Subscribe to E-Update here.

Senate Labor Committee Update

The Senate Labor and Industry Committee will meet for a voting meeting off the floor on Tuesday, Jan. 28 in the Rules Room. Agenda Items include SB 1023 (McIlhinney) and HB 403 (Grove).

SB 1023 would amend the Pennsylvania’s Construction Code Act by changing the process by which the Commonwealth adopts new construction standards adopted by the International Code Council (ICC) through its triennial review and adoption process.

HB 403 would amend the state Unemployment Compensation Law to increase the number of penalty weeks that must be served by a claimant who commits fraud in order to collect benefits. Further, the bill would increase this penalty period to twelve weeks, while also increasing monetary penalties for instances of willful fraud.

Both bills will be amended in committee. I am told the UC bill amendment will be similar to SB 1214 to address the “high quarter” issue but have not seen either amendment yet.

I will get the amendments out to all who are interested, simply email my chief of staff, Kathy Benton, at if you’d like to receive a copy of the amendments.

House Labor Committee Update

billsThe House Labor and Industry Committee will hold a voting meeting at 11 a.m. Monday, Jan. 27, in Room 205 of the Ryan Office Building. Agenda items include House Bill 1960 and House Bill 1514.

HB 1960 would amend Title 53 to prohibit a municipality from enacting or administering a mandate requiring an employer to provide an employee or class of employees with vacation or other forms of leave from employment, paid or unpaid, that is not required by federal or state law.

HB 1514 is designed to amend the PA Human Relations Act to make it unlawful to discriminate against students through unfair and discriminatory housing practices. While landlords are a target of the legislation, municipalities that adopt residential zoning ordinances for college students without regard to age, military and/or marital status of residents in a community, would also be addressed.


The number of Pennsylvania workers filing unemployment claims decreased in December, the state Department of Labor & Industry reported today. The state’s unemployment rate in November was 7.3 percent. It dropped to 6.9 percent in December.

jobNationally, initial claims for state UC benefits went up a slight 1,000 to 326,000 while the four-week average for new claims dropped to 12,250. Analysts say that is proof there is some job growth happening.

No matter the unemployment rate in Pennsylvania, you can feel that there are still too many people out of work. This is a problem that has haunted the governor and I suspect it will be something that continues to plague him.

I have worked hard independently and with the Senate Democratic Caucus to put forward great ideas that would help businesses and grow jobs. The administration’s focus continues to be on natural gas companies and corporations that like to sidestep Pennsylvania’s tax structure by locating in Delaware.

Los Angeles Blazing the Minimum Wage Trail?

You know by now that I am leading the charge to raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage from its paltry $7.25/hour. My Senate Bill 858, which was drafted about a year ago, seeks an increase to $9/hour. Today, however, I believe the commonwealth’s minimum should be at least $10/hour. In Los Angeles, about 800,000 full- and part-time workers make less than a living wage the Economic Roundtable has just defined as $15/hour.

As the report says in its executive summary, the current minimum wage anywhere in America is not sufficient to meet the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, which says the base hourly rate must be at a level to maintain “the minimum standard of living necessary for health, efficiency, and general well-being.”

jobsEven the most vocal minimum wage increase critics should be at a loss to truthfully say Pennsylvania’s $7.25 rate for 60 minutes of toiling meets that standard.

Nearly half of LA’s workers collect less than that $15 living wage. And, as the Los Angeles Times reports, inflation has hammered them, too. “The minimum wage in 1968 of $1.60 an hour had a value in 2012 dollars of $10.51; but California's minimum wage today is $8,” the story said.

Closer to home, Delaware is to begin legislative consideration next week of a proposal to increase its minimum from $7.25 to $8.25. Some business owners, of course, are complaining about the possibility of having to pay an additional $1 an hour to employees who now make more than the minimum. Hard to believe an extra $40 a week would break anyone.

Killing the Living (Wage)

Of course, the standard of living is higher in Los Angeles than in many places in Pennsylvania but we now have a better way to compare living wages across the country and across the commonwealth.

dollarThe Massachusetts Institute of Technology has created a living wage calculator that will help us to better understand the problem facing us.

In Pennsylvania, the MIT tool indicates the living wage for a single adult is $1.42/hour higher than our current minimum wage. For a single parent with one child, however, the change is dramatic: from $8.67/hour to $17.76/hour.

Pittsburgh’s living wage is $8.29 for one person and $17.01 for a parent and child. In Philly, it takes $10.09/hour to meet a minimum threshold for a working adult; $19.68 for that adult and a son or daughter. Scranton checks in at $7.49/$16.34, Harrisburg is at $8.39/$17.66, and Erie dives in at $7.58/$16.56.

Many of our minimum wage earners are single parents and they are trying to make ends meet with 60 percent less than an adequate wage should deliver.

I’m not saying employers should pay workers based on the number of children they have. I am saying the current minimum doesn’t even come close to supporting one person let alone a small family.

To cover just the basics (food, child care, medical, housing, taxes and transportation), a parent and her child living in Pennsylvania need to make $36,941 a year. Our current minimum wage, however, delivers just $15,080.

MIT says people working in community and social services, health care support, food prep, building and grounds maintenance, sales, office and administrative support, farming, fishing, forestry, production, and transportation and material moving all make less than the required living wage for a parent and one child!

Call your lawmaker! Tell him or her enough is enough! Raise the minimum wage!

Made in Pennsylvania

On frigid, snowy days like we’ve had this month – and during the food-fueled Super Bowl celebrations looming in the not too distant future – many people are spending time indoors with friends, movies and food. When stocking up on snacks, one company with a variety of delicious products I encourage you to become better acquainted with is Snyder of Berlin (also known as the “other” Snyder in the snack aisle). Snyder of Berlin has a rich, firmly rooted history in Pennsylvania that inspires innovation and exemplifies the American dream of working hard to achieve success. 

snyder logoSnyder of Berlin began as a family owned and operated business in the home of Edward and Eda Snyder in Hanover, PA, during the 1920s. The Snyders developed the idea of chipping potatoes into slices, which they cooked in a large kettle inside their kitchen using a Pennsylvania Dutch slaw cutter. The end product was known as a potato chip, which they sold in small bags throughout their town to support their family.

As demand for their potato chips grew, they increased productions and incorporated more family members and local townspeople into their operations. When the next generation acquired the company, they modernized business operations and developed cutting-edge technology to increase production and protect the product’s freshness. Eventually, the Snyder company moved its main plant to Berlin, Somerset County, because it was closer to the farms where the majority of its potatoes were grown.

Today, Snyder of Berlin’s plant remains fully operational thanks to the hard work of its employees, many of whom are members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union-Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union Local 1718. While Snyder of Berlin was acquired as a division of Curtice Burns Foods in 1972, it has continued to uphold the traditions and recipes for which its snack foods have become famous.