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May Day March and Rally in Philadelphia, by John O. Mason


May Day March and Rally in Philadelphia, by John O. Mason

Members of the Labor movement and allied causes in Philadelphia joined in the May Day March and rally on Friday, May 1, 2015.
The events were sponsored by the Philadelphia Area Project for Occupational Safety and Health (PHILAPOSH) and the May Day USA Education Committee.
The march started at the McDonald’s restaurant on 40th and Walnut streets, to emphasize the movement for supporting fast-food workers’ right to a living wage and to organize. State Senator Daylin Leach spoke to reporters of a bill he introduced in the General Assembly that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $15.00 an hour.
The bill, said Leach, would help low income workers “who have been left behind I this economy, and it’s time that stopped.” Also, the bill, added Leach, “would eliminate the tip minimum wage, which hasn’t gone up in twenty-one years. It’s $2.83 an hour in Pennsylvania, if you have a job where you supposedly get tips. Often tipped workers don’t even make close to the $7.25 an hour minimum wage.”
The problem with the current minimum wage, said Leach, is “if you work full-time in hard back-breaking work, often you live in poverty, and that’s not what the minimum wage was designed to do, and in a time of the greatest income inequality in a hundred years, it’s just not an appropriate way to be…In Seattle, they raised (the minimum wage) to $15.00, which is what (his bill) proposes to do, and they’re doing great in Seattle.”

The march went south on 40th Street to Baltimore Avenue, then to Clark Park, 43rd and Baltimore Avenue, for the rally. Literature tables were set up such groups as the Green Party, Socialist Party USA, Socialist Alternative, the Philadelphia chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), and the Socialist Workers Party. Chapter 31 of the Veterans for Peace had their “Precision Grill Team” provide food for participants.
Paul Grubb, one of the co-chairs of the May Day committee, welcomed people to the rally and introduced Evette Jones, a staff member of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT). “The PFT,” said Jones, “believes in and supports our brothers and sisters who are out there fighting to get a fifteen dollar minimum wage…As educators, we have the great responsibility of preparing our school children for the future, whether that means college or joining the work force.”
The fight for the fifteen-dollar minimum wage, said Jones, “is not only for future generations, but is for today’s working parents of our Philadelphia school children. It is proven, that children from more economically stable homes do better school. Raising the standard of living in Philadelphia means raising the achievement levels for our students. And when we raise the achievement level of our students, we can stop the hedge-funders and the fat cats from trying to close our schools (and from) trying to close public education.”
Jim Moran, veteran Labor activist and co-chair of the May Day Committee, introduced Cheri Honkala, veteran homeless activist and a leading figure in the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign. “I bring you greetings,” she began,” from the poor and homeless brothers and sisters” in Philadelphia, and added, “I’ve been working with other poor and homeless families in the last twenty-five years in this city.
“People have always said” added Honkala, “that homeless people are lazy, they don’t have a work ethic. They are some of the hardest working brothers and sisters I’ve ever met in my life. Every day, they lay down on a couch, a sidewalk, in a car, wherever in this city because you can’t get a place, a room or a shelter, and you haven’t been able to in five years, and when they lay down at night, they know the next morning they’re going to get up and (work) at McDonald’s or Wendy’s or wherever. And they’re going to continue to live in homelessness working in that poverty wage job.”
Jim Moran presented the Aggie Moran Human Rights Award to Books through Bars, an organization that supplies prison libraries with books for inmates to read; Cathy Brady, an activist for SEIU Health Care PA and Vice Presidetn of Friends of Elmwood Park, for her work in developing the Labor Monument at Elmwood Park, 71st Street and Buist Avenue, which honors the struggles of Organized Labor; and 15 Now and Fight for 15, groups advocating for the $15.00 an hour minimum wage.
Music before the rally and in intermission was provided by DJ Raul. ON the stage performing were singer-guitarist Shanta Bristow, folk singer Andi Antipin, hip-hop artist Joie Kathos, soloist Dina Yarmus, and folk singer Dave Marley.

LEHIGH VALLEY MSA’s unemployment rate unchanged from previous report


MAY 2015, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

MSA’s unemployment rate unchanged from previous report


REGION, April 20th- 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 was unchanged from the previous report at 5.5 percent. There are eight-teen MSA’s within the state and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the fifth highest unemployment rate.

The MSA includes Lehigh, Northampton, and Carbon Counties of Pennsylvania and Warren County, New Jersey. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was at 5.5 percent.

The East Stroudsburg MSA has the highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 6.6 percent. The Johnstown MSA has the second highest at 6.5 percent, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the third highest unemployment in the state at 6.2 percent, and the Philadelphia MSA and the Williamsport MSA are tied for the fourth highest unemployment rate at 5.6 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 3.9 percent. The State College MSA traditionally has the lowest unemployment within the state, however, the MSA also has one of the smallest workforces with 76,300 civilians. The Lancaster MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate at 4.1 percent, while the Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA and the Gettysburg MSA are tied for the third lowest unemployment rate at 4.3 percent. The Lebanon MSA has the fourth lowest rate in Pennsylvania at 4.5 percent.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania was reported to be at 5.2 percent, increasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report, while decreasing by one full percentage point from twelve months before.

There are 329,000 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 6,372,000 and 6,044,000 of them have employment.

The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was reported to be 5.5 percent, decreasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. The national unemployment rate was down one and two-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before, partly because of workers that have exhausted their unemployment benefits. After workers exhaust their unemployment benefits they are no longer counted within the civilian labor-force.

The data indicates that there are 8,705,000 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 424,300 civilians, rising by 700 from the previous report and decreasing by 2,800 during the past twelve months. There are 23,400 civilians without employment within the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA, increasing by 200 from the month before and dropping by 4,900 from one year ago.

The Philadelphia MSA has the largest seasonally adjusted labor force in Pennsylvania at 3,042,200 with 170,200 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor force at 1,207,800 with 62,300 without jobs. The Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest labor-force in Pennsylvania at 290,500 and 12,500 are jobless while the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA is fifth at 282,700 civilians and 17,500 are unemployment.

Within the MSA, all three counties have the same unemployment rate at 5.4 percent. Carbon County’s unemployment rate dropped by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and decreased by one and seven-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before. Carbon County has a civilian labor force of 31,300, the smallest within the MSA, with 1,700 without employment, decreasing by 500 from twelve months ago.

Lehigh County has the largest civilian labor-force within the MSA at 180,800, increasing by 200 from the previous report. The unemployment rate decreased by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report and dropped by one full percentage point from one year before. There are 9,800 civilians in the county without jobs, decreasing by 100 from the previous report.

Northampton County’s unemployment rate was unchanged from the month before and dropped by one and four-tenths of a percentage point from one year before. Northampton County has a civilian labor force of 154,500, increasing by 300 from the previous report and also rising by 300 during the past twelve months. There are 8,300 without jobs, the same as the month before and dropping by 2,200 during the past twelve months.

There are 348,200 nonfarm jobs within the MSA, increasing by 5,300 during the past twelve months.

USW Local 2599 to hold annual Ed O’Brien Dinner on May 8th


MAY 2015, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

USW Local 2599 to hold annual Ed O’Brien Dinner on May 8th


REGION, April 24th- The United Steelworkers of America (USW) Union 2599, East Lehigh Street in Bethlehem, will hold their annual Ed O’Brien Legislative Dinner/Dance on Friday May 8th at the USW building.

The cost of a ticket to the event is $50.00, with cocktails starting at 5:30 pm and dinner at 6:30 pm. Beverages will be served throughout the event.

Local 2599 is one of the largest labor organizations in the Lehigh Valley and is the largest USW Union. Local 2599 has fifteen seperate bargaining units throughout the Lehigh Valley.

Jerry Green is President of Local 2599 and just recently the membership voted to give him a sixth consecutive three-year term, breaking the previous record held by Louis Schrenko of five terms. Mr. Schrenko served as President from 1964 to 1979.

Local 2599, along with several other USW local unions, once represented workers employed at Bethlehem Steel, just several blocks away from the union hall. The site of the steel mill is now the location of the Sands Casino. After Bethlehem Steel closed the mill in 2000 the USW merged the four unions that represented the workers into Local 2599.

During last years Ed O’Brien Legislative Dinner, former United States Navy 3-star Admiral and current candidate for the Democratic nomination for the 2016 United States Senatorial seat from Pennsylvania Joe Sestak addressed the events guest. Allentown Mayor Edward Pawlowski is also a candidate for the Democratic nomination. The seat is currently held by Lehigh Valley resident Republican Pat Toomey. Mr. Toomey represented the 15th Legislative District, which represents most of the Lehigh Valley in Washington DC, before defeating Mr. Sestak five years ago. Mr. Sestak is seeking a “rematch” against Mr. Toomey next year.

Mr. Green stated that this year Pennsylvania Democratic Lieutenant Governor Michael Stack will be the keynote speaker. Mr. Stack was previously a member of the Pennsylvania State Senate.

Mr. Green was the lead organizer when the USW was successful in organizing Registered Nurses and Social Workers employed at Gracedale Nursing Home in Northampton County in 2003.

Also, nearly eight years later headed-up the group that wanted to defeat Northampton County’s plan to sell the Gracedale Nursing Home in 2011. Mr. Green was very instrumental, along with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union, which also represents Gracedale workers, in helping to convince Northampton County voters to reject the plan to sell the nursing home.

The USW selected Mr. Green as their 15th congressional legislative district Rapid Response Co-ordinator and serves on the Pennsylvania State Workers Compensation Advisory Board, being appointed by former House Speaker Keith McCall.

“I am very honored that the membership has given me the opportunity to serve them for more than 15 years. I will continue to do my very best to lead this great union forward,” stated Mr. Green.