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Labor Report
Legislation to Senate Labor and Industry Committee This Week

Senate Bill 1133 (Sen. Lisa Baker) -- SB 1133, the “Active Duty Spouse Act,” would add a provision to the Unemployment Compensation Law to clarify that a spouse’s move to follow his or her active duty spouse would not be considered a “voluntarily leaving of work [sic].”

If an active duty member of the Armed Forces is assigned to a new duty station today, his or her spouse is forced to resign their employment. Under current state law, it’s possible for that resignation to be classified as voluntary, denying that spouse UC benefits.

If SB 1133 becomes law, the estimated impact of the change would be about $70,000.

The committee will meet at 9 a.m., March 22, to consider Senate Bill 703 (McGarrigle), which would create a state plumbers licensing program.

SB 703 looks to establish minimum standards that individuals must meet in order to obtain a state license. A plumbing contractors’ licensure board would issue licenses, develop regulations, and administer the provisions of the law. The bill's primary purpose is to protect the public health. At the same time, it will make reciprocity with other states that license plumbers a simple matter.

Following the meeting, the committee will hold a hearing (from approximately 9:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. on apprenticeships. Sens. Smucker and Folmer (SB 280) will discuss their bill, L&I will discuss its position, labor and the builders will be represented.

Gov. Wolf Ignites Minimum Wage Push

Gov. WolfFor the past two legislative sessions, Republicans, Democrats and yours truly have been proposing bills to increase Pennsylvania’s minimum wage from $7.25 to lots of other numbers (my SB 195 would move it to $10.10).

No bill has received a committee vote … in the House or the Senate.

Thankfully, Gov. Tom Wolf did what only he could do by increasing the minimum wage to $10.15 an hour for employees under his jurisdiction and contractors doing business with the commonwealth.

Of course, the governor’s decision sparked some protest by the controlling party, but that was to be expected.

Gov. Wolf’s allowable and justified executive order will help a few hundred workers. It will also move the debate forward on getting this done for all of Pennsylvania’s minimum wage earners, and those who make less than minimum (think waiters and waitresses).

As his press secretary, Jeff Sheridan, wrote in, raising the minimum wage to $10.15 will help scores of Pennsylvanians move out of poverty.

I remain committed to getting a higher minimum wage through the legislature and to the governor for his approval.

I also welcome my Senate Democratic Caucus’s new “More Than Minimum” campaign.

“More Than Minimum” is a perfect way to encapsulate the struggle to move beyond $7.25 an hour. Not only are our frontline workers worth more pay each hour, they are more – and should always be considered more – than just a small hourly stipend. These are people. Without them, many businesses do not succeed.

Senator TartaglioneNew Jobs, New Construction, New Stores

With the promise of economic renewal in a North Philadelphia community that is part of my district, helped to break ground recently for an 85,000-square-foot retail facility.

My efforts to secure a $2.5 million low-interest loan from the Commonwealth Finance Authority helped to ensure the reality of the Plaza Allegheny project.

Senator TartaglionePlaza Allegheny will help the residents of Fairhill in countless ways. People will find jobs, more people will go there to shop and spend their money, and an underutilized property will be transformed into productive use.

Plaza Allegheny has received the full support of area union members who have been involved in the project planning discussions and will serve an integral role during construction.

In addition to the low-interest CFA loan, the Plaza Allegheny project secured $13.64 million in matching funds.

PA Unemployment

Our state’s unemployment rate ticked downward in January to 4.6 percent, according to state labor officials.

The drop from 4.7 percent in December made the new jobless calculation the lowest since September 2007.

According to the state Department of Labor & Industry, Pennsylvania’s civilian labor force was up 11,000 in January to 6,448,000. Resident employment rose by 16,000 while the unemployment count declined by 5,000.

Labor Corner

Important minimum wage and labor-related news I also wanted to share with you this week:

Alcohol Coming to Gas Stations in Pa.? Supreme Court Weighs In

McDonald's Squares Off Against NLRB in Worker Retaliation Trial

Study sees positive impact of raising New York's minimum wage to $15 an hour

The federal minimum wage peaked in 1968