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President Obama signs Executive Order labor requirement

08.23.14

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

President Obama signs Executive Order labor requirement

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, August 1st- The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) Metal Trades Department in Washington DC, which was chartered in 1908 to coordinate negotiating, organizing and legislative efforts of affiliated metalworking and related crafts and trade unions, praised President Barack Obama for issuing a Executive Order on July 31st.

President Obama signed the Executive Order at the White House before several labor leaders including the Metal Trades Department President Ron Ault.

The Executive Order signed by Mr. Obama was the “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Act”. The Metal Department and its affiliated unions have been advocating for and supporting this action for many years.

Under the order, federal contractors must now pay their workers overtime wages and have other workplace protections or risk being hired for any federal contracts.

“Our organizations have witnessed first hand the abuses of unscrupulous federal contractors wage theft of their workers and the unlawful retaliation when workers try to exercise their rights. The terms of the Contractor’s federal contracts require them to obey and abide by the laws.

Although the vast majority of contractors play by the rules, every year tens of thousands of American workers are not treated fairly. Many are denied overtime, not hired or paid fairly because of their gender or age, or have their health and safety put at risk by contractors contracting with the federal government that cut corners,” stated Mr. Ault.

Seventeen national and international unions are affiliated with the labor federation. Many are also affiliated with the Building and Construction Trades Council.

AFSCME Union still waiting for NLRB ruling regarding LPN’s

08.23.14

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

AFSCME Union still waiting for NLRB ruling regarding LPN’s

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, August 2nd- Almost fourteen months after a unit of workers voted overwhelmingly to be represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union they are still waiting to hear from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, DC whether they are represented by the labor organization.

AFSCME District Council 87, which represents AFSCME members throughout 9 Counties of Northeastern Pennsylvania, won a representation election conducted by the NLRB Region Four Office in Philadelphia in June 2013, 26 to 12 that involved Licensed Practical Nurses (ULP’s) employed at the Manor and Pavilion at St. Luke’s Village Nursing Home on Stacie Drive in Hazleton, Luzerne County. There were forty-three workers eligible to participate in the election. AFSCME already represented a unit of workers at St. Luke’s which included dietary aids and other food service workers.

The Union won the right to represent the LPN’s despite the operators of the nursing home hiring a law firm that specializes in attempting to delay representation elections and the spending of thousands of dollars on anti-union attorney’s and consulting firms.

The employer challenged the right of whether the LPN’s had the right to become union members claiming they are supervisors and under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct) are ineligible from joining unions. However, Region Four ruled they were and conducted the election.

However, according to Matt Balas, Business Representative of AFSCME District Council 87, the nursing home operators have made it clear they are under the opinion the LPN’s are management and will not negotiate with the union for a first-time Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Therefore, the nursing home management will not meet with the union to discuss the CBA.

AFSCME filed a Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) against the St. Luke’s operators with the NLRB in which the agency ruled in favor of the union. However, St. Luke’s have appealed the Region Four decision to the NLRB Washington office and the parties are still waiting for their decision of whether the LPN’s are management or can be represented by AFSCME.

Mr. Balas, told the newspaper on August 1st, “the union is waiting for the NLRB’s ruling.”

Minimum wage increase fight to begin again in fall

08.23.14

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

Minimum wage increase fight to begin again in fall

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@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 federal minimum wage has not been raised since 2009.

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 minimum 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, Wal-Mart 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.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA’s unemployment rate decreases to 6.9 percent

08.23.14

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


MSA’s unemployment rate decreases to 6.9 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, August 2nd- The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) continues to have the highest unemployment rate among the 14 MSA’s within Pennsylvania, but the rate dropped by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. The MSA has had the highest unemployment rate within Pennsylvania for five consecutive years.

According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Center for Workforce Information and Analysis in Harrisburg, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA, seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 6.9 percent. The last report was released approximately one month before. The Metropolitan Statistical Area includes Luzerne, Lackawanna and Wyoming Counties of Pennsylvania. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was 9.1 percent. The unemployment rate for the MSA has dropped for the twelfth consecutive month.

The main reason the MSA’s unemployment is lower is because of the decline of the workforce, not because the job market has improved. The MSA’s civilian labor-force is 7,700 less than it was twelve months ago. Nearly the same amount of civilians are working that were twelve months ago. One year ago there were 257,700 civilians employed within the MSA. Currently, there are 256,700 employed within the civilian workforce.

The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 5.6 percent, unchanged from the previous month. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,403,000 with 357,000 not working and 6,046,000 with employment. Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate decreased by one and nine-tenths of a percentage point over the past twelve months, also because of the decrease of the labor-force due to workers having exhausted their unemployment benefits. Meanwhile, the nation’s unemployment rate was reported to be at 6.1 percent, dropping by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report.

The Johnstown MSA has the second highest unemployment rate at 6.6 percent, the Philadelphia MSA has the third highest unemployment rate at 6.1 percent and the Erie MSA is fourth at 5.9 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 4.1 percent. The Lancaster MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate at 4.5 percent while the Lebanon MSA has the third lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 4.6 percent.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA has the fifth largest labor-force in Pennsylvania with 275,700 civilians, dropping by 500 from the previous report. There are 19,000 civilians without employment. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor-force in Pennsylvania at 2,980,000 with 180,700 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor-force at 1,243,400 with 66,300 without jobs; and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor-force at 427,900 with 25,300 not working.

The Williamsport MSA has the smallest labor-force in Pennsylvania with 62,900 civilians and 3,600 of them have no jobs. The Altoona MSA has the second smallest labor-force with 64,000 civilians with 3,300 without employment and the Johnstown MSA is third with a labor-force of 65,600 and 4,300 of them are not working.

Lackawanna County has the lowest unemployment rate within the MSA at 6.3 percent, decreasing by five-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and dropping by two and five-tenths percentage points from one year ago. Lackawanna County has a civilian labor force of 104,400, with 6,600 jobless.

Luzerne County has the highest unemployment rate at 6.9 percent, decreasing by five-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. Luzerne County has a civilian labor force of 156,500, the largest within the MSA, with 10,700 civilians not employed, the most within the Metropolitan Statistical Area.

The unemployment rate in Wyoming County is 6.6 percent, dropping by five-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. Wyoming County has a civilian labor-force of 13,900, with 900 jobless.

Overall transportation, warehousing and utilities jobs along with leisure and hospitality employment, set new recond highs for the region.

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO joins national federation and APWU on boycott of Staples stores

08.23.14

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

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO joins national federation and APWU on boycott of Staples stores

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, August 1st- The Pennsylvania American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) in Harrisburg announced the labor federation has endorsed the boycott of Staples office supply stores.

In June the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington DC, announced a boycott of all Staples Inc. stores throughout the nation.

The APWU is boycotting all Staples office supply stores in the United States, Staples.com and Staples Advantage. The boycott also covers all Staples branded proprietary products.

In 2013 the United States Postal Service (USPS) entered into an agreement with Staples to establish a ‘pilot program’ that placed knock-off ‘post offices’ in 82 Staples stores nationwide. The APWU stated the office supplier chain was utilizing nonunion, low-paid Staples employees instead of unionized, and well-trained USPS employees.

The APWU has filed labor complaints with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) because the USPS will not provide information about the contract with Staples.

The APWU, which represents mail processing employees of the USPS throughout the nation, began a campaign against Staples Inc. stores and held a ‘national day of action’ in May by protesting at the retailers stores throughout the nation and in Pennsylvania because some of the Staples stores of the chain now provides the postal services.

The action was conducted in 27 states including a store in Easton, which was protested by members of Local 268, which represents APWU members throughout the Lehigh Valley. The Easton location is the nearest Staples store that the newspaper is aware of that currently provides postal service work. According to Local 268 President Bernie Ogozalek, the pilot program with the USPS will hurt his members by providing postal services that are now done by APWU members.

On July 21st, the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, which approximately 800,000 union members from throughout the state are affiliated through their local labor organizations, endorsed the Staples boycott.

“We are asking our members, friends, family members and colleagues to take their business elsewhere,” stated Richard Bloomingdale, President of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.

The USPS Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe suggested that the partnership between the postal service and Staples will not result in job losses at the USPS, but will grow the business. However, the APWU is finding that hard to believe.

According the the APWU International Union office, the USPS and Staples are attempting to incorporate postal revenues into Staples Inc. stores, not expand the business.

The APWU fears that if the new pilot agreement between the USPS and Staples is considered successful it may be expanded to the retailers other 1,600 stores and other retailers may follow, resulting in job losses for their members, therefore the reason for the boycott.

The AFL-CIO stated the labor federation along with the APWU will work together in developing methods to convince Staples to withdraw from the partnership with the USPS.

The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO stated that since the deal with Staples was announced, the USPS has reduced the hours of service in more than two dozen San Francisco area post offices, all of which are near a Staples store with a postal counter.

“It is apparent that more cuts in postal services are planned, along with the eventual closing of U.S. Post Offices,” added Mr. Bloomingdale.

Meanwhile, the APWU wonders why the USPS would enter into an agreement with a company like Staples that announced in March it would close fifteen percent fo their stores this year, putting the health of the retailer in question.

“Staples itself is experiencing a decline in sales and has plans to close at least 225 stores by the end of 2015. we are concerned that in pursuing its arrangement with Staples, the USPS will leave many customers without access to any nearby Post Office,” added Mr. Bloomingdale.

The APWU and the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Union represents the majority of the USPS workers. The two labor organizations have a combined membership of around 390,000 workers.