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Tragic Unemployment Reality?

People who have been relying on long-term unemployment compensation have been hoping, as have I, that Washington would extend their benefits that expired Dec. 31. What seems to be happening, however, is the extension will die on the economic vine.

As Paul Krugman correctly said this week, this is the best example of the “hardhearted, softheaded” policies of lawmakers who are anti-people, anti-worker.

More than three times the average number of long-term unemployed workers are out there and half of these victims are white, more of them are college graduates, and workers older than 45 years of age are a growing segment of this troubled population.

UnemploymentRepublicans continue to claim we cannot afford another unemployment compensation extension, yet they continue to grant the tax breaks to their favorite corporations at mind-boggling speed.

Extending long-term UC benefits is an easy fix and one that would be far less costly than dooming these workers to a worse, unknown fate.

“More than five years after a financial crisis plunged the Western world into what looks increasingly like a quasi-permanent slump, making nonsense of free-market orthodoxy, it's hard to find a leading Republican who has changed his or her mind on, well, anything,” Krugman wrote in his column. “And this imperviousness to evidence goes along with a stunning lack of compassion.”

That’s part of the problem with politics today: there is a dwindling supply of compassion. Our Founding Fathers would be ashamed to see what is happening today. The governor must step up and demand that Pennsylvania’s Congressional contingent step up and get this done.

If Pennsylvania’s economy is making a “comeback” as Tom Corbett suggests, at least Pennsylvania’s long-term unemployed wouldn’t need long-term UC benefits for much longer.

Minimum Wage Hooliganism

Min Wage

Getting governments to increase the minimum wage seems like a simple, necessary thing to most people – as is continuing UC benefits for the long-term jobless. It’s shocking, however, to understand the lengths to which some organizations are trying to block this.

The New York Times reported this week about one public relations firm in Washington D.C. that has disguised itself as a think tank to purposely distort the facts surrounding minimum wage efforts.

Both sides are to blame on this front, as everyone is always trying to spin something. But this issue involves some of the most vulnerable among us. They need minimum wage jobs to get a start in the work world. They also need one, sometimes two or three, to make basic ends meet. They don’t have the luxury of thinking about buying luxuries.

Proponents of increasing the minimum wage are fighting for this because there is a history of evidence that shows doing so increases spending and helps to drive improvement in the economy; the opposite of trickle down, in my opinion.

Once the legislature concludes budget hearings early next month, I am hopeful we will approve legislation to increase Pennsylvania’s minimum wage. We have two great starting points: my Senate Bill 858 and Senate Bill 1099.

The Tragedy of Valentine’s Day

Chocolate and roses are classic elements of Valentine’s Day. In Pennsylvania and across the United States, where unions fight to make sure workers are not taken advantage of, the production of both Valentine’s Day staples is a good thing.

However, across the globe, the labor reality is not so good.

Human TraffickingWith chocolate sales, alone, for Feb. 14 coming in at an estimated $750 million worldwide, it is sad to know child labor in places like Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire help to harvest about half the global supply of cacao. Worse yet, some children become enslaved; victims of human trafficking.

The Pennsylvania legislature is working to adopt legislation that would increase the penalties on people and companies that use human trafficking to make a buck. I co-sponsored Senate Bill 75 because it takes dead aim at this all-too-prevalent problem.

SB 75 was unanimously adopted by the Senate this past December. It is awaiting consideration in the House Judiciary Committee.

Made in PA

For years, union workers wore their union t-shirts and sweatshirts proudly, but hesitantly, as they wondered why the products they were donning had been made in other countries by non-union workers.

On June 3, 1997, one man’s background in the garment manufacturing industry, coupled with his advocacy for building and maintaining a strong U.S. labor force, led to the development of union-made union apparel produced on U.S. soil.

LifewearBased in Pottstown, PA, the company, known as Lifewear Inc., grew its customer base and employee workforce from the former Yocom Knitting Co. 

Today, the 22 Lifewear employees belonging to the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees, Local 1148, are responsible for assembling union-label-carrying shirts that are shipped to customers across the nation.

Lifewear President Dave Bartman stands out from many other entrepreneurs, as he wholeheartedly understands and supports the union cause and knows the cost to American workers when the public chooses low-priced, imported goods over those made from higher quality materials by our next-door neighbors. 

When Bartman began his business, he asked UNITE to unionize his plant employees, which astonished both workers and the union.

Although he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in electrical engineering, Bartman quickly learned about the business world, globalization and the plight of U.S. manufacturing companies.  Despite the profitable lure of low cost, overseas labor, local residents remain the lifeblood of the company, making all of its products, which include t-shirts, sweatshirts, nightgowns and protective gear.