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Labor Report

Sen. Tartaglione Joins Gov. Wolf to Unveil Gender Pay Equality Measures

Senator Tartaglione and Gov. Wolf

State Sen. Christine Tartaglione joined Gov. Tom Wolf, other elected officials and women’s advocates at the Capitol on June 6 to announce an executive order and new legislation that seek to eradicate Pennsylvania’s gender pay gap.

Pennsylvania’s working women collect just 79 cents for every dollar that their male counterparts make based on median annual earnings, ranking the Commonwealth 29th among U.S. states according to the American Association of University Women. Nationally, women make about 80 cents for every dollar that men make.

Senator Tartaglione and Gov. Wolf“In 1959, the Pennsylvania legislature passed a law to correct the gender pay gap, yet here we are, almost 60 years later, and women are still getting short-changed,” Sen. Tartaglione said. “Women with the same education, training, skills and job responsibilities as their male counterparts should be paid the same. But that’s still not happening.”

Sen. Tartaglione’s SB 1200 would expand the definitions of wages and comparable work, would require employers to defend pay differentials with bona fide criteria, would expand the powers of the Department of Labor and Industry as well as the Attorney General to enforce the Equal Pay Law, and would extend the statute of limitations for victims to pursue claims of lost wages and damages.

Teachers Across Pennsylvania and US Respond to Funding, Contract Crises

Teacher StrikeAs teachers throughout the country are intensifying their political activism  in response to education funding and contract negotiation crises, educators across Pennsylvania continue to face the same issues as their counterparts in other states.

More than 170 members of the Dallas Education Association in Northeastern PA have been working without a contract since August 2015 and have announced a plan to strike for a third time early next school year if they can’t resolve their dispute with the local school board. Prospects for an agreement took a hit during a May 29 bargaining session when, according to a union negotiator, the Dallas School Board “torpedoed the negotiation” with a “regressive” offer.

The board reportedly presented a six-year offer that included a three-year wage freeze, tiered health insurance for new hires and pension and severance reductions. No new negotiations are scheduled.

The union struck for 22 days in 2016 and seven days in 2017. They plan to walk out again on Sept. 5.

Similarly, East Stroudsburg Education Association members recently announced a Sept. 10 strike date and have been working without a contract since August 2016. Healthcare and wage costs, and how those costs are calculated in relation to the district’s tax revenue, are points of contention.

Meanwhile, in the Southwest corner of the state, Central Greene School Board voted on June 5 to furlough 24 teachers despite widespread public opposition to the cost-cutting measure.

Central Greene Education Association members had been working without a contract for more than a year, but staved off threatened furloughs of six teachers and two other school workers when they reached terms with the district in late 2016. The five-year contract provided raises totaling 4.3 percent and included health insurance concessions by the union that equaled or exceeded the pay increase for many members.

The superintendent blamed the new furloughs on population and enrollment declines in the district. Before approving the layoffs, the board heard more than an hour of opposing testimony from the union leader, teachers, students, recent alumni, parents, the local tax collector and tax payers.

Nurses Strike, But Northeast PA Hospital Company Still Short-Staffing

Registered nurses picketed Wilkes-Barre General Hospital from May 31 through June 4 to demonstrate their longstanding demands that the for-profit medical facility fill more than 100 vacant nursing positions and that it offer competitive compensation packages.

Wilkes-Barre General HospitalThe walk-out was at least the third by the 440 members of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professional (PASNAP) at Wilkes-Barre since late 2013. Yet the same issues remain, understaffing and low pay.

The union claims there are about 107 staffing vacancies and that there were 900 unfilled shifts during a six-week period this year. PASNAP cited the same short-staffing more than five years ago and complained that the hospital systematically violated the law over a period of years by imposing illegal mandatory overtime hours. Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry cited the hospital’s owner, Community Health Systems, for at least 10 violations of state law regarding forced overtime.

CHS is a Tennessee-based, for-profit operator that owns numerous facilities in Northeast PA including First Hospital in Kingston and Moses Taylor Hospital in Scranton, where nurses picketed in April for the same causes.

At all three sites, nurses intended to strike for a single day, but the owner brought in outside staffing on five-day contracts and locked out the union nurses for the four ensuing days.

May 2018 National Jobs Update

The national unemployment rate fell to 3.8% in May 2018, down 0.1% from April 2018, marking its lowest point since April 2000. Over the previous month, unemployment rolls fell by 281,000 individuals, with total unemployment dropping to 6,065,000. National unemployment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Unemployment – 6,065,000
  • Change Over Month –   DOWN   281,000
  • Change Over Year –  DOWN    772,000
  • Change Over Trump Term –  DOWN   1,577,000
  • Rate Change Over Month –  DOWN    0.1%
  • Rate Change Over Year –  DOWN    0.5%
  • Rate Change Over Trump Term –  DOWN    1.0%
  • Rate Change Over Obama 2nd Term –  DOWN    3.2%

The labor force is the total number of employed individuals combined with the total number of unemployed individuals actively searching for work. Growth in the labor force is a sign of a strengthening economy from more people working and/or more individuals searching for jobs. The national labor force remained relatively flat between April and May 2018, rising by only 12,000 individuals, a combination of total employment* rising by 293,000 individuals and total unemployment down by 281,000 individuals as noted above.
Thus far under President Trump, the national labor force has grown by 1.821 million individuals (unemployment -1.577 million & employment +3.398 million). While this growth is encouraging, continued improvement will be needed to match growth seen over President Obama’s second term (3.955 million: unemployment -4.829 million & employment +8.784 million).

  • Total Labor Force – 161,539,000
  • Change Over Month – UP    12,000
  • Change Over Year – UP    1,810,000
  • Change Over Trump Term – UP   1,821,000
  • Change Over Obama 2nd Term – UP  3,955,000

Non-farm* job growth was more robust in May 2018, rising by 223,000 over the month, up from gains of roughly 150,000 in each of the two previous months. Despite the increase, average monthly non-farm job growth under President Trump stands at only 185,000, below average monthly growth of 217,000 seen over President Obama’s second term. Year-over-year, the national economy has added 2.363 million new non-farm jobs, translating to the lowest percentage year-over-year growth seen in the last seven years for the month of May. These are far from the levels expected from a president who criticized growth under President Obama and said that he would be the “greatest jobs President God ever created”. Employment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Employment – 148,662,000
  • Change Over Month –  UP    223,000
  • Change Over Year –  UP    2,363,000
  • Change Over Trump Term –  UP    2,966,000
  • Change Over Obama 2nd Term –  UP    10,414,000

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