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United Steelworkers request help under Trade Assistance

12.26.08

January 2009, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

United Steelworkers request help under Trade Assistance

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

LEHIGH VALLEY, December 17th- The economic slowdown has affected workers represented by the United Steel Workers (USW) of America Union Local 2599 in Bethlehem.

Local 2599 is located on East Lehigh Street in Bethlehem and earlier this year had approximately 1,600 active members throughout the Lehigh Valley.

The union has two contracts with the Victaulic Company. On September 8th, 2008 the approximately 123 USW members employed at the Victaulic Company Alburtis Township facility ratified a new five-year contract agreement with the employer. The previous agreement expired on September 8th, 2008.

The union largest unit of members are employed at the Victaulic Company facility in Forks Township, which manufactures pipefitting systems.

Local 2599 represented approximately 520 workers at the Victaulic Forks Township facility going into 2008 but currently have 219 on lay-off, with it unknown when or if the workers will be recalled.
According to Jerry Green, President of Local 2599, four of the employers the union has labor contracts with have employees laid-off including the Victaulic Company.

Mr. Green told the newspaper the union has applied with the United States Department of Labor (DOL) in Washington seeking for the agency to assist the Victaulic Company laid-off workers under the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Act.

Under the Trade Act of 1974, the Department of Labor conducts an investigation into why workers lose their jobs and if found they were eligible for the job assistance, the DOL will provide grants to help them find a new career path.

Under the program, workers may receive job search allowances, relocation allowances, case management, and other helpful re-employment services including receiving funds for training and school education.

Mr. Green stated Househead manufacturing in Palmerton has notified the union 140 USW members of the 152 they employ will be laid-off beginning on December 23rd, 2008. Also, Prior Coated in Allentown have 12 of the 38 USW members currently laid-off. And Berenfield Containers in Easton have 4 of 23 Local 2599 members on lay-off.

Mr. Green also told the newspaper contract negotiations are underway between the union and Northampton County’s Gracedale Nursing Home and Hygrade Metals Manufacturing in Bethlehem.

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