Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

Lt. Gubernatorial candidate Brandon Neuman promises to support labor community

05.19.14

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

Lt. Gubernatorial candidate Brandon Neuman promises to support labor community

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 30th- Pennsylvania House of Representative Brandon Neuman (Democrat-48th Legislative District) is seeking his party’s nomination for Lieutenant Governor and during a interview promised to continue to support the labor community if elected. Mr. Neuman stated he has a 100 percent labor voting record for supporting legislation important to the labor community since first being elected in 2010 to represent the 48th legislative district.

Mr. Neuman, 32 year old, is also seeking his party’s nomination for the 48th legislative district but told the newspaper if he gains his party’s nomination on May 20th for Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor he will drop-out of the House of Representatives race. No other Democrat is seeking the seat however there are challengers from the Republican party.

He told the newspaper he is not supporting any one of the four Democratic candidates seeking their party’s nomination for governor that will attempt to unseat Pennsylvania’s anti-union Republican Governor Tom Corbett in November. He also understands the bigger issue is to defeat Mr. Corbett because if re-elected he will put the labor community in the “cross-hairs” with more anti-union legislation.

Mr. Neuman stated he voted against legislation that was passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly and signed into law by Mr. Corbett that changed the way a worker can qualify for benefits under the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Law during the 2012 legislative session. Several dozen Democrats voted for the legislation despite request from the Pennsylvania American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Harrisburg to not vote for its passage.

The changes to the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Law has had a major impact on workers employed within the building and construction trades, union and nonunion alike, because they may not now be able to collect unemployment benefits or have their benefits cut when construction work is seasonally slow or their employer has not been able to gain a high cost long-term building project.

Eddie Day Pashiniski (Democrat-121st Legislative District) and multiple union member, told the newspaper he is supporting Mr. Leuman in the May 20th Primary Election.

Meanwhile, Frank Sirianni, President of the Pennsylvania State Building and Construction Trades Council in Harrisburg, told the newspaper that while some building trades unions have endorsed several of the four Democratic candidates seeking to become their party’s nominee for Pennsylvania governor on May 20th, his organization has not endorsed any candidate and believes all four would support the labor community if elected in November over Mr. Corbett.

There are four candidates seeking the Democratic nomination: Businessman, Tom Wolf; U.S. House of Representative, Allyson Schwartz (13th Legislative District); former Pennsylvania Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, Katie McGinty; and current Pennsylvania Treasurer, Rob McCord. All four candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination to attempt to deny Governor Tom Corbett a second four-year term.

“I know all four, and I have no doubt all would be good for labor,” said Mr. Sirianni. He would not state on the record if he has a favorite to win the nomination, but acknowledged Mr. Wolf will be hard to beat.

“The main objective is getting Corbett out. He has, along with all that out-side money, come after labor and will continue to do so.”

The Veterans Administration Medical Treatment Scandal

05.18.14

The Veterans Administration Medical Treatment Scandal

There is plenty of blame to go around concerning the massive failures of the healthcare system in the Veterans Administration. Both the media and politicians are focusing on administrative failures at the top and calling for the resignation of the retired General who heads the federal agency like that will fix the problems.

It will not.

Obviously, the decisions to create secret wait lists to hide are horrible. There is no excuse for creating them and putting the lives of our brave veterans in danger. Those who are responsible for creating them should be fired and in some cases prosecuted for criminal activity if their actions are determined to be crimes. Just as obviously, those actions were not ordered by the head of the federal agency who is a veteran himself. They were unauthorized decisions made at the local level and hidden from the top leadership of the agency.

Everyone needs to focus on the guilty parties who made the actual bad decisions to create the secret wait lists first and foremost. However, there are other parties who did help contribute greatly to this horrible situation.

The lack of resources arising from insufficient funding of veterans healthcare comes mostly from political decisions made by members of the United States Senate and the House of Representatives. If your members of Congress voted in recent years against increasing the funding of veteran healthcare to meet the greatly increased need created by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they deserve much of the blame for this scandalous situation.

Many of those members of Congress calling for the resignation of the agency head are guilty of voting against adequate funding for veterans healthcare. They are partially responsible for the deaths of veterans who did not get medical treatment fast enough to save their lives. It is just as reasonable to call for their resignations as it is to call for the resignation of the agency head if not more so. The agency head can only call for increased funding. It is up to Congress to vote for the authorization of that funding.
The voters may yet fire those members of Congress who have been voting against veterans’ benefits including healthcare in the next few election cycles.

The largest systematic reform needed is greatly increased funding of veterans healthcare!

The poor execution of those two wars under the Bush Administration plays a significant role. Our soldiers should have been provided with body armor and better protected military vehicles much sooner. This would have reduced the demand side of the veterans’ healthcare economic equation.

An even more important factor in creating the current bad situation was the launching of the Iraq War based on lies. All those Bush Administration officials and their neocon allies who lied us into that needless war on false pretenses are responsible for the injuries to our veterans that are taxing our veterans healthcare system.

None of these politicians who have involved us in reckless and unjustified wars have ever been held adequately responsible for the massive damage they have done to our government finances, international standing, military readiness or the health of our veterans. The lives and health of our soldiers should be valued by the political and economic ruling class over their political power or financial profit. We need to go to war only when we have to and then wisely!

After conflicts are over, we need to fully fund the healthcare and medical needs of our veterans forever even if that means making the political and economic elite pay more in taxes.

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Written by Stephen Crockett (small business owner, union activist, talk radio host).
He can be reached by email at demlabor@aol.com, by phone at 443-907-2367 or mail at 7 Planville Drive #1, Fayetteville, Tennessee 37334.

Philadelphia Commemorates Workers Memorial Day

05.11.14

by John O. Mason

Members of Philadelphia’s Labor community honored workers killed or injured on the job at a commemorative breakfast, held at Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 Hall, 1301 South Columbus Blvd., on Friday, April 25, 2014.

The event was sponsored by the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO and the Philadelphia Area Project for Occupational Safety and Health (PHILAPOSH).

Kathy Black, Health and Safety Director of AFSCME District Council 47 and Chair of the PHILAPOSH Board, welcomed everyone, and the Reverend Colleen M. Butler prayed the blessing over the food. Kathy Black gave a special welcome to the families of workers killed on the job recently-Jeff Davis, Scott Shaw, Thomas Hetrick, Richie Brady, Kevin Sparks, Joseph Matejik, Anne Bryan, and Roseline Conteh.

Pat Eiding, President of the Philadelphia AFL-CIO, said, “Our work is really ahead of us” in advocacy for workers’ safety. Pointing out that the Philadelphia AFL-CIO office was across the street from the building that collapsed at 22nd and Market streets in June 2013, and which resulted in people’s deaths, Eiding said, “We as Labor people know that was an accident ready to happen from the day the demolition started. We tried to send that message across the city, but typically, the people (of) organized Labor, for some reason or another, are looked on as troublemakers instead of problem solvers. That’s certainly a shame, because we have a lot to offer.” Due to union representation and training, said Eiding, “we’ll be able to go home the way we left the house this morning.”

If one was to go through the man part of Philadelphia or the neighborhoods, added Eiding, one “can see the mess of the (building) contractors, with some pieces of scaffolding on three legs and a board holding up the fourth leg, and nobody paying attention…As bad as it is for those workers, people in the community suffer because of that.”

Barbara Rahke, PHILAPOSH Director, said of this year’s program, “This year, it was very obvious to us that the connection between workplace safety, workplace health, and public health and safety are connected. This is an old issue that we’ve been talking about for a very long time. Communities around refineries (have been) working with workers inside the refineries to make sure the communities were safe. The environmental justice movement has been built around that.”

Rahke added that there would be a focus on the families of workers killed on the job, “the families who have suffered,” she said, “in ways that I can only imagine.” Rahke commended the work of Holly Shaw, PHILAPOSH’s outreach person to the families of workers killed on the job, and whose husband, Scott, was killed falling off a barge in the Schuylkill River.

Jerry Roseman, Director of Environmental Science and Occupational Health and Safety for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Health and Welfare Fund, spoke of his work with several other unions along with PFT, saying, “I’ve chosen to work with unions, workers, and the pubic for more than thirty years, because of my firm belief that those who are directly exposed to hazardous (material) have an absolute right to know about those hazardous conditions, and they have the right to participate in designing and implementing those measures to prevent their own injuries, illnesses, or worse. I’m proud to be able to add my voice to the voices of so many others today who are fighting to eliminate workplace health and safety hazards that impact on the lives of so many of us.”

Roseman called the building collapse on Market Street last year “a catastrophic example of the connection between public safety and workers’ safety.” But, he added, “there are many other situations, even if less immediately devastating, that put workers and the public at great risk.

“Sand-blasting and high-speed sawing and cutting of sitting stone and cement block,” added Roseman, “can pose serious silica dust hazards to workers and to the public. Improperly controlled lead removal, or removal and demolition work in buildings with asbestos, also result in exposures that cause sickness and death. These types of exposures are much too common, and demonstrate that even the less obvious and unseen hazards must be recognized and controlled. Unlike a fall from a roof, or a bridge, or a scaffolding, where the hazard and direct result are clear, what these health hazard situations have in common is not just the workers and the public are put at risk of developing cancer or respiratory diseases, like asthma, silicosis, and asbestosis, but that these diseases can take years before they show up, making it harder to connect the cause and the effect, and sometimes difficult to convince employers and building owners to do the right thing.”

The keynote speaker for the event was Jordan Barab, Deputy Secretary of Labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), who commended the staff, volunteers, and officers of PHILAPOSH for their work, along with the regional OSHA staff; “These are the people,” he said, “who work their butts off every day, including weekends and nights, to make sure workers are safe in this country,” and he encouraged everyone in the audience to work with them.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act, which created OSHA, Barab said, “was passed in 1970, with one very simple premise, (that) workers have the right to a safe work place, and employers have a responsibility to maintain a safe work place.” Of course, he added, “It’s not that simple, it requires work on our part every single day. To make sure that promise comes true.”

During the past year, added Barab, “We had the shut down of the federal government, and sequestration, it’s been rough for everybody to do the kind of work that we need to do, and we had to cancel a lot of events” with PHILAPOSH, but the OSHA main office and field operations continued working; Barab spoke of OSHA inspectors in Ohio, who found “a bunch of workers on top of a building with no fall protection.” The inspectors confronted the workers’ employer, who told the agents, “I’m really sorry about that, I didn’t think OSHA was on the job this week.”

“That tells you something about,” added Barab, “certain companies in this country, and it tell you something about the importance of having a watchdog agency that can make sure that employers do what they’re supposed to be doing.” Barab added that OSHA has been criticized to carrying out too much or too little enforcement, for dong regulatory action and “sub-regulatory” actions, for helping unions organize, for targeting conservative activists, for being “at war” with family farms; “We’ve even been criticized for criticizing our own out of date chemical standards,” he added, and “we’ve been criticized for issuing press releases that are critical of companies that break the law and cause the death of workers. Alll that criticism means to me, is that we’re doing something right.”

The day’s program ended with a funeral procession down Columbus Boulevard to Penn’s Landing, accompanied by Brian Widelitz playing the bagpipes. Rabbi Mordechai Liebling led a memorial service for workers killed on the job in the past year; it concluded with the reading of names of slain workers, while participants tossed roses into the Delaware River while Widelitz played “Amazing Grace.”