Beaver County Blue

Progressive Democrats of America – PA 12th CD Chapter

Archive for the ‘labor’ Category

Workers Rally to Resist Anti-Union Legislation

Posted by carldavidson on March 23, 2017

carpenters

By Tom Davidson

Beaver County Times

picketsMarch 23, 2017 -BEAVER — About 75 union supporters rallied at noon Thursday in front of the Beaver County Courthouse to rail against legislation they say moves Pennsylvania toward becoming a right-to-work state.

The legislation, Senate Bill 166, is called the Public Employee Protection Act, and it recently passed the state Senate.

"I like to call it ‘paycheck deception,’" is how Steve Kochanowski of Potter Township described the legislation.

He’s on the executive board of the Beaver County Democratic Party and is active with its young Democrats group.

Kochanowski, 32, is looking for a job now and is a former corporate trainer.

He opposed the law because "I believe it’s the first step to trying to make Pennsylvania a right-to-work state," he said.

He and other Democratic leaders, along with Beaver County’s labor union leadership, organized the rally to marshal opposition to the law before it passes the state House.

About 75 people turned out for the rally, wielding signs that said things such as "Workers’ Rights are Human Rights" and "Resist Right to Work Legislation."

The legislation would "hurt everybody here," according to Mitch Kates, political director of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.

"We’re having organizing events like this all around the state," Kates said. "We want to help raise awareness."

MayorWalkerThe law would prohibit unions from allowing payroll deductions for union dues that are used for political activities, and it’s a step toward stopping union members "from being able to donate to causes that are dear to your heart," Aliquippa Mayor Dwan Walker said.

Walker is the son of a union worker and said his father appreciated that union dues were deducted from his paycheck. Otherwise, with other bills to pay, the dues might not get paid, Walker said.

"These are matters of the heart," Walker said. "I stand for workers’ rights. You must resist."

All of the speakers at the rally urged people to call their state legislators to voice opposition to the law.

People who live in so-called right-to-work states, where union power is limited, make less money under worse conditions, Denise Cox of Ohioville said.

She’s an organizer for the Service Employees International Union and said laws like the one proposed "weaken our workforce."

"Government should … let us work together," Cox said. "(The law) is wrong for our future."

She called it "big government’s intrusion into our workplace."

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Posted in labor, trade unions | Leave a Comment »

‘Day of Disruption’ Protests in Pittsburgh Target McDonald’s, UPMC, Giant Eagle

Posted by carldavidson on November 29, 2016

Workers’ demands include $15 minimum wage, union rights

By Katelyn Sykes

WTAE Reporter

PITTSBURGH — No 29, 2016 – Thousands of workers are walking off the job and marching Tuesday in cities across the country, including Pittsburgh, where morning protests will be followed by a larger downtown rally in the afternoon.

The Service Employees International Union is targeting McDonald’s restaurants and UPMC with marches demanding a $15 minimum wage and union representation.

Organizers began their "Day of Disruption" marches at McDonald’s on Penn Avenue in East Liberty. Demonstrators went inside to voice their demands, then began circling the restaurant outside and chanting slogans like "Hold your burgers, hold your fries. We want wages supersized."

"I want to be able to take care of my family, to take care of myself, to pay bills," McDonald’s employee Aaron McCollum said. "You can’t possibly do that on $7.25, $7.35 an hour."

The protest then moved to a McDonald’s restaurant on North Euclid Avenue.

"It’s about workers, but it’s also recognizing that workers are more than who they are in between when they clock in and clock out, but that they’re our community members, they’re our neighbors, they’re humans," said Kai Pang, an organizer with Pittsburgh United. "We should have the right to not only survive but thrive in this city."

The group plans a similar protest near a McDonald’s and the federal building downtown during the evening rush hour.

"I’m just trying to fight for something that I believe in," McCollum said.

A press release on behalf of the group added, "Giant Eagle workers will also join the Fight for $15 today, asking that the company start paying family-sustaining wages and stop interfering with Giant Eagle employees’ right to organize."

The union contends UPMC shuttle bus workers have also gone on strike seeking union representation.

UPMC previously announced plans to increase the minimum starting wage for entry-level jobs at most of its facilities to $15 per hour by 2021.

But the union says UPMC needs to move faster, and it accused the network of trying to silence workers and union organizers.

UPMC hasn’t commented on Tuesday’s activity.

"I think more now than ever that we’re standing up for worker’s rights, for economic justice at a time when income inequality is very high and only grows higher," said Pang.

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

Faculty Organizing at the University of Pittsburgh: Why a Union, and Why Now?

Posted by carldavidson on November 24, 2016

By Anupama Jain

New People

Oct 22, 2016 – There’s something in the air in Pittsburgh! From Robert Morris to Point Park, Steel City-area faculty are organizing to join the ranks of unionized labor. To some, this might be little surprise: Pittsburgh, is a city with a rich history of labor organizing. At the same time, when one thinks of Pittsburgh labor history they might think of workers smelting steel or armed Pinkertons at the Homestead steel mills. This isn’t entirely off base: in fact, Pittsburgh-area faculty are organizing with the help of the United Steel Workers including faculty at the University of Pittsburgh.

But why unionization, and why now? There are many reasons, but three important ones are: 1) labor contingency and uncertainty worsens learning conditions, 2) teachers and researchers need a stronger voice in negotiations with administration, and 3) academic freedom is an increasingly valuable commodity in an age of emerging social consciousness about inequality.

Focused, appropriately compensated teachers can do their best work,but one class of teachers, adjuncts, teach on a pay-per-class basis. Because the compensation for these classes is very low, adjuncts often teach at several different universities, and many must work other jobs. Moreover, these positions are renewed on an ad hoc basis, often with little lead time before classes start. One colleague of mine would teach two classes at Pitt a semester, a few more at Point Park, and also tended bar in the evening. The only job he could count on having come next semester was the gig tending bar. For many, teaching is a vocation chosen not for monetary benefit, but for the value of teaching itself. But running around town, barely making ends meet is not a recipe for the best teaching. The unpredictability wears both on the teachers —who struggle tol pay their bills—and students, who may be excited about particular instructors and their classes, only to scroll through the catalogue and see no hint of the instructors because they have not yet been renewed. For other, less-contingent faculty, increasing demands for service and research also eat into teaching time. Appropriately compensated faculty are more capable of directing time and effort into education.

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Posted in Education, labor, Organizing, trade unions | 1 Comment »

What Pennsylvania’s Faculty Strike Means for the Future of Labor

Posted by carldavidson on November 6, 2016

By Neil Cosgrove

The New People via Portside

Nov 1, 2016 – The faculty of the 14 Pennsylvania state-owned universities went on strike from October 19th to the 21st, 2016, somewhat less than three days.  Around mid-afternoon on the 21st, a tentative contract agreement was reached with the State System of Higher Education (SSHE), ending the strike.  As part of the agreement, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) "agreed to a salary package that was significantly lower than that of the other unions" that had recently bargained with the State System.

As labor battles are traditionally viewed, making concessions on salary and benefits would have to be considered a defeat.  But the faculty union regards the result of the strike as a clear-cut victory, a victory that preserved what many regard as one of the best university faculty contracts in the country.  For the 16 months since the system’s previous contract with the faculty had expired (June 30, 2015), the Pennsylvania State System had tried to destroy that contract, but was forced by the strike to withdraw most of the 249 changes the Chancellor and Board of Governors had sought.

The most significant of those withdrawn changes, the ones that ultimately forced the faculty to strike, were obvious attempts to break the union by driving a wedge between tenured and tenure-track faculty and the growing number of temporary and adjunct faculty.  What makes APSCUF a strong union is that adjuncts work under the same conditions, including teaching loads, benefit packages, and salary scale as so-called "regular" faculty.  Adjunct faculty at State System schools like IUP, California and Slippery Rock generally regard themselves as an integral part of the universities in which they work, not as an exploited proletariat paid a ridiculously low per-course stipend, without access to offices or benefits, and forced to teach each term at multiple institutions in order to make a low-income living.

Moreover, APSCUF’s 2011-15 contract limited the number of temporary faculty a university could employ to 25% or less "of the full-time equivalent of all faculty members employed at that university." Compare that to estimates of adjuncts constituting close to half of the faculty at colleges and universities across the country.  In 2015, median per-course pay for adjuncts was $2700.  At Pennsylvania State System universities, full-time temporary faculty at the bottom of the salary scale received a 2014-15 salary of $46,610.  If such a faculty member taught only a quarter, half, or three-quarters of the normal teaching load of four class sections per term, they would receive the appropriate fraction of the stated salary.  Moreover, the contract required that temporary faculty members who had "worked at a university for five full, consecutive academic years in the same department" would be given tenure-track status if approved by the department. 

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First Faculty Strike in PA.State System History Begins

Posted by carldavidson on October 19, 2016

By Susan Snyder
Philly.com

Oct 19, 2016 – Faculty in Pennsylvania’s 14 state universities are on strike, the first in the system’s 34-year history.

The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties union announced shortly after 5 a.m. that a strike could not be averted, likely bringing education to a halt for 105,000 students in the state system universities.

The decision followed five consecutive days of bargaining that went into last evening and broke off after 9 p.m.

"At 11:35 p.m., we made a last attempt to negotiate through back channels," said union president Kenneth M. Mash, a political science professor at East Stroudsburg University. "We waited until 5 a.m. We are headed to the picket lines, but even on the picket lines, our phone will be on, should the state system decide it doesn’t want to abandon its students."

Mash said he would be picketing outside the Dixon Center in Harrisburg, where the chancellor of the state system, Frank T. Brogan, has his office.

There is no limit on how long a strike could last. Mash said faculty will return when negotiators reach a contract.

The state system has said it intends to keep campuses open, including residence halls and dining facilities and operate as close to normal as possible. But it does not intend to hire replacement workers. It remains to be seen how many, if any, faculty cross the picket lines to work.

"I think none of us ever wanted it to end up here," said Amber Holbrook, a West Chester social work professor who was among the more than a dozen faculty members picketing outside the system’s Center City campus. But, she said, the system’s proposed changes would make it "hard to recruit and retain faculty."

Negotiations broke down over health insurance costs and salary increases

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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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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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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 »

PA Top Court: Wal-Mart Must Pay $188 Million in Workers’ Class Action Suit

Posted by carldavidson on December 17, 2014

From Reuters

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered Wal-Mart Stores Inc to pay $188 million to employees who had sued the retailer for failing to compensate them for rest breaks and all hours worked.

Wal-Mart said on Tuesday that it might appeal the decision, which upheld lower court rulings, to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Monday’s ruling on the class-action lawsuit will reduce Wal-Mart’s earnings for the quarter ending on Jan. 31 by 6 cents a share, the company said in a securities filing. That amounts to roughly 4 percent of its profit forecast of $1.46 to $1.56 for the period. Family of Ohio man shot and killed in Walmart sue company, police

Wal-Mart shares were up 0.5 percent at $84.39 in midday New York Stock Exchange trading.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld a 2007 lower court ruling in favor of the workers, who said Wal-Mart failed to pay them for all hours worked and prevented them from taking full meal and rest breaks.

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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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