The Labor Market is a Buyer’s Market

A blog post from Mark Price, originally published on Third and State.

Do you know many unemployed people these days who are turning down jobs while holding out for a better offer?

Me neither.

Over one in four Pennsylvania workers — and nearly one in three U.S. workers — have had less paid work than they wanted during the last 12 months. For every job opening in Pennsylvania, there are approximately eight workers who want more paid work — four of them are unemployed and four are underemployed.

Those are pretty sobering statistics.

Yet this Labor Day, readers of the Patriot-News were treated to a very different set of statistics by columnist Anne McGraw Reeves. Citing a temporary help agency, she wrote that 52% of surveyed employers "reported difficulty filling jobs."

How can this be?

Reeves offers up a theory in the voice of a local temp agency proprietor, who noted that some unemployed workers "are getting too comfortable being unemployed." Reeves goes on to lecture the unemployed:

No job seeker wants to take a job that means a cut in pay or a reduction in status. High paying jobs with great benefits and substantial cache are hard to find.

But with the amount of unemployed people increasing and the funding for unemployment compensation shrinking, many of us don't have the luxury of waiting for the next best thing.

In other words, there are jobs to be had if only the unemployed would take them. However, a ratio of nearly eight underemployed workers for every job opening in Pennsylvania means that not everyone is finding the work they need.

Why have Democrats abandoned labor? Discuss with fmr. AFSCME DC 47 Pres. Thomas Paine Cronin at the next Green Night Out!

From the Green Party of Philadelphia:

Green Party of Philadelphia

Saturday, March 12, 7:00 pm

Enjoy an endless supply of
vegetarian, kosher, Chinese food.

Discuss how too many Democrats have turned against Labor
with Thomas Paine Cronin,
retired president of AFSCME District Council 47.

Please join us.
will be open to the public,
an exceptional bargain
for only $25/person.

Singapore Vegetarian Restaurant
1006 Race Street
Chinatown, Philadelphia

For more information:
215-243-7103 or email

[I went to the last Green Night Out, when an organizer from Action United (btw, good luck to them in their fight for sick days for Philly workers) spoke, and both the food and conversation were great]

And here's the facebook event:

Hugh Giordano to unions: The two parties have sold us out and the Greens are 100% pro-labor!

The following is an open letter sent to every Philadelphia area union by Hugh Giordano, printed with permission. Make sure to check out the Green Party of Philadelphia's upcoming events, like a meeting on the 27th and a concert on the 4th.

STOP Supporting the Democrats and Republicans!

Dear Union Brothers and Sisters,

My name is Hugh Giordano, and I am fellow union representative for the UFCW, Local 152. Many of you know me or have heard about me in my run for State Representative where I produced the highest percentage of vote of any third party candidate in a three-way race – beating the Republican in Philadelphia!

I produced this great victory because I stood for the issues, used basic union organizing skills, took NO corporate money, and had union support. Just imagine what I could have accomplished if I had all the unions behind me, the man power, and financial backing; I could have done so much more to defeat the CEO/corporate Democrat.

Although I did not win that election, I opened the doors for us, as a united labor front, to do great things for the future. We have a duty to do what is right and to fight back against the status quo. That is why we are labor leaders and chose this activist life. I use the word ‘activist’ because that is what we are supposed to be, NOT businessmen and businesswomen.

Labor: Reinstate James Kennedy. Call 215 898 7221.

James Kennedy, also a political activist for single-payer healthcare, is sitting in this picture with Dr. Quentin Young of PNHP.

On December 8, 2010, James Kennedy was fired from Comegys Elementary School afterschool program, part of the University of Pennsylvania's CSSP program. Kennedy is a dedicated teacher who had earned accolades for his work, but was fired for federally-protected union activity protected under section 7 of the NLRA. Penn had attempted to dock hours from his and his coworker's paychecks, and Kennedy stood up for his coworkers and said that that could not be done. He was told that he should not speak up for others, in violation of the law, and then Penn proceeded to find pretexts to fire him. James' coworkers were harassed and intimidated in order to break solidarity. After being fired for no stated reason over the phone, James' employer had a meeting with his coworkers to explain that he'd been fired for saying critical things of the program and his boss on Facebook, which is federally-protected speech under labor law.

Philadelphia Weekly: 'Third-party candidates emerge as champions of the working-class'

From Philadelphia Weekly (read the whole article here):

Hugh Giordano, a 26-year-old, Roxborough native and food workers’ union organizer for UFCW Local 152, ran on the Green Party ticket against Democrat Lou Agre for a seat in the 194th. He lost, but garnered 18 percent of the vote (23 percent in Philly)—an unprecedented number for a third-party candidate. He may have his district’s attention, but Giordano and the Green Party of Philadelphia want everyone to know that when it comes to the ballot, three isn’t a crowd. What’s more, they’ve got heavy union support—typically an automatic vote for Democrats—to help them.

“They want you to be stupid,” he says of the “party button,” which essentially allows citizens to vote along party lines without looking at who’s up for election...

Rally Saturday--join Rep. Patrick Murphy in supporting Express Scripts workers

Despite the recession, Express Scripts (one of the country's largest mail-order pharmacy companies) has raked in $550 million in profits since the beginning of 2010.

And yet Express Scripts is threatening to close its Bensalem facility and put 900 workers on the unemployment line unless they take huge pay cuts and give up the quality health care their families depend on. They would move the work in PA to MO or AZ.

Express Scripts makes millions off of union and employer health plans; contracts with state and federal agencies (including a $2.8B contract with the US Dept. of Defense); and the Medicare Part D prescription plan.

If our economy is ever going to recover, we have to stop giant corporations like Express Scripts from using the recession as an excuse to destroy good jobs.

$11,000 per week for One RN: The Appalling Practices of Temple to Break the Union and Our Nurses

On Wednesday, 1,500 nurses and staff in Temple University Health System (TUHS) will go on strike demanding higher quality patient care, the right to free speech, reasonable health care costs, cost of living raises and tuition remission for family members attending Temple University. The gap between the nurses and TUHS is wide and a strike, potentially a prolonged strike, seems certain. While there are many issues that could be discussed regarding this strike, the most appalling is the money issue.

On this front I want to point to two things: 1) The company HealthSource Global Staffing has been outsourced by TUHS to hire nurses during the strike. HealthSource is offering up to $10,338 per week for RN's. This means that Temple is planning to pay up to $11,000-12,000 per week or more even, for one RN during the strike, which comes to a salary of over $600,000 per year. 2) Temple has hired CEO Edmond Notebaert to an exorbitant multi-million dollar contract to restructure TUHS, where restructuring principally means breaking the union.

The point here is that Temple is willing to spend more to break the union than the cost of settling the contract dispute between PASNAP and TUHS. This fight is about POWER plain and simple. Moreover, Temple receives millions upon millions of tax payer dollars each year, and with this money they pay an anti-union CEO and temp nurses from across the country instead of supporting our Philadelphians--from patients to caregivers. Please come out and support Temple nurses in this important fight (the strike starts Wednesday at 7AM, but they want support at 12PM), and demand that our local institutions are responsible and put Philadelphia before their profits and power.

Taxi Workers, Nurses and Jobs: Big day in Philadelphia tomorrow

Friday March 19th is a big day across the City with a bunch of important events focused on the state of Philadelphia's employed and unemployed.

First, tomorrow at 10AM in room 400 of City Hall, the PA House Urban Affairs Committee along with the Unified Taxi Workers Alliance and Liberty Resources will hold a public meeting on House Bill 1914. This bill would grant Taxi Drivers the right to workers compensation coverage and create wheelchair accessible taxis. Workers compensation coverage is particularly important for cab drivers as they are 60 percent more likely to be killed on the job and 80 percent more likely to be assaulted on the job according to recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor. Moreover, according to the Philadelphia Parking Authority, taxi drives make an average of $29.50 plus tips per 12 hour shift or $4.17 an hour, and it has been reported by taxi drivers that wages are declining even further due to the recession.

HB1914 would compel medallion owners (who have seen the value of medallions go up 400 percent in the last four years) to pay around $1.50 a day for workers compensation coverage. The bill would also necessitate some wheelchair accessible cabs, which most major cities already have. Check out the video Driving the America Dream a joint production of UTWA and Media Mobilizing Project focused on the working conditions and need for workers compensation for cab drivers.

Second, tomorrow at 10:15 outside the main entrance of Temple University Hospital (Broad and Ontario) National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will join rank-and-file union leaders to pledge all-out support from organized labor for an impending strike by Temple University Hospital’s 1,500 nurses and professional and technical employees. Shortly before the press event, the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) will deliver a 10-day strike notice to the hospital, setting a walkout deadline of 7:00 A.M. Wednesday, March 31. Check out recent reporting on the nurses campaign at Temple University on MMP's labor blog: PASNAP wins tuition reimbursement battle | Temple students meet with PASNAP | Temple found guilty of bad-faith bargaining with PASNAP | Temple Doesn't want us to Speak for our Patients

Finally at 11:45 National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Philadelphia AFL-CIO President Pat Eiding will lead hundreds of union activists in a massive rally at Paine Plaza -- across from City Hall at 15th and JFK -- to tell Bank of America that it's time to pay up to restore the jobs Wall Street destroyed in the worst financial collapse since the great depression. This event is one of 200 actions happening across the country at the Big 6 Wall Street Banks now through March 26 demanding "Good Jobs Now: Make Wall Street Pay."

Philadelphians should definitely come out and support these events

New Video: Philly UNITE HERE Members Hold Vigil for Hyatt 100

Philly UNITE HERE members held a candlelight vigil outside of the Hyatt Regency Penn’s Landing demanding that Hyatt Hotels “Bring Back the Hyatt 100.” Workers offered prayers and songs, and unfurled a 150-foot long “Hope Quilt,” which stitches together stories of Hyatt housekeepers and the pain they endure everyday.

In August, Hyatt Hotels fired 100 housekeepers from its three Boston area hotels after asking the workers to train their replacements from an outsourcing agency. The action ignited a national controversy for Hyatt Hotels, which launched an initial public offering of its stock on November 5, 2009. One of the Hyatt 100, Aracelly Arango, spoke at our vigil.

The vigil ended a week of actions by thousands of workers in a dozen cities.

5 PM Tonight: Philadelphia Hotel Workers Hold Vigil for Boston’s “Hyatt 100”

Tonight: Philadelphia Hotel Workers Hold Vigil for Boston’s “Hyatt 100”

As part of a wave of actions across North America, workers bring the 150-foot “Hope Quilt” to Philadelphia — spotlighting pain and mistreatment of Hyatt housekeepers

WHAT: Candlelight vigil with “Hope Quilt,” as part of a wave of actions in U.S. and Canada, calling for Hyatt to “Bring Back the Hyatt 100” housekeepers in Boston and end mistreatment of housekeepers in hotels across North America.

WHO: Philadelphia housekeepers and fellow members of UNITE HERE
Aracelly Arango, one of the “Hyatt 100” fired housekeepers from Boston

WHERE: Outside the Hyatt Regency Penn’s Landing, Dock St & Columbus Blvd, Philadelphia

WHEN: 5:00 p.m. Tonight, Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wolf in Scribes Clothing: The SEPTA Strike and the Subterfuge of Philadelphia's Media Monopoly


Political Scientist Michael Parenti catalogued seven generalizations about the way the news media create anti-union messaging--from painting workers as greedy, to omitting the salary of management or depicting public officials (like Mayor Nutter) as neutral. Using this lens to dissect the coverage of the SEPTA strike, it becomes clear that local media like the Inquirer and Daily News have a dangerous anti-union bias, once again making the case that to build our own movement we need our own media.

UNITE HERE Local 634 Members Beat Back SEIU Raid By 2:1 Vote

Last week the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) announced the results of the election to represent the 2,300 cafeteria workers and noon time aides in the Philadelphia School District: members of UNITE HERE Local 634 voted by a 2:1 margin to stay with their union and rejected SEIU’s anti-union tactics.

After months of attacks directed by New York-based SEIU 32BJ, the PLRB counted 1121 votes for UNITE HERE Local 634 and only 551 votes for SEIU Philadelphia Joint Board. There were 10 votes for no union and 198 challenged ballots.

Whole Foods: Anti-Union and Anti-Universal Health Care

I frequently shop at Whole Foods. It is the closest grocery store to my house. They have excellent cookies, good produce, etc. They employ or have employed a bunch of my friends, and seem to pay them fairly well, even if they do not always treat them as kind as their image would suggest. And, after reading any Michael Pollan book, it is pretty hard to totally buy into Whole Food's take on organics. But still, despite all that, and that it creates a (w)hole in my wallet (badda boom!), I end up going there a lot.

But that said, it is worth remembering a few things for when you have a choice of where to shop. First, in an industry that is largely unionized, Whole Foods stands out as being anti-labor. This is a comment from their CEO:

The union is like having herpes. It doesn't kill you, but it's unpleasant and inconvenient, and it stops a lot of people from becoming your lover.

Well that is just so sweet of him. As the quote would suggest, Whole Foods has been working to kill Employee Free Choice, a hugely important reform for working families.

And now, the same whack-job is lobbying against true universal healthcare:

John Mackey, chief executive of Whole Foods, said that while his company offers coverage, he worries that an employer mandate would lead to more stringent federal rules on what employer plans must include.

He said that would drive up the cost of employer benefits, motivating companies to end their benefits and instead let employees sign up for the public insurance option, figuring that paying a penalty would be less costly. This would result in eventual domination by the public insurance plan -- something Mackey suspects is reformers' secret hope.

"It's a Trojan horse," he said.

As Jake McIntyre notes, if you take an employee mandate and a public option out of health care reform, you are basically left with nothing except a huge payout to insurance companies, with millions upon millions of people still uninsured.

Does the fact that the CEO of Whole Foods is anti-labor or anti-universal health care mean I will never shop there again? No. But, there are a considerable amount of grocery stores that are much more friendly to labor, and presumably, to health care for all. From the United Food and Commercial Workers 1776 page, we see for example, that the following grocery stores are unionized:

Acme Markets
Giant Eagle
Shop Rite Supermarkets
Super Fresh Food Markets

It doesn't list Fresh Grocer. I have no clue about them. But either way, that is a big portion of our city's groceries stores.

And when you combine that list with the 30 or so farmers markets around Philly, most of which sell organic, locally made, fresher than Whole Foods goods, you kind of realize, yes, you do have a choice.

Will I forever boycott Whole Foods? No. Will I try to be more conscious of where I am shopping in the future? You better believe it.

Aviva Chomsky interview on coal mining in Kentucky and Colombia


I hope you enjoy my new interview focusing on some really important and creative organizing -- a good example of the poor organizing transnationally and drawing connections between different communities. If you like the interview, please help spread the word. Permission is granted to reprint as long as is cited as the original source.

Appalachia and Colombia: The People Behind the Coal

--An interview with Aviva Chomsky

By Hans Bennett

Stand with Cab Drivers: Demand that PPA is Accountable to Philadelphians

Hey all, please come out on Monday and support the Taxi Workers Alliance at the PPA board meeting. Check out the audio and video clips the Media Mobilizing Project produced below which explain the action.

The Taxi Workers Alliance of Pennsylvania (TWA) is calling drivers and concerned citizens to the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) Board Meeting at 3101 Market Street. The cabdrivers are attending the board meeting to demand that the PPA live up to its promise of removing the failing GPS systems from city cabs.

Video: Drivers Demand Accountability

Audio: Announcement of Monday Action

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