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Legislation to Senate Labor and Industry Committee This Week

capitolThe following legislation was referred to the committee Oct. 13-17:

Senate Bill 1483 (Stack) - Would amend the Enforcement Officer Disability Benefits Law to add paramedics to the definition of firemen and include them in the Policemen and Firemen Collective Bargaining Act. This would enable heart and lung benefits to be extended to paramedics. 

Senate Bill 1497 (Baker) – This proposal would provide for employment skills and experience, along with job coaching and placement services for high school graduates with disabilities.  It would also require the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) oversee and coordinate local education agencies and private employers to provide for the transition of disabled students from high school to competitive employment opportunities.

OVR would participate in the planning of job skill development, internship placement and employment guidance for disabled students. These requirements would be funded with state dollars, which would be matched by the Federal Government. 

Senate Legislative Activity

House Bill 473 (Killion) was signed into law Oct. 14 as Act 142 of 2014. The statute creates a statewide directory project owners may use to identify subcontractors performing work on construction projects of more than $1.5 million. If an owner uses this directory for a project, the subcontractors on the project would be required to file “notice of furnishing” of work or services through the directory to maintain their mechanics lien rights. 

House Bill 1846 (Quinn) was passed by the House and Senate and is awaiting final concurrence in the House. The legislation would amend the Workers' Compensation Act to reform the practice of drug dispensing by physicians and outpatient providers within the PA workers compensation system. Physicians would not seek reimbursement for drugs dispensed to workers comp patients beyond 110 percent of the average wholesale price. 

Physicians would be reimbursed for no more than a 7-day supply of Schedule II drugs or Schedule III drugs containing hydrocodone. One additional 15-day supply of these drugs may be prescribed for additional medical procedures. Physicians may be reimbursed for no more than a 30-day supply of all other drugs prescribed to workers' comp patients, and they may not be reimbursed for any over-the-counter drugs.

The Workers' Compensation Advisory Council must conduct an annual study of the impact of this legislation and any savings. Within 18 months of the effective date of the legislation, the PA Compensation Rating Bureau would be required to calculate any savings and provide an equal reduction in employers' policy rates in 2016.  

House Bill 403 (Grove) was passed by the House and sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee. This legislation would provide for additional penalties for employers and claimants who commit fraud and other violations of the Unemployment Compensation (UC) Law.  Additionally, as amended in the Senate Labor and Industry Committee, the bill would assist claimants in qualifying for UC benefits by capping wage requirements for the maximum weekly benefit week. 

House Bill 803 (Stevenson) was returned to the House for concurrence in Senate amendments. The legislation would allow school entities to authorize a properly trained school employee to administer an epinephrine auto-injector. 

During Senate consideration of this bill, Senator Wagner offered an amendment to H.B. 803 that would have prevented union dues from being automatically deducted from state employees' paychecks. Thanks to my Democratic and Republican colleagues who recognized the fallacies in Wagner's legislative maneuvering, we successfully defeated his amendment on the Senate Floor.

House Bill 1163 (Marsico) was tabled in the Senate Oct. 16. The bill would have created the offense of cyber harassment of a child.  

Sen. Scott Wagner planned to offer an amendment to H.B. 1163, which would have removed the constitutional protections afforded to union members during labor disputes. His amendment would have been an attack on union members' rights to organize and to stand firmly against their employers when they do not agree on the terms of a bargaining contract. It was a further attempt by Wagner to tear down organized labor in this state. I was prepared to speak against the measure but the mounting resistance to his amendment allowed us to stall the amendment and prevent its movement in the Senate. 

Paycheck Protection Bites the Dust

paycheckWorking to weaken unions and the electoral process, conservative lawmakers attempted to ram through a proposal this week in Harrisburg that would have prohibited employers from automatically deducting membership dues from workers’ paychecks.

I spoke against the so-called “paycheck protection” amendment because it is not a fair idea. In fact, I said on the floor that I believe it is undemocratic.

Sen. Scott Wagner’s amendment would have eliminated unions’ abilities to choose who they want to represent them in government, which would have effectively eliminated the voices of the men and women who work hard day-in and day-out to put food on the table for their families.

Just because they belong to a union.

Union members can already decide whether or not they want to contribute to union political spending. The law protects them if they choose not to contribute.

The York Republican has targeted the statewide teachers’ union, PSEA, in his fight for “paycheck protection.” In doing so, however, he has forgotten that for every hour worked by a teacher, the money they earn for that work is no longer the state’s money; it is the employee’s.

Voting in favor of the Wagner amendment would have handed control of the commonwealth to corporations and their one-sided political agendas.

Read the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s story on this vote for more information.

Rallying for Philly’s Teachers

rallyNearly everyone is familiar with the three “Rs” of education, but when it comes to the School Reform Commission in Philadelphia, the R-words that come to mind are revolting, rash and reckless.

An estimated 3,000 supporters and members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers filled Broad Street yesterday to protest the SRC’s nearly secret decision to cancel its contract with the union and change health care benefits for 11,500 PFT members.

I was one of the 3,000 and I vowed to introduce a bill to abolish the SRC as soon as we return to Harrisburg in January to begin the new legislative session.

The SRC knew its Oct. 6 action was controversial and wrong, which is why it barely gave notice that it planned to have a meeting and act on the PFT contract.

Union muscle was flexed in Philadelphia yesterday and the SRC and the Corbett administration know they have a fight that will continue until both stop trying to balance fragile budgets on the backs of people who can least afford it.

Labor Summit in the Works

The continuing fight to weaken Pennsylvania unions must be stopped. Paycheck protection and attacks on educators are not the only places of concern.

Our strength shines when we ban together. So, I am planning a labor summit to discuss problems with Pennsylvania’s unemployment compensation law, workers comp and many other bad job-related policies enacted by the current gubernatorial administration.

If you want to participate, contact my office. An invitation is in the works to have Tom Wolf and his staff join us so we can all plan a better future for working Pennsylvanians.

Stay tuned for details.

Minimum Wage Can’t Be ‘Container Stored’

I wondered how the minimum wage naysayers reacted when they read the Wall Street Journal story on Wednesday reporting that the Container Store is paying its retail workers almost double the industry average.
container storeThat’s $50,000 in dollars and cents … and sense.

“One of our foundational principles is one equals three: one great person can easily do the business productivity of three good people. If you really believe that they can do three times the productivity then you can pay them 50% to 100% above industry average,” Container Store CEO Kip Tindell said in the profile.

Because the Container Store is paying that $50,000, Tindell said his staff is more productive.

“(To) any company in the world, the first 25% or so of [employee] productivity is mandatory. They have to do that or they get fired. The next 75% of an employee’s productivity really is voluntary. They either give it or they don’t depending on how they feel about their boss, the culture, the product. We’re up in the 80s or the 90s as an entire company,” he said.

The Container Store’s philosophy is sound and proven by historical evidence; it’s what I have been saying for years.

In addition to Tindell’s belief about pay and productivity, I especially like that he will soon be the head of the National Retail Federation and plans to work to change that organizations prehistoric notion about minimum wage increases.

“Better pay leads to better profitability,” he said.


Mayors for the Minimum

One more important voice in the ongoing minimum wage debate: the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The group, headed by former NBA star Kevin Johnson, Sacramento’s first African-American mayor, has formed a panel of 70 mayors from around the country to lobby Congress on increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

My bill, SB 1300, would incrementally raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to that $10.10 an hour by 2016. And, yes, I will be reintroducing that proposal in January when the 2015-2016 session of the General Assembly opens.

“Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would increase earnings for nearly 28 million workers across the country and help address the growing inequality gap that is leaving our middle and working class families behind,” Mayor Johnson said in the conference’s press release.

Oh, and 1 More Minimum Wage Note…

I think the headline says it all. Click it to read more.

Raising the Federal Minimum Wage to $10.10 Would Save Safety Net Programs Billions and Help Ensure Businesses Are Doing Their Fair Share

Made in America

Rold GoldIf the shorter days, longer nights and cooler air temperatures haven’t frightened you, yet, just wait for the many bloodcurdling sights and sounds they will usher into the state this upcoming Halloween season.

As ghosts, zombies and other terrifying creatures of the night creep through the streets of Pennsylvania during the next week or two, I recommend you stock-up on treats to satisfy their monstrous cravings and avoid any tricks they may have up their sleeves.

To help you prepare for the gaggles of ghouls, try one of the quick, easy recipes below for a sweet union-made Halloween.  All of the products are made by members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). 

ROLD GOLD® Pretzel S'mores (


40 ROLD GOLD® Tiny Twists Pretzels
16 oz of semi sweet chocolate, extra for grating
1 cup marshmallow crème 


  1. Break chocolate up and place in microwave safe bowl.
  2. Heat chocolate in microwave until melted and smooth, stirring every 30 seconds.
  3. Cover cookie sheet with parchment or wax paper.
  4. Lay out 20 ROLD GOLD® Tiny Twists Pretzels on prepared cookie sheet.
  5. Place melted chocolate in a piping bag or create your own by placing chocolate in a small plastic bag and snipping off one corner.
  6. Fill pretzel openings with melted chocolate and allow to cool.
  7. Once cool, place 2 tsp of marshmallow crème on the chocolate filled pretzels and top with a pretzel, pressing gently.
  8. If desired, grate extra chocolate over pretzels and serve.

Witch Hats (


32 Hershey chocolate kisses, unwrapped
1 (11 1/2 ounce) package fudge-striped shortbread cookies (32)
1 (4 1/4 ounce) container orange decorating icing or 1 (4 1/4 ounce) container red decorating icing


  1. Attach one Kiss to chocolate bottom of each cookie, using decorating icing.
  2. Pipe decorating icing around base of chocolate.

Mummy candy bars (


5 sheets of black cardboard paper
30 strips of white streamers/crepe paper (72 inches long)
30 Hershey’s milk chocolate bars (regular size)
30 pairs of googly eyes


  1. Cut 30 rectangles of black cardboard paper.
  2. Glue two googly eyes onto each rectangle.
  3. Glue each rectangle onto a wrapped candy bar.
  4. Glue one end of a streamer/crepe paper strip to the bottom of a wrapped chocolate bar and wrap the candy bar to the top, making sure not to cover the googly eyes.
  5. When finished, glue the other end of the streamer/paper to the candy bar wrapper to hold it in place.