Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

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.