Author Archives: Joe Doc

Happy Thanksgiving In Solidarity From Your Friends at PhillyLabor!

- On this Thanksgiving Holiday, as we, the men and women of the labor movement, gather with our loved ones, let us give thanks for food we share and for the opportunities we have been fortunate enough to receive that have made it possible for us to provide for our families.

Let us also give thanks to our forefathers who, in solidarity, paved the road to prosperity that has lead us to where we are today.

Finally, as we enjoy our Thanksgiving holiday, let us remember those less fortunate and say a prayer that, with our guidance and example, they too may find their way to a life of dignity, pride and good fortune!

Happy Thanksgiving in Solidarity,


Philadelphia one of three finalists for 2016 DNC convention

By Francis Hilario

- Philadelphia has been named one of three finalists for the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

The Democratic National Committee has narrowed down its list of potential cities for the 2016 convention to three: Philadelphia, New York and Columbus, Ohio. Phoenix and Birmingham, Ala. are now out of contention.

“We’re thrilled to move to the next step of the selection process to determine where Democrats will come together to nominate the 45th President of the United States,” Debbie Wasserman Schultz, DNC chairwoman, said in a statement. “We are fortunate to have such a diverse and vibrant group of cities interested in hosting this special event and we thank Phoenix and Birmingham for showcasing their special communities. We look forward to working with Columbus, New York, and Philadelphia as we go forward.”

The weeks for the convention that are under consideration are July 18, July 25 or Aug. 22. The committee is expected to make its final decision in the next few months.

Choosing a host city is based on a number of factors, including the city’s transportation, hotels and the facility holding the convention, experts said in interviews last month. Other factors include the city’s political leadership and financial resources.

“The kind of factors that are probably the most important in terms of valuation of cities are the obvious ones: Hotels, the facility to hold the event in [and] logistics,” Alan Kessler, former finance vice chair of the DNC said in an earlier interview with the Philadelphia Business Journal. “The single most important is financial guarantee.”

Our panel of experts — including Gov. Ed Rendell — handicapped each city’s chance for the big score recently. Check it out at:


Pa. Legislature Might Hold Lame-Duck Session As Last effort to get GOP legislation passed before Tom Wolf Takes office

By Joel Mathis

- The Pennsylvania Legislature might hold a lame-duck session before Gov. Tom Corbett’s term expires in January — one last grab at passing GOP-favored legislation before Democrat Tom Wolf replaces Corbett.

PennLive reports:

New Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said Thursday that he’s not ruling out a lame-duck session during the final two weeks of Gov. Tom Corbett’s term so that lawmakers can push through bills before Gov.-elect Tom Wolf takes office.

“Tom Corbett is governor for four years, not three years and 10 months,” Corman, R-Centre, said in remarks taped for broadcast Sunday on WHP-TV’s “Face the State” program. “We get sworn into office on the first Tuesday [in January] and we might go to work.”

Corman said he’s “looking at the schedule” to determine if there’s enough time for lawmakers to pull off the long-shot legislative session. For the past several years, the Legislature has sworn-off holding lame-duck sessions.

Corman also said that Wolf’s 5 percent severance tax on natural gas drilling will be a “last result” as state government tries to get its fiscal house in order during the next session.


Walmart Workers Take Action: Black Friday 2014


This Black Friday we need to send the Waltons a message. We can’t sit back while their workers go hungry any longer. And Walmart and the Waltons must stop taking illegal actions against Walmart workers who want to work hard and be able to provide for our families

To take action, you just need to go to your local Walmart with a sign saying that you support the workers fighting for fair pay and respect, get a picture of yourself, and tell the manager you support the workers’ cause. Walmart tracks all of these actions and they have a huge impact. There’s an example picture right below!

Call/Text: 470-223-2014 to see how you can get involved. Or email:

Go To The Source at: for additional detailed instructions on locations, times and information on the legalities.

11/19: Today’s Featured Guests on Today In PhillyLabor Radio are Bob McDevitt, Unite Here Local 54, Jim Moran, PhilaPosh, Mike VanderPuttin, AT&T

- 11/19 – Today’s Featured Guests on Today In PhillyLabor Radio are Bob McDevitt, President, Unite Here Local 54 In Atlantic City, Jim Moran, Director Emeritus, PhilaPosh, Mike VanderPuttin, AT&T

Featured Topic – Casino Closure Situation and the Future of Atlantic City, Lessons in Labor Segment

Tune in to WWDB 860 AM (or Online at on Today/Wednesday at Noon to See What All The Talk Is About!

Walmart workers plan biggest Black Friday strikes and protests yet

By Laura Clawson

- Workers held two sit-ins at California Walmart stores on Thursday, with the second accompanied by a rally and leading to more than 20 arrests. Now the workers are looking ahead to Black Friday, which they say will feature the most striking Walmart workers to date.

Barbara Gertz, an employee from Denver, Colorado, said organizers are expecting to see protests in 1,600 stores. While they don’t yet have a headcount of how many workers will strike or in how many cities, she said they’ve gotten calls “every day” from employees who want to join in. Protests will hit Los Angeles and a number of other major metropolitan areas. Employees at more than 2,100 Walmart stores across the country have signed an online petition asking for higher wages and better working conditions.

Gertz explained why she’s planning to take part. “There have been many times my family can’t even afford the gas to get me back and forth to work, so my husband had to wait in the car to take me home after work,” she said on a call with the press. “Every time one of us speaks out for change, we take the risk that Walmart will fire us. That’s not right and that’s not legal. That’s why we’re going on strike.” The National Labor Relations Board has backed up some of the claims of retaliation against organizing workers.

Workers at Thursday’s sit-ins wore tape over their mouths to symbolize how they feel silenced and intimidated by Walmart, and carried signs urging Walmart to “stop the illegal threats.” The focus on Walmart’s intimidation of and retaliation against worker activists is both a way to invoke the legal protections of the National Labor Relations Act and a crucial organizing point: As long as Walmart gets away with intimidating workers and disciplining or firing activists, of course it will be incredibly difficult for the workers to organize. Even though retaliation against worker organizing is illegal, every Walmart worker who speaks up, let alone sits down or walks out, risks having their hours cut or losing their job. And given what Walmart pays, they don’t have a cushion. By the time the NLRB brings charges and holds hearings and Walmart has dragged the process out as long as possible, a fired worker could have been evicted, no matter how illegally they were fired.

That’s what makes the past two years of strikes by Walmart workers and fast food workers so remarkable—they are so vulnerable. Yet they are insisting on their rights nonetheless. Black Friday is the next big moment in that fight, and with 1,600 protests planned nationwide, there will be plenty of chances for allies to get out and support the workers.


Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe Stepping Down


- American Postal Workers Union (APWU) President Mark Dimondstein welcomed today’s news that Postmaster General Donahue is stepping down as the Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service. The announcement was sudden and on the day that thousands of union workers who deliver the mail to homes and businesses each day are holding massive rallies across the United States to draw public attention to the latest plans proposed by Donahoe that would severely curtail postal services and permanently damage the U.S. Postal Service. President Bloomingdale and Secretary-Treasurer Snyder participated in the National Day of Action held in Pittsburgh today. Postal Workers also held actions in Philadelphia, Erie, Moosic and Swarthmore as part of 150 actions held in cities and towns across the nation.

APWU President Dimondstein on behalf of his members expressed hopes that next Postmaster General would reverse Donahoe’s policies of lowering standards, reducing hours, outsourcing work and diminishing a great American institution that has delivered the mail for generations.

We join in urging the USPS’s Board of Governors to immediately freeze Donahoe’s policies and to do no harm.


Here’s Your Union-Made in America Thanksgiving Shopping List

By The Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO

- Before you put together your Thanksgiving dinner shopping list, check our list of union-made in America food and other items that are essential to a traditional family Thanksgiving feast. Speaking of thanks, a big “thank you” to the Union Label and Service Trades Department (ULSTD), Union Plus and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor’s resource site, Labor 411, for compiling their extensive catalogs of union-made products.

Here are some of the best union-made Thanksgiving eats and cookware from the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM); Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics and Allied Workers (GMP); Machinists (IAM); United Steelworkers (USW); and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).


Kraft/Nabisco crackers—BCTGM

Nabisco (Mondelez) crackers—BCTGM

Keebler (Kellogg) crackers—BCTGM


Boar’s Head—UFCW


Foster Farms—UFCW


Side Dishes

Ocean Spray whole berry cranberry sauce—IAM

Birds Eye vegetables—UFCW


Pillsbury crescent rolls, frozen and ready to bake rolls/breads—BCTGM

Pillsbury pie crusts—BCTGM

Stroehmann bakery products (for stuffing)—BCTGM


Sara Lee pumpkin, apple pie—BCTGM

Mother’s Kitchen cheesecakes—BCTGM

Nabisco (Mondelez) cookies—BCTGM

Rich Products pies and cakes—BCTGM


Cutco knives—USW

All-Clad cookware—USW




Anchor Hocking—GMP


4 reasons why fans of good government should oppose PGW sale

By Marc Stier

- Those who support the principles of good government are up in arms because Philadelphia City Council decided not to hold hearings or vote on Mayor Nutter’s proposal to sell Philadelphia Gas Works. They have a point: We do need a broad discussion of the future of PGW in the city.

Council President Darrell Clarke has called those hearings for this week. They give us an opportunity to evaluate the mayor’s proposal from the perspective of those same principles of good government. Seen in that light, rather than being a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to fix our long-term pension funding problem, the sale of PGW violates most of the principles of good government.

1. Transparency

One central principle, transparency, requires that, before a mayor or council acts on a proposal, we citizens should know exactly what it contains. But in this case, the proponents of the sale have been misleading us.

To begin with, they claim that the sale of PGW will add more than $400 million to the pension fund which would reduce annual pension costs by $40 million. But that only comes at the cost of $18 million a year in current revenues, which has the present value of $200 million. So the net addition to the pension fund is only $200 million and to the budget of $22 million per year.

And second, the proponents of the sale present it as an asset sale that trades the value of PGW for a major infusion into the pension fund. But there is something peculiar about the sale of an asset whose value to UIL, the proposed buyer, is the ability to charge Philadelphians more and more for natural gas.

Why would a company spend $1.86 billion for PGW, which has a surplus of $18 million a year, giving it a yearly return of 1 percent on its investment? The buyer would need a huge increase in profits to reach the industry standard of around a 10 percent. And that can be done only in a few ways, as detailed in the reports on the Mayor’s proposal and the highest and best use of PGW by Concentric Energy Advisors to City Council.

Expand operations

It could expand operations in a few areas that PGW has already been exploring, such as selling liquefied, natural gas, installing small combined heating/electric to commercial users, or turning to natural gas from the Marcellus Shale. But UIL could expect to increase profits by $27 million. . (And PGW can do this now, which would add more to the budget than a sale would.)

Combine operations

It could save a little money by combining operations with its existing natural gas operations. But billing and other such operations are a small percentage of the cost of running a gas utility. The most reasonable estimate is that UIL could save no more than $30 million through combined operations — and the benefit of those savings don’t just flow to its Philadelphia operations.

Cut wages and benefits and reduce employment

This route to increased profits harms our fellow Philadelphians. And any reduction in employment is likely to increase the risk of explosions and fires. All of us who lived through the deregulation of telephone service know that along with decreased costs and new products we got less reliable service. When it comes to natural gas distribution, cheaper, less reliable, more dangerous service is not an option.

Speed up gas main replacement

This may be a good idea, although there is no good reason to replace mains too soon. But given how Pennsylvania regulates utilities, the long-term costs would be higher if UIL did this than if PGW does..

Increase gas rates

UIL would no doubt start by eliminating the $80 million subsidy to low-income and senior homeowners that PGW provides. But there is no reason to think it will stop there. To reach an acceptable rate of return, it would need to increase rates on all of us, perhaps by tens of millions of dollars per year. We can’t count on the Public Utility Commission to keep rates low, because it is mandated to adjust rates so as to generate the usual rate of return on investment.

If you have any doubt about my analysis, consider that the recent experience with privatizing municipal water in the Philadelphia suburbs has led to much higher rates. And look at what Black and Veatch, one of the leading consultants in the energy industry (and a consultant to UIL), has to say about the viability of gas utility mergers:

“At some point, gas rates will have to dramatically rise to cover debt service on the acquisitions, regardless of where the financing comes from. Starting with low base rates provide flexibility in minimizing customer impact via the structure and timing of the eventual rate increases.” (p.2)

We in Philadelphia start with not low base rates but high ones. Dramatic increases will be devastating for us.

2. Controlled costs for public services

An important good government principle is that the rates charged by monopolies that provide public services should be limited to what is necessary to ensure reliability and safety. PGW is valuable to UIL only if rates go beyond that level. This proposal is almost a revival of the late medieval practice of tax farming, in which the king turns over the right to collect the highest possible taxes — in this case gas rates — in return for an upfront payment.

3. Government funding through general taxes

We do have a pension problem, but the way the mayor proposes to solve it violates another principle of good government which is that the costs of the general obligation of government — such pensions for public sector workers — should be paid for by general taxes (on income, sales or property) that fall on everyone. We wouldn’t pay for pension costs by raising parking fees or water fees. So why should we raise natural gas rates to pay for them?

General taxes are also the efficient way to fund government because they don’t distort the market prices of goods. Raising natural gas prices might encourages residents or businesses to switch to more problematic fuels. And high gas costs will harm businesses that rely on gas either for heat and power or as a manufacturing component. It’s also hard to understand how higher gas prices can helpe Philadephia become an energy hub.

4. Progressive taxation

And there is one final good-government argument against the sale. Progressive taxation — paying taxes according our ability to do so — is a firm principle of good government. But as we have seen the program that holds down gas rates for those with low income are likely to be the first ones to be eliminated.

It turns out, then, that the proposed PGW sale is basically a financial transaction — of the dubious kind that has become all too familiar to us: shuffling assets around in a way that will deliver far less and cost far more than is promised. The investment bankers will do well, but the rest of us will suffer. It’s not a free lunch for the city but a hidden tax that falls narrowly on some of us and most heavily on the poor and that, by raising gas prices, can undermine our hopes to use natural gas to spur a rebirth of manufacturing in Philadelphia.


Pileggi out as GOP leader in Pa. Senate

By Mary Wilson

- Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre, will lead the 30-member caucus for the next two-year legislative session along with Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati of Jefferson County, who was re-elected to his post Wednesday.

Corman ousted Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, who had been criticized for not advancing conservative policies, and who many say has clashed with Scarnati.

“Everyone has an itch every now and then, and after eight years, I guess some people had an itch,” Corman said. “We move forward, but Sen. Pileggi will remain a very important part of this caucus.

Corman couldn’t say Wednesday how the leadership change will affect the caucus, though he acknowledged that the Senate GOP doesn’t share any of the top priorities of Gov.-elect Tom Wolf.

“We’re going to get together soon after the New Year and talk about how we want to move forward — what are the issues we want to move forward, how do we want to approach the issues,” Corman said. “How different we look will depend on the members going forward.”

In the House, Rep. Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, will replace the retiring speaker, Rep. Sam Smith, R-Jefferson.

Rep. Dave Reed, R-Indiana, will take Turzai’s place as majority leader, after besting Rep. Stan Saylor, R-York.

The top two leaders in the House Democratic minority caucus fended off challenges, and those in the very top posts in the Senate Democratic minority will remain.