Postal Union Sounds Alarm Over Cuts, Shortages

March 11, 2024 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

The McKeesport post office will hold a hiring fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Wednesday. A postal union official says that the U.S. Postal Service is constantly hiring, but does a poor job retaining new employees because of working conditions. (Tube City Almanac photo)

Postal workers from Pennsylvania will head to the nation’s capital in early May for a national rally to raise awareness about the challenges faced by the U.S. Postal Service.

The workers say staff shortages, consolidations and office closures all are affecting mail delivery. The U.S. Postal Service’s goal is 95 percent on-time delivery across its vast network of 167 million addresses nationwide.

Kimberly Miller, president of the American Postal Workers Union Keystone Area Local 1566, said the worker shortage means some post offices close their facilities early and see delays in processing the mail. Miller pointed out rural customers often are hardest hit.

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Advocates: State’s Pipeline Rules Need Update

February 28, 2024 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

Pennsylvania environmental groups want to see a new rule implemented to improve the detection and repair of leaks from gas pipelines.

The Keystone State has over 94,000 miles of pipelines used to transport natural gas.

Rachel Meyer  — Ohio River Valley field organizer with the group Moms Clean Air Force — said it’s important that the rule be finalized, to improve safety, and reduce climate-harming methane emissions.

She added that these pipelines can leak and pose a safety risk to nearby communities.

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PA Still Lags Nation in Post-H.S. College, Training

February 21, 2024 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

(Source: Lumina Foundation)

Pennsylvania lags slightly behind national figures for the number of working-age adults who have earned college degrees or other professional certifications after high school.

New data from the Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation tracks degree attainment, including professional training and university degrees. The foundation says that more than 54 percent of Americans have attained some kind of post-high school education. In Pennsylvania, the number is 53 percent.

The foundation’s research also said more can be done to close the equity gap, in the Keystone State and across the country. The report showed that although more than 50 percent of white Pennsylvanians have college degrees, the same is true of only 32 percent of Black residents and 30 percent of Hispanic residents.

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Audubon Asks for Help With Mon Valley Count

February 16, 2024 |

By Vickie Babyak | Posted in: State & Region

ASWP community conservation coordinator Ben Kehoe at the Mon Valley Bird-Friendly Community Project Kickoff in June. (Vickie Babyak photo for Tube City Almanac)

Mon Valley residents of all ages and different birding experiences are invited to lend a hand Saturday during the annual Great Backyard Bird Count.

Ben Kehoe, community conservation coordinator for the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, will be leading a Great Backyard Bird Count Walk from 10 a.m. to 12 noon Saturday through Renziehausen Park. Participants will meet in the parking lot of the Renzie Park Senior Center, 100 Sycamore Drive.

This is the first year that Audubon is leading a Great Backyard Bird Count event at Renzie Park, said Rachel Handel, communications director of ASWP.

Registration in advance is requested.

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Report: Min. Wage Hike Would Benefit Pa. Workers

February 03, 2024 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

A new report has shed light on who would benefit most in Pennsylvania from raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026.

More than 1.3 million workers would see higher paychecks, said report author Claire Kovach, a senior research analyst for the Keystone Research Center.

Pennsylvania’s minimum wage has been $7.25 per hour for more than a decade, and the state has lost significant buying power in that time. Kovach said the data analyzes the potential impact of a higher minimum wage based on demographics such as age, race, education, gender and industry.

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U.S. Steel Settles Clean-Air Lawsuit for $45M

January 30, 2024 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: State & Region

Editor’s Note: This writer has a conflict of interest. He is a U.S. Steel Corp. stockholder.

David Masur of PennEnvironment addresses reporters at a press conference on Monday as David Meckel of Glassport holds a sign that says “No city is livable with dirty air.” (Screenshot via Zoom)

Environmental watchdog groups this week celebrated the filing of a consent decree that will see U.S. Steel pay more than $8 million in penalties and legal fees and another $19.5 million for improvements to the corporation’s Clairton coal by-products plant.

But advocates argued that the settlement — on top of $17.5 million worth of improvements already completed at Clairton Plant — will not compensate residents of Clairton, Glassport, Liberty Borough and other nearby communities for harm they have already suffered in the wake of a December 2018 accident at the facility.

“U.S. Steel spewed out roughly a month’s worth of sulfur dioxide pollution every three days, along with hydrogen sulfide and harmful small particulates,” said David Masur, executive director of PennEnvironment, on Monday during a press conference.

“Residents reported splitting headaches, uncontrollable asthma attacks and difficulty breathing,” he said. “It was so bad that the Allegheny County Health Department told local residents living downwind from the facility not to leave their homes.”

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DA Files Charges Against Century III Owner

January 30, 2024 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: State & Region

Water covers an entrance to Century III Mall in this 2018 photo. District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. called the abandoned West Mifflin shopping center “the poster boy” for blight in Western Pennsylvania. (Photo by Quackerkats via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution-Generic)

Calling it “something out of a disaster movie,” Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. on Tuesday announced that he will seek criminal charges against the owners of Century III Mall in an attempt to compel them to demolish the property or sell it.

“They clearly have no intention of doing anything with the property as it exists,” Zappala said at a press conference. “They have abandoned this property.”

Zappala said he is hoping that a hearing can be held within 60 to 90 days.

Separately, Zappala’s office went to an Allegheny County judge on Tuesday seeking a temporary restraining order against the mall’s owners.

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Gergely Adds Voice to Critics of U.S. Steel Deal

December 21, 2023 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: State & Region

State Rep. Matt Gergely addresses local officials during an open house at his McKeesport district office on Nov. 8. (Tube City Almanac file photo)

Add State Rep. Matt Gergely to the list of Mon Valley elected officials who are troubled by the proposed sale of U.S. Steel to a Japanese company.

“My number one priority in the face of this potential sale is making sure any new ownership of U.S. Steel protects this region’s union workers and jobs,” Gergely, Democrat of McKeesport, said Wednesday. “These union jobs play a vital role in our local, state, and national economy; they ensure fair wages, safe working conditions and job security for workers and their families.”

But unlike U.S. Sens. Bob Casey Jr. and John Fetterman, Gergely stopped short of calling for regulators to block the merger, instead calling for a “collaborative approach” to the sale of the iconic 122-year-old corporation.

“My hope is that the foreign company purchasing U.S. Steel recognizes the strategic importance of the U.S. steel industry and aligns its business practices with the interests of our local economy and workers,” Gergely said.

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Pisciottano: ‘Disappointed’ By U.S. Steel Deal

December 18, 2023 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: State & Region

(File photo by Mark Dixon, licensed under CC-Attribution-2.0-Generic)

Related story: Steelworkers Blast U.S. Steel Sale to Japanese Firm

A state representative whose district includes U.S. Steel’s Irvin Plant said he was disappointed in the corporation’s decision to sell itself to Japan-based Nippon Steel for $55 per share.

“My chief concern is the future of steelmaking in the historic Steel Valley and the risk to direct and ancillary jobs that have employed generations in Allegheny County and the surrounding region,” said State Rep. Nick Pisciottano of West Mifflin.

“While I hope that any future ownership of plant assets recognize that we have the best workforce on the planet ready to manufacture the next generation of high-quality steel, I am concerned that we are seeing another round of offshoring that we will look back on with regret in the near future,” he said.

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Steelworkers Blast U.S. Steel Sale to Japanese Firm

December 18, 2023 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: State & Region

Nippon Steel’s Kimitsu Steel Works, located about 20 miles from Tokyo, employs 2,600 people and produces 10 million tons of iron annually. (File photo by M. Louis via Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0)

Related Story: Pisciottano ‘Disappointed’ by U.S. Steel Deal

The union representing workers at U.S. Steel’s nearly two dozen American steel-making facilities on Monday criticized the announcement that the corporation has agreed to be acquired by a Japanese competitor, Nippon Steel.

“To say we’re disappointed in the announced deal between U.S. Steel and Nippon is an understatement, as it demonstrates the same greedy, shortsighted attitude that has guided U.S. Steel for far too long,” said David McCall, president of the United Steelworkers international union, located in Pittsburgh.

“We remained open throughout this process to working with U.S. Steel to keep this iconic American company domestically owned and operated, but instead it chose to push aside the concerns of its dedicated workforce and sell to a foreign-owned company,” he said.

U.S. Steel announced Monday that Tokyo-based Nippon Steel has agreed to purchase the Pittsburgh-based company in an all-cash transaction for $55 per share. The deal, valued at $14.9 billion, also includes the assumption of $800 million in debt.

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