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Labor Report

Bidders Lining Up to Buy PES Refinery with Auction Scheduled for January

Fifteen potential bidders have expressed an interest in the largest oil refining complex on the East Coast two months ahead of a planned bankruptcy auction.

The Inquirer reported that a U.S. bankruptcy court in Wilmington has scheduled bids to be submitted by January 10 for the idled, 1,300-acre Philadelphia Energy Solutions site. A January 17 auction will follow if there is competition among bidders for some or all of the property.

The court has also ordered that PES must reveal the identities of the potential bidders to the City of Philadelphia and allow the city to be present for any auction.

According to the news report, which did not disclose the names of interested parties, two potential bidders have proposed producing fuel on the site while several others “have suggested converting it into a fuel terminal that would take advantage of the site’s access to sea, rail, highway, and (Philadelphia International) airport.”

PES filed for bankruptcy in July following a June 21 explosion and fire in one of the facility’s 31 processing units. At the time, the facility was capable of processing 335,000 barrels of crude per day and employed 1,200 workers. Another 800 contract workers relied directly on the operation.

The United Steelworkers Local 10-1, which represents about 700 of the former PES employees, has said that despite the disaster, 30 of the facility’s 31 units are operable.

Meanwhile, the bankruptcy court last month granted PES permission to award a second round of bonuses to upper-level managers without disclosing the recipients or amounts of the payouts. PES attracted widespread public criticism in early September when it was revealed that the company paid $4.6 million in retention bonuses to eight executives while carrying out the layoffs of more than 1,000 rank-and-file workers.

In late September, the company asked the court for permission to award a new round of bonuses in secret due to “negative impact on employee morale.” A committee of unsecured creditor objected to the request, but later withdrew its objection.

Scranton Teacher Negotiations Resume After 10 Months, Produce Same Results

Unionized teachers have denounced the Scranton School District’s latest contract offer following a November 13 meeting that was the first between the sides since the district entered financial recovery 10 months ago.

Scranton Federation of Teachers members have been working under an expired contract since 2017. The union described the new offer as “brazen,” according to the Times-Tribune, for proposing to freeze pay and raise class-size limits, while eliminating a preschool program and its teachers.

“The recovery plan, which the school board approved in August, includes no guaranteed salary increases for five years,” the newspaper reported. “The 2020 proposed budget approved by the board also included no money for raises.”

The new offer would also modify the union members’ healthcare plan, require secondary teachers to teach six daily periods instead of five, modify salary steps, and end supplemental compensation for teachers who cover others’ classes during their planning periods.

Union leaders point out that Scranton teachers have a low starting salary relative to other districts in the area and that the district has frozen the salary step schedule since the 2016-17 school year.

“By the end of this school year – the third year working under an expired contract – some teachers waiting to move to the 16th step will have lost more than $60,000,” the Times-Tribune reported.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, the district removed the “acting” title from members of its new administrative team and gave them a combined annual raise of $72,000. The district has said it is saving $540,000 a year by keeping other administrative positions vacant.

In 2017, rank-and-file members granted the SFT the power to call a strike, an option that remains in effect, according to the union.

AARP Warns That Unpaid Family Caregiving in U.S. is Not Sustainable

The AARP has reported that about 41 million family caregivers across the nation provided about 34 billion hours of unpaid care to older and ailing relatives in 2017 worth a combined $470 billion. Those levels are not sustainable, the organization warned.

“Better recognition of and support for family caregivers has become a health, economic, and social imperative,” authors from the AARP Public Policy Institute wrote in their report, “Valuing the Invaluable: 2019 Update.”

“While progress has resulted from decades of research and advocacy calling attention to the essential, but often overlooked, role of the family in long-term services and supports and health care, strengthening support systems must continue – particularly given the demographic reality of population aging and a range of other trends affecting family caregivers.”

Citing the study, which was based on four AARP surveys between 2015 and 2018, the Inquirer reported that about 12% of adults in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are family caregivers and provided $18.2 billion and $12.9 billion worth of care, respectively, in 2017.

“Family caregiving is becoming more difficult and complex because caregivers are helping people with more challenging needs and are often juggling work and family responsibilities,” the newspaper wrote.

The AARP has called for a “national strategy” to help caregivers offset their financial costs and support their health, because caregivers are at higher risk of health problems than people who are not taking care of relatives.

AFL-CIO Releases its Annual Thanksgiving Shopping List

The AFL-CIO has released its annual list of labor-friendly products that the national union recommends that consumers choose when preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving. These goods are produced by union workers at companies that support good jobs in American communities. The jobs provide living wages and benefits, safe working conditions, and dignity and respect for workers.

The “Union Made” list is compiled by the Union Labor and Service Trades Department, which was founded in 1909 to promote American goods and services produced by union members, especially those products and services identified by a union label, shop card, store card, and service button.

All of the items on the following listings are produced by members of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers; the Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics and Allied Workers; the Machinists; UNITE HERE; the United Food and Commercial Workers; the United Steel Workers; the United Farm Workers; and the Teamsters.

Set the Table: Anchor Hocking; Bennington Potters; Clauss knives; Corning-Ware; Fiestaware; Homer Laughlin China; Libbey glassware; and Pyrex.
Fresh Whole Turkey: Butterball and Foster Farms.
Ham: Appleton Farms; Butterball; Cook’s; Farmland; Hormel; and Tyson.
Stuffing: Manischewitz and Stroehmann.
Vegetables: Andy Boy; Birds Eye; Eurofresh; Mann’s; Muranaka Farm; Sunripe.
Cranberries/Cranberry Sauce: Dole and Ocean Spray.
Potatoes: Betty Crocker; Dole; and Mann’s.
Bread: Aunt Millie’s; Pillsbury; and Stroehmann.
Pie: Banquet; Entenmann’s; Marie Callender’s; Pillsbury; and Sara Lee.
Pie Filling: Del Monte; Food Club; and Kroger.

For a comprehensive listing of union-made in America products and a recommendation form, visit the Union Label and Service Trades Department.