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Labor Federation holds Community Services Institute in Wilkes-Barre


September 2008 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Labor Federation holds Community Services Institute in Wilkes-Barre


REGION, August 18th- The 49th annual Pennsylvania American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) Community Services Institute was held in Wilkes-Barre from August 10th to the 15th at the Woodlands Inn & Resort.

Labor representatives from across the commonwealth, including throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania, were in attendence along with concerned individuals, groups, workshop instructors and special resource people to participate in the learning experience. It was the first time Wilkes-Barre served as the host city for the event.

According to Carl Dillinger, Staff Representative of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, the Wilkes-Barre region has a strong labor heritage, including a tributary statue on the grounds of the Lackawanna County Courthouse dedicated to the legendary United Mine Workers Union (UMWU) labor leader John Mitchell.

Mr. Dillinger told the newspaper ninety-four union leaders and members attended the institute over the five days.

At the Community Services Institute each day there was a general session attended by everyone, followed by a specific workshop addressing a variety of key and contemporary working family issues, which tie into economic and social justice concerns.

On August 17th, 1942, an agreement on cooperation was signed between organized labor and the Community Chest, now the United Way of America, to encourage labor representation on their boards. The agreement sought cooperation between employee solicitation organized by employers and union representatives who jointly stressed voluntary contributions without coercion.

According to Walter Klepaski, the AFL-CIO Community Services Liaison for the United Way of the Wyoming Valley, one of the institute highlights was a special project conducted at the Veterans Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre. Union delegates of the institute had an opportunity to visit with the patients of the medical facility.

According to William Cockerill, the AFL-CIO Community Services Liaison for the United Way of Lackawanna County, the group also visited the Gino Merli Veterans’ Center in Scranton. The union members during their visit to the medical center in Wilkes-Barre and the nursing home in Scranton gave a variety of union hats, shirts, travel bags, diabetic socks and a juke box to the military veterans. The items were donated by local unions from throughout the region. The estimated value of the donated items at both facilities was approximately $16,000.

Some of the labor representatives that attended the institute included the presidents of the AFL-CIO Central Labor Council labor federations from Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Sam Bianco, President of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council; Nancy Krake, President of the Scranton Central Labor Union; and Gregg Potter, President of the Lehigh Valley Labor Council were in attendance at the institute.

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