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Labor Report

CapitolBudget Tom-Foolery?

The state House of Representatives is back in Harrisburg with the intent, it has been reported, of poking holes in Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget veto.

It would be a bad time for that to happen, if it happens, because the governor and leading Republican lawmakers have made sizable concessions in the past week towards ending what is now a 55-day stalemate.

Meanwhile, the very important non-profit agencies in Philly and throughout the state are starting to cut back on services because the budget stalemate has frozen payments to them from Harrisburg.

Making political points back home is all a partial override will accomplish, but the people who will be hurt are those who need our help the most.

The Senate is scheduled to be in session later next month, unless sooner recalled by the president pro tempore.

Objects in PA’s Minimum Wage Mirror Farther Back Than They Appear

Odd headline in a northeast Pennsylvania newspaper this week: “Minimum-wage debate heats up in Pennsylvania.”

MoneyIt would be great if there was some debate – any debate – on minimum wage, but the fact of the matter is there has been none in Harrisburg. The only thing being said about the commonwealth’s paltry $7.25 an hour is what people are telling one reporter. And, as usual, the opposition’s talking points are hackneyed and are being disproven every day when some other state or some other city votes to approve an increase.

For example:

Greensboro, NC, is raising the minimum wage for contract and seasonal employees to $10.

Providence, RI, is increasing its tipped minimum wage by $1 to $3.89 an hour. I also want to increase Pennsylvania’s tipped minimum wage but am still waiting for debate to begin on this topic.

Even places in Kentucky are upping the base hourly rate.

And there’s wide-ranging positive rationale for raising both minimum wage rates, as a policy analyst for the Center for American Progress noted Sunday in the Washington Post.

“By hiding behind doomsday projections of a robotic workforce, the restaurant industry fails to confront the evidence. Rigorous economic research shows that past minimum-wage increases have not led to job loss — robot-induced or otherwise,” Rachel West wrote. “More important, this hype distracts from basic human decency. Raising the minimum wage to $12 by 2020 would mean more money in the pockets of 35.1 million real-life, human workers.”

Opponents of raising any form of the minimum wage can do so until they’re blue in the face because history proves that raising the floor for hourly employees has little-to-no impact on employment or inflation or anything.

Raising the minimum wage, at this point in time, has everything to do with good business: valuing and rewarding work.

WageHome Care Minimum Wage Ruling

Another significant minimum wage domino that fell last week was the one dealing with home-care workers. Essentially: home-care employees can now be paid minimum wage.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. said the Obama administration has the power, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, to order home-care providers to pay the base hourly rate.

Read more here by

PA Unemployment Pulse

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate was 5.4 percent in July, which was unchanged since June. Since last year at this time, the pace of joblessness is down 0.1 percentage points.

What does it mean?

JObsLike many places throughout the country, the slight improvement means there are positive signs in this economy, even though it still struggles. PA’s labor force increased by 1,400 individuals in July, adding to the 60,000 increase in labor force participants since Gov. Tom Wolf took office in January.

During the same time, Pennsylvania has improved to 3rd among its neighboring states for private employment growth.

But there continues to be economic uncertainty. Sure, the most recent drop in stocks on Wall Street is the most obvious symptom of that, but the unease goes deeper than that, as Mort Zuckerman explained last week in the Wall Street Journal:

“The telltale labor-participation rate has fallen to 62.6%. The number of unemployed who stopped looking and dropped out of the workforce increased by 141,000 in June. Discouraged workers totaled 668,000 in July, little changed from a year ago. These are men and women not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are open to them,” Zuckerman essayed.

Zuckerman laid out those stats in his attempted prodding of the current large field of presidential candidates, and as a swipe at the Obama administration, but they serve as real reminders of why this so-called recovery doesn’t feel good to most people – and why we should be worried if another recession is only a year or two away.


RobotMinimum wage scaremongering has grown so out of hand this week that people are now saying it will force companies to either eliminate full-time jobs or replace their employees with robots.

The Wall Street Journal, in a twisted way, is more-or-less rejecting this notion as it tries to help Republican presidential candidates who like to argue against raising the minimum wage … or make better investments in education.

Co-Exist writer Ben Schiller thinks automation – robots – could have an impact:

“Not all the implications are bad for workers. Factories for example may become cleaner and safer; workers won't have to complete so many repetitive and tedious tasks; there should be lots of new opportunities in designing, building, and repairing technology, including robots. At the same time, new forms of connectivity should allow us to work more remotely, more flexibly and more freely.

“But automation is also likely to penalize people without sophisticated skills, reduce benefits, and job security, and lead to a loss of job creation. All of which is likely to make workers increasingly resentful,” Schiller reported.

The irony in all of this is companies opposed to higher minimum wages will probably pay more than $15,080 (the annual take of a $7.25/hour minimum wage worker) to buy a robot and they’ll pay about that much to maintain, reprogram, and update said mechanical creature every year.