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Lehigh Valley

Union leaders predict more work for members in the future

Union leaders predict more work for members in the future

NORTHAMPTON, Pa. - Call it a swing of the pendulum for local union workers.

Five years ago many didn't have a job, but on this Labor Day, a bevy of new construction projects has union leaders feeling pretty optimistic.

Every Labor Day members of the Lehigh Valley Labor council celebrate with burgers, hot dogs, and plenty of fun.

This year those on the construction side have a little more to talk about.

"This time five years ago some of the locals had over fifty percent of their works on the bench," said Gregg Potter, president of the Lehigh Valley Labor Council. "Meaning they weren't working and it was for a long time."

Many of the workers on the bench, are now in the game thanks to the new Allentown hockey arena, a waterfront project that is just starting and hopefully the new FedEx Ground facility in Allen Township, Northampton County.

"The national economy is definitely recovering," added Pennsylvania state representative, Michael Schlossberg. "We're seeing aspects of it in the Valley."

There are over 40,000 members across the valley that are part of the Lehigh Valley Labor Council.

While many on the construction side are enjoying the redevelopment, some say others, like teachers and municipal workers are seeing their world crumbling.

"In Allentown we lost 20 percent of our teachers," said Schlossberg. "That's 400 folks, union members with good paying jobs that are now out of work. It speaks volumes about our priorities in Allentown."

The goal now is to get more people out of the unemployment line, but it will require a lot of work between the private sector and union leaders.

"The good thing about these guys is that at the end of the day they are still businessmen," added Schlossberg. "They understand the need to find that balance and if they try to drive wages too high, they're not going to get the work. That's capitalism, that's fair."

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