for their stores. The retailer has went as far as to close a store that workers voted for unionization and reopened at another site several miles away avoiding bargaining for a collective bargaining agreement with a union.

Also, employees, which Wal-Mart call associates, are required to view anti-union videos at work.

Two IBT/UPS regional contract supplements still out-standing

12.10.13

DECEMBER 2013, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Two IBT/UPS regional contract supplements still out-standing

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 12th- Several regional supplemental agreements between the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union and the United Parcel Service (UPS) have not yet been ratified by the membership. The newspaper first reported the delay in the ratification of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the parties in the previous edition.

The IBT represents approximately 249,000 of the 323,000 UPS employees, including full and part-time workers. Around 235,000 of those are covered by the master contract agreement between the company and the IBT. Local 773 in Allentown represents workers employed by UPS in the Lehigh Valley.

In June 2013 the two parties agreed to a new five-year national master CBA that included wage increases as well as health and pension benefits.

That part of the CBA has since been agreed to however, what has yet to be settled is the sixteen supplement agreements throughout the nation.

The supplement agreements cover mostly the regional healthcare benefit packages between the IBT members and UPS. The company wanted the IBT to handle the provisions of the healthcare insurance benefits. Therefore, the supplements must be negotiated separately and approved by the rank-and-file before the CBA can take effect.

As of November 11th, two supplements were still not ratified. The Central Region supplement, which covers Local 773 members as well as IBT members throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania, has been approved by the membership. Also, the Metro Philadelphia supplement has also been ratifed by the IBT/UPS members.

The two parties must yet bargain for a seperate CBA for workers employed by UPS/Freight, a national trucking company that was once known as Overnite Trucking. Overnite was once the largest nonunion trucking company in the country.

Meanwhile, the IBT represented YRC Inc. stock dropped because of problems with the company’s freight division due to the consolidatation of terminals and reducing distribution centers. Delays in shipments have occur resulting in the trucking company losing some business.

YRC has almost $1.4 billion in debt, and the company’s creditors will not allow it to refinance until the labor agreement with the Teamsters is renegotiated. The IBT represents approximately 26,000 YRC employees.

Anti-right-to-work Rally and Protest held November 9th in Pottsville

12.10.13

DECEMBER 2013, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Anti-right-to-work Rally and Protest held November 9th in Pottsville

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 12th- The labor community came together on November 9th to participate in a anti-right-to-work rally in Pottsville, the headquarters of Yuengling Brewery Inc.

Several months ago Dick Yuengling Jr., the leader of the brewery of the D.G. Yuengling and Son Inc., stated Pennsylvania would attrack more businesses if it was the twenty-fifth state in the nation that had a “right-to-work” law on the books and Republican Pennsylvania anti-union Governor Tom Corbett is a great man.

Forbes Magazine has reported Mr. Yuengling’s worth is more than $1.3 billion and he supports legislation if passed would result in a decrease of wages for workers in Pennsylvania.

Yuengling is a nonunion brewer but their employees were once represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union but Mr. Yuengling spent thousands of dollars on anti-union consultants and the employees several years ago voted to decertify the union.

Mr. Yuengling said at a Pennsylvania Press Club appearance that Pennsylvania should adopt a “right-to-work” or “no-rights-at-work” policy that would make it more difficult for labor unions to organize and keep their membership. The “right-to-work” or “no-rights-at-work” measure would ban union security clauses in labor bargaining agreements.

His remarks have angered some within the labor community regarding adding Pennsylvania to the list of states with a “right-to-work” law on the books.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, census of Employment and Wages, on average workers in states with “right-to-work” laws earn $5,680 a year less than workers in states that have no such laws.

Gary Martin, Business Manager of the Bridge, Structural, Ornamental, & Reinforcing Iron Workers Union Local 420 in Reading, which represents workers in the Lehigh Valley, a Vice President of the Pennsylvania State Building and Construction Trades Council, and a Executive Council member of the Pennsylvania American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Harrisburg, requested Yuengling products be added to the federation’s boycott list.

The AFL-CIO sent ballots in early September to the fourty-nine Executive Council members of the labor federation requesting they vote on whether Yuengling Products should be placed on the National AFL-CIO Boycott list. The group voted unanimously to support the Yuengling boycott.

Approximately 400 participated in the march and rally in Pottsville, which included union officials, pro-labor radio host Rick Smith, and Allentown Democratic Mayor Edward Pawlowski, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania Governor in 2014.

Regional nursing unions having difficult time gaining labor agreements with medical centers

12.10.13

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

Regional nursing unions having difficult time gaining labor agreements with medical centers

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, November 1st- Registered Nurses (RN’s) affiliated with the Wyoming Valley Nurses Association (WVNA), which is an affiliate of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professional union (PASNAP), Conshohocken, held a informational event at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital on North River Street in Wilkes-Barre on Friday October 25th.

The union held the event to accuse the operators of the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, Community Health Systems (CHS), headquatered in Franklin Tennessee, of bargaining in bad faith and denouncing the dangerous and numerous violations of a Pennsylvania law that makes it illegal to mandate a nurse to work overtime, as well as consistently insufficient staffing levels in the hospital.

Pennsylvania House of Representative Eddie Day Pashinski (Democrat-121st Legislative District) along with several other memebrs of the labor community attended the event and press conference.

PASNAP and CHS have been unsuccessful in obtaining a successor Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the two parties for the nurses. The previous labor agreement expired on April 30th, 2013.

During negotiations according to Terry Marcavage, Staff Representative of PASNAP, management has proposed a wage freeze while demanding other contract concessions including the removal of the union security clause from the CBA. Under the clause it is mandated that new nursing hires would join the union.

Ms. Marcavage stated the contract expired almost six months ago and the lack of progress during negotiations has left the nurses questioning the hospital’s commitment to recruiting and retaining a dedicated staff and providing safe patient care to the community.

“It is our responsibility to make our nurses have the tools they need to take care of us. If their hospital isn’t putting enough nurses at the bedside, if nurses are being forced to work overtime, which is against the law in Pennsylvania, and if they are not treated professionally, patient care will suffer,” stated Mr. Pashinski, a union member himself.

CHS has had many other labor issue problems with labor organizations that represent workers of facilities they own and operated including in California and in Scranton.

Community Health Systems is one of the largest for-profit medical center operators in the United States. They also operate the Regional Hospital of Scranton in the city’s hill section.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Healthcare Pennsylvania Union, represents nearly 80 percent of the Regional Hospital workforce. Before CHS purchased the medical center several year ago it was called Mercy Hospital.

The SEIU labor agreement with CHS expired on February 28th, 2013. The two parties also have been unsuccessful gaining a new CBA. The membership voted on October 29th to conduct a one-day strike on November 13th unless the parties can reach an agreement.

“The corporate culture of CHS is one of contempt for the law, on every level,” stated Bill Cruice, PASNAP Executive Director.

Luzerne County labor unions fearing for members jobs

12.10.13

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

Luzerne County labor unions fearing for members jobs

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, November 3rd- The labor organizations that represent employees of Luzerne County have been meeting to discuss what employee sacrifices they would be able to offer to save money to help cut into the county’s debt. It is estimated that Luzerne County is more than $400 million in debt and massive layoffs could occur unless unions agree to concessions, including higher contributions toward employee healthcare.

Several weeks ago Luzerne County Manager Robert Lawton met with union officials for two hours to begin the discussion regarding the concessions. However, all parties involved agreed to not discuss publicly what was talked about.

Under the Luzerne County Home Rule Charter, the county manager is appointed by the eleven member county council. Therefore Mr. Lawton could be removed for not doing what the part-time council members instruct him to do. Seven votes are needed to terminate the county manager.

Currently, Luzerne County employs approximately 1,400 full-time workers but at least 200 could be cut if changes are not made.

Joe Rowe, Director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union District Council 87, would only for the record tell the newspaper about the meeting between the labor organizations and the county manager, that Mr. Lawton wants to make every attempt to work things out with the unions and try to minimize any lay-offs. AFSCME Local 1398 represents several hundred workers of Luzerne County.

Under the lastest budget plan around 55 workers will be laid-off unless union worker concessions are given and at least 150 more could occur if the county council does not approve an 8 percent tax increase on Luzerne County residents.

The known to be anti-union council members Stephen A. Urban and Stephen J. Urban have stated they will not consider a tax increase.

NLRB finds merit in complaint against area nursing home

12.10.13

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

NLRB finds merit in complaint against area nursing home

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 30th- The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia found merit in a labor complaint filed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union District Council 87 against an Luzerne County nursing home operator.

AFSCME filed the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) complaint against the Manor and Pavilion at St. Luke’s Village Nursing Home on Stacie Drive in Hazleton because management clearly stated they have no intention of negotiating for a first-time labor agreement for the newly created bargaing unit.

The newspaper in previous articles reported that AFSCME was successful in winning a representation election conducted by the NLRB at the Manor and Pavilion at St. Luke’s Village Nursing Home and the union was not able to get a meeting with management representatives to begin bargaining for a first-time labor contract.

The operators of the Hazleton nursing home hired a lawfirm to represented them that specializes in attempting to delay representation elections. Despite the spending of tens of thousands of dollars on anti-union attorney’s and employment consulting firms, the operators of a local nursing home were unsuccessful in convincing their employees from voting for AFSCME.

In previous articles published in the newspaper it was reported that AFSCME Council 87 filed a representation petition with the NLRB 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 nursing home wanted to be represented by the union. District Council 87 represents other St. Luke’s employees including aids and food service workers.

Matt Balas, Business Representative of AFSCME District Council 87 in Dunmore, which represents AFSCME members throughout nine counties of Northeastern Pennsylvania, stated management believes the employees are excluded from being represented by a labor organization because the workers are “management”.

The NLRB disagreed and conducted an representation election which AFSCME won.

Because of the federal government shutdown employees of the NLRB was not working and all ULP’s and Representation Petitions filed were not processed during that time.

Mr. Balas told the newspaper the NLRB has scheduled a hearing on the ULP for February 2014.