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Progressive Democrats of America – PA 12th CD Chapter

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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.

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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



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.”

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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 »

Bernie Sanders Draws Blue-Collar Workers in Iowa

Posted by carldavidson on September 8, 2015

Bernie on the picket line in Iowa

By Vaughn Hillyard
Beaver County Blue via NBC News

DES MOINES, Iowa, Sept 7, 2015 — A picketing president? Bernie Sanders said it could be him.

"Yeah, I might. That’s right. Why not," Sanders said when asked about the possibility after addressing AFSCME union members on Saturday in Altoona, Iowa.

The day before, Sanders picketed outside a Cedar Rapids plant that produces specialized starches alongside union workers engaged in a battle with the plant’s parent company, Ingredion, over new contract negotiations.

And to a crowd of 400 on Thursday in Burlington, Iowa—an old, union town hit hard over the last three decades by shuttered factories—Sanders emphatically stated: "The bottom line is: For millions of American workers, wages in this country are just too damn low."

Since announcing his candidacy, Sanders has zeroed in on blue-collar voters, consistently addressing low wages, unemployment issues and the country’s trade policies in stump speeches—pushing back against the notion that the economic recovery is as strong as often touted.

"I assumed I would be a Hillary supporter—and rightly or wrongly, probably because I feel like in the last twenty years, the greatest time we had between financial stability was during Bill Clinton’s run," said Ron Lowe, 52, of Grinnell, Iowa.

But Lowe said he will caucus for Sanders in February. He drove 45 minutes with his mother-in-law last Thursday to see the Democratic candidate at a rally.

"I feel like he’s not a filthy rich millionaire," Lowe said. "He wants to take on the rich, powerful people that seem to make all these decisions without any regard to the people in the middle to lower class. And it’s so obvious that the rich keep getting richer."

Lowe, a father of four, is unemployed after losing his job three months ago. He worked in Grinnell’s Donaldson plant—since the age of 24—manufacturing mufflers for agricultural equipment. But over the years, the company moved jobs to Mexico and other states, where Lowe said non-union facilities gave the company a cheaper option. Its last employees are expected to be out of work by the end of the year.

At a time when Democrats tout the economic recovery, Sanders harps on the economic data point of real unemployment, a point often used by his Republican counterparts. Despite a decrease in nationwide unemployment to 5.1 percent, the unemployment rate does not account for individuals who are underemployed, have given up looking for work, and others who are working part time but would like to work full time. Including those individuals, the unemployment figure is 10.3 percent.

"It is absolutely imperative that we stop the hemorrhaging of decent paying jobs because of our disastrous trade policies," Sanders said. ‘You are looking at a Senator and former congressman who voted against [North American Free Trade Agreement], against [Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement], against permanent trade relations with China. And you’re looking at a senator who is going to do everything he can to help defeat this disastrous Trans-Pacific Partnership."

Sanders provides a contrast to Sec. Hillary Clinton on trade—without naming her directly. Though she hasn’t taken a stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Clinton helped kickstart the negotiations, and Bill Clinton signed NAFTA into law.

"To simply blame the Republicans for that would be unfair," Sanders said on Saturday. "Democratic presidents have been involved in that trade policy. It has been bipartisan. It has been wrong."

Matt Richards, 56, of Newtown lost his job in 2007 when the town’s Maytag plant closed, putting more than 2,500 employees out of work. Richards worked at the facility for 23 years as an oiler, doing jobs like greasing conveyer lines.

"It’s a whole different town now. There was a lot of money here when Maytag was here," Richards said. "The crazy part of it is these jobs—for a small town like we are—was awesome pay, good benefits, you had some vacation time…It makes it tough in this small town."

Richards—though not ready to fully commit to a candidate—says Sanders’ message resonates.

"A lot of people like Bernie. He has a lot of good ideas," Richards said. "And what he talks about, getting our wages up there, you got to let a guy make a living wage to take care of a family. You know, nine bucks an hour isn’t going to cut it or ten bucks an hour. You’ve got to let a guy get to where he can make some money."

Last month, Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, called Bernie Sanders "a warrior" at a labor forum hosted in Iowa.

"I want to say thank you for being a warrior for working people—not just lately but for your entire career," Trumka said to Sanders in front of 200 union workers. "All of us are living a little bit better because of that. And we want to say thank you for those efforts. You’ve earned them."

Trumka, however, made it clear on Meet the Press this Sunday that he will not personally endorse a candidate and likes both Clinton and Sanders.

Another former Maytag employee and United Auto Workers union member, Lonnie White, 66, a porcelain sprayer at the time, sat in the back row of Sanders’ event on the Meskwaki Settlement in central Iowa on Thursday.

"I think that he’s what the Democrats used to be," White said. "I think the Democratic Party used to be exactly what he represents. Taking care of each other. I think we’ve gotten away from that and gone to the middle."

Posted in 2016 Election, trade unions | Leave a Comment »

300 Union Members Rally outside ATI’s Midland Plant after Lockout Begins

Posted by carldavidson on August 18, 2015

By Jared Stonesifer
Beaver County Times

Aug 17, 2015 – MIDLAND — More than 300 United Steelworkers union members locked out from the Allegheny Technologies plant rallied Monday morning not just for a fair contract, but for the chance to get back to the negotiating table.

ATI, which has 12 plants and employs more than 2,200 USW workers across the country, locked out the union members Saturday night as a result of a failure by the two sides to reach a contract agreement.

Union workers since July 1 had been working on a day-to-day basis after the last contract expired at the end of June, and negotiations had been progressing but hit a wall when union leadership failed to bring to a vote ATI’s “last, best and final” contract offer in early August.

Tony Tepsic, president of the Midland contingent of USW workers Local 1212, said more than 300 people marched through Midland on Monday morning demanding a new contract.

“We are on an official lockout as of now, and we’re spending our time picketing,” he said.

He called the rally “very productive” and said USW leadership attended, as did Beaver County Commissioner Joe Spanik.

Spanik, who worked in the union for many years, said it’s imperative to get local workers back on the job and railed against the fact that ATI plans on bringing in nonunion workers during the lockout.

“We want to see this resolved so the folks who live here in Beaver County can get back to work as quickly as possible,” he said. “We need to get them back to the negotiating table to try to settle a fair contract.”

Spanik said the march went through Midland down to the union hall and back up to the work site.

The commissioner said he also plans to contact Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald to work on a solution to get workers back on the job.

Spanik said other union rallies are planned for the ATI plant in Brackenridge, Allegheny County.

A representative from ATI didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

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

Beaver County Commissioners Urge Raise in Minimum Wage

Posted by carldavidson on May 2, 2015



Kneeling: T. Berry; Standing First Row: Commissioner Tony Amadio; Alex de la Cruz; Tina Shannon; Myra Fabrizio; Janet Hill; Second Row: Commissioner Joe Spanik; Randy Shannon; Steven Kocherzat; Linwood Alford; Mark Benkart; Peter Deutsch; Rev. Ed Heist

By Linwood Alford
Council Director of Civil Rights and Economic Development

I want to thank the Beaver County Commissioners Tony Amadio and Joe  Spanik for supporting a resolution "urging the state legislature to approve a raise in the Pennsylvania minimum wage from the pre-sent $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour". The resolution was approved by their two votes, with Com-missioner Dennis Nichols abstaining, at the Commissioners’ meeting of April 23rd.

The Labor Council approved a resolution calling for a raise in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour at its November membership meeting. SEIU Healthcare Pa. staff representative and Labor Council Trustee Kerrianne Theuerl arranged transportation for Council members to attend "Raise the Wage" rallies in Harrisburg in February and Pittsburgh in April.

The minimum wage resolution was placed on the Commissioners’ meeting agenda thanks to the efforts of Mark Benkart, Labor Council Com-munity Services Director and our local Moral Mondays chair-person, and Tina Shannon, president of the 12th C.D. Chapter of Progressive Demo-rats of America (PDA).

Mark and Tina spoke in favor of the resolution at the Com-missioners’ meeting. Also speaking in favor of the resolution were Janet Hill, national vice-president of CLUW, Rev. Ed Heist and your writer.

Minimum wage jobs destroy the morale of those who are unable to support their families even though they are working full time. A raise in the mini-mum wage to $10.10 per hour will build the self-esteem of these workers by assuring them that they can support their families.

Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction that makes people angry against each other be-cause self-preservation will always be the first law of nature. If we can work to eliminate weapons of mass destruction in other countries, why can’t we work to eliminate poverty at home?

I am truly thankful for all those of us who really believe in liberty and justice for all.

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

SEIU, Workers Celebrate NLRB Ruling

Posted by carldavidson on November 17, 2014

Solidarity action vs UMPC earlier this year

By Kris B. Mamula

Reporter- Pittsburgh Business Times

Nov. 17, 2014 – Union and elected officials on Monday celebrated a National Labor Relations Board ruling that reinstated four fired UPMC workers and restored benefits and wages to fifth employee for union organizing activities.

"UPMC has been acting above the law," City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak told union members and others who turned out for a news conference attended by a couple dozen people. "UPMC is not above the law."

The rally came as Mayor Bill Peduto has been reaching out to UPMC and other nonprofits in the city about voluntarily compensating the city for services in lieu of property taxes. Peduto was not at the news conference Monday, but he called for "long-term financing agreements" with the city’s nonprofits in an address to council Nov. 10.

Rudiak conducted the news conference at the City-County Building downtown and called on UPMC to "stop the intimidation, retaliation and legal maneuvers that keep us down." Separating the nonprofit contribution and unionization issues at UPMC would be "dangerous," Rudiak said.

The NLRB on Nov. 14 ruled that the hospital giant had disciplined and fired employees for try to unionize, which violates federal law. The Service Employees International Union has been trying to organize UPMC’s Oakland hospitals for nearly three years, but a vote by employees has not been scheduled.

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Posted in health care, Organizing, trade unions | 1 Comment »

‘Moral Mondays’ Launched in Western PA

Posted by carldavidson on October 28, 2014

Protesters Rally for Officials to ‘Do the Right Thing’

People gather at the Beaver County Courthouse to raise awareness of several social and economic issues.

By Kirstin Kennedy

Beaver County Times

Oct 28, 2014 – BEAVER — Everyone knows the First Amendment gives citizens the right to assemble. Few regularly exercise it.

But that wasn’t the case Monday evening on the steps of the Beaver County Courthouse, when over 30 people gathered with signs and chants.

Willie Sallis, president of the NAACP in Beaver County, said he helped to gather the protest to pressure elected officials to "just do the right thing."

"What is the moral thing to do? … That’s what we’re trying to keep alive with the union and the civil rights leaders," he said. Sallis paired with several other organizations — including members of local labor unions — for the rally, with the hope of raising awareness of several social and economic issues.

Inspired by a recent lecture given locally by the Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, Sallis dubbed the rally Moral Monday.

"What’s the right thing to do for the poor?" Sallis said. "What’s the right thing to do for health benefits? What’s the right thing to do when it comes to jobs? What’s the right thing to do when it comes to minimum wages? All we’re saying is, ‘Look, do the right thing.’"

On the courthouse lawn, participants chanted, "Keep it fair; we care."

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Posted in Green Energy, Green Jobs, Infrastructure, NAACP, safety net, trade unions, Voting Rights | 1 Comment »

Labor’s Campaigns and Action in Harrisburg Win a Round

Posted by carldavidson on October 19, 2014

Photo: Tartaglione with union allies

Senator Tartaglione Rises to Defeat ‘Paycheck Protection’ in Statehouse

HARRISBURG, Oct. 15, 2014 – State Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione today helped to quash a backdoor attempt to weaken unions by joining a bipartisan push to defeat an amendment that would have prohibited employers from automatically deducting membership dues from a worker’s paycheck.

Called “paycheck protection” by proponents, Tartaglione said the proposal, introduced by Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York) as an amendment to a bill designed to help children with food allergies, was not democratic.

“The only thing Sen. Wagner’s amendment would do is eliminate unions’ abilities to choose who they want to represent them in government,” Tartaglione said. “It would eliminate the voices of the men and women who work hard day-in and day-out to put food on the table for their families, just because they belong to a union.

“Union members can already decide whether or not they want to contribute to union political spending. The law protects them if they choose not to contribute.  And, she said, for every hour worked by a teacher, the money they earn for that work is no longer the state’s money; it is the employee’s.

“So, I ask you: why do we call this measure ‘paycheck protection?’” she said on the Senate floor.

Tartaglione added that voting in favor of the Wagner amendment would have handed control of the commonwealth to corporations “and their one-sided political agendas.”

Posted in Harrisburg, trade unions | Leave a Comment »

Philly Students ‘Strike’ in Support of Teachers

Posted by carldavidson on October 8, 2014

Beaver County Blue via Inquirer Staff

Last updated: Wednesday, October 8, 2014, 10:39 AM
Posted: Wednesday, October 8, 2014, 8:32 AM

Students from at least two Philadelphia public high schools are refusing to go to classes this morning to protest the cancellation of their teachers’ labor agreement.

"We’re striking because every single teacher in the districts benefits are at risk and being played with through politics," organizers said in a Facebook post.

Dozens of students protested outside the High School for Creative and Performing Arts on South Broad Street and the Science Leadership Academy at 55 N. 22d St. in Center City.

The School Reform Commission on Monday canceled the labor contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers in a move aimed at requiring the union’s members to contribute to their health care costs.

The action had the support of both Gov. Corbett and Mayor Nutter.

At CAPA, band members provided music for the protest.

Outside SLA, students were holding up hand made signs and beating drums in a buoyant, upbeat demonstration.

"This is why we’re striking," Ruby Anderson, 18, an SLA senior said as she offered information leaflets from Students4Teachers to passersby.

Throughout the morning, SLA students offered up a variety of chants, including: "SRC! Leave our teachers be!" and "Tom Corbett, shame on you! We deserve a future, too."

Striking students planned to remain outside the schools until noon, when the schools are to close for a scheduled half-day.

Posted in labor, trade unions, Youth and students | Leave a Comment »


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