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Pennsylvania gubernational campaign getting underway for labor community

07.28.14

AUGUST 2014, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Pennsylvania gubernational campaign getting underway for labor community

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, July 20th- The Pennsylvania American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Harrisburg and affiliated members of the Pennsylvania State Building and Construction Trades Council in Harrisburg along with nonaffiliated labor organizations such as the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) Union, are beginning to prepare to energize their members in a attempt to defeat Incumbent Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett in the November election.

The labor community has put a high priority on defeating Mr. Corbett in 2014.

The labor community, including those that supported other Democratic candidates in Pennsylvania’s primary election in May, have been endorsing Democratic nominee York businessman Tom Wolf. Mr. Wolf defeated three other Democrats that were seeking their party’s nomination for Pennsylvania Governor that wanted the chance to deny Mr. Corbett a second four-year term as Pennsylvania’s governor.

The majority of the labor organizations that made endorsements for the primary election supported Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord. However, many within the labor community, including the AFL-CIO, did not support any of the candidates seeking the Democratic nomination deciding to wait and support the primary winner.

The two largest public sector labor organizations that endorsed Mr. McCord for the spring election have since announced they will support Mr. Wolf for the November election.

The Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union Council 13 voted to endorse Mr. Wolf only days after the primary election.

Mr. Wolf has made it clear if elected he would support issues important to the labor community including: improving oversight of charter and cyber charter schools; protect the right of workers to unionize and collectively bargain; veto any legislation that restricts the rights of workers, including repealing the agency fee, doing away with union dues deduction, eliminating the right of school employees to strike, and any change to the prevailing wage law.

Frank Sirianni, President of the Pennsylvania State Building and Construction Trades Council, a statewide federation of construction trade unions’, stated the organization unanimously voted to endorse Mr. Wolf on June 30th.

“Our members, who are employed in virtually every community of Pennsylvania by more than 3,500 construction contractors and subcontractors, have spoken and they have told us with a forceful clarity that Tom Wolf represents a shining voice in the battle to make our Commonwealth’s government responsive to the hopes, needs and aspirations of working people in Pennsylvania.

Tom Wolf is a voice of welcoming reason who knows, first and foremost, that strengthening our communities, assuring a family sustaining wage for working families, focusing on access to health care for all Pennsylvanians, rationally protecting our resources, fairly securing our economy and enhancing the quality of education for our children are the keys to the return of fairness and progress in our society,” Mr. Sirianni said.

The Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) District Council of Western Pennsylvania and the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local 154 have endorsed Mr. Corbett despite being considered to be one of or the most anti-union governors in Pennsylvania’s history.

IBT members ratify have new pipeline contract agreement

07.28.14

AUGUST 2013, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

IBT members ratify have new pipeline contract agreement

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, July 17th- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union members employed by the pipeline industry throughout the United States, including Pennsylvania, have voted to ratify a new three-year Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The CBA covers approximately 4,000 IBT members.

The IBT represents employees who operate grapple trucks, tri-axle skids trucks, stringer trucks, floats, dump trucks, water trucks, and other various frame vehicles used in and around pipeline construction sites.

“Our pipeline workers will benefit from the improved wages, benefits and other provisions of the contract, which will help ensure that jobs in this part of the nation’s construction industry continues to be some of the most stable,” stated Marion Davis, Director of the IBT Building Material and Construction Trade Division in Washington DC.

In 2012 the IBT members went on strike against the Pipe Line Contractors Association (PLCA) because of the failure to reach an new agreement. The union members returned to their jobs without gaining a new agreement but a new successor CBA was negotiated during the three month contract extension of the expired pact.

The PLCA also has labor agreements with the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), the United Association of Pipefitters and Plumbers (UA), and the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA).

The IBT went on strike on January 1st, 2012 one year after the previous pact expired on January 1st, 2011. The Union did not call a national strike instead conducted a “selective work stoppage”. The IBT only struck several pipeline sites and did not have a work stoppage at all PLCA locations.

The 2012 strike had some controversy because several labor organizations also under contract with the PLCA, which has around 70 affiliated pipeline construction companies, crossed the IBT picket-line and began doing their jurisdictional work.

The new CBA includes wage increases each year of the agreement. Also, two new classifications will be paid at a higher rate, and improvements were made on who receives health, welfare and pension benefits.

Unions still expect anti-union payroll deduction legislation to re-appear in fall legislative session

07.28.14

AUGUST 2014, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Unions still expect anti-union payroll deduction legislation to re-appear in fall legislative session

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, July 19th- Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett is struggling to energize the conservative base of his political party and trails Democratic nominee Tom Wolf by around 20 percentage points according to the latest polling. Mr. Corbett is continues to be receiving pressure from the party’s right to push legislation that would allow public sector workers to opt-out paying union dues in the fall legislative session.

Anti-union groups have spent thousands of dollars on mailings and lobbying to attempt to get House Bill (HB 1507) and Senate Bill (SB 1034) passed by the legislature that would prohibit the payroll deduction of union dues and fair-share fees of government workers. Should the legislation 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 anti-union group, the Commonwealth Foundation, has falsely stated that taxpayer resources are being used to collect political campaign contributions.

However, any financial cost occured by any government for the collection of political contributions by union members is reimbursed by the union.

Also, before any contribution is deducted for political purposes by a union, the individual public employee must first sign a card requesting the contribution be taken from their paycheck.

The Pennsylvania American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Harrisburg released the list of State Republican legislators that have indicated they will not support the legislation or is leaning against support.

Pennsylvania Senator Patrick Browne (Republican-16th Legislative District), which includes part of Lehigh, Northampton and Monroe Counties, is listed on the labor federation’s list as leaning against supporting the legislation.

Lehigh Valley’s unemployment rate decreases to 6.1 percent

07.28.14

AUGUST 2014, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Lehigh Valley’s unemployment rate decreases to 6.1 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, July 13th- 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 6.1 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 7.9 percent.

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

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 7.2 percent. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has had the highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania more than four consecutive years. The Johnstown MSA has the second highest unemployment rate at 6.8 percent, and the Philadelphia MSA has the third highest at 6.2 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 4.1 percent. The Lancaster MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 4.6 percent, the Lebanon MSA is third at 4.7 percent, and the Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA is fourth at 5.0 percent.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 5.6 percent, dropping by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report, and decreasing by one and nine-tenths percentage points from twelve months before.

There are 363,000 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 6,431,000 and 6,069,000 of them have employment.

The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was reported to be 6.3 percent, unchanged from the previous report. The national unemployment rate was down one and two-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before, mainly because of workers that have exhausted their unemployment benefits due to the federal government not extending benefits for the long-termed jobless. After workers exhaust their unemployment benefits they are no longer counted within the civilian labor-force.

There are 9,799,000 civilians nationwide without employment but that number also does not include workers that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and stopped looking for work.

The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force in Pennsylvania with 428,800 civilians, decreasing by 5,700 during the past twelve months. There are 26,200 civilians without employment, dropping by 8,100 from one year ago.

The Philadelphia MSA has the largest seasonally adjusted labor force in Pennsylvania at 2,983,400 with 186,300 not working; and the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor force at 1,246,600 with 68,300 without jobs.

Carbon County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 6.7 percent, unchanged from the month before. Carbon County has a civilian labor force of 31,600, the smallest within the MSA, with 2,100 without employment.

Lehigh County has the lowest unemployment rate within the MSA at 6.1 percent, rising by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. Lehigh County has a civilian labor force of 184,000, the most within the MSA, with 11,200 without jobs.

Northampton County has a unemployment rate of 6.4 percent, up three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. Northampton County has a civilian labor force of 154,400 with 9,800 jobless.

Minimum wage increase fight to begin again in fall

07.28.14

AUGUST 2014, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Minimum wage increase fight to begin again in fall

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, July 22nd- The labor community will again continue to push for a increase in the federal minimum wage in the fall after legislators return from their summer recess.

The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington DC supports increasing the bench-mark to $10.10 an hour, which President Obama has proposed.

The current minimum wage, which covers most workers employed within many industries excluding some retail and service establishments and farms and also employ students at wages of no more than 15 percent below the minimum with proper certification, is $7.25.

The AFL-CIO has been lobbying Washington legislators and organizing rallies supporting the raising of the federal minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSAct).

Some states have tired of waiting for the Republicans in Washington to support an increase and have began raising their bench-mark wage above the federal wage.

Maryland, New Jersey and New York have increased their minimum wage above the federal level, while Republicans in Harrisburg have successfully blocked raising the minimum wage in Pennsylvania, currently the same as the federal level of $7.25 an hour.

There are 19 state’s and the District of Columbia that have a higher minimum wage than the federal standard. New Jersey’s minimum wage increased in January to $8.25 an hour.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett does not support increasing the wage and has been lobbying fellow Republicans to not support the increase of the hourly wage, stating the higher wage would harm the economy.

Meanwhile, according to data released by the Department of Labor on July 18th, job growth in the 13 states that have increased their minimum wage has been more robust than states that have not. Average job growth in states that have increased the benchmark was 0.85 percent this year while in states that have not increase their wage was 0.61 percent.

Increasing the mimimum wage has got a boost from a unlikely source with Wal-Mart Stores officials stating they would not oppose the increasing of the benchmark past the $7.25 an hour.

The nation’s largest retailer has 1.3 million employees and currently has 5,000 workers earning the federal minimum wage.

But, WalMart officials have made it clear that while the retailer stated it would not oppose the raising of the benchmark it also does not support increasing it.

The federal minimum wage has not been raised since 2009.

Letter Carriers members meet in Philly for convention

07.28.14

AUGUST 2014, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Letter Carriers members meet in Philly for convention

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, July 14th- At a time of great uncertainty members of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Union have met in Philadelphia for their convention. Approximately 8,000 NALC members attended the convention held at the Philadelphia Convention Center on July 20th for the week long event that included discussions on how their members will survive the continued cutbacks of the United States Postal Service (USPS) of mail delivery.

The NALC conducts the convention every two years and it was estimated approximately 12,000 people attended between the USPS letter carriers members and their families. Participates included representatives of NALC Branches from the Lehigh Valley.

The union fought-off a USPS proposal in 2013 that would have cut mail delivery service to customers from six days a week to five. The plan would have costs around 22,500 jobs within the USPS system with the majority of jobs lost being NALC members.

The USPS operates as an independent agency but is subject to the United States Congress oversight.

The USPS is lossing money with the biggest reason being the 2006 mandate that forced retiree health benefits to be pre-funded 75 years in advance at the cost of $5.6 billion a year. All other businesses, including private and public, only fund these expenses year to year.