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PA Republicans Pass Cruel Budget

Posted by randyshannon on June 30, 2014

Senator Ferlo
Senator Jim FerloDear constituents,

Minutes ago, the Pennsylvania Senate passed the fiscal year 2015 budget by a vote of 26-24. The budget includes $29.1 billion in spending and moves on to the House of Representatives for an additional vote.

I am contacting you tonight to tell you that I think this is the most disastrous, devastating, disappointing budget in my tenure in Harrisburg. Governor Corbett and Republican leadership have just voted to slash education and human services programs, to leave millions of revenue untapped; all while doing absolutely nothing to create or protect jobs in our Commonwealth.

The first thing Pennsylvanians will remember about Tom Corbett’s first, and perhaps only, term in office is his unprecedented cuts in funding for our public schools. The future of our Commonwealth lies with our children, and there’s no better investment in Pennsylvania than quality public education. This budget continues the Governor’s policy to shortchange our children, their families, the communities in which they live, and all of the hard-working teachers and staff in our public schools. Not only will these children have a disadvantage in their education, when they finish school there will be little to no programs left to offer a hand up in this difficult economy.

This Governor fails Pennsylvania’s children.

Medicaid expansion, a program which would protect hundreds of thousands of working adults and seniors, remains available to Pennsylvania and the Governor refuses to accept it. Why? He would rather veterans, seniors, and other vulnerable populations suffer on principle instead of linking himself to a successful program expanded by President Obama.

This Governor fails Pennsylvania’s veterans.

CapitolThe natural gas industry and corporations in Pennsylvania continue to make unprecedented profits while our schools close and veterans are without health care. Pennsylvania has the lowest tax rate of any oil and gas producing state in our nation, and we refuse to ask them to pay their fare share!

We are forced to watch while this administration GIVES AWAY the profits from our natural resources while simultaneously destroying our parks, ruining home property values, causing catastrophic health problems, and violating our water sources. The natural gas industry gets to steal our natural resources without paying for them!

I have two bills to address this egregious situation: one establishing a moratorium on new gas drilling permits in order to conduct an unbiased study on the multi-faceted effects that oil and gas development causes, and a 17-point amendment to the state’s existing oil and gas act. Some of those points include common sense protections: replacing the impact fee with a severance tax, require that drillers notify surrounding property owners and municipal officials that are within 5,000 ft of the well site prior to applying for a drilling permit, amends how trade secrets are handled, and many more. These bills have gotten zero movement nor consideration in the Senate since their introduction in 2013.

This Governor fails Pennsylvania’s natural resources.

I have said for months that this budget plan is a “house of cards.” The Governor has proven me true by balancing his budget on tricks, unrealistic revenue estimates, and one-time fund transfers that do NOTHING to sustainably manage the state’s finances for the long-term.  Even worse, this budget sets the state up for a $2.5 billion deficit for next year, and the General Assembly may even be forced to make significant repairs to this fundamentally flawed plan early next year!

This Governor has failed all of Pennsylvania with this budget.

I am outraged by the passage of this budget, and I hope you will remember in the coming months who passed this budget – Governor Corbett and his Republican leadership – not my Democratic colleagues nor me.

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ITUC: “There are no jobs on a dead planet.”

Posted by randyshannon on June 14, 2014

There are no jobs on a dead planet

Climate action = Jobs growth

WE know the science is unequivocal.

The world’s temperature is rising, current trends will lead us to a 4°C average increase or more in this century and without urgent, ambitious action we will face irreversible changes in our climate.

WE have policy

The ITUC wants the world’s governments to agree on climate action and give us a fighting chance to limit the temperature rise to 2 degrees or less.

WE are out of time

Climate-related catastrophes such as cyclones, floods, drought, fires, melting glaciers, season changes and more are increasing and hurting working people now. Their impacts will only become stronger within 15 years – this will destroy more communities and jobs.

WE demand industrial transformation

Science tells us we need to urgently stabilise carbon emissions at 44 GigaTonnes.Business as usual gets us to 59 GigaTonnes by 2020. It doesn’t add up. All our economic sectors must change. We demand to be part of the industrial transformation with universal access to breakthrough technologies that will make our industries and our jobs sustainable for workers everywhere.

WE demand a just transition

We have played our role in UN negotiations and fought and won commitments to ‘Just Transition’. Now we want to see the transition happen on the ground, including through investment in new green jobs, skills, income protection and other necessary measures implemented everywhere, with funding for the poorest and most vulnerable of nations.

WE need your voice

Climate change is a trade union issue – it threatens everything the labour movement stands for: fairness, social justice and decent work.

We need a global agreement and national actions to transform our industries, create jobs  and support our people.

From the UN Climate Change talks in Lima 2014 – to Paris in 2015 we are building the movement for an ambitious global agreement.

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The 1914 Walkout at Westinghouse

Posted by randyshannon on June 11, 2014

Charles McCollester
June 7, 2014
Pittsburgh Post Gazette
The Next Page: Dark days in the Electric Valley
Historian and former chief union steward Charles McCollester revisits the little-known Westinghouse walkout of 1914

A man addresses strikers at St. Anselm Church. , Historic Pittsburgh,

In fall 1985, during the last days of the Union Switch & Signal complex in Swissvale, I was chief steward of local 610 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America.

Most days, after some hours as a laborer in the machine shop, I made a tour of the plant, listening to anxious workers, meeting with management over grievances and monitoring the dismantlement of the plant. As I walked one day across the 40-acre site — between the five-story electronics assembly and shipping building and the machine shop and final assembly area for switches, crossing gates and railway signals — a tough millwright steward pulled alongside me in his maintenance vehicle.

“I thought you might be interested in this,” he said, indicating a box filled mostly with company magazines from the 1920s.

On top of the stash was a plant manager’s photo album. Though the photos were not annotated, some of what they depicted became clear as I uncovered the chain of events.

There were photos of a mass march outside the gates, of workers in large groups walking out of the plant and of strikers in a nearby ballfield behind St. Anselm Church. There were photos taken inside the plant of hundreds of non-strikers being fed.

It was evidence of a dramatic labor conflict largely lost to labor and Pittsburgh history.

In June 1914, about 12,000 Westinghouse Electric workers went on strike. More than 1,000 workers from Union Switch & Signal joined them in a solidarity strike. The workers organized themselves into an independent industrial union in which women played a key role in the ranks and leadership. For over a month, the strike fashioned an impressive non-violent resistance to one of the giants of the new corporate age. The strike illustrates the reaction of workers to the practices of scientific management in modern industry and raises issues of worker participation in the workplace that remain relevant today.

The most visible spokesperson, Bridget Kenny, an intense Irish worker, was dubbed the “Joan of Arc of the Strikers.”

▪ ▪ ▪

Union Switch & Signal — the property today is Edgewood Towne Centre — was the second of the three core facilities on which the far-flung Westinghouse empire was built.

George Westinghouse’s original business was Westinghouse Air Brake Co., located in the Strip District and later in Wilmerding. His innovative braking systems, which used compressed air to stop long strings of railcars, enabled trains to travel much faster, and with heavier loads and more cars, than before.

But with the increased speed and complexity of rail operations came the need for a panoply of switches, signals, crossing gates and electronic control systems.

At a plant at Penn Avenue and Garrison Alley, Downtown, Westinghouse began to apply the theoretical work on alternating current pioneered by Serbo-Croatian genius Nikola Tesla. These experiments led in the 1890s to the construction of a massive complex containing the electric, machine and meter works in East Pittsburgh and Turtle Creek (later consolidated as Westinghouse Electric or “the Electric”) and the switch plant (“the Switch”) in Edgewood and Swissvale.

The area became known as the “Electric Valley.” From Solitude, his mansion in Homewood, Westinghouse could access his air brake, electric and switch complexes via Pennsylvania Railroad.

Westinghouse was a down-to-earth man who had empathy and respect for skilled craftsmen. Unlike the overwhelmingly foreign workers who toiled 12 or more hours a day, seven days a week, at the neighboring Edgar Thomson Works of U.S. Steel, the Westinghouse force worked 10 hours a day, six days a week, until the company scaled back to a half-day on Saturday. Featuring indoor plumbing, Westinghouse housing also was significantly above steel-mill standards.

There were hopes that Westinghouse might welcome organized labor, but in a 1903 letter to Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor, he declined to unionize the work force voluntarily. He said “the fair and honorable treatment of employees” — including the partial work day on Saturday, described as unique in the country; the standard 54-hour week; and an openness to settling grievances — precluded the need for outside representation.

He noted that he had refused to join anti-union organizations of employers and offered to work with Gompers to assure a “comprehensive and beneficial system” for retirement security. Most surprising, he shared Gompers’ letter — and his reply — with all employees in his plants.

During the 1907 economic crisis, however, Westinghouse, who regularly plowed profits back into expanded production facilities, was forced to relinquish control of the Electric to a consortium of Pittsburgh and New York bankers that included the Mellons. He died three months before labor strife broke out in June 1914.

▪ ▪ ▪

To reduce the autonomy of skilled machinists and mechanics, new ownership began to impose a rigorous version of Frederick Taylor’s scientific management system. Time and motion studies and piecework systems were calibrated to drive production and control every aspect of worker effort.

Health and safety concerns of Westinghouse workers were reported by Elizabeth Beardsley Butler in her “Women and the Trades” volume of the 1909 Pittsburgh Survey. Aside from the hated piecework system, which pushed the women to the limits of their endurance, the central issues she cited concerned poor ventilation for female core molders in the foundry, mica dust exposure for insulators and copper dust and bad air for hundreds of women who wound coils for electric motors.

In early 1914, tensions bubbled to the surface at the Electric. Layoffs and reductions in hours led to a large street protest and then to organization of the Allegheny Congenial Industrial Union.

Asserting that Pittsburgh had become “a synonym of slavery” among the workers of America and that “of all the working hells in this district, Westinghouse is recognized as the chief penitentiary,” the ACIU called on workers in the Pittsburgh region to raise the flag of industrial revolt. Women came to be well represented among the leadership, a fact that underscored the aim of the new industrial union to present a non-violent, disciplined and patriotic front to the public.

Demands for progressive political reform were increasing. The Socialist Party, led by railroad union man Eugene Debs, had out-polled the two major parties in the Turtle Creek Valley in 1910 and 1912. While socialists and two factions of the Industrial Workers of the World were active among workers here, the ACIU was a unique, homegrown entity.

Record heat and polluted air triggered a walkout June 3 by 23 men in the Electric’s machine shop. After an unsuccessful meeting with management the following day, a mass meeting called for a strike on June 5. Women, who numbered 1,200 of the initial 7,000 strikers, were noted for their enthusiasm; 1,000 of them became the core of the picket line and the leaders of marches.

In the spring, company supporters had tried to slow the popularity of socialist ideas by sponsoring a mass revival that brought former baseball player and nationally known preacher Billy Sunday to the Turtle Creek playground. The large wood-and-canvas “tabernacle” built for the revival meetings was still standing in June, when strikers took it over and proclaimed an “industrial revival” in a “labor tabernacle.”

Many local religious figures supported the workers. An Episcopal priest in Wilmerding was threatened with excommunication for preaching “Christian Socialism.” He asserted: “The issue is a better manhood for all or money for the few. Whether the present degrading capitalism shall continue or whether humanity shall realize a decent type of human society.”

Numerous attempts to import guards and replacement workers at the Electric were thwarted by pickets blocking egress from trains. The appearance of armed guards at the Electric prompted a June 11 meeting of ACIU Local 2 at the Switch and a vote by workers there to strike in solidarity with their East Pittsburgh and Turtle Creek counterparts.

Buoyed by the action of the Switch workers, the Electric’s strikers decided to march to Swissvale. About 5,000 strikers with bagpipe bands and a caravan of automobiles arrived at noon June 12, a beautiful sunny day. Newspapers estimated that three-quarters of the Switch shop men walked out in support of the Electric.

Unlike the more hard-line Electric management, the Switch management addressed workers’ grievances. They made some concessions on premium pay, for example, and agreed to meet with committees of workers from each department to address problems. On June 27, the Switch agreed to return to work.

Two days later, armed gunmen reappeared at the Electric and began hurling insults at strikers. This provocation had the intended effect; some strikers roughed up two company men on motorbikes and then the East Pittsburgh police chief when he tried to intervene. These events provided the rationale for the Allegheny County sheriff to summon the state constabulary.

The same day, 30 mounted troopers entered East Pittsburgh. “As the dust-covered troopers rode two abreast along Braddock Avenue, a flag-waving striker, tears flowing down her cheeks, sprang out in front of the horses. At a sharp command, the horses were reined in. The girl cried out, “Oh, have you come here to shoot us down?

Capt. L.G. Adams raised his hat with one hand and saluted the flag with the other. Other troopers did the same. Adams said, “We, young lady, we came here to keep peace and order.”

The strike began to weaken by week’s end. On July 6, the company began hiring replacement workers in Cleveland, Detroit and Philadelphia. When the final several thousand strikers returned to work July 13, the company sent many of them home.

▪ ▪ ▪

Few foresaw that a horrific European war would break out in weeks. Indeed, in Pittsburgh newspapers, the entry of troopers into the Turtle Creek Valley had overshadowed the assassination of an Austrian duke by an anarchist in a Balkan backwater named Sarajevo.

The Westinghouse Strike of 1914 was a tragedy in Pittsburgh labor history because it marked a moment when a more flexible and intelligent management philosophy might have met organized skilled workers halfway and created an alternative to the class-war methodology that has dominated America labor relations.

If Andrew Carnegie had lived up to his own pronouncements on labor rights in 1892, if George Westinghouse had been alive to moderate a settlement in 1914, perhaps a more collaborative industrial labor relations system might have evolved.

Instead, the issues of the 1914 walkout remained unresolved, and all thoughts of congeniality disappeared. Two years later, another, better-known strike erupted at the Electric. This one was militant, with three killed and 30 wounded.


Charles McCollester ( is president of the Battle of Homestead Foundation and a retired professor and director of the Pennsylvania Center for the Study of Labor Relations at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He lives in Mount Washington.

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Ambridge Green Energy Fair June 28th

Posted by randyshannon on June 10, 2014





The FUTURE of Renewable Energy is NOW


German_roofsBeaver, PA, June 10, 2014 – June is “bustin’ out all over“ —  with renewable energy on full display, just as it will be June 28 at the Clean and Green Energy Fair in Ambridge, PA.

On the last Saturday in June, Beaver County will celebrate the power of solar, wind and geothermal energies – not for somewhere over the rainbow, but for here and now – with energy efficiency and conservation strategies sharing the spotlight.

The Clean and Green Energy Fair will showcase vendors and organizations engaged in creating sustainable energy for everyday life. The Fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Rt. 65 Farmer’s Market parking lot of Saint Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church, 624 Park Road in Ambridge.

Now is the time for a new look at fossil-fuel alternatives in our homes and communities. As Tom Schuster, senior Pennsylvania representative of the Sierra Club said, “By moving to 100 percent clean energy sources, we’ll create tens of thousands of American jobs and billions of dollars in new investment.”

Randy Francisco, Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania Organizing Representative for the Greater Pittsburgh area, will speak on using Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, the EPA’s Carbon Standard Rule and legislation to grow renewable energy and resulting jobs. Other speakers will address geothermal and solar energy home resources.

solar installationEveryone is invited to explore the rise of renewable energy and the differences it can make. The Clean and Green Energy Fair will feature free solar snow cones, children’s activities, and – thanks to a donation by Ted Popovich, board of directors’ member of Allegheny County’s Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) – an iPad raffle.

Popovich donated the iPad to draw local people to Beaver County’s first-ever renewables energy fair. For sponsors Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Committee and Three Rivers Community Foundation, a strong showing could turn this “first” into a “historic first” that — with or without the chance to win an iPad — is renewable every  June.


Date: Saturday, June 28 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Location: Farmer’s Market Parking Lot (on Rt. 65) of Saint Mary’s Byzantine Catholic church, 624 Park Road, Ambridge, PA 15003

Cost: The fair is free and open to the public. Parking is also free.

Speakers: Randy Francisco, Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania Organizing Representative for the Greater Pittsburgh area.

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United Electrical Workers Union: US & Russia Should Work Together

Posted by randyshannon on May 27, 2014

Statement of the UE General Officers

27 May, 2014

The Ukraine Crisis and the New Cold War

On February 22, the elected president of Ukraine was overthrown in a coup which was supported by the Obama administration. Since then, the country has been torn apart and violence has escalated. On May 2 in the southern city of Odessa, supporters of the new unelected Kiev government, including members of the violent extremist Right Sector party, surrounded peaceful, unarmed anti-government protestors who had taken refuge in the city’s main union hall. The right-wing crowd then set the union hall on fire, and 46 people died by being burned alive or jumping to their deaths trying to escape.

putinobamaWe are troubled by this horrific atrocity, and by the fact that mass murder was committed by burning a union hall. We are concerned about the conflict in Ukraine, by the massing of Russian troops near Ukraine’s eastern border and U.S. and NATO troops and planes in neighboring Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which signal the return of the Cold War and the threat of a much hotter war.

A defining period in the history of UE was our union’s courageous opposition to the Cold War. At the end of World War II there was great hope among union members and other Americans for a continuation of FDR’s New Deal, with progressive social and economic policies including national healthcare, expanded Social Security, and progress against racial discrimination in employment. What we got instead was the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act and the Cold War. Military spending, including the nuclear arms race, continued to trump all other priorities. Local conflicts all over the world were treated as global showdowns between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. In the name of “fighting communism,” the U.S. sided with the French and British colonial empires against independence movements, and backed many brutal dictators against their own people.  The 40-year-long Cold War included some very hot wars – notably Korea and Vietnam. The CIA organized coups that overthrew democratic governments that dared to disagree with the U.S. government or corporations. On the domestic front, the Cold War was a massive attack on civil liberties and an effort to wipe out organizations, including UE, that refused to enlist in the Cold War.

UE said the U.S. government should direct its resources toward making life better for its own people. UE favored negotiations to resolve differences between the U.S. and the Soviets, and to end conflicts such as Vietnam. UE said the arms race robbed human needs on both sides of the Cold War divide. As UE President Albert Fitzgerald often said, “You can’t have guns and butter.”


The Cold War supposedly ended with 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, which had been composed of the USSR and its Eastern European allies. A key event was the 1990 agreement between the U.S., West Germany and the Soviet Union allowing the reunification of Germany. In those negotiations, President George H.W. Bush promised Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO – the U.S.-led anti-Soviet military alliance – would not expand any further east than Germany.

Yet despite that promise, and despite Russia and its former allies no longer having communist governments, NATO has moved steadily eastward toward Russia. NATO now includes the former socialist states of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria, as well as three former republics of the U.S.S.R. which border Russia – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Two more former Soviet republics, Ukraine and Georgia, have been promised eventual NATO membership. NATO is now clearly an alliance against Russia, sitting on Russia’s doorstep.

In late 2013 the U.S. began expressing hostility toward Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, and sympathy with the often violent anti-government protestors in Kiev. Yanukovych was not an exemplary leader – we now know that he’d been feathering his own nest – but he was elected in a fair election, and the U.S. supports many governments that are more corrupt and undemocratic than his.

What made Yanukovych a target for regime change was his decision in November to reject harsh loan terms from the European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) – including the kind of pension cuts and austerity that have driven Greece into poverty. Yanukovych instead accepted a more favorable offer of economic aid from Russia. His proposal that Ukraine have good economic relations with both Russia and the EU was rejected by the EU and the U.S., which wanted a Ukrainian government hostile to Russia.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland met in December 2013 with Oleh Tyahnybok, head of the far-right Svoboda Party. In a 2012 resolution the European Parliament had called Svoboda “racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic” and appealed to democratic parties in Ukraine “not to associate with, endorse or form coalitions with this party. In May 2013 the World Jewish Congress labeled Svoboda “neo-Nazi” and called for the party to be banned. Svoboada leader Tyahnybok has called for ridding Ukraine of the influence of “the Moscow-Jewish mafia.” Svoboda is also anti-gay, anti-black, and hostile to equal rights for women.

But since the overthrow of Yanukovych, Svoboda holds four cabinet ministries in Ukraine’s “provisional government” (including deputy prime minister.) In a Feb. 4 conversation caught on tape, Nuland and the U.S. ambassador to Kiev discussed who would get which positions in the new government, including cabinet seats for Svoboda.

In Europe since the end of World War II, there has been a political taboo against allowing fascist and neo-Nazi parties into any government. The Obama administration has now broken that taboo and allied our country with fascists in Ukraine. According to German media reports, about 400 elite mercenaries from the notorious U.S. private security firm Academi (formerly Blackwater) are taking part in Ukrainian military operations against anti-government protesters in southeastern Ukraine. News that Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden has joined the board of directors of Ukraine’s largest private gas company adds the element of conflict of interest. Obama’s policies toward Ukraine and Russia have significantly increased the chances of military confrontation between the U.S. and Russia, the world’s two nuclear superpowers. This threatens world peace.

It is unclear whether the presidential election conducted on May 25, under conditions of near-civil war, will help to defuse the crisis in Ukraine.

We reaffirm UE’s historic position. We favor peace and friendly, equitable economic relations between nations. We favor negotiations rather than military confrontation to resolve disputes, including this one. We believe the countries that defeated Nazism in World War II, including the U.S. and Russia, should work together against any resurgence of racism, anti-semitism and fascism in Europe.

Bruce Klipple, General President
Andrew Dinkelaker, General Secretary-Treasurer
Bob Kingsley, Director of Organization

May 27, 2014

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Unions Say Climate Action to Create 48 Million Jobs

Posted by randyshannon on May 23, 2014


23 MAY 2014
Trade unions worldwide say strong climate action could deliver 48 million jobs

LONDON: A new international campaign, Unions4Climate action, has been launched at the World Congress of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) this week. The movement aims to draw attention to the potential of the low carbon economy, with a focus on green job creation.

More than 50 trade unions across the globe are demanding that governments deliver an ambitious climate agreement at the UNFCCC 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris next year. The international gathering is the deadline for determining the post 2020 climate framework and widely recognized as a crucial meeting for delivering meaningful climate action.

Józef Niemiec, Deputy General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), commented: “The ETUC urges governments to agree to an ambitious and legally binding agreement in Paris next year. A global framework, built on common but differentiated responsibilities, is the cornerstone of the just transition we are calling for.”

The leaders of the unions involved in the campaign are arguing that acting on climate change will lead to an industrial revolution which will create new jobs for the millions of workers they represent.

A recent report from the International Renewable Energy Agency highlighted that 6.5 million people worldwide are employed in the clean energy industry, with solar PV being the main renewable sector of employment. The ITUC believe that with the right policy framework even more jobs could be created.

Pointing to its own research, the ITUC state that by taking action to mitigate climate change, 48 million new jobs could be created in just 12 countries.  In the last two years in Germany up to 400,000 new renewable energy jobs have been created, the union highlight. Similarly, data released by the American Solar Foundation, revealed that 23,682 new US solar jobs were added in 2013 giving a growth rate of 19.9% on the comparable figure for 2012.

The unions have said that they will use the new campaign to demand that governments strengthen their climate policies. In addition, Unions4Climate action will facilitate the development of coherent global strategy for delivering an industrial revolution and boosting employment.

 “The mission of the trade union movement to ensure jobs, rights and social equality requires that we embrace the cause of a just transition towards sustainable development – a transition that must start now”, Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC explained.

The trade unions are the latest cross-border body to voice their support for climate action. Just this week, the CEOs of over 60 leading insurance firms pledged their committment to principles relating to climate change risk.Similarly, health professionals, the Global Climate and Health Alliance (GCHA), used the publication of the IPCC AR5 report to argue that the risks to human health posed by the rise in temperature are now too serious to ignore.

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PA-12 Democratic Primary Debate in Johnstown

Posted by randyshannon on May 13, 2014

Democratic PA-12 Candidates McClelland and Hugya Face Off in Debate

PA-12 Democrat candidate Erin McClelland with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto

PA-12 Democrat candidate Erin McClelland with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto

With just over a week left until the primary election, the 12th Congressional District’s Democratic candidates Erin McClelland and John Hugya took the stage at The University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown to debate the issues and try to set themselves apart from each other.

And boy, did they.

McClelland, a healthcare professional specializing in orthomolecular addiction treatment, quickly established her bona fides as a policy wonk and portrayed herself as forward-looking problem-solver from the private sector.

Hugya, a retired Marine Colonel and former district director for the late Congressman Jack Murtha, spoke solemnly about veterans issues and proudly promised to put his Murtha-modeled pork prowess to work for voters.

These two different perspectives led to two varying lines of answering the questions put to them by the moderator and the audience.

Job Creation and Economic Development

Hugya explained his jobs platform as following the example set by Congressman John Murtha, who Hugya said was unfairly chastised for his earmarks. “All the jobs we have in Johnstown came from earmarks,” Hugya said. “Look at China, they’re building everything. Ten years ago, you look at a picture of Peking, you saw a rickshaw and a bicycle. They have pulled ahead and we have not done anything in 20 years.”

McClelland said that the number one thing she would want to do in Congress is vote for a jobs bill, explaining that we currently have “policies that support free trade but not fair trade,” and “we need to change that so we can bring jobs back home.” And, McClelland added, when you bring jobs back home, you expand our tax base and begin to solve a lot of our economic issues in that way.”

Both candidates said that infrastructure maintenance and construction were crucial to economic development. McClelland said that currently “we are neglecting [our infrastructure] to the point of complete disrepair, and if it keeps deteriorating, rebuilding will cost more down the road and affect my son’s generation.”

Hugya, however, explained that in his view, “we need money disbursed from commercial banks to get our infrastructure going,” namely by passing a 21st century Glass-Steagall Act to keep traditional banks separate from investment banks and hedge funds.

Natural Gas

McClelland began her discussion by saying that “the biggest issue we have [at the federal level] is closing the Halliburton loophole.” The Halliburton loophole allows hydraulic fracturing companies to withhold details about the makeup of their fracking fluid.

“You know what’s in your pastry at Giant Eagle, but doctors don’t know how to treat health issues related to fracking because they don’t know the chemicals,” McClelland explained.

Hugya focused on the need to create more jobs in the district because “they don’t have coal mines anymore in the western part of the state.” Hugya said that people in Beaver County need a commitment from the drillers as much as they need health protections.


Coal and the EPA

McClelland began her answering by saying that “I have a 13 year old boy with asthma, and one of the most terrifying moments of my life was watching my son grasp for air.” And according to McClelland, the incumbent Congressman, Keith Rothfus, is a “climate change denier.”

McClelland proposed incentivizing companies who innovate on pollution reduction, and pointed out that America’s trade partners are “literally dumping garbage into the air.”

“We have to implement CO2 regulations based on a process of continuous improvement… not incentivize our trading partners to keep polluting,” McClelland said.

Hugya responded to the question by attacking the regulations on emissions from new power plants.

“The rules and regulations are done within the EPA,” said Hugya. “That’s not the law. They can work out any kind of deal they need to make jobs happen. They got to be able to work out a deal not to hurt the people and not to hurt the atmosphere.”

Reforming Social Security and Medicare

According to McClelland, “this is our biggest issue.”

“Medicaid and Medicare costs are exploding at twice the rate of our GDP,” McClelland said. “If you want to solve that problem, that solution is error reduction. We have 300 million medical errors every year,” which McClelland said is a massive part of the cost problem.

“Keith Rothfus says the only answer to not killing patients is tort reform,” McClelland said. “He wants to change the way you can sue after a medical error. I taught hospitals how to reduce medical errors and save lives.”

Hugya said that his “proposal to keep the fund perpetuated is to lower the percentage that we’re all paying, but pay the whole year through.” That way, Hugya said, “the system would not run out of money. And we need to eliminate fraud.”

How to Keep People in the District

For Hugya, the best solution to the district’s brain drain is simple: “earmarks.”

“We have to have the jobs here for them to come back to,” he said.

McClelland said that her solution would be the same thing that kept people in the district for decades: “a good reasonable wage, good schools, and a good home life with maybe enough left over for a ball game.”

McClelland added that Pennsylvania has “zero Congressmen and zero Senators who are female in a state that is 52% female,” and she hoped to be an inspiring example for Keystone State women.

Minimum Wage Bill

Hugya said that he finds the $10.10 minimum wage bill to be “questionable,” adding that “I remember being paid $1.37 when I got out of the military.”

“If you give them the $10 dollars, and they’re living in public housing, the public housing goes up,” Hugya said. “It’s a good thing to say it, but it’s not going to increase the economic welfare of people.”

McClelland said that raising the minimum wage “is an issue of being a human being.”

“I own a business and the lowest paid employee makes $13.25 an hour,” McClelland said. “When people go to work and put in a hard day’s work, they should have enough money to live off of.”

Affordable Care Act

When asked if she was in favor of keeping, reforming, or repealing Obamacare, McClelland said she “absolutely support[s] maintaining the Affordable Care Act.”

“There are now 8 million more people in this country that can live their life knowing they can rely on the security of health insurance,” McClelland said, adding that health security is “a fundamental human right.”

Hugya spent most of his answer comparing Obamacare to TriCare, the health care program for military personnel and dependents. As to Obamacare generally, Hugya said that at this point “we have to have it, but we have to get into certain sections of it, test it out like we did Tricare, [and] if it’s no good fix it.”


The veterans portion of the debate got heated quickly.

Hugya began by saying that “Mr. Rothfus doesn’t understand the difference between a corporal and a colonel.”

He then demanded to know how many members of McClelland’s family were in the military. McClelland said that her two grandfathers had served.

Hugya awkwardly responded with, simply, “okay,” and the moderator, Ray Wrabley, broke in after a few awkward seconds of silence, saying “moving on…”

Improving Education

Hugya began by saying that “from my past experience, I can tell you that in the 12th Congressional District we had before, it’s where the best schools were,” but he wasn’t sure if it was due to “smarter kids or teachers.”

“I know teachers don’t like to get evaluated, but I know that I had to get evaluated in a fitness report all my life,” Hugya said. “They worry about making jocks out of them and not making them technically qualified. You get a job because you’re damn qualified.”

McClelland took on the way we currently analyze schools, and what she sees as the perverse incentives of federal funding.

“We test our students to try and ascertain how they are working, and then bureaucrats in D.C. use that data to punish schools and teachers and take money away, and who suffers? It’s our children,” she said.

“We need to use the data to make improvements,” McClelland added. “When we use testing, we should ask whether student has shown continuous improvement.”

Foreign Policy

McClelland said that we are currently “in a pattern of reactionary foreign policy, which is a dangerous place to be because it allows our enemies to dictate our decisions.” McClelland also criticized the manner in which Congress handles defense spending.

According to McClelland, Congress fails to do defense spending “in a modular fashion, which is what businesses use.” Instead, McClelland said we are spending in a way that asks for “a bunch of this and a bunch of that, but not what our people need.”

Hugya began his response by talking about his former boss, saying “Mr. Murtha was right about Iraq,” and that after Murtha criticized President Bush’s decision, “you have no idea the hell that happened on him. They came after him, me, and our whole staff.”

Hugya was referencing the various ethics investigations that we brought against Murtha. He also added that “I carried a top secret clearance in the Marine Corps and on the Hill, and I can tell you that you have no idea what went on, but Mr. Murtha was not happy.”

Finally, Hugya went on a tirade against the incumbent 12th District Congressman, Keith Rothfus, saying he “isn’t smart, his staff is,” and that Rothfus “pretends he’s a military guy, but he is not.”

“Keith has never had his hands dirty,” Hugya said. “I worked in a coal furnace. I know what it’s like to work hard.”

Best Concluding Remarks

Each candidate gave a conclusion summarizing their experience, and each candidate had a memorable one-liner.

Hugya ended by saying that “I’ve fought with some of you before, and I’ve drank with some of you before. What you see is what you get.”

McCelland said that “we need to mobilize the greatest weapon in our economic arsenal, and that is the American middle class.”

Post-Debate Conspiracy Theory

After the debate, I was walking toward McClelland’s campaign manager, Adam Stokes, when Colonel Hugya approached him and accused McClelland of wearing an “ear bud” during the debate. Hugya said to him that her answers were too quick and cited too many statistics.

While I did not hear the entirety of the conversation, McClelland’s campaign manager confirmed to me that Hugya was not at all kidding around, but was making a serious accusation.

McClelland’s campaign manager said the accusation was “ridiculous.” A quick scan of McClelland’s ear revealed no ear bud.

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April Jobs Report: Bitter Sweet

Posted by randyshannon on May 2, 2014

April Jobs Report: Bitter Sweet

May 2, 2014

Robert Borosage

The topline of the April BLS jobs report – a better than expected 288,000 jobs added, with the unemployment rate plummeting to 6.3% – will be celebrated, particularly in contrast to the collapse of growth in the first quarter (initially estimated at 0.1% but likely negative ).   The economy has now added private sector jobs for 50 straight months.

But under the topline, the news is less cheery. The sharp decline in the unemployment rate reflects a decline of the civilian labor force of 806,000 in April. The employment-population ratio (58.9%) shows no change over the month – and has changed little over the year, remaining at levels last since in the early 1980s.

20 million Americans remain in need of full-time work. Five years into the recovery, the US has still not recovered all of the jobs lost in the recession, even as its population has grown significantly.

The good news is that the number of long-term unemployed dropped by 287,000 in April. But the long-term unemployed remain a high 35.3% of the unemployed (up from pre-recession levels of 18%).

Job growth was widespread across the economy, suggesting the recovery is taking root. But the new jobs continue to be disproportionately in lower wage industries – retail clerks, restaurants, bars, temporary help. Construction jobs rose, in part buoyed by the end of the bad weather of the first quarter. Government employed remained essentially flat.

Democrats will cheer the continuing jobs growth. Republicans will continue to rail about jobs, while blocking any measures that would put people back to work. But if this is the new normal, the young will continue to face a miserable jobs market. African-Americans will continue to suffer double-digit unemployment. Families will continue to struggle with stagnant wages. Inequality will get worse. The middle class will continue to sink.  And America will suffer a lost decade.

This is not inevitable. It is the result of a perverse failure of Congress to act. Our decrepit infrastructure is a clear and present danger to the lives of Americans and the competitiveness of our economy. (See video of Baltimore street collapsing earlier this week in a rain storm here.)

Interest rates remain near record lows. Construction workers continue to need work. There is still not a better time to rebuild the country. Yet, Republicans in the Congress continue to block every initiative to add jobs. Indeed, the Congress now must scramble simply to keep the Highway Trust Fund from going broke at the end of August. They are not only refusing to throw lifelines to those who are drowning; they are cutting the lines that exist.

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Wake up the Neighbors! Bring the Doubters to Get the True Story on Fracking

Posted by carldavidson on March 23, 2014

Triple Divide Gasland PDF 2 flyer Sewickley

Posted in elections | 2 Comments »

March 3rd: Solidarity with UMPC Workers!

Posted by carldavidson on February 16, 2014


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