Beaver County Blue

Progressive Democrats of America – PA 12th CD Chapter

Donna Smith, Single Payer Activist, is new Executive Director of PDA

Posted by randyshannon on January 18, 2016

DonnaSmithandJohnConyers
Photo: Donna Smith with Rep. John Conyers, author of HR 676

by Randy Shannon

Treasurer, PA 12th C.D. Chapter, PDA

As a long-time activist in Progressive Democrats of America and the leader of the PDA Economic and Social Justice Team, I want to welcome Donna Smith as PDA’s new Executive Director. Donna Smith has been a national leader in the fight for Medicare for All and a long time member of PDA. She was featured in Michael Moore’s film Sicko.

Thanks to Conor Boylan for his work helping PDA through the transition from the tragic loss of our founder Tim Carpenter.

Tim Carpenter‘s last big project for PDA was to organize a national petition drive to convince Bernie Sanders to run for President. Tim’s vision is now a reality, and it is one of Tim’s greatest successes. PDA is helping build the grass roots movement that can produce a President Sanders.

Bernie has made Medicare for All a central element of his campaign for President. Who better than Donna Smith, shown here with Rep. John Conyers, author of HR 676 – Medicare for All, to lead PDA to help elect Bernie Sanders President and finally win the battle for Medicare for All.

Read the Medicare for All bill – HR 676.

Posted in elections | Leave a Comment »

Monaca to Install 200 Solar Panels at its Reservoir

Posted by carldavidson on January 16, 2016

By Jared Stonesifer

Beaver County Times 

MONACA — The borough plans on installing 198 solar panels at its reservoir that could produce more than $200,000 worth of electricity over their lifespan.

Borough Manager Mario Leone said the project, which has been in the works for several years, could be up and running by April.

The borough will install the solar panels on the ground and buildings at the reservoir, although it also plans on building a new garage-like structure that will house at least half of the panels.

The panels will cost $150,000 to buy and install, half of which was paid for by a state grant.

Leone said it won’t take long for the panels to make up the cost through savings realized by the efficiency of solar energy.

“We’re looking between a 7 1/2 to nine-year payback on our $75,000 contribution,” he said. “The solar system over 20 years is expected to generate over $200,000 in electricity.”

That number could be higher, Leone said, if the solar panels exceed their typical lifespan of 25 to 30 years.

The solar panel project is just one of several that have led to Monaca being designated a gold-certified municipality in sustainability. The latest solar project means the borough could soon be certified as platinum, Leone said.

“The borough is a leader in sustainability,” he said. “I believe with the installation of the solar panels and other things we’re working on, we will probably achieve that higher standard.”

Another exciting aspect, Leone said, is that the amount of energy generated from the solar panels will be able to be viewed on the borough’s website.

A public hearing will be held Jan. 26, when the project is expected to receive the green light from borough council.

Leone said the panels will take about two weeks to be installed after being delivered.

The panels will generate about 63,000 kilowatt hours annually.

Posted in Community, Green Energy | Leave a Comment »

Nation’s Supermarkets Fall Short of Promise to Combat ‘Food Deserts,’ Including Many in Beaver County

Posted by carldavidson on January 4, 2016

By Kyle Lawson

Beaver County Times

Aliquippa resident Taishawn Harris said she’s satisfied with the selection and prices at the new Aldi store on Shaffer Road. The challenge is getting there.

“It’s affordable, and they have enough produce,” said Harris, 40, as she waited for her ride on a December evening with a cart full of groceries. “But I definitely wouldn’t walk here, I’d have to get a cab.”

Aliquippa is among thousands of areas nationwide the federal government has classified as “food deserts,” based on the poverty level and access to a supermarket.

In conjunction with Michelle Obama’s healthy food initiatives, major retailers promised in 2011 to open or expand 1,500 markets in and around food deserts by 2016, but by their own count are far short.

The nation’s top 75 food retailers opened nearly 10,300 stores in new locations from 2011 to the first quarter of 2015, of which 2,434 were grocery stores. But only about 250 were in food deserts.

Beaver Falls, Vanport Township, Ambridge, Midland, Pulaski Township, and sections of Monaca and Freedom are located within food deserts in Beaver County, according to a formula administered by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Treasury, and Health and Human Services.

An urban town qualifies as a food desert if the poverty rate is at least 20 percent and at least 500 people live more than one mile from a supermarket. A rural town qualifies if the poverty rate is at least 20 percent and more than 500 people live more than 10 miles from a grocery store, according to the agriculture department website. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Aliquippa, Community, Poverty | Leave a Comment »

‘Unfortunately in Pittsburgh, We Have a Tale of Two Cities.’

Posted by carldavidson on December 9, 2015

Local filmmaker Chris Ivey stands at the entrance to East Liberty, now marked by new development. - PHOTO BY HEATHER MULL

Local filmmaker Chris Ivey stands at the entrance to East Liberty, now marked by new development

Pittsburgh is poised for growth for the first time in 60 years. Will the city’s African-American community grow with it?

By Ryan Deto

Pittsburgh City Paper

It used to be that community activists, politicians and developers would fight over allowing the gentrification of city neighborhoods. If you eliminated affordable housing and replaced it with housing that was not as affordable, most people agreed it was at least the start of gentrification.

These days, the battle is apparently a little more nuanced. 

On Nov. 5, for example, Mayor Bill Peduto tweeted: “So far Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood has avoided gentrification while reducing crime & improving investment,” with an accompanying study by local analytics firm Numeritics.

The study claims gentrification is “obviously not the case in East Liberty” because all new market-rate development happened on vacant land, and because neighborhood demographics from 2010 to 2013 remained the same.

However, Pittsburgh filmmaker Chris Ivey feels differently.

“The [report authors] certainly knew the story they wanted to tell and chose to ‘back up’ that story with the facts that happen to support it,” wrote Ivey, who documented the demolition of an East Liberty housing project in 2006, in an email to City Paper.

Ivey notes there has been a demographic shift in East Liberty since 2000, with the numbers of blacks declining three times as fast as whites, according to U.S. Census data. Census data also indicate that the northern tract of East Liberty lost hundreds of African-American residents since 2000, and that the median black income there went up 14 percent as a result — or, as Ivey puts it “poor blacks moved out.”

Another statistic foregone by the study was homeownership. According to statistics compiled by Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG), from 2011 to 2014, East Liberty saw 55 homes purchased by whites, while only three homes were bought by blacks.

So while some may argue whether what’s gone on in East Liberty and other city communities is gentrification, one fact is uncontroverted: African Americans are leaving some of their long-time Pittsburgh neighborhoods in droves because they can no longer afford to live there, and that urban flight could get worse before it gets better. 

With thousands of residential units slated for development, the city is seemingly poised for growth for the first time more than 50 years. But will Pittsburgh’s black population grow with it?

Historically, many African Americans came to Pittsburgh in the years between World War I and World War II. During this era of black migration, African Americans settled in the city neighborhoods of South Side, Garfield, East Liberty and Homewood, with the Hill District becoming the preeminent black neighborhood.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Community, Housing, Pittsburgh | Leave a Comment »

UAW Wins Election at VW Chattanooga

Posted by randyshannon on December 7, 2015

VWChattanoogaWorkers

BY BERNIE WOODALL

December 4, 2015
Reuters
The United Auto Workers union won its first organizing vote at a foreign-owned auto assembly plant in the U.S. South on Friday, in a groundbreaking victory after decades of failed attempts.

About 71 percent of skilled trades workers who cast ballots at Volkswagen AG’s (VOWG_p.DE) factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee voted to join the UAW, according to the company and the union. The skilled trades workers account for about 11 percent of the 1,450 hourly employees at the plant.

If the UAW victory, as expected, survives an appeal by Volkswagen to the National Labor Relations Board, the 164 skilled trades workers will be the first foreign-owned auto assembly plant workers to gain collective bargaining rights in the southern United States. While the unit of skilled trades workers who maintain the assembly machinery are a fraction of the hourly work force, observers said the victory was significant and could serve as a launching pad for the union’s efforts to organize other foreign-owned plants in the south.

“It gives the UAW a significant new tool in trying to organize the foreign automakers in the south. Symbolically, it’s going to be huge,” said Dennis Cuneo, a former automotive executive who has dealt with the UAW in past organizing campaigns. Gary Casteel, UAW secretary-treasurer and head of the union’s organizing efforts, downplayed the significance of the vote and its influence on the UAW’s attempts to organize workers at southern plants including those owned by Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) and Daimler AG’s (DAIGn.DE) Mercedes-Benz.

“To the overall grand plan of the UAW it’s probably not monumental, but to those workers, it’s a big deal,” Casteel said in an interview on Friday.

Casteel, and Chattanooga UAW Local 42 President Mike Cantrell, in a separate interview on Thursday, said the election was a result of the “frustration” of skilled trades workers not having collective bargaining rights for wages and benefits. “Every case has to be built on the circumstances” at each plant, Casteel said. “We are not filing on Nissan or Mercedes tomorrow, but if our evaluation proved that there was a unit that was ready and strong enough to have an election, certainly we would explore it.”

The union narrowly lost a February 2014 ballot in which all of the Chattanooga plant’s hourly workers were eligible to vote.

During that vote, Republican U.S. Senator Bob Corker, whose hometown is Chattanooga, said, “I’ve had conversations today and based on those am assured that should the workers vote against the UAW, Volkswagen will announce in the coming weeks that it will manufacture its new mid-size SUV here in Chattanooga.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Aliquippa’s Uncommon Grounds: More Than Just a Cafe

Posted by carldavidson on December 7, 2015

uncommon-grounds-cafe

By Lauren Walker

Your Beaver County

People don’t just visit Uncommon Grounds Cafe in Aliquippa for the food. But, let me tell you, the food is delicious.

Panini’s made with fresh cut bread, homemade soups, made-to-order breakfasts, fresh desserts baked daily, plus a variety of drinks – hot and cold, coffee and tea, milkshakes and smoothies. And then there are the daily specials – pulled pork, chili, lasagna, ribs, mac n cheese…did I mention its all homemade?

Food this good can’t be this cheap. But it is, because the food isn’t the point.

A Place to be Heard

The main point of the Cafe, the reason it opened its doors in 2001, was to serve people.

Uncommon Grounds Cafe is a cooperative venture of the local people of Aliquippa and local churches working together to provide a safe place for anyone and everyone. A place to be heard, to be known, to be appreciated and accepted.

It’s so much more than a place to grab a quick meal or drink. It’s a ministry. It’s a place where the lonely, the outcast, the hurting can come together and find a friend who will listen. It’s a place where people of all ages and races can walk through the doors, create together, and change Aliquippa.

Changing Aliquippa

Aliquippa, like so many other towns along the Monongahela and Ohio rivers, was an ideal location for industry. When Pittsburgh was emerging as a major steel making hub in the late 1800s, Jones and Laughlin Steel Corp. sought to expand downriver and purchased a huge lot of land along the banks of the Ohio River to build one of the largest integrated steel mills in the world.

Thousands of immigrants flooded into Aliquippa to find jobs and the area experienced an era of prosperity – businesses lined Franklin Avenue, housing developments where built all over the area, generations of families were living in Aliquippa and life was good.

But like all good things, the era of big steel came to an end. Like many towns in Pennsylvania and throughout the Rust Belt, Aliquippa went into a depression. J&L was gone. As were the stores on Franklin Avenue. With nowhere to work, many families packed up and left to begin life elsewhere.

For many years some would say Aliquippa lost its hope and its creativity.

Then John Stanley, a Church Army officer from Australia, moved to Aliquippa. He purchased an old store front and with the help of many volunteers from local churches, remodeled the old building into a cafe.

Meet Herb Bailey

After 14 years of service in Aliquippa, Stanley felt called to return home and left the Cafe in the hands of current Ministry Director, Herb Bailey. Bailey, along with Operations Director Scott Branderhorst and many volunteers, continue the work what Stanley started.

“We are a place of respite for the weary neighbor, a place of encouragement for the local entrepreneur who dreams of being their own business owner, a place where people that want to give back whether it is court-mandated or soul-mandated and are allowed to engage others in a safe environment. We are a hub of opportunity and a bastion of hope, joining others who also are looking for hope. We hope to offer dignity in a way that says we recognize that no matter your story, you are precious in the site of God,” said Bailey.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Public Works: How The Clinton and Sanders Infrastructure Plans Measure Up

Posted by carldavidson on December 1, 2015

By Dave Johnson

Campaign for America’s Future

“Investing in infrastructure makes our economy more productive and competitive across the board.”
– Hillary Clinton

Dec 1, 2015 – Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has announced a plan for infrastructure investment. How does her plan stack up against that of her chief competitor, Bernie Sanders?

Also, how will Clinton and Sanders pay for their plans? On that question, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) recently came up with a set of principles we can use to judge this.

Clinton’s Infrastructure Plan

Clinton on Monday announced a plan for investing in infrastructure improvements. Meteor Blades laid out the need for infrastructure investment at Daily Kos in “Clinton proposes $275 billion spending for infrastructure“:

… 11 percent of the nation’s bridges are structurally deficient and a fourth of them are functionally obsolete. Similar deficiencies can be found in schools, dams, levees, railroads, the electrical grid, and wastewater facilities. In its 2013 quadrennial report card on U.S. infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers said the nation would need to invest an additional $1.6 trillion by 2020 to put its infrastructure into good repair. And that doesn’t include innovative infrastructure like universal broadband.

Clinton’s infrastructure plan is detailed at her website in “Hillary Clinton’s Infrastructure Plan: Building Tomorrow’s Economy Today.” Here is a distillation:

● $250 billion dollars in infrastructure investment, spread out over five years as additional spending of $50 billion each year.

● An additional one-time $25 billion to seed a national infrastructure bank. The bank will support up to an additional $225 billion in direct loans, loan guarantees, and other forms of credit enhancement. These are loans to states and cities which will require tolls, fees, etc. to pay off.

● Spending priorities include “smart investments in ports, airports, roads, and waterways”; “giving all American households access to world-class broadband and creating connected ‘smart cities’”; “building airports and air traffic control systems”; “a smart, resilient electrical grid”; “safe and reliable sources of water”; “a national freight investment program”; “upgrade our dams and levees to improve safety and generate clean energy”; safe, smart roads and highways that are ready for the connected cars of tomorrow” and “the new energy sources that will power them.”

● A promise of “a faster, safer, and higher capacity passenger rail system.” But the plan does not mention high-speed rail. (Note that a single high-speed rail system from Los Angeles to San Francisco is expected to cost up to $60 billion, which alone is almost one-fourth of Clinton’s entire five-year infrastructure investment for all infrastructure needs.)

Sanders’ Infrastructure Plan

Clinton’s $275 billion infrastructure plan offers modest spending and contains few specifics. Contrast that with candidate Bernie Sanders, who has proposed a highly detailed, $1 trillion plan.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in 2016 Election, Infrastructure, Sanders, unemployment | Leave a Comment »

Steelworker Families Support ATI strikers in Vandergrift

Posted by carldavidson on November 5, 2015

Locked out ATI Flat-Rolled Division workers and family members yell at a tractor-trailer truck driver leaving ATI’s Vandergrift plant during a family picket at the entrance to the plant on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015.

By Tom Yerace

Trib Total Media

Nov. 5, 2015 – Anyone going in or out of the ATI steel plant in Vandergrift on Wednesday evening drove through a wall of emotion.

The union workers, whom the company has locked out of their jobs since Aug. 15, were in greater numbers than usual.

That’s because the Wives of Steel, a group of steelworkers’ wives, called a rally at the plant entrance that started at 4:30 and continued for at least two hours.

About 200 steelworkers and their families, most carrying signs demanding a fair contract from ATI, stayed on the move as they picketed. They walked back and forth — slowly — pausing on the driveway when vehicles approached the plant entrance, forcing them to slow down.

At the same time, they hurled verbal abuse and vented their anger, particularly at the vans carrying the people who have taken their jobs. The most frequent insult heard was the ultimate for union members — “scab.”

Yelling into a bullhorn, a steelworker shouted at a truck driver, “Hey dude, you’re a scab! You’re a piece of garbage!”

“Do you think they get the idea that we don’t like what they’re doing?” asked Russ Gainor of West Leechburg, who attended the picket line, even though he retired from ATI in June after 36 years rather than risk the lockout.

A thick white line freshly painted across the edge of the driveway served as the plant’s boundary from the public sidewalk.

As the steelworkers rallied on one side of the stripe, ATI security guards in khaki uniforms and ball caps videotaped the proceedings from inside the plant property.

ATI spokesman Dan Greenfield said the company had no reaction or comment on the rally.

When asked if there was any news about contract negotiations resuming, Greenfield said, “We’ve had contact with the mediator about trying to get talks going again, but so far it hasn’t been successful.”

Regina Stinson of New Kensington, who heads the five-member Wives of Steel at United Steelworkers Local 1138 in Leechburg, said the large turnout is an indicator of the stress the steelworkers and their families are dealing with.

The lockout enters its 83rd day Thursday. While some of the locked-out workers have found temporary work, many are receiving only unemployment compensation, which is a fraction of what they normally earn.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in labor, Steelworkers, trade unions | Leave a Comment »

As Pittsburgh Grapples With A Changing Workforce, The Fight For 15 Comes To Town

Posted by carldavidson on October 26, 2015

 

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In this photo, Pittsburgh’s U.S. Steel Tower, whose upper reaches bear the initials of the city’s largest employer. Flickr Creative Commons/Adam Sacco

By Cole Strangler

International Business Times

Oct 22, 2015 – The tallest building in Pittsburgh owes its title to the industrial giant that made the city famous. But instead of its floundering namesake, the U.S. Steel Tower now displays the initials of a different sort of employer: the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, or UPMC.

When the signage went up eight years ago, it seemed, as the New York Times noted, to perfectly epitomize the evolution of a city and its labor force — from an economy once world-renowned for its manufacturing might to one focused on “eds and meds”; a place where the working classes flock to booming research institutions and hospitals, not coke plants or blast furnaces.

In the old economy, steelworkers won pay raises and benefits that transformed what used to be a grueling, low-wage job into a virtual ticket to the middle class. But according to policymakers and labor advocates, too many workers in the new Pittsburgh are still struggling to make ends meet.

At hearings slated to kick off Thursday, a newly-formed, city council-backed wage committee plans to shed light on the problem — and consider a potential remedy: Whether to follow the examples set by Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles and adopt a $15 hourly minimum wage, more than double the current statewide minimum of $7.25. This is the core demand of the Fight For 15, the protest movement backed by the powerful Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

“We’ve been talking about the need to increase the minimum wage, but we’ve not really linked that to the benefits it can bring to the city or to workers and their families in a succinct way,” says Reverend Ricky Burgess, the committee’s architect and lone representative from city council. “What I want to do is provide some data.”

In addition to testimony from economists and poverty experts, the data will likely come first-hand from low-wage workers themselves — people like Justin Sheldon, 34. He’s one of 62,000 people who work at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the largest private employer in Pennsylvania, and by far, the largest employer of any kind in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area.

Medical residents at the hospitals tend to earn over $50,000 a year, according to the employee review site Glassdoor. But the more than 10,000 service workers — the people who staff cafeterias, transport patients and sterilize equipment, among other things — earn substantially less. They make an average of $12.81 an hour, UPMC said last year. The health care provider did not respond to request for comment.

“My reason [for supporting $15] is pretty simple,” says Sheldon, a housekeeper at the UPMC Presbyterian hospital. “I want to be able to support my family — properly.”

Sheldon makes $12.52 an hour and works 48 hours a week, cleaning doctor’s offices, conference rooms and restrooms. He says he can barely pay the bills for his household, which includes two young children, ages six and four. His wife is visually impaired and receives Social Security disability payments, about $700 a month, he says. They pay $600 a month to rent a house in McKees Rocks, a blue-collar community that overlooks the Ohio River.

“Anything I save up usually ends up getting used” he says. Within a week of the next paycheck, “I’m usually down to $30 or less.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Minimum Wage, Pittsburgh, trade unions | Leave a Comment »

The Average American Worker Earns Less Today Than 40 Years Ago

Posted by carldavidson on September 28, 2015

It’s not just unemployment that matters. Many full-time workers take home less money, after inflation, than in decades.

 

Because most everything we buy gets more expensive over time, we have to earn more money each year just to maintain our existing standard of living. When we’re not given raises that keep up with this rate of inflation, we’re effectively suffering a pay cut.. That’s why many American workers are actually poorer today than four decades ago. They may be earning more money. But, in real terms, they’re getting less for it. Measured in 2014 dollars, the median male full-time worker made $50,383 last year against $53,294 in 1973, according to new U.S. Census Bureau figures.

At $50,383, the figure is the lowest it’s been since 2006. It’s also $450 lower than in 2013. Women have seen bigger increases in real pay in the last few years, though from a lower (unequal) base. The median female worker earned $30,182 in 1973 (in 2014 dollars), but $39,621 last year.

As we explored in our income inequality series recently, technology, globalization, and reduced union bargaining power are all factors behind stagnating wages. The economy has been getting bigger, driven by continuing increases in productivity. But, for one reason or another, workers haven’t been sharing in those gains. But they’re not just disappearing: They’re making a small group of people very, very rich. What are we going to do about that?

[Top Photo: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images]

Posted in Austerity, trade unions | 2 Comments »

 
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