Vice President Joe Biden spoke to a group of union workers before the Labor Day Parade in downtown Pittsburgh Monday morning.

His speech was focused on the importance of organized labor to the health of the national economy and quality of life.

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

An estimated 1,500 people marched through the streets of Downtown Pittsburgh on Tuesday from United Steelworkers headquarters to the offices of Allegheny Technology and U.S. Steel headquarters.

Union workers are demanding contract settlements with U.S. Steel, Allegheny Technologies and ArcelorMittal. Negotiations started in June.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

“Stand up, get down, Pittsburgh is a union town!”

That was one of the chants shouted by protesters who circled the Allegheny County Courthouse Tuesday ahead of a Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board hearing for the Rivers Casino, which is operated by Rush Street Gaming, LLC.

The board is considering whether to renew the North Shore casino’s license, a process undertaken every three years.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Workers’ rights activists and former UPMC employees joined city and state officials in Downtown Pittsburgh Monday to celebrate a ruling that found UPMC violated the National Labor Relations Act.

In a 123-page decision issued Friday, National Labor Relations Administrative Law Judge Mark Carissimi ruled in favor of the Service Employees International Union on 21 issues, including the reinstatement of Ron Oakes, Finley Littlejohn, Jim Staus and Al Turner, who were terminated after engaging in union organizing activities.

When an emergency strikes a skyscraper the pressure is on for the in-house safety workers to act quickly, but if the building’s security officers don’t even know where the elevator keys are, first responders could remain stuck on the first floor looking for keys.

On Wednesday, security officers from several downtown Pittsburgh buildings rallied outside of the PPG building with paramedics, elected officials, clergy, and firefighters to encourage unionization.

Screenshot from Tom Wolf for Governor video

Little more than a week after Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett was uninvited from this year’s Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh, the Allegheny County Labor Council has announced that his opponent Tom Wolf will lead the parade.

The council said Saturday that Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tom Wolf’s Jeep, which has been featured in TV ads from both Wolf and Corbett, will also be included in the event.

Josh Raulerson / 90.5 WESA

  Like any English professor, Clint Benjamin spends a lot of his time grading papers.

“There’s a mountain – a teetering Matterhorn of papers at the end of the weekend, or during the week,” Benjamin said. “You’ve just gotta get through them.”

By his own estimate, Benjamin spends 30 to 40 hours a week on grading alone. He also has to attend meetings, answer emails, keep office hours, and commute between the Community College of Allegheny County and Duquesne University campuses, where in a typical week he prepares and teaches five sections’ of English and writing classes.

A state proposal to change rules for unions involved in a labor dispute is on the fast track to becoming law.

Under state law, unions in Pennsylvania are allowed to harass, stalk, and threaten to use weapons of mass destruction if they’re involved in a labor dispute.

Legislation that started as an effort to end that exemption now just kind of massages it.

A Senate committee on Tuesday approved changes to allow stalking and harassment if it is used in the pursuit of constitutionally-protected or legally-protected activity.

A rhetorical battle is brewing over a proposal to end the automatic deduction of union dues and voluntary political contributions from the pay of public employees in Pennsylvania.

Unions representing public workers say it’s an attempt to kill organized labor and shrink their political spending.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Bryan Cutler of Lancaster County, says he’s not refuting the rights of public employee unions to make contributions to political campaigns and political action committees.

American Economic Growth and Unions

Oct 16, 2013

Looking at America’s economy today, Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich has pointed to the decline of unions as a contributor to the stagnation of American wages.

When unions are strong, is the economy strong?

Stephen Herzenberg, Executive Director of the Keystone Research Center says job growth and America’s recovery from the great recession have been too slow. With the decline in unions over the past few decades, he says wages have been flattened and even declined since the recovery began.

Early Unions Collectively Bargained For Their Safety

Oct 16, 2013
U.S. Office of War Information / wikipedia

America’s earliest unions of the 19th century were connected to craft and trade guilds. But with factory workers facing terrible working conditions such as 12+ hour work days, and 7 day work weeks in cramped, dangerous spaces, their only choice was to come together to collectively bargain for their safety.

When Crystal Eastman, Co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union visited Pittsburgh in the 1920’s, she reported 526 industrial related deaths in Allegheny County within one year.

According to Dr. Charles McCollester, a former professor of Industrial and Labor Relations at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and author of The Point of Pittsburgh, about 3,000 mining industry workers died each year, between 1890 and 1920.

The Future State of the Unions

Oct 16, 2013
White House Photo, PD / wikipedia

In recent decades, America has seen a sharp decline in union membership. In the 1950’s, 35 percent of American workers were members of a union, today that number is down to 11 percent.

According to labor author, commentator and speaker Philip Dine, President Reagan’s crackdown on unions in the 1980’s demonstrated that the old rules of collective bargaining no longer applied.