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Progressive Democrats of America – PA 12th CD Chapter

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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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Midland Labor Leader Offended by Trump’s Attack on United Steelworkers

Posted by carldavidson on December 9, 2016

Tepsic speaking at ATI strike rally in Midland

By Jared Stonesifer

Beaver County Times

MIDLAND. Dec 9. 2016 –  — Tony Tepsic doesn’t have a Twitter account but, if he did, he would tell Donald Trump just when and where to find him.

Tepsic, president of the United Steelworkers Local 1212 in Midland, took offense to the fact that the president-elect earlier this week attacked a fellow United Steelworkers local president in Indiana.

The feud started when Trump claimed he helped save 1,100 jobs from leaving Indiana. Chuck Jones, president of United Steelworkers Local 1999 based in Indianapolis, called Trump a liar and said the real number of jobs saved was around 800.

Trump took to Twitter to fire back, saying Jones has done a “terrible job representing workers” while adding “no wonder companies flee (our) country!”

For Trump, it was just another 15 seconds on Twitter. Jones, however, started receiving anonymous phone calls that threatened his children.

“Nothing that says they’re going to kill me, but, you know, you better keep your eye on your kids,” Jones told MSNBC, according to the Associated Press. “I’ve been doing this job for 30 years, and I’ve heard everything from people who want to burn my house down or shoot me … I can deal with people that make stupid statements and move on.” Read the rest of this entry »

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‘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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Beaver County Nursing Home Workers Rally for $15 Hourly Wage

Posted by carldavidson on April 16, 2016

By Kirstin Kennedy

Beaver County Times

Apr 15, 2016 —- The national fight for a $15 minimum wage made its way to the courthouse steps Thursday when nursing home workers from across Beaver County rallied for increased hourly pay.

Renee Ford, a certified nursing assistant at Beaver Elder Care in Hopewell Township, joined about 12 other nursing home workers and community members in the protest. She said she’s fighting for wage increases so that full-time workers won’t have to live in poverty.

A 2015 Keystone Research Center study revealed that nearly 15,000 nursing home workers across the country qualified for public assistance.

"(We’re) the core of the nursing home," said Ford, who has worked for Beaver Elder Care for nearly 30 years. The facility, which is owned by Guardian Health Care, is in active negotiations with workers.

While Ford currently makes above the minimum wage, she feels its important for all of her co-workers to receive an increase in their pay to reduce worker turnaround and provide better care to residents.

Protesters held signs along the courthouse lawn and chanted for better-paying jobs. Two Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders supporters briefly joined the group.

Beaver County Commissioners Sandie Egley and Dan Camp greeted the protesters to learn more about their cause and to welcome them to the courthouse.

While some local workers remain in negotiations, others have reached resolution.

Last week, the Beaver Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in South Beaver Township joined 41 other facilities across Pennsylvania in reaching new contract agreements with workers.

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

Posted by carldavidson on October 26, 2015

 

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

By Cole Strangler

International Business Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Average American Worker Earns Less Today Than 40 Years Ago

Posted by carldavidson on September 28, 2015

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

 

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

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

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

[Top Photo: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images]

Posted in Austerity, trade unions | 2 Comments »

 
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