Author Archives: Joe Doc


- “The positions the district eliminated today illustrate the systematic erosion of a functional school system. In large urban settings like Philadelphia, these men and women are critical to providing support for our schoolchildren and their families.

“This is yet another example of how Harrisburg’s failure to provide sustainable public education funding continues to take a toll on our school district. Only a radical change in the way our schools are funded will reverse this devastating trend.”


PoliticsPA: New poll shows Wolf dominating governor’s race

By Nick Field

- After a long summer of ads and attacks, the Governor’s race is almost exactly the same as it was roughly two months ago.The latest Franklin and Marshall poll was released today and it shows Tom Wolf holding a 49% to 24% lead over Gov. Tom Corbett. 25% of respondents were undecided.

This actually marks a small improvement for the Democratic candidate since June, when he held a 47-25 advantage.

Wolf’s lead holds throughout every age, income, religious, regional, racial, educational or gender status. Additionally he holds a 34 point lead among Independents (53-19) and a whopping 46 point advantage among moderates (59-13).

At least a partial explanation of these results can be found in the Governor’s approval ratings. Just 24%, less than one in four, of respondents feel Gov. Corbett is doing an “excellent” or “good” job as Governor. The GOP Governor holds just a 40% approval rating among Republicans. Even worse, only 26% feel he has done well enough to warrant re-election.

Meanwhile, 61% believe the state is “off on the wrong track.”

These results are particularly devastating for the Corbett-Cawley camp because they come after a period in which the Republican nominee unleashed far more ads than his opponent. They don’t seem to have done the Gov any good, in fact they may have been harmful.

F&M found 82% of respondents had seen a commercial for both candidates. They asked these people what the viewer recalled most from those ads. For Corbett’s spots, 27% remembered the negative tone. For Wolf’s spots, negativity finished third behind his business location and background.

Perhaps the best example of the Governor’s difficulties involves guns. Last week, the PA GOP made a big deal about a supposed gaffe from Wolf concerning gun owners. Yet the Democratic nominee leads even among this traditionally conservative group (40% to 36%).

Of course, there is still some time left and a large number of respondents are undecided. The possibility that every undecided voter will turn to Gov. Corbett, though, is quite remote. Currently, 24% of Republicans support Wolf and it would not be surprising to see that number come down as the faithful rally behind their candidate. The Democrat’s margin is still likely to narrow in the coming weeks and months. The Governor, however, must find a method to further chip away at his opponent’s lead and fast, or else he won’t hold that title much longer.

This poll surveyed 520 Pennsylvanians and was conducted from August 18 to 25. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.3%.


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Pennsylvania AFL-CIO: Labor Day is Our Holiday, We’ve earned it!

- The Labor Day Holiday was created by labor unions as a day to recognize the achievements of working people and the value of work. Workers built this nation and are the foundation of our country’s strength and growth. The Labor Day Holiday is Our Holiday, We’ve Earned It!

On our holiday we will join together and renew our firm commitment in raising the wages and the living standards for all workers by supporting those workers who are fighting for a living wage and a union all across our nation. We stand together in support of decent wages and retirement security for all workers by restoring the bargaining strength for working men and women. This is how we will expand economic recovery, growth, and rebuild our middle class.

We also recognize the millions of workers who do not get this holiday off and the millions of immigrants who work in the shadows, brought here by their desire to contribute to our community. Our Labor Day Holiday is for all who labor and sacrifice to achieve the American Dream.

This land is our land too. It is not just for billionaires who are trying to buy our democracy, repress our living standards and our voice in state after state. On this Labor Day Holiday we proudly fight for our living standards and our rights to push for legislation and policies that raise wages and create good jobs for all workers.

Across Pennsylvania thousands of union members and their families will be celebrating Labor Day by joining their co-workers and friends to march in parades, enjoy picnics, and hold ceremonies to show that they are proud to be union members. Join us as we carry on this great American tradition which began over 100 years ago.

And remember to always buy union, buy Pennsylvania, buy American made products and services. It’s the most direct way we can save and create good jobs here in Pennsylvania and in the United States.


PA. AFL-CIO Welcomes New Legislative Director: Gabriel Pedreira


- Gabriel Pedreira began his first day as the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO’s Legislative Director on Monday, August 18, 2014. He was named Director by President Bloomingdale and looks forward to meeting the many challenges we are facing as we continue fighting for policies that support Pennsylvania’s working men and women and their families.

Prior to joining us Gabe served for The Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) as the Communications Director for their Mid-Atlantic Regional Office. Prior to joining LIUNA, Gabe spent three years working for the Texas Organizing Project (TOP) in Houston, Texas.  Gabe also spent two years working as a Legislative Assistant for a member of the New York State Assembly. A native of New York City, Gabe received both his BA and MA degrees from the London School of Economics (LSE.)

Gabe, congratulations and welcome to the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO!


Councilman Henon’s Statement on New Contract for AFSCME DC 33

(Philadelphia) – “I am pleased that the Nutter Administration has joined with AFSCME District Council 33 to end one of the most protracted labor disputed in the history of our City. I am particularly proud of the work done by AFSCME DC33 President Matthews and his team.

This agreement represents validation for the approximately 10,000 current and retired blue-collar employees that pick up our trash, pave and repair our streets and make our City great.  Increases in wages and contributions to health care and welfare along with the removal of furlough days are all strong additions.

As we begin to look for the next generation of leadership in Philadelphia, this contract should also serve as a reminder to the next Administration and those who seek to lead it: our City works because the members of DC 33 do.”



The Latest Attack on Labor, From The Group That Brought Us ‘Harris v. Quinn’

BY Moshe Z. Marvit

- On the heels of its recent Supreme Court victory in Harris v. Quinn, the National Right to Work Committee and Legal Defense Foundation (NRTW) has initiated a bold new attack on unions.

In a recent fundraising appeal sent on August 10, the president of both organizations wrote that Harris “was just the beginning,” and that fair share provisions (or, as he called them, “forced dues”) were only “part of the problem.” Now, having succeeded in imposing a right-to-work model for home healthcare workers across the country, NRTW is gunning after a much greater and unexpected target: exclusive representation.

One of the bedrock principles of American labor law is exclusive representation, whereby a union represents all the workers in a bargaining unit after it shows majority support by the workers. In a new case filed on behalf of a few Minnesota home care workers, Bierman v. Dayton, NRTW is now arguing that a union elected by the majority of workers should not be permitted to represent anyone that does not choose to join.

Last week, I wrote about a new positive experiment in members-only unionism at Volkswagen, which does not follow the exclusive representation model. If it is successful, Bierman v. Dayton would transform all public-sector unions into forced members-only unions, opening the door to a radical reconfiguration of public labor organizations.

In Minnesota, 26,000 home health care workers are currently voting by mail-in ballot whether to elect SEIU as their union. Those ballots are due by August 25. In its first maneuver of Bierman v. Dayton, NRTW filed for a preliminary injunction to invalidate the state law that authorized these workers to vote for a union—in other words, an exclusive representative—to bargain with the state. Expedited oral arguments were held on Tuesday, and on Wednesday afternoon the federal judge denied NRTW’s request for an injunction.

This early loss was to be expected, as NRTW is mounting a novel legal argument that runs counter to decades of labor and constitutional law. And NRTW’s litigation strategy generally includes repeated early losses as its representatives work their way through the judicial circuits to the Supreme Court.

NRTW’s argument in Bierman is not unprecedented, either. The group, whose mission is “is to eliminate coercive union power and compulsory unionism abuses through strategic litigation, public information, and education programs,” included a similar measure in its brief to the Supreme Court in Harris v. Quinn. However, after Justice Sotomayor challenged the NRTW attorney on whether the group truly intended to radically challenge a core principle of American labor law, he backed off the argument.

Now, after having secured a major win in Harris, the Bierman case represents the next step in a multi-pronged attack on public-sector unions, which appears to be directed toward the goal of stripping from all public-sector workers the right to organize and bargain collectively.

So far, most First Amendment challenges to public-sector unions have relied on the argument that membership, or any required payments of any fees, is the equivalent of forced association or compelled speech. However, in Bierman, NRTW is relying on the Petition Clause, which provides the right “to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” According to this argument, a free rider who has benefitted from union representation but refused to pay any fees—a circumstance made possible under Harris v. Quinn—would have suffered constitutional harm by having the union bargain on her behalf.

Through this attack on exclusive representation, NRTW is almost certainly trying to diminish unions’ strength. Seattle University School of Law professor Charlotte Garden points out that a members-only system might lead some states to simply revoke the right to bargain collectively.

“Members-only bargaining might create a level of complexity that some public employers aren’t willing to deal with, leading states to eliminate public-sector bargaining altogether,” she says.

“For example, imagine a situation in which groups of employees within a single job classification voted for representation by several different unions that all demanded separate bargaining,” she continues. “That could create conflict among the employees and instability in the workplace that public employers were simply unwilling to deal with. States might then decide the best way forward was simply to eliminate collective bargaining.”

In an ironic twist, however, many labor advocates have also called for a revision of the rules on exclusive representation.

SUNY Buffalo Law School professor Matthew Dimick, who has written widely about some of the problems with the system of exclusive representation, explains to In These Times, “Since the representative of the bargaining unit is almost always chosen by some majoritarian process, there is always a danger that exclusive representation carries with it a suppression of minority interests and points of view.”

He notes that in the past, this has led to people already in positions of power using the union to further their agendas. “Historically,” he says, “the biggest problem has been ignoring or even suppressing racial minority interests.”

Others have argued that it is unfair to expect unions to represent those who choose to pay nothing.

Even so, though, if states were to adopt NRTW’s argument in Bierman, the next step for anti-union groups would likely be to argue that the Constitution prohibits bargaining with even a members-only union—a devastating move for the labor movement in both the private and public sectors. Though this argument may currently seem extreme and untenable, so did the argument that NRTW raised and dropped in Harris, only to pick up again in Bierman.


Gov. Corbett told to stay away from Pittsburgh’s Labor Day Parade

By James P. O’Toole

- Pittsburgh’s Labor Day Parade is a traditional display of union solidarity, but this year the politics of the governor’s race has opened some fissures among union leaders.

While Tom Wolf, the Democratic nominee, has attracted the lion’s share of labor support, the Republican incumbent has drawn endorsements from several union locals, particularly in the building trades and construction locals. Two of them, Boilermakers Local 154, and the Laborers District Council of Western Pennsylvania, showed their support by inviting Mr. Corbett to march in the annual Downtown parade. But when officials of the parade’s sponsor, the Allegheny County Labor Council, learned of the invitation, they put a roadblock in front of those plans.

“I told them he wasn’t invited,’’ said Jack Shea, the veteran Labor Council president. “You can’t be trying to do away with us for 364 days a year and then want to march with us.’’

Phil Ameris, president and business manager of the Laborers, said, “We did invite the governor, like we invite a lot of our political friends … we wanted him to march with us but we were told by Jack [Shea] that he wasn’t welcome.’’

Rather than force a confrontation on the issue, Mr. Ameris said his union and other Corbett supporters were planning to invite Mr. Corbett to some alternate show of support separate from the parade, on or close to the Labor Day celebration.

”We didn’t want to have labor against labor,’’ Mr. Ameris said.  “I know some of the unions are upset with the governor’s policies, but I was a little shocked that they wouldn’t have a sitting governor in the parade … Jack and I stand on the same team on a lot of issues, but not on this one.’’

Mr. Ameris noted that his union had not supported Mr. Corbett in his 2010 victory over former Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato.  But he said they had warmed to his administration over its approach to issues including a transportation bill that’s expected to expand building trades employment and support for the natural gas fracking industry.

”We’re 150 percent behind the governor,’’ he said.

Mr. Shea emphasized that the parade’s rebuff was not a reflexive Democratic versus Republican decision, noting that plenty of Republicans, such as U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, regularly march with participating unions on the annual trek through Downtown. Mr. Corbett, himself is among the many Republican who have marched in the parade in the past.   But Mr. Shea argued that as governor, Mr. Corbett had embraced anti-labor positions on a variety of issues.

Unions have been among the most vociferous critics of the administration’s education funding record.  Along with legislators of both parties, they have also resisted Mr. Corbett’s proposal to privatize the state’s liquor sales.


DC 33 Reaches Tentative Agreement with the City of Philadelphia

- Late last night a tentative agreement was reached with the City and DC 33 that included wage increases, a signing bonus and restoration of step and longevity. The City’s furlough days demand was removed and the City will withdraw its lawsuit seeking to impose contract terms. The agreement is subject to a ratification vote.



Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Congratulates RailServe Workers In Forming Their Union With USW


- President Bloomingdale and Secretary-Treasurer Snyder, on behalf of over 800,000 union workers in Pennsylvania, extend their congratulations to the workers at RailServe Inc. in Eddystone, Pennsylvania who organized their union this week with the United Steelworkers, Local 10-1.

Secretary-Treasurer Snyder, a former union organizer for the USW, fired up the crowd at a pre-election meeting in the union hall. He said, “Collective bargaining is how we create good jobs, improve our lives and create a brighter future for our children and all workers.”  Jim Savage, President, of USW Local 10-1 described the victory as “history making” and a good first step for the Local’s anticipated organizing efforts in the near future. President Bloomingdale thanked the workers on their successful campaign and in joining thousands of other workers across Pennsylvania who are organizing unions as their pathway to the middle class.

The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Rally Vehicle provided staging and visual support outside the plant gate. President Savage, who is also a Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Vice President, also recognized the important work and dedication of the leader inside the facility for his work in heading up the effort.  He also expresses his thanks to the State Fed for all of their support. A good way to start off the Labor Day celebration.


Take Notice Gov. Corbett: Firm hired to run Illinois Lottery has failed to hit profit goals for 3rd straight year

By Matthew Walberg

- For the third consecutive year, the private firm hired run the Illinois Lottery has failed to bring in the profits it promised to raise for the state, even as its parent companies continue to be paid more each year to provide games and services.

According to a Tribune review of preliminary year-end data, Northstar Lottery Group posted a net profit of $738 million – nearly a quarter billion less than it pledged to bring in for the 2014 fiscal year, which ended June 30.

The figure is less than the company raised for the state in the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years after it became the first private company in the nation to take over day-to-day operations of a state lottery.

After three years, Northstar is about $480 million behind what it committed to bring into the state’s coffers, prompting one of the company’s harshest critics to renew questions about why Gov. Pat Quinn has not fired the company.

“This is an epic fail by the governor,” said State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo. “He personally signed this contract, so this is all his baby…If he needs to clean house, that’s what he should do. That’s what other executives do in the real world.”

In 2010, Gov. Pat Quinn chose Northstar Lottery Group to manage the lottery in hopes that the firm would boost flagging lottery revenues, a major source of funding for education and infrastructure.

The company was formed by a consortium of two lottery industry giants: Scientific Games, headquartered in New York, and GTECH, a subsidiary of the Italy-based Lottomatica.

Quinn has said little about the performance of the private manager, even as one of the key architects of legislation that enabled the state to hire an outside firm to run the games has expressed his disappointment with Northstar.

In June, State Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, told the Tribune he was “extremely disappointed” by Northstar’s performance and urged Quinn “to hold the firm accountable and take whatever steps are necessary.”

On Monday, Cullerton spokesman John Patterson said the senator declined comment on the firm’s latest shortfall.

“He’s going let his previous statement and the numbers speak for themselves at this point,” Patterson said.

A spokeswoman for Quinn said that his administration expects Northstar to meet the revenue targets outlined in its winning bid.

“Protecting taxpayers is our foremost priority and our office continues to closely monitor the situation,” spokeswoman Katie Hickey said earlier this week. “Through the duration of the contract, we have expected Northstar to follow the private management agreement and meet the targets in its bid.”

Northstar spokeswoman Avis LaVelle said the company would not have any response until the 2014 results have been audited, something that has yet to be completed for the two prior years.

The company previously defended its performance, noting that it has brought in more money as private manager than the state was able to when it handled day-to-day operations. Company officials have also pointed out that the firm has paid the state $60 million in penalties for missing its previous revenue targets.

Meanwhile, records show Northstar paid GTECH and Scientific Games nearly $85 million collectively last year, up from about $84 million and $70 million in the previous two years.

“I met with the governor and his staff on this back in May,” Franks said. “They said, ‘We’re looking at it.’ It’s now August.”


Brief PhillyLabor Editorial: Take Notice Governor Corbett. Privatization is not the answer!