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Progressive Democrats of America – PA 12th CD Chapter

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Ten Men vs. J&L Steel: How a Supreme Court case rooted in Beaver County forever changed America’s labor movement

Posted by carldavidson on September 4, 2016

By Jared Stonesifer
Beaver County Times

Many battles have been fought in western Pennsylvania in the last 300 years, but one in particular had far-reaching consequences that forever shaped the labor and workers-rights movement in the United States.

Indeed, workers’ rights might not even exist today if it weren’t for a U.S. Supreme Court case that unfolded in Aliquippa in 1937. The case was the last to challenge the legality of labor unions, mostly because the Supreme Court had the final word and deemed the practice constitutional.

Generations of workers have benefited since, but many have forgotten the significant role played by Beaver County workers to ensure those rights.

While residents celebrate Labor Day, it’s important to remember and pay homage to those who came before us, those who fought for their rights and won them in the highest court in the land.

Rededicating the monument

Ten men vs. Jones & Laughlin

It was in 1935 when Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act, commonly referred to as the Wagner Act. Among other things, the legislation guaranteed the basic rights of private-sector employees to organize into unions, to engage in collective bargaining and to strike.

The act also created the National Labor Relations Board.

But just because Congress passes a law doesn’t mean everyone adheres to it. Such was the case with Jones & Laughlin Corp., the gigantic steel company located along the Ohio River in Aliquippa.

Less than a year after the Wagner Act passed, a group of J&L employees decided to join the emerging Steel Workers Organizing Committee, a group of steelworkers who organized in Pittsburgh in 1936.

That action didn’t go unnoticed by J&L officials, who promptly fired the 10 employees who worked at the Aliquippa plant.

However, the newly formed National Labor Relations Board was there to advocate for the workers and ruled the company had to reinstate the fired employees while also giving them back pay.

J&L officials vehemently rejected that opinion, however, and said the company would not conform to the laws laid out in the Wagner Act, because those officials considered the act unconstitutional.

So set the stage for a court battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court. It didn’t take long for the court to hear the case in 1937, and it also didn’t take long for the justices to return their verdict.

The court ruled by a 5-4 vote that the Wagner Act was indeed constitutional. The Steel Workers Organizing Committee flourished, and in 1942 it disbanded and became the United Steelworkers of America.

It was the birth of a labor movement that still exists and is stronger than ever today.

Ramifications of the decision

For Hopewell Township resident Gino Piroli, the 1937 Supreme Court decision was more than just a blurb in history books. It changed his life, and the lives of countless other Beaver County residents.

Piroli was only 10 years old when the decision came down, meaning he remembers a time before labor unions were even legal.

“It gave the working man dignity,” Piroli, 90, said. “Companies had abused workers ethnically, by race when it came to job promotions. That was a big thing.”

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Posted in Aliquippa, labor, Steelworkers | Leave a Comment »

Aliquippa Crime: Perception Isn’t Always Reality

Posted by carldavidson on June 3, 2016

 

By Kristen Doerschner

kdoerschner@timesonline.com

    ALIQUIPPA — When District Attorney Anthony Berosh speaks to community groups throughout Beaver County, he poses a question to them: How many homicides do you think Aliquippa had last year?

      The estimates people typically give are astoundingly high, he said, often ranging from 20 to as high as 40.

      In reality, the numbers aren’t even remotely close to that high. There was one homicide in the city in 2013, two in 2012 and none in 2011.

      Berosh said when he tells people the actual numbers, they are “flabbergasted.”

      Certain factors within a community tend to correlate to higher crime statistics. Berosh said areas of dense population, a higher proportion of lower-income residents, a large number of rental properties and a large number of residents under the age of 25 tend to have more crime.

      Statistics do show the instances of violent crime in Aliquippa have been on a downward trend over the past decade.

      “You can’t deny that crime occurs in Aliquippa. You can’t deny that crime occurs in any of our communities,” Berosh said.

      The problem is the perception many people have regarding that crime.

      Berosh is quick to point out the perception problem isn’t Aliquippa’s problem.

      “The problem we have as a Beaver County community is the perception we have of Aliquippa,” he said. “They don’t have that problem of perception. We do.”

      Residents and community leaders in the city are frustrated by the view so many people seem to have.

      Herb Bailey moved to Aliquippa from Nashville, Tenn., nearly two years ago to run the ministry at Uncommon Grounds, a popular coffee shop on Franklin Avenue. He quickly found the city to be an inviting place that he made home and moved his family to Franklin Avenue.

      He said he has no hesitation about living in the city or letting his teenage daughters walk through town on their own. He doesn’t view the city as a dangerous place.

      But Bailey learned in short order how others view his new home.

      He said his daughters — who have an interest in art and attend Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School in Midland — would invite friends to visit, but their parents were afraid to let their children go to Aliquippa.

      Slowly that is changing, and more parents are allowing their children to visit, he said.

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      Posted in Aliquippa, Community, Economy | 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 »

      Agencies of Social Change Often Wear a Clerical Collar

      Posted by carldavidson on December 21, 2014

      Faith making a difference in Aliquippa

      Resurrecting Aliquippa: Faith

      Kevin Lorenzi/The Times: Chris Ingram speaks to a church gathering at a "Black Lives Matter" service Dec. 14 at New Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church in Aliquippa.

      By Tom Davidson

      Beaver County Times

       tdavidson@timesonline.com |

      ALIQUIPPA — Beyond the facts and figures in the sheaf of 150 pages that is the city’s Act 47 recovery plan are the people who live and do business here.

      They’ve endured decades of economic downturns and slow decay since the industrial lifeblood of the community — Jones & Laughlin Steel and its successors — left with the collapse of the steel industry in the 1980s.

      But the city’s people have leaned on another institution, one that many say is even tougher than steel: their churches and what springs forth within them, namely their faith. Despite the city’s financial woes, it has a strong spiritual foundation, and scores of people of all faiths are working to help the city resurrect itself.

      "We see united … clergy like we’ve never seen before" crossing congregational and racial boundaries to unite for the city’s common good, said Rich Liptak, pastor of Wildwood Chapel in Hopewell Township, just across the border from Aliquippa.

      "There’s genuine love and care for each other. It’s been great," he said.

      More than 300 people attended a September service billed as Aliquippa Celebrates Faith, and for five years, each Saturday morning, a group of clergy has gathered to pray at various places in the city, Liptak said. He remembers times when there would be a shooting or stabbing on a Friday night, and the next morning they’d gather to pray near the scene of the crime.

      But in the five years, the Saturday group has prayed in every neighborhood of the city, and it’s made a difference. After a stretch of more than a decade where there was at least one homicide each year in Aliquippa, the city saw a 16-month stretch in 2012 and 2013 without a murder, Liptak said.

      "We see answer to prayer," he said.

      He himself been a witness to the demise of the mills and the jobs they provided. His father, uncle and grandfather were all steelworkers. "It’s been a slow spiral downward" is how he puts it.

      Liptak has listened to people longing for the mills to come back since they were shuttered. But the mills haven’t come back, and for 30 years, the city has been stuck in the state’s Act 47 program for financially distressed communities. The city’s latest recovery plan was approved earlier this year, and city officials are working to exit the program and foster a renaissance in town.

      "I think we’re poised for improvement," Liptak said. He serves as president of the Greater Aliquippa Ministerial Association, a vibrant group of pastors who work together to make a difference in Aliquippa.

      Making an impact

      There are also groups including Aliquippa Impact that work to help youth.

      Steve Rossi, executive director of Aliquippa Impact, said its main aim is to "foster tangible hope to youth" in the city.

      "It’s not just spiritual in nature; it’s practical," Rossi said.

      Aliquippa Impact has an after-school program at Linmar Terrace, a one-on-one mentoring program, a city camp, arts education and several summer programs for youth in the city. They try to teach kids what they can do themselves to ensure they have a bright future, Rossi said.

      "A lot of it is common-sense stuff," he said. "We want you (the youth they serve) to own it."

      The youth in the city are full of potential, he said, and they try to teach kids that they have the answers to the problems they face.

      Many of the people involved with Aliquippa Impact, including Rossi, aren’t Aliquippa natives. They came to serve and not to "fix Aliquippa," he said, but to help the people there "fix themselves."

      "It is a long-haul ministry," he said, with the long-term goal being that the kids served now will one day be a part of the ministry’s leadership.

      A big part of it is "just showing up" to be there for the kids. "We can go so far through love," Rossi said. "It brings hope to families."

      Offering coffee — and hope

      Another group that’s active in Aliquippa is Uncommon Grounds, a coffee shop and ministry program based on Franklin Avenue downtown that was founded in 2005 by Church Army evangelist John Stanley, an Australian who has since returned to his native land.

      The ministry lives on, thanks to Herb Bailey, whose first impression of Aliquippa differed from the persistent negative perceptions of the city that are common in Beaver County.

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      Posted in Aliquippa, Community, Organizing, Solidarity | Leave a Comment »

      Beaver County Aid Providers Experience Tough Decisions During Poverty Simulation

      Posted by carldavidson on November 4, 2014

      Poverty Simulation

      A poverty simulation experience presented by Aliquippa Weed and Seed, in conjunction with the Franklin Center’s Disproportionate Minority Contact Project, was held Friday at the Church in the Round. The simulation experience is designed to help participants begin to understand what it might be like to live in a typical low-income family trying to survive month to month. Here, the Rev. Marvin C. Moreland calls to be let out of "jail" during the simulation.

      By Daveen Rae Kurutz

      Beaver County Times

      Nov. 4, 2014 ALIQUIPPA — Food, medicine or utilities.

      It’s one of several stressful choices low-income families have to make each month. Keeping a budget in balance when necessary costs — such as housing, transportation and food — require almost all income is just one stressor that leaves people frustrated and looking for help.

      That’s the situation several dozen Beaver County-area human-service providers found themselves in last week during a poverty simulation conducted by Aliquippa Weed and Seed and the Franklin Center of Beaver County. The program put participants in the shoes of a family living in poverty.

      Participants were assigned to family roles — parents, children and grandparents — and given a budget and a series of responsibilities as part of Missouri’s Community Action Poverty Simulation.

      “The whole idea is for human-service providers to have an idea what their clients go through,” said Jonathan Pettis, executive director at the Franklin Center. “They can take the lessons they learned back to their agencies. It’s really powerful.”

      The simulation included representatives from Children and Youth Services, county Behavioral Health Services, Uncommon Grounds and other human-service organizations; members of the clergy; and officials from Aliquippa, Midland, Baden and the Blackhawk School District.

      Groups were given different scenarios that low-income families regularly experience. Some families had absentee fathers or included children being raised by their grandparents. Other families struggled with divorce, affording college and teen pregnancy.

      “The needs are very great,” said Abigail Young, virtual visitation coordinator for Trails Ministries Inc. in Beaver Falls, a faith-based re-entry ministry that works with incarcerated individuals and their families. “There is so much we all can do.”

      Young, two of her co-workers and another participant played the roles of the Zuppot family — grandparents “Zola” and “Zeke” and children “Zenobia” and “Zander” — who struggled for four weeks in poverty.

      Week One

      A cashier at the local grocery store, Zola is the breadwinner for the family. Her husband has limited mobility and has to stay at home unless someone can help him travel.

      The family was not able to buy food this week. There weren’t enough transportation passes to get Zola to work, the market and the Paycheck Advance office. When she did make it to cash her check, the office closed before workers could cash the check.

      “Even when this family has cash, they can’t get where they need to go,” said Lola Thomas, a family coach with Trails Ministries who portrayed Zeke.

      Week Two

      The family still can’t buy food. Zola never made it to work after she and Zeke visited an interfaith service where workers gave them all-day transportation passes that they used to get to the bank to cash Zola’s paycheck and Zeke’s disability check.

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      Posted in Aliquippa, Organizing, Poverty, safety net | Leave a Comment »

      At Visit To Aliquippa HS, Wolf Talks Schools And Taxes

      Posted by carldavidson on October 14, 2014

      Tom Wolf with Mayor Dwan Walker (Photo Credit: KDKA)

      By Jon Delano

      BEAVER COUNTY (KDKA) — Students in Aliquippa had the day off — except for the undefeated football team hard at practice.

      But that didn’t stop Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf from pushing his education plan at the high school.

      “We’d like to welcome you all. If you’ve never been here before, this is Aliquippa,” quipped Mayor Dwan Walker.

      Walker, with State Rep. Rob Matzie and school superintendent Dave Wytiaz, briefed the candidate before a short press conference.

      “I’m here because this is important to me as a Pennsylvanian,” said Wolf.

      “Education actually matters,” he added. “It doesn’t matter because I’m running for governor. It matters to all of us who want to build a business in Pennsylvania. It matters to all of us who want to build a family in Pennsylvania. It matters to all of us who actually care about a society where people can actually get a head. This is how we transform lives.”

      By imposing an extraction tax on natural gas drilling, Wolf pledged to bring state funding of education back up to half of school spending

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      Posted in 2014 Election, Aliquippa, Education, Youth and students | Leave a Comment »

      City Of Aliquippa Takes Stand Against Gun Violence

      Posted by carldavidson on May 4, 2013

      By Brenda Waters
      KDKA News

      May 3, 2013 – ALIQUIPPA (KDKA) — The city of Aliquippa is taking a stand against gun violence and they’re starting with legislators who make the laws to the people in the community.

      Mayor Dwan Walker called for all hands on deck, when it comes to fighting what many see as an epidemic that is sweeping the nation.

      The chief of police, several council members, a representative from an agency called Cease Fire, clergy and funeral Director Antonio Pitts joined the mayor.

      “I see families on a regular being torn apart,” Pitts says.

      The community has come together in support of background checks for every gun sold.

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      Posted in Aliquippa, Guns | 1 Comment »

       
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