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AFSCME and Lackawanna County set to begin arbitration

03.24.14

MARCH 2014, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

AFSCME and Lackawanna County set to begin arbitration

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 1st- The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union and Lackawanna County has failed to reach an successor contract agreement and an arbitrator will determine the pact between the parties.

The first arbitration meeting between the parties and the arbitrator is scheduled for March 12th.

AFSCME Local 2736 represents the Correction Officers (CO’s) of the Lackawanna County prison, and they have been without a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) since December 31st, 2012 when the previous pact expired. However, the two parties have been working under the terms and conditions of the expired contract.

AFSCME’s other bargaining unit that represents workers of Lackawanna County voted in the spring of 2013 to extend their agreement for one year which also was slated to expire on December 31st 2012. That unit also is currently working under the terms and conditions of the previous CBA. That agreement covers workers employedwithin the Children and Youth Department of Lackawanna County.

Meanwhile, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Pennsylvania Social Services Union (PSSU), which represents mostly clerical, maintenance, and 911 center workers, also voted in the spring of 2013 to extend their agreement with Lackawann County. Negotiations are underway for the successor CBA between the parties.

Eric Schubert, Business Representative of AFSCME District Council 87, which Local 2736 is affiliated, previously told the newspaper the membership rejected the contract proposals of Lackawanna County which included a huge increase in monthly health insurance costs and other concessionary contract demands.

AFGE losing members at depot because of buy-out program

03.24.14

MARCH 2014, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

AFGE losing members at depot because of buy-out program

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 1st- The Tobyhanna Army Depot workforce continues to get smaller because of the United States Department of Defense cutbacks in spending, changing plans on upgrading facilities and equipment, and the cutback on purchasing, with the withdraw of military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Tobyhanna Army Depot has cut approximately one-third of its workforce during the past several years which resulted in the two labor organizations that represents many of the workers having a decline in membership at the military facility.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Union Local 1647, in Tobyhanna, represents around 2,000 employees at the depot and has lost members because of incentives for workers to take early retirement packages. Under the incentive plan Tobyhanna employees that are at least 50 years old and have 20 years on the job or 25 years of service can receive the federal buyout separation payment.

The depot is Northeastern Pennsylvania’s largest employer and the cutbacks will likely harm the local economy with laid-off employees and those that take the buyout having less money to purchase goods and services.

In late 2012 the depot employed around 5,100 workers counting the employees of subcontractors including those of URS Federal Support Services Inc., a contractor that provides industrial trade and electronics workers. Currently, there are approximately 3,570 employed at the depot.

Many of the sub-contractor workers are represented by the International Association of Machinists (IAM) Union Local Lodge 1717.

The AFGE does not attempt to encouage the employees of contractors to become members of Local 1647. The AFGE will only attempt to get employees that are actually employed by the United States Army to join the union. Union security clauses are forbidden in labor agreements that represent federal government workers. Therefore, a new hire must be approach and encourage to join the union.

While no AFGE member has ever been laid-off at the depot the IAM hasn’t been so lucky.

Of the approximately 400 sub-contractor workers laid-off over the last several years, many of them were Local Lodge 1717 members. At least four phases of lay-offs were conducted during 2013 with Local Lodge 1717 members being cut.

The anti-union CHS getting bigger with buy of health system

03.24.14

MARCH 2014, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

The anti-union CHS getting bigger with buy of health system

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 1st- The Community Health Systems (CHS) Inc., the Tennessee-based largest for-profit hospital chain in the nation, will be getting even bigger after it was announced on February 6th the conglomerate will purchase a western Pennsylvania health system. CHS purchased Sharon Regional Health System which has 1,800 workers making it the largest employer in Mercer County of Pennsylvania.

CHS owns or operates at least 200 hospitals in 29 states including at least eight medical facilities in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

In the previous edition of the newspaper, it was exclusively reported that CHS was hit by a United States District Court Judge in Ohio with a sweeping cease and desist injunction to end its behavior in refusing to bargain with its registered nurses (RN’s) union and engaging in repeated illegal discipline and harassment.

The anti-union CHS was hit by a ruling on January 22nd, by United States District Court Judge John Adams of Northern Ohio District. It was the third injunction within a year against CHS for violations of federal labor law. CHS has been hit with similar injunctions in 2013 in California.

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), has been unsuccessful in gaining a successor Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with CHS, which operates the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital in Wilkes-Barre. The next negotiating meeting between PASNAP and CHS is scheduled for April 8th.

PASNAP members went on strike for one day on December 3rd to protest the lack of progress at the bargaining table for a CBA. CHS responded by hiring scab nurses and locking-out unionized RN’s for a additional two days.

CHS also operates the Regional Hospital of Scranton. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Healthcare Pennsylvania Union, represents nearly 80 percent of the medical center employees including the nurses.

The injunction requires CHS to immediately cease and desist its refusal to recognize and bargain with the National Nurses United, the union which represents the RN’s at the Affinity Medical Center of Massillon, Ohio.

PASNAP has also filed labor complaints against CHS and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office has scheduled a hearing on the complaints for April 1st.

IBEW Local 81 bowling tournament raises funds

03.24.14

MARCH 2014, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

IBEW Local 81 bowling tournament raises funds

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM
REGION, March 2nd- The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 81 in Scranton conducted their annual Toby Joyce Memorial Bowling Tournament on Saturday February 22nd at the South Side Bowling lanes in South Scranton. It was the 12th consecutive year the event had been held.

The event benefits the Friendship House, the region’s only provider of care and mental health treatment for boys and girls with emotional difficulties from toddlers to adolescents.

The Friendship House serves 750 children daily through a full range of programs including, day, evening, and weekend partial hospitalization programs, residential care and tratment, foster care and adoption, outpatient program and services in the home and community.

The organization is also home to the Northeast Regional Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders.

According to Geno Arcurie Jr., Local 81 Membership Development Representative, 125 bowlers participated, slightly less than last years event, which was the most ever.

The tournament raised approximately $4,000.00 that was donated to the Friendship House. This year amount was also a little less than last years tournament. Also, there were 34 lane sponsors.

“We had electrical and building trades unions, electrical contractors, and local businesses that participated by sponsoring a lane,” stated Mr. Arcurie.

Participates came from as far away as Binghamton, New York with Myer Moskovitz, an local bowler, sponsoring 18 bowlers.

“This is a major contributing factor in helping us raise the much needed money for the Friendship House,” added Mr. Arcurie.

Labor continues to lobby legislators for the defeat of anti-union dues check-off legislation

03.24.14

MARCH 2014, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

Labor continues to lobby legislators for the defeat of anti-union dues check-off legislation

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 1st- The labor community continues to lobby Harrisburg legislators against a proposal that if passed would ban payroll deduction clauses in labor agreements in all levels of governments. The attempt includes contacting union members at their homes by phone and requesting they call their state representatives requesting they not support the legislation.

On January 13th the Pennsylvania American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Harrisburg President Richard Bloomingdale held a conference call with national AFL-CIO President Rick Trumka participating, to announce the pending dues deduction legislation being considered in the state capitol.

House Bill (HB 1507) eliminates the payroll deduction of union members and fair-share fees of government workers. Should it pass, the bill will force unions to represent non-members without any meaningful way to collect fees for the service of representation.

House Bill 1507 is being called by anti-union forces the “Payroll Protection” bill. The groups have been claiming, without facts, that taxpayers are paying for union dues collection for public employees and that teachers and state workers are being forced to contribute to political and legislative activism.

However, automatic payroll deduction of union dues is not mandated by any law rather it is bargained for during labor contract negotiations, the same as any other provision within a collective bargaining agreement.

The companion Senate Bill (SB 1034), would also ban the dues check-off from government contracts in Pennsylvania.

Mr. Bloomingdale stated these bills are designed to destroy negotiated payroll deductions, and are a part of a national right-wing, anti-union campaign brought to Pennsylvania by out-of-state corporate interests and their so-called Commonwealth Foundation to weaken unions by denying workers their voice on the job. These proposals are designed to silence all workers in Pennsylvania, Mr. Bloomingdale added. Mr. Bloomingdale is a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union, which represents thousands of workers employed in local, state, and county governments in Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO held a press conference/rally at the Capitol Building rotunda on January 28th, in which more than 1,400 union members and their leaders attended. In fact, many more bus loads of supporters from across the state were not able to participate in the rotunda event because it reached full capacity.

If the legislation became law all other paycheck deductions, such as donations to the United Way, the purchasing of U.S. Savings Bonds, pension contributions, and all others, would still be allowed. Therefore, the legislation would only ban the automatic paycheck deduction of a workers’ union dues.

The AFL-CIO stated the payroll deduction legislation is similar to that of which was introduced in Wisconsin and union members throughout the state must understand it is a strategic attack against all union members.

Mike Carroll, Pennsylvania House of Representative (Democrat-118th Legislative District), and Chairman of the Northeast Pennsylvania Democratic Caucus, made it clear he would not support any legislation that would make it harder for labor organizations to represent their members.

President Bloomingdale added that the labor movement in Pennsylvania has had a good track record in defeating anti-union legislation in the past which includes privatization, protecting good pensions, expanding healthcare for all, and advocating for good jobs and decent wages.

Mr. Bloomingdale stated that big money, and corporate interests are now working in Harrisburg to get commitments from legislators on the legislation. He added they appear to have a duel objective, to pass legislation that will significantly hamper public employee unions; and to use this as a litmus test for anti-union legislation they wish to target in the future.

Meanwhile, meetings have taken place between legislators and members of the labor community throughout the state, including Northeastern Pennsylvania. The purpose of the meetings is to receive at the least a verbal commitment that they will not vote in favor of any legislation that would change the current dues deduction system.

The lastest lobbying includes meeting with Republican legislators. According to Mr. Bloomingdale, at least six Republicans in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives have indicated they will not support the anti-union legislation. He is requesting the labor community continue to contact and meet with their representatives and senators to request they support the labor community and not support the legislation.

Governor candidate Schwartz receiving labor endorsements

03.24.14

MARCH 2014, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

Governor candidate Schwartz receiving labor endorsements

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 4th- The labor community continues to split their endorsements on who they plan to support for the spring primary election for Pennsylvania governor.

The labor community has put a high priority on defeating Mr. Corbett in 2014. Labor will be active during the election season.

Nearly all of his legislative initiatives involve union represented workers being eliminated. The Corbett agenda has hurt all three groups of the labor community, the building and construction trades, the public sector unions, and the industrial trade unions.

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

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 being put in harms way. Pennsylvania Attorney Kathleen Kane rejected his plan in February 2013 and the system remains operated by the state.

Current Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord, who along with six other candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination to attempt to deny anti-union Republican Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett a second four-year term. Mr. Corbett will likely not receive the endorsement of any labor organization during the 2014 campaign.

Some of the largest unions in Pennsylvania have endorsed Mr. McCord including; the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District 13 in Harrisburg; The Pennsylvania Conference of Teamsters; and the United Food and Commerical Workers (UFCW) Union Local 1776 in Plymouth Meeting.

Besides Mr. McCord, the other candidates still seeking the Democratic nomination are: U.S. House of Representative Allyson Schwartz (13th Legislative District); Tom Wolf; Katie McGinty; John Hanger; Jo Ellen Litz; and Jack Wagner, former two-team Pennsylvania Auditor General.

The Pennsylvania American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) in Harrisburg, is fearful that a long open primary could result in wasting economic investment money and causing divisions.

Congresswomen Schwartz, which represents the 13th Legislative District in Washington, has also been endorsed by several labor organizations.

Representative Schwartz endorsements include: the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 98 in Philadelphia; the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 926 and Local 249; the United Mine Workers Union (UMW); the United Steelworkers (USW) Union Local 10-1; the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Union Local 13; the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP); the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers Union (AFT); and the Pennsylvania State Council of Sheet Metal Workers, which Sheet Metal Workers International Union (SMWIU) Local 44 in Wilkes-Barre is affiliated.