Author Archives: Joe Doc

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Applauds Governor Wolf’s Budget Blueprint for Pennsylvania

By The PA. AFL-CIO

- Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale and Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder are pleased with Governor Tom Wolf’s budget proposal today in keeping with the campaign promises he made to the working people of Pennsylvania.

“Governor Wolf’s budget makes the much needed investments in education, health, and human services that will restore our state as a leader in job creation, prosperity and economic growth for years to come. It eliminates the budget deficit by making sure corporations pay their fair share, providing tax relief to middle class working families, and proposes improvements in wages and opportunities for working families. The Governor’s budget is a good blueprint to help begin the work of expanding our middle class and restoring Pennsylvania’s economic strength. It is what we need to get Pennsylvania moving again.” Bloomingdale said.

“Working families are the backbone of Pennsylvania’s economy. This budget pursues the policies that protects and grows more good jobs for Pennsylvania, improves wages, protect pensions, and boosts workforce development and training, which will expand of our middle class. This budget proposal is our opportunity to put our state back on the map as a leader in job creation and economic opportunity for all. Putting Pennsylvania first – that’s what this budget does,” Snyder said.

http://www.paaflcio.org/?p=5824

Gov. Wolf ousts Green, names Neff chair of SRC

By Dale Mezzacappa

- Gov. Wolf has asked Marjorie Neff to take over as the chair of the School Reform Commission, ousting Bill Green from that role.

“The School District of Philadelphia is in dire financial straits, and our children are being put at a disadvantage as a result of misguided cuts and poor decisions,” the governor said in a statement. “The district was forced to make major cutbacks in transportation, security, and janitorial services just to open on time last year. We must make new investments in education and provide a fresh path forward for Philadelphia’s schools.”

Green, who gave up his City Council seat when he was appointed by former Gov. Tom Corbett, said he was “concerned by the Governor’s belief that he can influence this body. The School Reform Commission is a governing body that has taken hard decisions and is built to stand apart from political influence.” He said he believed that Wolf had “no legal basis” for naming another commissioner as chair.

Jeffrey Sheridan, Wolf’s spokesman, said via email that Wolf is “well within his authority to name a new chair of the SRC.”

Neff, who was appointed by Mayor Nutter, was the only one of the five commissioners to vote against approving any new charter schools last week. With 39 applications, the SRC approved five. The SRC was under pressure from Wolf, on the one hand, who said the District couldn’t afford more charter schools, and Republican legislative leaders, on the other, who wanted all “qualified” applicants approved.

Neff, a 38-year veteran of the District, retired last year as principal of Julia R. Masterman Demonstration School, the city’s premier special admission school.

“Marjorie has dedicated her entire career to education, and she shares my vision for investing in public education so our children have the resources they need to succeed in a modern economy,” Wolf said in the statement. “I am confident that Marjorie will be able to engage in a collaborative way the different interests involved in leading the school district and it will be refreshing to have an educator who understands the needs of our schools as chair. I look forward to working with her to restore cuts and reverse the public education deficit in Philadelphia.”

Neff, reached by telephone in Florida, said that the governor asked her to assume the chair this past week.

“I thought about it, I talked to my family about it, and I decided I would do it,” she said. “The governor said it was an opportunity to work with him on his vision for public education. I thought about my skill set, experiences I’ve had — I thought I could do it.”

She said she didn’t know exactly why Wolf made the decision. “He asked me to make a contribution. I feel for the first time in a long time we have a governor interested in reinvesting in public education, and I’m excited to work with him on that.”

She said that she had “no quarrel with Bill Green,” and that “he’s been a good chair during very difficult times this past year. I’m glad he’s going to stay on the SRC.”

Last week, the SRC decided to take to the the Supreme Court its effort to void the contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and redirect savings on benefit costs into schools. While Neff didn’t say directly whether she thought this was a good idea, she said it is important to have “clarity” on the extent of the SRC’s powers. It was given special powers when the state took over the District due to its fiscal distress.

“I think we need clarification on what we can and what we can’t do,” she said. “The Commonwealth Court decision was not clear.”

Neff said that while the situation is now “awkward” for the five-member panel, she has no doubts about its ability to continue to work together. “I feel this is a group of people that is going to rise above it. Certainly, Bill has risen above it. We are five different people with five views on almost everything, but we work together very well.”

Feather Houstoun, another Corbett appointee, said, “I think Bill has been a terrific chair, and Marge will be also. We have worked together with Bill Hite and his team and will continue to do so.”

Source: http://thenotebook.org/blog/158277/gov-wolf-names-marjorie-neff-chair-src-green-says-hell-fight-move

PA. AFL-CIO Condemns Passage Of Privatization Of Wine & Spirits Which Will Destroy 5,000 Family Sustaining Jobs

By The PA. AFL-CIO

(Measure passes the House by a final vote of 114 in favor, to 87 opposed)

- Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Bloomingdale and Secretary-Treasurer Snyder today condemned the passage of the privatization of Pennsylvania’s Wine and Spirits which will increase the budget deficit, destroy over 5,000 family sustaining jobs of tax-paying citizens, and lead to an increase in alcohol related illness and death.

“This maneuver by the State House of Representatives is driven by a conservative ideology that refuses to accept the reality that our current public system does a better job of serving the consumer, protecting the public, providing good family sustaining jobs to over 5,000 dedicated employees and generating over $500 million each year to the Commonwealth. The ones who voted for this legislation turned a blind eye to 5,000 tax-paying employees of the PLCB and the fact that the alternative, which is modernization, would do a better job of promoting safer communities, protecting good jobs and addressing Pennsylvania’s budget deficit instead of blowing a bigger hole in the budget,” President Bloomingdale said.

“As the famous New York Yankees catcher Yogi would say, ‘It’s déjà vu all over again.’ Instead of the focusing on solutions to a projected $2 billion budget deficit they continue to pursue a failed legislative agenda that increases the deficit, attacks the good jobs of 5,000 tax paying employees, and puts our state and communities in a race to the bottom. This bill is no different than the legislation passed in the last session by the State House. It’s bad public policy which failed. It’s time to stop trying to hand over valuable public assets that can be further improved in support of consumers and the taxpayers,” said Secretary-Treasurer Snyder.

Source: http://www.paaflcio.org/?p=5805

SugarHouse accused of spying on union supporters with surveillance cameras

By Jared Shelly

- The management at SugarHouse Casino is being accused of using its surveillance cameras to spy on union supporters.

The Unite Here Local 54 union has filed a document with the National Labor Relations Board making the following charge:

Beginning on or around August 2011 until on or around August 2014, the above-named Employer, by and through its agents, violated the Act by instructing its security officers to engage in surveillance of Union committee persons while they were working and while they were not working. The security officers did in fact engage in such surveillance.

The casino denies the charge.

A small but vocal group is trying to start a union at the 4-year-old casino. They recently launched a billboard advertising campaign with the headline: “We work hard, we deserve better.”

The effort is led by Dermot Delude-Dix, a 28-year-old who wears a union button on his shirt while he works and has been outspoken critic of the casino’s management. He says management has been watching him with surveillance cameras.

“I feel as though I’m under extra scrutiny,” Delude-Dix said. “People in the surveillance department — whose job is to detect criminal activity — were consistently being asked to pay special attention to union supporters and make lists of who they are talking to.”

Delude-Dix even said he spoke with a surveillance department worker who said he was ordered to take notes with pens and notepads rather than on the computer — presumably not to leave a digital trail.

Wendy Hamilton, general manager at SugarHouse, denied the accusation.

“We are not in the business of watching anyone on surveillance aside from people handling money,” she said. “We are not a group of nefarious managers. … It’s ludicrous to think we are skulking around and watching the people who want the union. When it’s a majority, they’ll vote it in.”

Source: http://www.bizjournals.com/philadelphia/morning_roundup/2015/02/sugarhouse-accused-of-spying-on-union-supporters.html

Union Veterans Council, AFL-CIO, Expresses Opposition To TPP

By The PA. AFL-CIO

- In an e-mail Tuesday, J. David Cox, Sr. – Chair of the AFL-CIO Veterans Council and International President of AFGE – appealed to union veterans to speak out against Fast Track. A bill to “fast track” trade deals, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – the biggest trade deal in the history of the United States referred to as “NAFTA on steroids – will be introduced in Congress any day now.

“With an already fragile economy, we do not need America’s veterans competing in a race to the bottom with workers in countries like Vietnam; and we don’t want to support economies where poor working conditions, child labor and wages as low as 25 cents an hour go unchecked,” Cox wrote.

Cox has asked union veterans who would like to speak out on this issue to contact the Union Veterans Council via e-mail at unionveterans@aflcio.org.

Source: http://www.paaflcio.org/?p=5801

Richard Trumka: AFL-CIO Will Make Raising Wages for All Workers a Priority

BY David Moberg

- The yardstick labor unions—and potentially a strong majority of American working or middle class voters—will use to judge candidates for president and lower offices next year is simple, said AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka at the winter meeting of the AFL-CIO executive council on Monday: “What are you going to do to raise our wages?”

But many of those voters will not be waiting for the political candidates’ responses to the continuing trend towards greater inequality, which is partly a result of wages stagnating since the year 2000 while productivity increased by 25 percent.

Trumka also expects—and indeed says he already sees—a spurt in collective action that may not only win some of those wage increases but also add pressure to politicians of both parties, who are still figuring out what they want to say on inequality.

“Collective action is powerful, and it really must be at the heart of the growing discussion about the economy and about raising wages,” Trumka said at the council’s opening meeting on Monday.

Some effects of collective action were on display last week, as Walmart workers’ continued pressure on their employer contributed to a modest but historically significant wage increase; the Communications Workers and Electrical Workers (IBEW) settled a huge strike for a new contract with FairPoint; and the Steelworkers made health and safety of workers and the public key parts of their demands in the recent nationwide oil strike. (Trumka could have added dock and longshore workers who were embroiled in a battle on the Pacific coast until late last week.) And he emphasized that 5 million AFL-CIO union members will be negotiating new contracts next year, including city, state and county workers, auto workers, flight attendants, grocery clerks and others.

The battle over who should have greater power to shape the economy and workers’ lives is both political and economic, with consequences determined by collective action on both fronts. Last year, real wages fell for nearly every tenth of the workforce except the bottom tenth, according to a new study from the Economic Policy Institute, and that increase largely reflects increases in the minimum wage in many states through action in legislatures or direct voter referenda.
Unions will be stressing the links between economics and politics this year, perhaps more than usual. The AFL-CIO has trained 1,500 people to serve as popular educators, using its “Common Sense Economics” program. In part, Trumka said, it teaches that “elections have consequences. The economy is nothing but a set of rules made by elected officials, and we can elect people who can change the rules.”

In a resolution approved on Monday, the executive council spoke out strongly for protecting the Dodd-Frank banking regulations now under attack by the Right and for pushing for regulation that would “make banking boring again”—that is, eliminating much of the high-risk financial “innovations” that enriched Wall Street and destabilized the economy in 2008. Such regulations can also make it more likely that the share of the economy going to Wall Street traders will go to ordinary working people instead.

In the last national election, according to an AFL-CIO-sponsored poll that Trumka cited, 57 percent of voters said their wages had fallen, and 34 percent said they had been flat in recent years. Perhaps it is not surprising that in direct referendum votes, every proposal for minimum wage increases or provision of paid sick days passed. It is also not surprising that the voters in the same poll saw Democrats as having no coherent economic message. As a result, the party fared poorly.
Trumka also took inspiration from signs of life in traditional union organizing activity, such as among taxi drivers, and more diffuse but potent efforts such as the fast food workers fight for a $15 wage and a union and OUR Walmart.

“Collective action in the country is on the rise,” he said. “People who don’t even know what unions are, are saying, How do we get together to raise our wages?”
But the right-wing legal and political assault of recent years on worker rights continues. Unions and workers face a wave of new proposals for state “right-to-work” laws, such as the legislation scheduled for a vote in Wisconsin this week. Those proposals, now covering nearly half of all states, prohibit union contracts from requiring non-members to pay a fee to cover union expenses of representing them. On the basis of experience in other states, that type of legislation is unlikely to generate the new jobs sponsors promise. But it is likely to weaken unions and increase corporate power, if only by making it harder for unions to collect dues.

“Everybody knows corporate America is too strong, not too weak,” Trumka said. “These laws strengthen corporations, and where you make them stronger, you get more wage inequality, less pensions, and less health care.”

Labor’s enemies at work and in politics have longed used every division among workers as a wedge to break up the solidarity that ultimately provides the labor movement its strength. “Our job is to prevent them from dividing us [artificially] as they have for the last several decades,” Trumka said.
In response, unions have been trying to strengthen their relationship with allies, aiming, as Trumka said, to make their issues “our issues,” not simply routine formalities. Perhaps most important is the continued push for comprehensive immigration reform and the resistance to barely concealed, subliminal racism described as “dog whistle politics” by a guest speaker to the executive council, legal scholar Ian Haney Lopez.

Besides educating its own members, the AFL-CIO wants to educate the general electorate and, in particular, candidates from both major parties for presidential and lesser offices. Following a model conference in Washington earlier this year on raising wages, the labor federation will hold similar forums in the early primary or caucus states—Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada—that try to force candidates from both parties to address the need for higher wages.
It may be a tougher challenge than the facts of economic life and polling of voters would suggest. Republicans can largely be counted on providing a coherent, if false, promise: Cut taxes and government, and you’ll have more money. Democrats are likely to embrace at least a modest increase in the minimum wage, but all bets are off after that, except for a politically and economically wrong-headed emphasis on everyone getting more education.

It seems that Democrats have been losing elections on an all-too-regular basis despite the troubled conditions of life and frustrated, angry outlook of a majority of voters who have good reason to reject the Republican message. But they are either so distant from those voters, so afraid of many solid progressive policy alternatives (or of the attacks that Republicans mount against them) or so plugged into corporate sources of funding that they are afraid to take a coherent approach that could work both as politics and policy.

Labor unions and their allies will have their work cut out for them in an attempt to get Democrats across the board to adopt their approach. But Trumka is right in seeing an uprising of collective action as a crucial way of bringing the message home: working people deserve both a raise—and greater power in determining the kind of society they live in.

Source: http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/17679/richard_trumka_afl_cio

Urgent Action! Wagner’s Payroll Attacks Have Returned; Tell Your Senator To Vote NO!

By The PA. AFL-CIO

- The enemies of labor are at it again, and to defeat these latest attacks requires your immediate action!

Scott Wagner has introduced SB500, which would amend the PA Constitution to block the collection of union dues, and Senator Eichelberger has introduced SB501, another “Paycheck Protection” bill that seeks to silence workers. In the co-sponsorship memo he circulated, Eichelberger claimed that his bill would only block the deduction of political money, but his actual legislation would block deductions of all union dues, including what’s known as the fair agency shop fee.

These bills are devoid of any benefit for the State budget, for taxpayers, or for workers. The lies that have been used to promote these attacks on workers must not distract from the reality; that these bills are nothing but a naked, opportunistic power-grab by opponents of union rights.

To E-Mail Your Senator NOW and Tell Them To OPPOSE SB500 and SB501, Go To: http://act.aflcio.org/c/236/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=9717

Source: http://www.paaflcio.org/?p=5797

PA. State Rep. Turzai’s Twenty Liquor Lies

By UFCW 1776

- House Majority Leader Mike Turzai took part in PCN’s Legislative call-in program on Tuesday, February 10th sparking many callers and questions regarding his latest plan to privatize the PLCB.

His answers, or lack-there-of, has us questioning: Is Turzai grossly uninformed about his own legislation to dismantle the PLCB or is he just a liar?

TURZAI: The PLCB has been operating in the red for the past 10 years.
FACT: The PLCB’s net profit for the past 10 years is almost $1 billion total.

TURZAI: There is going to be an auctioning off of 1,200 wine and spirits licenses.
FACT: There is not one mention of auctioning licenses in House Bill 790 or his current legislation House Bill 466.

TURZAI: When West Virginia went to the private sector they saw an increase in revenue.
FACT: West Virginia lost millions and has never financially recovered since privatizing.

TURZAI: There will be no increase in unemployment compensation and all PLCB jobs will be absorbed in the private sector.
FACT: The Public Financial Management study (commissioned by former Governor Corbett and endorsed by Turzai) states 2,302 full-time equivalent employees will lose their jobs and cost more than $64 million in unemployment costs over four years.

TURZAI: There will be open dialogue and everyone will be at the table to discuss issues.
FACT: There has not been a House hearing on liquor privatization since 2011.

TURZAI: The public supports privatization at a 70-75% approval rating and there is widespread support for his plan.
FACT: No poll shows this claim. Instead, recent polls show support going the other way. Also, dozens of groups oppose House Bill 790 from last session.

To Read All Twenty of Turzai’s Lies, Go To: http://www.ufcw1776.org/PLCB/Index%20only%20Turzai%20lies%20on%20PCN.pdf

Source: http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Turzai-s-20-Liquor-Lies.html?soid=1112575112488&aid=FMA9eqbziXc

TAKE ACTION! Stop Representative Turzai’s Bill, House Bill 466, Privatization Of PA’s Wine And Spirits Shoppes

By The PA. AFL-CIO

- Once again State Representative Mike Turzai wants to give away to his friends one of Pennsylvania’s most valuable public assets that helps keep our communities safe, employs over 5,000 workers in family sustaining jobs, and generates over $500 million in revenues and profits, each year to the benefit of taxpayers and our communities.

Representative Turzai’s bill – House Bill 466 – will destroy good jobs, further increase Pennsylvania’s budget deficit this year and for years to come, and lead to an increase in the consumption of alcohol and alcohol related deaths and illnesses.

Pennsylvania’s Wine and Spirits Shoppes and the employees of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board have are serving our communities and the taxpayers very well. Legislation, House Bill 228 sponsored by State Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, to modernize Pennsylvania’s Wine and Spirits, builds upon the success of our current public system with more improvements in convenience, maintaining the public health and safety, while generating an additional $185 million per year in revenue and profits, which will benefit taxpayers and our communities.

ASK YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVE TO SUPPORT MODERNIZATION NOT PRIVATIZATION OF PENNSYLVANIA’S WINE AND SPIRITS.

To E-Mail Your State Representatives Now, Go To – http://act.aflcio.org/c/236/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=9706

- Tell Them to Oppose HB 466 and any other proposal to Privatize Pennsylvania’s Wine and Spirits

Source – http://www.paaflcio.org/?p=5793

Plotting Greater Philadelphia’s structurally deficient bridges

By Dan Norton

- How unyielding is that bridge you drive across every day?

We teamed up with our friends at Esri to produce a map of every structurally deficient bridge in the Greater Philadelphia region. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation defines a “structurally deficient” bridge as having deterioration to one or more of its major components.

Twenty-three percent of Pennsylvania’s 22,660 bridges are structurally deficient, which is the highest in the nation. The Transportation Funding Bill Act 89, passed in late 2013, will provide the dollars needed to heal this component of the state’s ailing infrastructure, but it won’t be fully funded until 2019.

The American Society of Civil Engineers gave Pennsylvania bridges a D-plus on its 2014 infrastructure report card. (At least bridges got a better grade than Pennsylvania’s D-minus in wastewater management systems, which “discharge billions of gallons of untreated sewage into Pennsylvania’s surface waters each year.”)

Just because a bridge is classified as structurally deficient doesn’t make it too dangerous to cross. Bridges are required by law to be inspected at least once every two years. If a bridge is deemed unsafe, it can be saddled with weight and speed limits or even closed down for repairs.

Go to: http://www.bizjournals.com/philadelphia/datacenter/plotting-greater-philadelphias-structurally.html to click around the map to see if any of your local bridges are on it, or feel free to search the map by ZIP code.

Source: http://www.bizjournals.com/philadelphia/datacenter/plotting-greater-philadelphias-structurally.html