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Labor Report

Memorial Day

“Memorial Day is a time to remember America’s fallen military who paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom. Please join me in honoring them.”

– Senator Tartaglione

Tartaglione leads REAL JOBS REAL PAY Tour of Philly Business that Chooses to Pay Living Wages

Senator Tartaglione led Pennsylvania legislators on a tour of a successful Philadelphia business that chooses to pay its employees a far, living wage, rather than Pennsylvania’s outdated minimum wage.

Real Jobs Real Pay TourThe visit to La Barberia, a full-service barber shop inside Suburban Station, was one of many events held across the Commonwealth on May 23 in conjunction with the “Real Jobs Real Pay” day of action. Senator Tartaglione and her colleagues seek to heighten awareness about the need to raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage and showcase businesses that understand the interdependent relationship of higher employee wages, satisfied customers, and financial success.

Senator Tartaglione is the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 12, which proposes to raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage for the first time in a decade. The legislation calls for an increase from $7.25 per hour to $12 this year, and additional annual increases that would lead to a $15 minimum wage by 2025.

“Many entrepreneurs are proving that taking care of your employees goes hand-in-hand with taking care of your customers and taking care of your bottom line,” Senator Tartaglione said. “This formula works, no matter where you do business: whether it’s in the heart of a major city, in the suburbs, or in Pennsylvania’s beautiful rural communities.”

La Barberia has locations in Philadelphia and in Jenkintown, Montgomery County. Owner Michael O’Connor said: “We know that by paying fair wages, our employees are happier and they stick around, providing the great service that keeps our customers coming back and recommending us to others. When the minimum wage goes up, businesses will see costly turnover go down.”

Pennsylvania’s minimum wage is also the federal minimum, which was last raised in 2009. Pennsylvania lawmakers last acted to raise the state’s minimum wage in 2006. Since then, all six of Pennsylvania’s border states have raised their minimum wages above the federal minimum. In all, 29 states mandate wages greater than $7.25.

At 40 hours per week for 52 weeks, the minimum wage converts to annual earnings of just over $15,000 a year, which is below the federal poverty level for a family of two, such as a single parent and child. Among those who would benefit directly from Senator Tartaglione’s minimum wage legislation, 61 percent are women, 55 percent work full time, and 24 percent are parents.

Utility Commission Approves Sprint/T-Mobile Merger After FCC Chair’s Endorsement

Days after the Federal Communications Commission chairman announced his support for the proposed merger of two of the nation’s four largest mobile phone networks, Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission voted narrowly to approve the deal, despite opposition from employees and consumers.

T-Mobile“In light of significant commitments made by T-Mobile and Sprint as well as the facts in record to date, I believe that this transaction is in the public interest and intend to recommend to my colleagues that the FCC approve it,” Chairman Ajit Pai said in an FCC news release on May 20.

Subsequently, the state’s PUC voted 3-2 to approve an application by Sprint to transfer control of its network to T-Mobile within the Commonwealth. The commission’s approval “specifically references voluntary commitments offered by Sprint involving statewide deployment of 5G wireless facilities and services in Pennsylvania,” a PUC news release stated.

CNBC reported that the proposed merger would need regulatory approval in just two more states, California and Hawaii, in addition to approval from the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. However, state attorneys general may choose to sue to block the merger on antitrust grounds, Barron’s reported. The FCC has yet to take formal action on the proposed deal despite Pai’s comments.

The Communications Workers of America, which represents thousands of workers who could be affected by the deal, has warned that the merger would cause the loss of 30,000 jobs in the U.S. as the merged company (which would be known as the new T-Mobile) shuts down duplicative retail stores and consolidates headquarters functions. Three-fourths of workers who sell the companies’ services work for authorized dealers and are not covered by the companies’ pledge to retain jobs, the labor union stated.

Further, the CWA has argued that the companies’ promises to enhance network coverage, particularly in the nation’s rural areas, “don’t hold up to scrutiny” because 40 million Americans would still not have 5G service five years after the merger, according to the companies’ own filings.

Plus, the merger of two of the nation’s four largest mobile carriers (the others being AT&T and Verizon) would critically reduce market competition and cause higher consumer prices, the CWA has said. The companies have committed not to raise prices for three years, according to the FCC’s Pai.

Supreme Court Considering Retroactive Benefits for Workers Deemed Partially Impaired

Workman Injury ClaimThe Pennsylvania Supreme Court is positioned to decide whether injured workers will be eligible to collect full compensation retroactively to the date of their impairment rating evaluation in light of the court’s ruling that invalidated IREs.

The Legal Intelligencer reported that the state’s high court is considering whether injured workers who appealed their IREs will now qualify for total disability compensation (and if employers will be responsible for paying full benefits) starting with the date that a physician made the worker’s initial IRE determination. An alternative option for the court is to grant total disability status only as far back as the court’s 2017 landmark ruling in the “Protz” case.

The case – described here by the Pennsylvania Labor & Employment Blog – overturned a portion of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act that required doctors performing IREs to rely on the “most recent edition” of the American Medical Association Impairment Rating Guides.

“The justices found that portion of the statute unconstitutionally delegated the legislature’s lawmaking authority to the AMA,” the Intelligencer reported.

Consequently, IREs performed pursuant to those guidelines were unconstitutional.”
Therefore, injured workers who had appealed their IREs and whose challenges were pending at the time of the Protz ruling now argue that they should be entitled to total disability benefits for the period following their IREs, rather than the lesser benefits they were awarded due to reduced impairment statuses.

Last October, the Commonwealth Court determined (via Dana Holding v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board, a.k.a. Smuck) that IRE cases which were still being litigated at the time of Protz “were entitled to the application of that decision and that application was retroactive to the date of the IRE,” the Intelligencer reported. The appellant in that case, Dana Holding, argued that charging the employer for retroactive total disability benefits violated its due process protection under the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Federal Reserve: 4 in 10 Americans Living Paycheck to Paycheck, Despite Growing Economy

Broken BankThe Federal Reserve has found that 4 in 10 Americans say they wouldn’t be able to cover an unexpected expense of $400 with cash, savings, or a credit card charge that could be quickly repaid, the New York Times reported.

In its daily Morning Shift blog, Politico noted that Americans’ apparent lack of on-hand cash belies the nation’s growing economy and historically low unemployment rate. The hypothetical was among the questions asked by the Fed for its Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2018, an annual study released on May 23.

“About 27 percent of people surveyed would need to borrow or sell something to pay for such a bill, and 12 percent would not be able to cover it at all,” the Times wrote, citing the report. “… The finding underlines the fact that many Americans remain on the edge financially even as this economic expansion is approaching record length and people have become more optimistic.”

Optimism was reflected in that three-fourths of those surveyed indicated they believe they are “doing OK or living comfortably,” a 12-point increase from the first annual survey in 2013, Politico wrote. Also, half of respondents said they received a raise or promotion within the last year.

Just 55 percent of rural survey-takers said their local economies are doing well, compared to 66 percent of city dwellers, the Times reported.

Additional findings in the report cited by were “more than 6 in 10 said losing their job would mean they couldn’t cover three months of expenses, even if they took out loans, sold assets, or borrowed from friends and relatives” and “only 36 percent said their retirement savings are on track.”

Further, almost one-fourth of respondents said they skipped medical care in the last year because they couldn’t afford it, and 1 in 5 faced “major, unexpected medical bills.” About 4 in 10 of those people were still carrying debt related to those medical bills.