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Labor Report

Tartaglione, Senate Colleagues Tour Regional Carpenters’ Training Center

Senator TartaglionPennsylvania Senate Labor & Industry Committee Minority Chair Christine Tartaglione joined her colleagues on March 15 in a tour of the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters Training Center in Philadelphia, where they witnessed how labor and industry are partnering through a state-supported apprenticeship program to meet the growing need for skilled craftsmen and women.

Joining Tartaglione on the tour were Labor & Industry Majority Chair Kim Ward, Senate Education Committee Minority Chair Andrew Dinniman and Senator John Sabatina, whose district includes the training center site at 10401 Decatur Road.
Constructed more than 35 years ago, the training center has seen many additions over the years so that today’s apprentices receive instruction in a 60,000-square-foot indoor space with designated shops for general carpentry, interior systems, cabinetmaking, floor laying, millwrighting, pile driving, lathing and welding. Even underwater welding is part of the hands-on curriculum inside the center’s large dive tank.

CarpenterThe facility also has nine classrooms and a 125-seat, theater-style lecture hall for blueprint, math and layout & theory courses. There is a state-of-the-art computer learning center for introductory and software-specific instruction.

During the tour, Northeast Regional Council hosts highlighted the increasing demand among young people for vocational training programs and among employers for skilled, well-trained workers. To help meet this demand, the union is partnering with many employers who sponsor trainees with the expectation that they will hire the apprentices upon completion of their coursework.

Click here for information about the Northeast Philadelphia training center.

U.S. Senate Committee Approves Trump’s Latest NLRB Nominee

National Labor Relations BoardThe U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on March 14 approved the nomination of management-side attorney John Ring to fill the lone vacancy on the five-member National Labor Relations Board. If approved by the full Senate, Ring would become the third Trump nominee to ascend to the board and, analysts say, could cause the Republican-majority board to revisit a wide array of rulings it issued during the Obama administration.

Ring is a partner in Morgan Lewis, the international law firm founded in Philadelphia in 1873. He is in line to replace former NLRB Chairman Philip Miscimarra, whose five-year term expired last December. Just before Miscimarra’s departure, the Republican-leaning board acted on several pivotal cases to effectively reverse Obama-era rulings, including the pivotal Hy-Brand decision affecting joint-employer standards.

“Committee Democrats have raised concerns with Ring, and have questioned whether his work with Morgan Lewis will require Ring to recuse himself from certain cases,” Bloomburg reported. “Ring told lawmakers during his March 1 confirmation hearing that he wants to avoid some of the conflict-of-interest questions that have dogged member William Emanuel early in his stint on the board.”

In February, the board vacated its Hy-Brand decision at the recommendation of its inspector general due to Emanuel’s conflict of interest in the case. Emanuel is another former management-side attorney and Trump appointee whose prior firm represented a party in an earlier, similar joint-employer case before the board. Despite his partisan connection to the earlier proceeding, Emanuel did not recuse himself from the Hy-Brand case.

In its March 14 vote, the Senate committee vote broke along party lines. A full vote of the Republican-majority Senate may not occur for months, according to analysis posted by the human resources management website

“The committee vote also comes after Ring submitted a list of [former] clients that could pose a conflict of interest,” Bloomburg reported. “Ring also answered written questions from some HELP Committee Democrats, including ranking Democrat Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), who asked Ring 71 questions ranging from views of overturning long-standing precedents to NLRB reorganization.”

Disabled Workers Waiting, Fighting For Years to Collect SSI Benefits

Disabled WorkersHow difficult is it for some disabled workers to obtain Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits from the federal government? In a series of articles, the Inquirer chronicled how it took a 33-year-old Philadelphia woman and university graduate with multiple sclerosis two years and three months to convince the Social Security Administration that she’s too sick to work.

The paper also reported that SSA’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review in Philadelphia has one of the worst averages for decision times in the nation: 756 days. The administration’s stated goal is 270 days.

“In total, it took the Social Security Administration 878 days to decide [Adrianne] Gunter’s case from the time she requested an appeal of her routine denial of benefits,” the Inquirer reported. “After receiving the decision in a letter dated Monday, she will be able to apply for the federal aid for those who are poor and disabled, blind, or elderly.”

In a prior article on Gunter’s plight, the paper reported, “Across the country, more than one million people are waiting — sometimes for more than two years — for an appeal hearing to determine whether they qualify for these disability benefits. The majority of initial applications are denied. The Social Security Administration called its backlog of pending appeals a ‘public service crisis.’ In Philadelphia, more than 10,000 people are caught in the backlog.”

January 2018 PA Jobs Update

Pennsylvania’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate saw no change in January 2018, remaining at 4.8% for the eighth straight month. Over the prior month, unemployment rolls increased slightly by 744 individuals, pushing total unemployment above 310,000. State unemployment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Unemployment – 310,286
  • Change Over Month –   UP   744
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf Term –   DOWN   35,355
  • Rate Change Over Month – no change
  • Rate Change Over Gov. Wolf Term –   DOWN   0.6%

The increase in unemployment rolls in January 2018 was not large enough to raise the overall unemployment rate, even with contraction in the state’s labor force (rate = unemployment as % of labor force). The labor force is the number of employed individuals combined with the number of unemployed individuals actively searching for work. Labor force growth is a sign of a strengthening economy from more people working and/or more individuals searching for jobs. However, PA’s labor force fell again in January 2018 by 4,384, a combination of total employment* dropping by 5,128 and unemployment rising by 744 as noted above. As of January 2018, labor force growth under Gov. Wolf has declined from a peak of 52,798 in March 2016 (unemployment -312 & total employment +53,110) to 7,079 (unemployment -35,355 & total employment +42,434). State labor force statistics for the month are as follows: 

  • Total Labor Force – 6,413,641
  • Change Over Month –   DOWN   4,384
  • Change Over Year –   DOWN   31,678
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf Term –   UP   7,079

Non-farm* job rolls fell by 6,300 in January 2018, the first monthly decrease seen in the last 10 months. Despite the decline, the commonwealth still added more than 60,000 new jobs between January 2017 and January 2018, ranking it among the top 25 states for new percentage year-over-year job growth. Since Gov. Wolf took office, over 171,000 new non-farm jobs have been added, which is roughly 20,000 more than were added over Gov. Corbett’s entire term. The addition of 171,000 jobs ranks the commonwealth 34th out of all 50 states for new percentage job growth, an improvement from it’s ranking of 48th in the same survey over Gov. Corbett’s term. State non-farm employment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Employment – 5,987,300
  • Change Over Month –   DOWN   6,300
  • Change Over Year –   UP   64,200
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf Term –   UP   171,400

*Total employment for labor force provided by U.S. Census Household survey. The separate BLS Establishment survey measures non-farm jobs only.