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Labor Report

Raise the Wage PA Rallies in MontCo for Fair Minimum Wage

A coalition of worker advocates brought the fight for minimum wage reform to Montgomery County on May 17 as John Meyerson of Raise the Wage PA, state Sens. Vincent Hughes and Art Haywood, and numerous other community leaders touted the benefits of the proposed $15 per hour minimum wage during a rally at the County Courthouse. The speakers also dispelled the false rhetoric used by anti-labor forces to undermine fair wages.

Video of the rally is posted here.

Raise the Wage RallySenator Tartaglione is leading the effort in Harrisburg to raise Pennsylvania’s $7.25 minimum wage ($2.83 for tipped workers) with her Senate Bill 1044. The legislation calls for incremental increases in the minimum wage leading to a $15 minimum ($12 for tipped workers) by 2024. It also calls for the creation of annual cost of living adjustments to the minimum wage in perpetuity.

Haywood’s companion bill, SB 1045, would create “one fair wage,” bridging the gap between the standard minimum wage and the tipped minimum wage by 2027. The bill would also allow municipalities to raise their minimum wages above the state minimum.

Raise the Wage PA supports all those measures and also seeks stronger enforcement against employers who violate wage protection laws.

Trump Administration Plans to Lift Teenage Hazardous Duty Restrictions

TrumpPresident Trump’s Labor Department is planning to roll back decades-old federal regulations that protect underage workers from some of the nation’s most hazardous workplace conditions, according to this Bloomberg report.

“The DOL will propose relaxing current rules—known as Hazardous Occupations Orders (HOs)—that prohibit 16- and 17-year-old apprentices and student learners from receiving extended, supervised training in certain dangerous jobs, said the two sources. That includes roofing work, as well as operating chainsaws, and various other power-driven machines that federal law recognizes as too dangerous for youth younger than 18,” Bloomberg reported on May 8. “The sources’ accounts were corroborated by a summary of a draft regulation obtained by Bloomberg Law.”

Plumbers Shortage Prompts Employers to Offer Plenty of Perks

With U.S. job openings at a record high and unemployment dipping below four percent for the first time in almost two decades, plumbing companies have been pulling out all the stops to recruit and keep skilled employees, according to the Wall Street Journal.

One Colorado company “offers all the perks a pampered Silicon Valley tech worker might expect: An on-site tap flows with craft beer and the kitchen is stocked with locally roasted espresso beans. There is a putting green and a smoker for brisket lunches. Next up: a yoga studio,” the newspaper reported.

plumberAnother “boasts an array of arcade games and a “quiet room”—a plush hangout space with insulated walls painted a calming sky blue. It has a lockable door, a comfy couch, a recliner and a sound machine that babbles with the soothing audio of ocean waves,” while others are plugging relocation reimbursements, spa treatments, exotic trips, free laundry services and NFL tickets, all in an attempt to attract more talent.

“U.S. job openings hit a record 6.6 million in March, with the construction industry — where plumbers are heavily employed — seeing one of the largest jumps,” the Journal reported. “Building, needed repairs and retirements are fueling demand for plumbers at the same time the U.S. jobless rate in April fell below 4% for the first time since late 2000.

“The annual median pay for plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters was nearly $53,000 a year in 2017, according to federal data, but it isn’t uncommon to see jobs advertised for far higher wages, from $70,000 up to six figures.”

SCOTUS Sides with Employers in Class Action Arbitration Cases

The conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court on May 21 sided with employers in a series of precedent-setting cases that will allow employers to impose mandatory arbitration conditions and will prevent an estimated 25 million workers from participating in class action lawsuits to resolve disputes with those employers.

CourtThe ruling is expected to affect alleged labor law violations such as wage theft, and may give companies more protections against repeated sexual harassment claims.
“Justice Neil Gorsuch delivered the opinion for the 5-4 majority, his first major opinion since joining the court last spring and a demonstration of how the Senate Republicans' move to keep liberal nominee Merrick Garland from being confirmed in 2016 has helped cement a conservative court,” CNN reported “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg took the rare step of reading her dissent from the bench, calling the majority opinion in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis ‘egregiously wrong.’”

“The court today holds enforceable these arm-twisted, take-it-or-leave-it contracts – including the provisions requiring employees to litigate wage and hours claims only one-by-one. Federal labor law does not countenance such isolation of employees,” Justice Ginsburg said.

New York Magazine warned that the ruling could embolden employers to engage in largescale wage theft, while workers would be left with woefully insufficient recourse:

“Under the Supreme Court’s pronouncement, a company that binds all its workers to submit to mandatory arbitration may one day decide to quietly and intentionally subtract $1 from each employee’s paycheck every week, just because. For one worker, one year’s worth of stolen wages would only amount to $52 — pocket change that no sensible worker, let alone one who is already struggling to make ends meet, would be willing to hire a lawyer over to recover in arbitration. But multiply that by 10,000 employees or 1 million, and it’s easy to see why banding together as a class action would make more sense,” the magazine reported.

Meanwhile, some commentators such as have argued that the high court’s ruling will also deal a blow to victims of workplace sexual harassment by enabling companies to isolate victims and obscure their claims of inappropriate behavior within the private arbitration process, rather than have the matters be resolved in open court.

NY, Jersey Lawmakers Advance Measures to Counter Likely Janus Ruling

With the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court expected to rule soon against public sector labor unions in the Janus vs. AFSCME case, lawmakers in two Democratic-majority states, New York and New Jersey, have advanced legislation to improve public-employee unions’ ability to recruit and retain members. reports “New York passed a provision that makes it harder for people to opt out of paying union dues by letting unions set the terms for refusals and allows union representatives to recruit new employees during the workday. New Jersey just enacted a similar measure through legislation.”

Conflict Brewing Between Regional NLRB Office and National Board?

An Atlanta-based National Labor Relations Board regional director decided on May 21 to allow a sub-group of employees at a Boeing aircraft plant in South Carolina to conduct a union organization vote, “despite a December decision by the federal labor board that narrowed the circumstances under which micro-units could be created,” according to

The International Association of Machinists have twice failed to organize much larger groups of Boeing’s North Charleston workers. In 2015, the union cancelled a scheduled vote. Last year, about 3,000 workers voted down the union two days before President Trump was scheduled to visit the plant for a demonstration of the company’s newest class of jet.

Click here for a full report from The Post and Courier of Charleston.

April 2018 PA Jobs Update

Pennsylvania’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 4.7% in April 2018, down 0.1% from the previous month, marking the first decline after remaining unchanged at 4.8% for nine consecutive months and the lowest the rate has been since early 2008. Over the month, unemployment rolls decreased by 6,700 individuals, with total unemployment falling below 300,000 for the first time in over a decade. State unemployment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Unemployment – 297,490
  • Change Over Month –  DOWN    6,708
  • Change Over Year –  DOWN    20,663
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf Term –  DOWN    48,151
  • Rate Change Over Month – DOWN     0.1%
  • Rate Change Over Year – DOWN     0.2%
  • Rate Change Over Gov. Wolf Term –  DOWN    0.7%

The decrease in unemployment, coupled with declining total employment*, resulted in further contraction of the state’s 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 April 2018 by 15,557, a combination of total employment dropping by 8,849 and unemployment down by 6,708 as noted above. Total labor force growth under Gov. Wolf has declined from a peak of 52,798 in March 2016 (unemployment -312 & total employment +53,110) to being down by -28,519 as of April 2018 (unemployment -48,151 & total employment +19,632). State labor force statistics for the month are as follows: 

  • Total Labor Force – 6,378,043
  • Change Over Month –  DOWN    15,557
  • Change Over Year –  DOWN    56,855
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf Term –  DOWN    28,519

Non-farm* job rolls rose by 9,100 between March and April 2018, marking a 13th consecutive month of growth and pushing total non-farm employment to a new record high of 6.015 million. Between April 2017 and April 2018, the commonwealth added 83,600 new non-farm jobs, ranking it among the top 20 states for new percentage year-over-year growth. Since Gov. Wolf took office, 199,400 new non-farm jobs have been added, which is already 47,000 more than were added over Gov. Corbett’s term. The addition of 199,400 jobs ranks the commonwealth 31st out of 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 – 6,015,300
  • Change Over Month –  UP     9,100
  • Change Over Year – UP     83,600
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf Term – UP     199,400

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

State Unemployment Ranking  
Ranked Lowest to Highest Rate (Seasonally Adj.)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics  


Rank State Apr. 2018 Rate Month Diff. Year Diff.
1 Hawaii 2.0                (0.1)                (0.5)
T-2 New Hampshire 2.6                    -                (0.1)
T-2 North Dakota 2.6                    -                 0.1
4 Maine 2.7                    -                (0.6)
T-5 Iowa 2.8                    -                (0.5)
T-5 Nebraska 2.8                    -                (0.1)
T-5 Vermont 2.8                    -                (0.3)
T-5 Wisconsin 2.8                (0.1)                (0.5)
T-9 Colorado 2.9                (0.1)                 0.3
T-9 Idaho 2.9                    -                (0.4)
11 Utah 3.1                    -                (0.2)
T-12 Indiana 3.2                    -                (0.3)
T-12 Minnesota 3.2                    -                (0.3)
14 Virginia 3.3                (0.1)                (0.5)
T-15 Kansas 3.4                    -                (0.2)
T-15 South Dakota 3.4                    -                 0.1
T-15 Tennessee 3.4                    -                (0.6)
18 Massachusetts 3.5                    -                (0.4)
19 Missouri 3.6                    -                (0.2)
T-20 Alabama 3.8                    -                (1.0)
T-20 Arkansas 3.8                    -                 0.2
T-20 Wyoming 3.8                (0.1)                (0.3)
23 Florida 3.9                    -                (0.4)
T-24 Kentucky 4.0                    -                (1.2)
T-24 Montana 4.0                (0.1)                  -  
T-24 Oklahoma 4.0                    -                (0.4)
T-27 Oregon 4.1                    -                  -  
T-27 Texas 4.1                 0.1                (0.4)
T-29 California 4.2                (0.1)                (0.8)
T-29 Delaware 4.2                (0.1)                (0.4)
T-29 South Carolina 4.2                (0.2)                (0.1)
T-32 Georgia 4.3                (0.1)                (0.6)
T-32 Maryland 4.3                    -                 0.1
T-32 Ohio 4.3                (0.1)                (0.8)
T-35 Illinois 4.4                (0.2)                (0.5)
T-35 North Carolina 4.4                (0.1)                (0.2)
T-37 Connecticut 4.5                    -                (0.3)
T-37 Louisiana 4.5                 0.1                (0.9)
T-37 New Jersey 4.5                (0.1)                  -  
T-37 Rhode Island 4.5                    -                 0.1
T-41 Mississippi 4.6                 0.1                (0.7)
T-41 New York 4.6                    -                (0.1)
T-43 Michigan 4.7                    -                 0.3
T-43 Pennsylvania 4.7                (0.1)                (0.2)
45 Washington 4.8                 0.1                  -  
T-46 Arizona 4.9                    -                (0.1)
T-46 Nevada 4.9                    -                (0.2)
T-48 New Mexico 5.4                (0.2)                (0.9)
T-48 West Virginia 5.4                    -                 0.4
50 Alaska 7.3                    -                 0.2
Designates largest month-to-month decline
Designates largest year-over-year decline
T - indicates tie






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