Subscribe to E-Update here.  
Labor Report

Minimum Wage a Hot Topic as State Budget Deadline Looms

Raising Pennsylvania’s long-stagnant minimum wage as part of the forthcoming 2019-2020 state budget was a frequent topic of conversation among state lawmakers from both sides of the aisle as they returned to session this week, but Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said that he has not had discussions with the Wolf administration on the subject.

Corman reportedly told on June 4 that administration officials “have not reached out to talk with me about minimum wage.” The senator also said “it’s getting late” to negotiate a minimum wage hike in time for the June 30 budget deadline.

However, recent public comments by other Republican lawmakers, including Senate Majority Policy Committee Chairman David Argall, indicated that minimum wage has indeed been a topic of discussion in the Capitol.

WITF-TV in Harrisburg reported on June 3 that Argall said he “supports some sort of minimum-wage increase and that Senate Republicans have discussed the idea of tying an increase to policies to get more people into the workforce and off public assistance programs.”

The public television network also reported that House Majority Leader Brian Cutler “acknowledged that minimum wage is a subject of discussion with Wolf’s office. But his caucus is not developing a counterproposal to the governor’s plan and he would not say what sort of increase, if any, the caucus might support, or whether it would block any sort of increase.”

During a rally in the Capitol Rotunda on June 4, Republican Rep. Gene DiGirolamo joined Democratic lawmakers and worker advocates in calling for a higher minimum wage.

“My understanding is that it is part of the negotiations for the budget, and I think we’ve got a really good opportunity this year,” said DiGirolamo, who chairs the Human Services Committee in the House. “When I talk to my constituents, they ask me the question – why aren’t we raising the minimum wage?”

Raising the minimum wage has been high on the governor’s agenda and is the subject of Senator Tartaglione’s Senate Bill 12, a measure that would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $12 this year, following by annual increases of 50 cents until 2025 and then annual cost-of-living adjustments. Further, the bill would eliminate the sub-minimum wage of $2.83 for tipped workers.

A new Franklin & Marshall Poll found that almost 70 percent of 540 registered voters surveyed support raising the minimum wage to $12.

“The poll found a majority support raising the minimum wage to $12 per hour in virtually every demographic and in every region of the Keystone State,” the Patriot-News reported.

On June 3 and 4, Senator Tartaglione delivered comments on the Senate floor to emphasize that it has been 13 years since the Pennsylvania legislature last raised the minimum wage and that the state has fallen behind all of its immediate neighbors as well as 29 states across the nation on the issue. To view videos of the senator’s comments, click here and here.

Long-Term Care Industry Faces Labor Crisis Due to Older Population Growth and Low Wages

The long-term care industry is facing a labor shortage of crisis proportions as Pennsylvania’s older population continues to grow while poor wages are making it difficult for direct care providers to attract workers.

Pennsylvania’s older population is expected to grow 26 percent by 2030 and will result in a need for an additional 37,000 direct care workers, according to a recent report by the Pennsylvania Long-Term Care Council. There are an estimated 219,000 aides and nursing assistants that now serve older and disabled clients statewide.

The report’s release “comes at a time when some nursing homes have reduced their number of beds in use, due to insufficient staff to operate at capacity, and some home care providers have turned down government-subsidized clients for lack of available workers to get to their homes,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

The council found that home care agencies typically pay $10 to $12 an hour, whereas “workers without college degrees have higher-paying service industry and retail sector alternatives with less onerous tasks and more career advancement potential,” the newspaper reported.

The report echoes the minimum wage proposed by Governor Wolf and Senator Tartaglione that calls for a $12 minimum wage for all workers (including those in the long-term care industry) this year and raises of 50 cents each year until the minimum reaches $15 by 2025. In his budget proposal, Wolf said that the higher minimum wage would reduce demand on the state’s public assistance programs by $155 million over the next two years. A portion of those savings could be used to raise wages for workers who provide home care and childcare services.

PA House Advances Bill to Expand Employer E-Verify Requirements

The Pennsylvania House Labor & Industry Committee has advanced a bill that proposes to require construction companies to use the controversial federal E-Verify database to check on the employment eligibility status of workers.

Lawmakers from both parties voted to advance HB 1170 out of committee on June 4 despite concerns that the measure would shift enforcement of E-Verify usage from the Attorney General’s Office to the Department of Labor & Industry, and that the federal program has a “false positive” rate of up to 12 percent, according to an article published by The PLS Reporter. Committee members rejected proposed amendments “designed to protect undocumented minors, those who are part of the DACA program or young people who overstayed their visa.”

The committee action came just days after the New York Times reported that the federal government has done very little to hold employers who hire unauthorized workers criminally accountable, even while the Trump administration routinely prosecutes those who enter the country illegally with the expectation of finding work.

“In the 12 months that ended in March, more than 112,000 people were prosecuted for illegal entry or re-entry, while just 11 employers faced criminal charges for hiring undocumented workers,” the Times reported, citing government data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

“New data suggests that the government has not prioritized the prosecution of employers, whose jobs represent the biggest lure for those crossing the southern border to reach the United States,” the Times wrote.

Peduto Wants Pension Divestment from Fossil Fuel, Gun, For-Profit Prison Industries

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has asked the board overseeing the city’s municipal pensions to divest the pension fund from the fossil fuels, firearms manufacturing, and for-profit prisons industries, according to the Post-Gazette.

Peduto, who sits on the board of the Comprehensive Municipal Pension Trust Fund, sent a letter to fellow board members on May 31 stating that fossil fuel companies “have contributed to and are exacerbating climate change”; that firearms and ammunition manufacturers “contribute to mass casualties”; and that for-profit prisons “are profiting off vulnerable inmates,” the newspaper reported.

In the past, the mayor wrote, Pittsburgh has divested from companies linked to apartheid in South Africa and child labor.

The pension fund includes city police, firefighters, and other municipal employees.