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Senate Labor Legislation Update

BillsThe Senate Labor and Industry Committee is scheduled to hold a voting meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28, in Room 461 of the Main Capitol Building when it could consider House Bill 403 (Grove), Senate Bill 1023 (McIlhinney) and Senate Bill 1214 (Tartaglione/Stack). The agenda remains under discussion.

HB 403 would amend the Unemployment Compensation Law to increase fines and penalty weeks for employees, employers and incarcerated persons who commit unemployment fraud. Sen. Gordner has drafted an amendment to this bill which would remove the requirement for the department to cross-check county prison inmate records with departmental benefit recipient records and would revert back to the amount of time provided for under current law (10 years) during which the department may pursue compensation to which a person was not entitled.

Further, the amendment would incorporate the same language provided in SB 1214 (Tartaglione/Stack), which would allow high-wage earners to qualify for the maximum weekly benefit rate.

SB 1023 would amend the Pennsylvania Construction Code Act by requiring two-thirds of council members’ votes to reject codes rather than approve them, requiring only rejected triennial code revisions be included in the report submitted to the department, providing an additional year to review the codes, requiring the council to re-review the 2012 codes, providing travel and mileage reimbursement to council members and adding two experts in building energy efficiency to the council.

SB 1214 would amend the Unemployment Compensation Law to place a cap on eligibility requirements, allowing high-wage earners to qualify for the maximum weekly benefit rate.

Voter ID WIN!!

voterYou might think today’s decision by Commonwealth Court Judge John McGinley to declare the state’s voter ID law unconstitutional is not labor related, but I think it is.

If it would have been allowed to stand, thousands of workers would have lost their ability to vote in primaries and general elections because they would not have had the required forms of identification randomly selected for the bad law by the Corbett administration.

As such, we won’t have to worry about this unless the governor decides to appeal the ruling and waste more of our precious tax dollars.

Judge McGinley’s statement that “The right to vote … is irreplaceable, necessitating its protection before any deprivation occurs” is spot on and should be a clarion call to this administration that this farce needs to end now.

The petitioners did a great job proving there is very little fraud in Philadelphia and throughout the state.

Millions of dollars have already been wasted in trying to convince judges that Pennsylvania’s voter ID law somehow fits in with the state and U.S. constitutions. Gov. Corbett need not waste any more taxpayer dollars defending this edict before the state Supreme Court.

Instead, I suggest he spend the money to invest in job-creating initiatives.

Corbett Wielding Budget Ax on State Employees?

I believe there was a reason Gov. Corbett’s budget secretary, Charles Zogby, talked so extensively last month about the cost of employing state workers. That motive? The administration is once again targeting them to close a gaping budget hole that was significantly caused by its own policies.

jobsCorbett has already eliminated 2,800 state employees and dropped administrative expenses by nearly $500 million, but it would appear he is not done balancing his errors on the backs of people who have had nothing to do with his problems.

Now he is working with Republican lawmakers to drive right-to-work legislation.

As AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale said this week, “It has happened in several other states with the passage of so-called right-to-work laws that have nothing to do with job creation or workers’ rights, and everything to do with weakening the bargaining strength of working families and making it much more difficult for workers to create good jobs and join the middle class.”

Right to work under the guise of plundering unprotected state workers is wrong, and I will work to make sure this doesn’t happen.

Walmart Litmus

WalmartI’m watching the National Labor Relations Board in its challenge to Walmart’s dealings with workers who strike and attempt to unionize.

As Reuters reported this week, “The wider implications of the showdown for Wal-Mart and other American employers that don't recognize unions are likely to be much more important than any costs the giant retailer may face if it loses the case.”

I’ve voiced concerns about Walmart in the past, especially as it relates to the company’s sidestepping the payment of Pennsylvania corporation taxes through its formation of real estate investment trusts in Delaware.

That loss of revenue from this company and others like it contributes to Pennsylvania having the highest corporate net income tax in the nation, which levels an unfair burden to businesses that don’t use Delaware subsidiaries and pay the annual bill.

On a related note, MSNBC has confirmed that Walmart uses a sophisticated internal communications machine to stifle attempts by its non-managers to organize.

An internal company document reveals that Walmart “provides talking points that managers can use to diffuse potential labor actions, including: ‘In my opinion, unions just want to hurt Walmart and make it harder to run our business’.”

People who work for companies like Walmart are not seeking $100,000 annual salaries, just fairness. The lengths and expense by which the company fights some solidarity is breathtaking, counterproductive and the opposite of a shiny, yellow smiley face.

Eye-Opening Shriver Report

Working WomanPeople of all races and ages are still hurting in this slowly recovering economy. Minimum wage rates have not been increased in years and women continue to receive smaller paychecks than men when they work the same job.

The Shriver Report shed some very bright light this week on the problem facing female employees. With its study, “A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink,” we better understand now that one-third of all female workers at “the brink of poverty.”

That is 42 million women!

In this country, this report’s findings paint a very sad picture. Half of the country’s workforce is women. And, while men do a better, financially, in some jobs, many of them, too, are on the brink.

Pay attention or this problem will grow worse. Urge your lawmaker or local official to not look the other way. Tell them we need policies and regulations that help all workers. Otherwise, that American Dream thing? It will fade very fast.

Made in PA

StroehmannIn the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, one of the most popular brands of bread was born in Stroehmann Bakeries. In 1892, Frederick Stroehmann began a bakery where he produced his famed bread products using the same Pennsylvania Dutch-style baking techniques he learned while growing up in Germany. 

The same products that were traditionally affiliated with the Stroehmann name are still available, but they are produced as part of Bimbo Bakeries USA with the help of employees across the state and nation belonging to the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union. 

In Pennsylvania, employees with the Local 6 and 464 work in bakeries in Harrisburg, Norristown, Reading, West Hazelton and Williamsport. Not only do they produce Stroehmann breads, they also are the makers of Maier’s and Sunbeam products.

As a family-owned company that distributed its goods via horse and buggy in the 1800s and supplied army training camps with baked goods during World War I, Stroehmann continues to share its old-fashioned, Pennsylvania Dutch-made products with households across the U.S. today.

Thanks to these Pennsylvania-based bakeries, the bread products most Americans have grown to know and love play a key role in maintaining the strong German traditions and freshly grown products for which Pennsylvania is best known.