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Labor Report

New White House Agenda Targets Labor Reform Reversals

American workers again found themselves in the Trump administration’s crosshairs as the president’s budget office released its semi-annual regulatory (and deregulatory) spring agenda on March 9.

National Labor Relations BoardAs expected, the administration announced that the National Labor Relations Board will seek to create a new test for assessing joint-employer cases, effectively reversing the standard established by its 2015 Browning-Ferris decision and making it harder for workers to hold franchisors like McDonald’s accountable for labor law violations at independently owned franchises.

In addition, the NLRB said it will issue a “request for information” to reexamine its 2014 “final rule” that streamlined the union representation election process.
Soon after the administration released the agenda, recently appointed NLRB Chairman John Ring and opposing board members engaged in a public war of words using the president’s favorite social media platform, Twitter.

“The joint-employer standard is one of the most critical issues in labor law today — affecting millions of Americans in nearly every sector of the economy,” Ring wrote at 2:45 that afternoon. “Uncertainty over the standard undermines job creation & economic expansion. The new @NLRB majority intends to get the job done.”

One minute later, Democratic board member Lauren McFerran tweeted the following response, referencing recently departed NLRB Chairman Philip Miscimarra: “The regulatory agenda is a Chairman initiative, not formal NLRB action. I'll approach any proposal w/ an open mind, but urge the majority to deliberate carefully, allow public input, and abandon the ‘decide first, ask questions later’ approach from Miscimarra’s end-of-term.”

That tweet elicited a pointed response from Ring within minutes, followed by comments from another Democratic board member, Mark Gaston, later that afternoon. Follow the link above to read more about the exchange.
Infighting at the NLRB seems to have become standard operating procedure under the board’s Republican leadership, according to an April article in Politico.

Meanwhile at the Department of Labor, administration officials put the brakes on a proposed revision of overtime rules that would raise the income threshold at which employees qualify for mandatory overtime wages. Under existing rules, employees who make $455 or less a week are eligible for mandatory overtime wages (at 150 percent of their normal hourly rate) when they work more than 40 hours in a week. Under the proposed rule change, the regular income threshold would rise to $913 a week.

The DOL also confirmed that it plans to rescind the contentious “persuader” rule of 2016 that increased the reporting requirements for companies that hire outside labor-management contractors to influence workers against union organizing and participation. The department could issue a new final rule by the end of May.

Wolf’s PASmart Awards $2M in Workforce Development Grants

Gov. Tom Wolf advanced his administration’s mission to connect students with educational opportunities and experiences in in-demand technical fields by announcing $2 million in Business Education Partnership Grants that will be allocated through 18 county-based workforce development boards across Pennsylvania.

The grants are a component of Wolf’s $50 million workforce development initiative known as PASmart.

“These funds will strengthen the ties between the classroom and the workplace, allowing students to explore potential careers and learn about the job skills needed to succeed in today’s workforce,” said Governor Wolf. “A global 21st century economy demands a technically skilled, well-prepared workforce and my administration is committed to helping our young people start out on the right foot to put them on a path to success.”

In Senator Tartaglione’s home county, a $99,923 award to Philadelphia Works WDB will connect 20 manufacturing career and technical education high school seniors to one-day-a-week internships for a period of seven months and enhance learning opportunities for the interns through monthly professional development.

For detailed summaries of all the funded projects, visit the Department of Labor and Industry website.  Visit here for an overview of PASmart.

Canadian Steelworkers Protest Alcoa Lockout in Pittsburgh

Nearly 100 United Steelworkers from Canada gathered in Downtown Pittsburgh on May 9 to protest a four-month lockout imposed by Alcoa Corporation at its aluminum plant in Becancour, Quebec. The workers demonstrated outside the Westin Convention Center Hotel where company shareholders were meeting.

Pittsburgh-based Alcoa owns 75 percent of the plant, according to the Post-Gazette. Management initiated the lockout on Jan. 11 as contract negotiations broke down over worker seniority provisions, USW officials say. The union had already agreed to significant pension plan reforms.

Alcoa partially staffed the plant with non-union workers and may be losing $50 million a month due to a decline in production, according to the union, whose leadership described the lockout as “a costly and irrational decision from the company.”

Greene County Vocational School Chosen for $200,000 Education Grant

Greene County Career & Technology CenterA county vocational school in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania is slated to collect a $200,000 grant from the Department of Education for training facility improvements.

State Rep. Pam Snyder announced the grant for Greene County Career and Technology Center during a May 9 ceremony. The funding will support tools and equipment for the school’s welding, machining, sports medicine, culinary, cosmetology, construction and emergency and protective services programs.

Job Openings Grow in S/WB Region, But Wages Remain Stagnant

Jobs are growing in number, but wages remain stagnant in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area, according to a new Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development report as cited by the Citizens Voice.

“The report shows the unemployment rate has been decreasing annually in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties but not as low as the overall state rate,” the news agency said. “In 2017, the unemployment rate was 5.1 percent in Lackawanna County, 5.9 percent in Luzerne County and 4.9 percent in Pennsylvania.”

Much of the job growth is attributed to new warehouses and distribution centers in the area, operations that tend not to pay high wages. However, there is a growing demand for workers in the region, which is putting pressure on employers to raise wages for lower-paying jobs as well as those that require college degrees and/or technical training and skills.





PASmart Greene County Career & Technology Center