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Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA’s unemployment rate unchanged at 6.2 percent

05.25.15

MAY 2015, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

MSA’s unemployment rate unchanged at 6.2 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, May 3rd- According to data provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, (DOL) Center of Workforce Information and Analysis in Harrisburg, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) unemployment rate was unchanged from the previous report at 6.2 percent. Twelve months ago the region’s unemployment rate was 7.8 percent.

The MSA has the second highest unemployment rate among the eightteen in Pennsylvania. The newspaper previously reported the DOL added four more MSA’s in January. Now included within the DOL’s data of MSA’s are: Chamberburg/Waynesboro; Bloomsburg/Berwick; East Stroudsburg; and Gettysburg.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Metropolitan Statistical Area includes Luzerne, Lackawanna and Wyoming Counties of Pennsylvania.

The Johnstown MSA and the East Stroudsburg MSA are tied for the highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 6.6 percent.

The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 5.3 percent, increasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous month. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,375,000 with 336,000 not working. Pennsylvania has 6,039,000 civilians with employment. Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate decreased by eight-tenths of a percentage point over the past twelve months. Meanwhile, the nation’s unemployment rate was reported to be at 5.5 percent, unchanged from the previous report, which was released approxiamtely four weeks before. The national unemployment rate decreased by one and one-tenth of a percentage point from twelve months ago.

The Williamsport MSA has the third highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.8 percent, the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the fourth highest unemployment rate at 5.7 percent while the Philadelphia MSA has the fifth highest unemployment rate in the state at 5.6 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 3.7 percent. The Lancaster MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate at 4.2 percent, the Gettysburg MSA has the third lowest and the Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fourth lowest in Pennsylvania at 4.5 percent.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the fifth largest labor-force in Pennsylvania with 283,100 civilians, increasing by 1,500 during the past twelve months. There are 17,600 civilians without employment, dropping by 4,400 from one year ago.

The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor-force in Pennsylvania at 3,033,900 with 171,300 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor-force at 1,205,600 with 64,100 without jobs; and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor-force at 425,700 with 24,200 not working.

The Bloomsburg/Berwick MSA has the smallest labor-force in Pennsylvania with 43,400 civilians and 2,200 of them have no jobs. The Gettysburg MSA has the second smallest civilian labor-force at 55,500 and 2,400 of them are jobless. The Williamsport MSA has the third smallest labor-force with 61,100 civilians with 3,600 without employment and the Johnstown MSA is fourth with a labor-force of 62,900 and 4,200 of them are not working.

Wyoming County and Lackawanna County are tied for the lowest unemployment rate within the MSA at 5.8 percent. Wyoming County’s unemployment rate rose by six-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. Wyoming County has 800 civilians of their work-force without jobs.

Lackawanna County’s unemployment rate decreased by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. There are 6,300 Lackawanna County residents unemployed. Luzerne County has the highest unemployment rate within the MSA at 6.5 percent, rising by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report.

USPS again delays moving mail processing from Scranton

05.25.15

MAY 2015, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

USPS again delays moving mail processing from Scranton

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, May 4th- Kevin Gallagher, President of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 101 in Scranton, told the newspaper his union has been notified by officials of the United States Postal Service (USPS) that they have again delayed the consolidation of the Scranton processing center with the Lehigh Valley facility.

The USPS announced in 2012 it would consolidate 48 mail processing centers throughout the nation including their operations in Scranton to the Lehigh Valley. The USPS stated the plan would save the agency nearly $1.2 billion a year.

The USPS stated around 5,000 workers would be affected by the consolidation. However, no lays-off would occur instead jobs would be “re-bid” under the labor agreement’s with the USPS and workers is some cases would need to either relocate or travel to other postal service facilities to continue to be employed by the USPS.

The Scranton mail processing center was scheduled to be consolidated with the Lehigh Valley facility on July 15th. However, Mr. Gallagher stated the USPS has put the action on delay until likely until the spring of 2016 or possibly later.

“We just don’t know. All we now know is it will not happen this July,” added Mr. Gallagher.

In the previous edition of the newspaper, Mr. Gallagher was quoted stating the merging of the Scranton mail processing center with the Lehigh Valley has been delayed several times in the past and it could be postponed again, but his members must be ready for the possiblity of the closure.

APWU members will be the most effected by the merger. Mr. Gallagher stated more than half of his 180 members will need to be re-located or be re-assigned to other postal duties, such as becoming mail delivery carriers.

Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the USPS an effected employee could be placed within 50 miles of their current workplace. APWU members are mail clerks, maintenance workers, and conduct clerical work.

There are approximately 25 mail delivery positions currently unfilled in Scranton that the APWU members could be transferred to, around 21 available in Wilkes-Barre, and 17 in Pittston, Mr. Gallagher stated.

Mr. Gallagher told the newspaper that since the USPS changed mail delivery standards several months ago, customer complaints have increased because it now takes longer for letters and other correspondence to reach their destignation.

Labor opposes Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement

05.25.15

MAY 2015, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

Labor opposes Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION- May 5th- The success of passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement (TPPTA), a measure meant to ease trade restrictions with Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Peru, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Brunei, Singapore, and Canada, is still unknown in the United States House of Representatives. The measure is being called “fast track” and few Democrats in the House of Representatives are supporting it.

President Barack Obama supports passage of the trade deal and his administration negotiated the pact often without congress involvement.

Meanwhile, while the trade deal is being debated, a new report by the United States Commerence Department in Washington indicated that the nation’s trade deficit reached its highest level in more than six years. The government reported that imported goods increased by 7.7 percent in March from February to $239.2 billion with the trade deficit rising by $51.4 billion.

The labor community has made it clear it opposes the trade agreement and has implemented a new tactic is fighting against it.

Many of the labor organizations that are affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) the largest labor federation in North America, has froze campaign contributions to members of Congress to preasure them from supporting the trade deal. And it indicates it may be working.

For TPPTA to pass the House of Representatives political insiders have stated that at least 32 Democrats are needed to vote in favor of it. However, currently only around 16 have indicated they would. Around 60 House Republicans, mostly tea-party members, have indicated they also do not support the deal.

With most Democrats opposing TPPTA and if in fact 60 Republicans vote against the pact, Mr. Obama and deal supporters will likely fall short of enough votes needed for passage.

Meanwhile, one the most vocal labor leaders against the pact is United Steelworkers Union (USW) International President Leo Gerard. The USW represent rubber workers that manufacturer American made tires that have been hurt by cheap Pacific countries manufactured tires.

Mr. Gerard after Prime Misister Shinzo of Japan spoke to a joint session of Congress several weeks ago about why the United States should pass the trade deal, stated Japan supports the deal because of the continued lopsided trade benefits it enjoys.

Hazleton nursing home operator continues to appeal rulings

05.25.15

MAY 2015, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

Hazleton nursing home operator continues to appeal rulings

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, May 4th- The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington DC is seeking a summary judgment against an operator of a area nursing home that could result in fines being levied against the company every day they do not honor their findings and ruling.

The newspaper has exclusively been reporting about how a Hazleton nursing home has attempted to stop some of their employees from being represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union District Council 87. District Council 87 represents AFSCME members throughout nine counties of Northeastern Pennsylvania including Luzerne and Lackawanna Counties.

The NLRB ruled against the operators of the Manor and Pavilion at St. Luke’s Village Nursing Home on Stacie Drive in Hazleton after they appealed the agency’s findings that Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN’s) employed at the facility had the right to vote in a NLRB conducted election to determine if they wanted AFSCME to represent them for the purpose of collective bargaining.

AFSCME won the right to represent the LPN’s after the NLRB held a representation election in June 2013 and the union won the right to represent them 26 for to 12 against.

However, according to Matt Balas, Business Representative of District Council 87, the employer immediately took the position they would not bargain with AFSCME urguing the employees were supervisors and not able to join a union. However, throughout the nation LPN’s have become members of labor unions and are represented through a collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

The employer challenged the right of whether the LPN”s had the right to participate in the election in which the NLRB ruled they were eligible to vote to join a labor organization.

Mr. Balas previously told the newspaper the St. Luke’s operators refused to meet with AFSCME to discuss negotiating for a first-time CBA resulting in the Union filing charges against the employer. The NLRB in Washington DC ruled in favor of AFSCME however again the employer refused to begin bargaining.

AFSCME and management of St. Luke’s have had a positive working relationship for many years, Mr. Balas told the newspaper. AFSCME has represented for many years a separate unit of workers that include dietary aids and other food service workers. The parties have reached a successor CBA for those workers late in 2014.

Anti-union businesses seeking help with new election rule

05.25.15

MAY 2015, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

Anti-union businesses seeking help with new election rule

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, May 3rd- Businesses throughout the nation have made it clear they are worried about the new National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rule that will expedite representation elections through the agency.

In the previous edition of the newspaper it was reported that the labor community applauded President Barack Obama’s veto of a Republican led resolution that would have overturned the NLRB rule that will expedite representation elections. The new rules and President Obama’s veto was clearly under reported by the main-stream media. However, this newspaper had several news articles regarding the new election rule.

Mr. Obama vetoed the Republican attempt to overturn the NLRB rule that took effect on April 14th. The veto was seen as a victory for the labor community, and the Democrats in the United States Congress. The resolution to overturn the new rules was passed by both the House of Representatives and the United States Senate in March. The legislation was supported and passed by mainly members of the Republican party.

The new rules, which was created by the five-member NLRB in Washington DC in December, is entended to streamline NLRB conducted Representation Elections. The labor community has complained for years that the current process favors companies, mainly larger employers, that have used the procedures of the old system to often delay, sometimes for months or years, of having the election conducted by the NLRB, which oversees the election. The tactic often is used to stall NLRB elections, especially when it appears the union would likely win.

Republicans were unable to override President O’Bama’s veto because there were not enough Senate Republicans in the chamber. There are 54 Republican seats in the Senate and under the chamber rules 67 is needed to override a presidential veto.

Under NLRB rules, at least 30 percent of a unit of workers must request the agency conduct an election. In the election at least 50 percent plus one of the eligible to participate employees must vote to be represented by a labor organization to become their bargaining representative for the purpose of collective bargaining.

Employers will be required to post an “NLRB Notice of Election,” which contains information about the representation petition that was filed, and advises the two parties their rights and obligations. A “Statement of Position” form will need to be submitted by the employer to the NLRB within seven days after the receipt of the petition.

The document must include a list of eligible voters, their job classifications, their shift schedules, and work locations. However, the employer can not present any opinion or evidence on the issue of the representation election or request a delay in the vote.

Under the rules, employers can not challenge voter eligibility before the election, often used to delay elections, and must wait for the post-election hearing. Also, pre-election hearings will be limited to ‘Statement of Position’ the employer submitted not questioning the election merit.

The eligible to participate employees list must be filed electronically two days after the election notice was filed and must include employees names, home addresses, telephone numbers, and e-mail addresses.

Anti-union companies throughout the nation have been contacting law firms and consultant groups for strategic advice how to not have their employees vote to be unionized. They fear more workers may vote to become affiliated with a labor organization for the purpose of collective bargaining and have stated their “first amendment “ rights will be violated under the new rule.

It is expected that the new rule will increase the current average election time from 38 days after filing to 20 days.

Auditor General DePasquale audit indicates lack of Act 102 law enforcement

05.25.15

MAY 2015, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

Auditor General DePasquale audit indicates lack of Act 102 law enforcement

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, May 5th - Pennsylvania Democratic Auditor General Eugene DePasquale audit released on April 22nd indicated that enforcement by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry’s (DOL) law to protect healthcare workers from excessive mandatory overtime was poor and his findings came as no surprise to Terry Marcavage, Staff Representative of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) union in Conshohocken, just outside of Philadelphia. PASNAP represents nurses at the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, River Street in Wilkes-Barre.

The Union was involved with a long protracted labor dispute with the operators of the medical facility, the Commonwealth Health System (CHS) Inc., the nation’s largest for profit conglomerate of hospitals in the nation. CHS also operates the Regional Hospital of Scranton, formerly the Scranton Mercy Hospital, the Moses Taylor Hospital in Scranton and the Tyler Memorial Hospital in Tunkhannock. The company also owns and operates several smaller medical facilities in the region.

PASNAP represented nurses employed at the Wilkes-Barre General Hosptial bargained with the company for more than sixteen months without gaining a successor collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with CHS and was forced to strike for several days last July. The company responded by hiring scabs to temporarily replace the striking workers. The two sides agreed to a new CBA in August 2014. The previous contract between the parties expired on April 30th, 2013.

Ms. Marcavage indicated to the newspaper more than one year before Mr. DePasquale released his findings regarding the lack of enforcement of Pennsylvania Act 102 (the Prohibition of Excessive Overtime in Health Care Act of 2008), that PASNAP believed the Department of Labor was not investigating and enforcing the law at the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital. “We knew all along there were problems at Wilkes-Barre General,” Ms. Marcavage stated.

“To put it simply, the implementation of the law to protect healthcare workers and their patients was clearly not a priority at the Department of Labor and Industry. In addition to missing, by more than four years, the legislatively mandated deadline to adopt regulations to enforce the law, Labor and Industry summarily dismissed eight precent of the complaints it received during our audit period,” stated Mr. DePasquale.

Act 102 of 2008 limits healthcare facilities including hospitals, nursing homes and outpatieent facilities from requiring hourly, nonsupervisory employees involved in direct patient healthcare to work more than agreed to predetermined and regularly scheduled work shifts.

Mr. DePasquale indicated that the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry was very cooperative during his audit which covered July 1st, 2009, when the full act went into effect, through August 31st, 2014. During that time the DOL was overseen by officials appointed by anti-worker Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett. Mr. Cobett was defeated by current Pennsylvania Democratic Governor Tom Wolf in November 2014 and took over as Pennsylvania Governor this past January.

PASNAP stated that in late August of 2009 the union brought to the Auditor General DePasquale attention the numerous violations of Act 102 throughout Pennsylvania, including at the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, and the failure by the Corbett administration’s DOL to enforce the law.

“The results of this audit shine an important light on the reluctance of past administrators blatant unwillingless to enforce the law. Because of the persistence and determination of our members, particularly at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, we now have proof of what we’ve known all along. Too many hospitals violate with impurity a law established to protect patients and nurses,” stated Patricia Eakin President of PASNAP.

PASNAP also represents nurses employed at the Geisinger Community Medical Center (GCMC) in Scranton, covered under a seperate CBA with Geisinger Health Systems.

Under the Wolf administration, Pennsylvania Labor and Industry has hired an additional five investigators for the Bureau of Labor Law Compliance, which works in the field investigating any complaint or tip regarding Department of Labor and Industry rule violations.

DOL stated it is addressing Mr. DePasquale’s report that showed failures within the audit by streamlining central record keeping, updating their database, and having more boots on the ground to investigate and talk to employees involve with any possible violation. One finding was that DOL tracking system was so bad it made it almost impossible to determine if there was not compliance of the law.