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Labor Report

Supreme Court Sides With Union Busters, But Labor Backers Vow Solidarity

Senator TartaglioneWhen the United States Supreme Court issued its long-awaited anti-worker ruling in the Janus vs. AFSCME case on June 27, unions and their advocates across Pennsylvania and around the country immediately responded with renewed energy for the labor movement.

Elected officials, including the PA Senate Democratic Caucus stood in solidarity with organized labor via social media and web postings. Public- and private-sector union leaders rallied the public outside the federal courthouse in Philadelphia. Mayors from 23 U.S. cities, including Jim Kenney of Philadelphia and Bill Peduto of Pittsburgh, signed a pledge to recognize and protect the collective bargaining rights of municipal unions.

New Research Demonstrates Connection Between Unions and Economic Equality

Unions Keek Inequality in Check

Using new analysis of longstanding worker data, a group of researchers has demonstrated a direct correlation between union membership and improved economic equality in the United States, contrary to speculative theories that have largely downplayed or ignored the role of unions. reported that many economic pundits have long attributed the nation’s mid-20th century “Great Compression” to other factors, such as the higher level of education of the American workforce and the aftermath of World War II.

“From 1940 to 1980, the richest one percent took home nine percent of the wealth generated by the economy,” the website reported. “Today, just as they did in the 1920s, the top one percent grabs about double that share.”

Four economists – including three from Princeton University and one from Columbia University – authored the study that the independent, nonprofit National Bureau of Economic Research published in May. According to the authors, gaining a deeper understanding of the relationship between union density and economic equality over time has been difficult because the federal government only began compiling microdata on union membership in 1973. For the new study, however, the researchers discovered and applied a set of Gallup data dating back to the 1930s.

Among the findings was that unions at their peak were disproportionately made up of the least-skilled workers and people of color. That is, nonwhites were more likely than whites to be in a union after 1940. That trend continued into the late 1970s.

Also, the researchers concluded that decreasing economic inequality does not stunt economic growth. In fact, there isn’t a single economic model where a high union membership slowed the economy.

Trump Doubles Tough Talk as Tariffs Push Harley Production Overseas

The fallout from Donald Trump’s escalating trade war has forced hundreds of York County Harley-Davidson workers to contemplate if their jobs will be eliminated.

Harley DavidsonOn June 25, the motorcycle manufacturer announced plans to move some of its manufacturing overseas to mitigate a 31 percent tariff imposed on Harley imports by the European Union in retaliation for Trump’s new tariffs on steel and aluminum imported to the U.S. The company did not offer specifics about new foreign operations or possible domestic reductions.

For about 900 workers in York, the news came at perhaps the worst possible time. After years of staffing reductions – the plant employed about 2,000 hourly workers in 2009, according to the York Daily Record – Harley was in the process of bringing 450 new positions to the plant. The reorganization coincided with the company’s plans to cease manufacturing in Kansas City.

Robert D. Miller, business representative for Machinists Union District 98, described the sense of shock among members.

“(They) just want answers. They just want to know what their future holds as far as being an employee of Harley-Davidson,” Miller told the Record.

In response to the company’s announcement about moving production, Trump doubled-down on his tough talk via Twitter.

“Surprised that Harley-Davidson, of all companies, would be the first to wave the White Flag,” he wrote.

Later, the president Tweeted: “A Harley-Davidson should never be built in another country-never! Their employees and customers are already very angry at them. If they move, watch, it will be the beginning of the end – they surrendered, they quit! The Aura will be gone and they will be taxed like never before!”

Mandatory OT Would Expand Under Governor’s Proposed Labor Rule

Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed a new Labor Department rule that could increase mandatory overtime pay eligibility for almost a half-million Pennsylvania workers by 2022.

paycheckThe proposed rule would essentially double the income threshold at which companies are no longer required to pay overtime wages to low-level supervisors and specialized employees. Under current law, companies can avoid paying overtime to employees who make about $24,000 a year or more. The proposed rule would incrementally raise the threshold to about $48,000 over the next four years. The threshold would then be updated every three years based on regional wage levels.

Companies could respond by paying overtime or raising salaries of their managers, professionals and administrators, according to a management side labor attorney cited by

Employers and workers have until July 22 to comment on the proposed change to the Bureau of Labor Law Compliance.

Strike Authorization Leads to New National Pact Between Teamsters and UPS

upsFacing the prospect of a strike by 260,000 unionized employees, the United Parcel Service agreed to a tentative five-year labor deal with national Teamsters officials on June 22, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The contract is subject to approval of Teamster locals around the country.

Meanwhile, negotiations continue between UPS and freight workers. Current labor contracts with the company are due to expire on July 31.

The new agreements cover drivers, package sorters and loaders, operations workers and dock workers. Less than a month ago, the Teamsters voted to authorize the nationwide strike.

Postal Workers Slam Trump’s U.S. Mail Privatization Plan

In a statement posted on the American Postal Workers Union website on June 21, the 330,000-member union criticized the “misinformation” contained in a newly announced White House plan to privatize the U.S. Mail.

USPS“If implemented, (the plan) would end regular mail and package services at an affordable cost to 157 million addresses every day,” the APWU said.

“The White House’s plan states, ‘Like many European nations the United States could privatize its postal operator…’ What’s left unsaid is European nations charge substantially more for mail services delivered in a much smaller area. They also regularly raise the cost of delivery. For example, the cost of sending a letter in the United Kingdom has increased 80 percent over the past decade. By comparison, the U.S. has the lowest postage rates in the industrialized world.

“Eliminating the universal service obligation, as the plan suggests, would hurt business and individuals alike, and would be a dagger aimed at the heart of rural America and undermine e-commerce.”