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Labor Report

Appeals Court Rejects Petitions to Decertify AFSCME

A Pennsylvania appeals court has rejected efforts by two men to decertify the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees as the exclusive bargaining unit representative for more than 1,500 state inspection, investigation, and safety services employees, PennLive reported.

Senator TartaglioneIn separate but similar cases based exclusively on disputes over the amount of employee signatures needed and obtained by the plaintiffs, Commonwealth Court found both decertification petitions lacking. In each case, the court affirmed a 2017 Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board order that rejected the petitions. Additional background and details are contained in a 2016 proposed order of dismissal by a PLRB hearing examiner.

Commonwealth Court agreed with the PLRB that each petitioner had failed to submit enough valid signatures to trigger a decertification vote. The petitioners needed signatures from at least 30 percent of workers included in the bargaining unit.

Although the court based its ruling only on the number of alleged signatures submitted by the plaintiffs, as compared to the total number of bargaining unit members as reported by the Commonwealth, it also noted that the PLRB had determined that many of those signatures were invalid because they were not originals or were not dated. In accordance with longstanding PLRB policy and legal precedent, the board’s determination on the validity of individual signatures is not subject to appeal.

The plaintiffs further argued that the 30 percent figure should be based only on those bargaining unit members who still pay union dues. That is, those who have opted out of the union shouldn’t count, they claimed. The PLRB rejected that argument, noting that all bargaining unit members would be eligible to vote in union certification or decertification elections, regardless of their dues-paying status.

Target Raises Wages Again as Retailers Feel Job Market Pressure

TargetTarget Corp. has announced it will raise its company-wide minimum wage for the third time in the last 18 months as it continues working toward a $15 per hour minimum by the end of 2020.

The new $13 minimum wage will take effect in June and represent a $1 increase over the current minimum. The entry-level raise followed similar increases to $11 in October 2017 and $12 last March. The raises are viewed as largely a product of a tight job market and growing public support for a higher minimum wage.

“Retailers have been finding it tougher to attract workers, with unemployment at its lowest level in 50 years, while there has been growing political pressure on companies to pay workers a fair living wage,” Rueters reported.

In a blog post on its corporate website, the Minneapolis-based company stated, “We’re well on our way to fulfilling the commitment we made in 2017 to raise our minimum hourly wage to $15 an hour by the end of 2020.”

The company reportedly said that “tens of thousands” of workers would benefit directly. Target employs over 300,000 workers and operates 1,845 stores in the U.S.

Other retailers have also been bumping wages for their lowest-paid employees. Amazon raised its minimum wage to $15 for U.S. based workers last October while cutting employee production bonuses and stock benefits. Costco hit the $15 mark early last month, its second minimum wage raise in less than a year, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Walmart has an $11 minimum wage, but entry-level workers can earn an additional $550 quarterly through a new attendance bonus program.

In the corporate blog post, Target’s lead human relations executive said that the improved $12 wage boosted the company’s recruiting campaign in advance of last year’s holiday shopping, when it hired 120,000 seasonal workers ahead of schedule, who contributed to the company’s strongest financial performance in more than a decade.

Maryland Becomes Sixth State to Adopt $15 Minimum Wage

Maryland’s Democratic-led General Assembly has voted to override their governor’s veto of legislation that will raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 by 2025.

Maryland FlagAs a result, Maryland will become the sixth U.S. state to implement a $15 minimum wage, according to The Hill. Three of those states, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland, border Pennsylvania.

Delaware has also adopted legislation to raise its minimum wage in coming years, while New York, New Jersey, and Ohio have enacted automatic annual minimum wage adjustments based on cost of living data. All six of Pennsylvania’s neighbors have higher minimum wages than the Commonwealth’s $7.25 per hour, which is also the federal minimum.

Maryland’s $10.10 minimum wage will rise to $11 next January and increase by 75 cents each year to reach $14 in 2024. It will then increase to $15 in 2025. Businesses with fewer than 14 employees will have until July 2026 to pay workers at least $15 an hour.

The legislation’s lead sponsor, Senator Cory McCray of Baltimore, said that 573,000 people will benefit directly from the raise.

Community College Faculty Settle Contract Dispute, Avert Strike

Negotiators for the union that represents 1,200 faculty members and employees at Community College of Philadelphia have reached a tentative labor agreement with the college’s administration to avert a looming strike and end a three-year contract impasse.

Community College of PhiladelphiaJohn Braxton, co-president of the local union known as the Faculty and Staff Federation of CCP – an American Federation of Teachers affiliate – told that negotiators achieved their primary goals in the new pact, which is pending ratification by rank-and-file members. The agreement includes wage increases over six years that will raise the lowest-paid staff above $15 per hour and a healthcare option that involves no member premiums. It also will hold the line on course loads assigned to current faculty members.

In return, the union agreed to allow the administration to increase the minimum workload for future faculty hires, who will have to teach one additional course each semester, a 25 percent increase.

“Course load was the biggest sticking point for the union,” the news outlet reported. “The administration had wanted every faculty member to teach five courses per semester instead of four, but the union said it would detract from the out-of-class time teachers spend with their students, what they said is a large part of their jobs.”
The union announced the agreement via Facebook.

Late last month, about 98 percent of participating members voted to authorize union leaders to call a strike, but they did not announce a date for the walkout.

Could Immigration Help Solve Economic Challenges of Aging Workforce?

A new report published by a Washington, D.C., think tank has found that working-age population growth is slowing in 41 percent of United States counties that account for 38 million of the nation’s residents, according to the New York Times.

This “demographic decline” may be dragging drag down the U.S. economy much like similar changes have impacted Japan and Western Europe, the Economic Innovation Group concluded. The authors of the report have suggested that a new “Heartland visa” worker immigration program could mitigate the labor shortage.

“Slower growth in America’s working-age population is a major reason that mainstream forecasters now expect the economy to expand around 2 percent each year rather than the 3 percent common in the second half of the 20th century,” the Times stated.

While the inevitable aging and retirement of the sizable Baby Boomer generation has been a major factor in the demographic shift, the researchers warned that the tendency of younger working-age people and immigrant workers to gravitate toward denser coastal regions may have a disproportionately negative impact on smaller cities and rural areas.

“Overall, 80 percent of American counties encompassing 149 million people experienced a decline in the number of residents ages 25 to 54 between 2007 and 2017,” the Times wrote, citing the EIC report. “(The authors) project that the trends will continue, and that by 2037, two-thirds of American counties will have fewer adults of prime working age than they did in 1997, despite overall population growth in that period.”

In a companion article, the Times reported that builders and farmers are already increasingly turning to the immigrant workforce to satisfy their needs. They’re also trying to sweeten the pay scale.

“Nationwide, the average wage of nonsupervisory workers in residential construction hit $25.34 an hour in January,” the Times stated. “That’s over 6 percent more than a year earlier, close to the steepest annual increase since the government started keeping track almost 30 years ago. Pay is taking off even among those in less-skilled construction trades.”

March 2019 National Jobs Update

GrowthThe seasonally adjusted national unemployment rate remained unchanged from February to March 2019 at 3.8%. Over the month, unemployment rolls decreased by 24,000 individuals, lowering total unemployment to 6.211 million. National unemployment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Unemployment – 6,211,000
  • Change Over Month –   DOWN   24,000
  • Change Over Year –   DOWN  275,000
  • Change Over Trump Term –  DOWN    1,354,000
  • Rate Change Over Month – no change
  • Rate Change Over Year –    DOWN  0.2%
  • Rate Change Over Trump Term –  DOWN    0.9%
  • Rate Change Over Obama 2nd Term –   DOWN   3.3%

As indicated above, total unemployment’s rounded percentage of the labor force, or unemployment rate, remained unchanged over the month (rate = unemployment / labor force). The labor force is the total number of employed individuals combined with the total number of unemployed individuals actively searching for work. Growth in the labor force can be a sign of a strengthening economy from more people working and/or more individuals searching for jobs. Marking a third consecutive monthly decline, the national labor force fell by 224,000 individuals in March 2019, a combination of total employment* declining by 201,000 individuals and total unemployment down by 24,000 individuals as noted above.
Since President Trump took office, the national labor force has grown by 3.267 million individuals (unemployment -1.354 million & employment +4.620 million). While this growth is encouraging, continued progress will be needed to match labor force growth seen over President Obama’s second term (3.930 million: unemployment -4.906 million & employment +8.836 million). National labor force statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Labor Force – 162,960,000
  • Change Over Month –  DOWN   224,000
  • Change Over Year  –  UP   1,314,000
  • Change Over Trump Term –   UP   3,267,000
  • Change Over Obama 2nd Term –   UP   3,930,000

Non-farm* jobs grew by 196,000 over the month in March 2019, rebounding from February monthly growth of only 33,000. However, average monthly non-farm job gains under President Trump (197,000) remain below average monthly growth (217,000) seen over President Obama’s second term. National non-farm employment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Non-Farm Employment – 150,816,000
  • Change Over Month –   UP   196,000
  • Change Over Year –   UP   2,537,000
  • Change Over Trump Term –  UP    5,121,000
  • Change Over Obama 2nd Term –    UP  10,412,000

*Total employment for labor force provided by U.S. Census Household survey. The separate BLS Establishment survey measures non-farm jobs only.