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Labor Report

Court Strikes Down Trump Orders Targeting Federal Employee Unions

A federal court has struck down key portions of three executive orders that President Trump issued earlier this year in an attempt to rein in the collective bargaining powers of public employee unions.

On Saturday, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the administration’s attempts to reduce the amount of time union officials can spend on union business, reduce employee’s rights to appeal disciplinary decisions and allow employers to impose performance-based pay systems all violate collective bargaining rights guaranteed by the Federal Service Labor-Management Statute passed by Congress and signed into law by President Carter in 1978.

“The court concluded ‘that many of the challenged provisions of the Orders at issue here effectively reduce the scope of the right to bargain collectively as Congress has crafted it, or impair the ability of agency officials to bargain in good faith as Congress has directed, and therefore cannot be sustained,’ " CNN reported.

The plaintiffs included the American Federation of Government Employees, the National Federation of Federal Employees, AFSCME and the National Treasury Employees Union.

GOP Lawmakers Call Upon Administration to Withdraw OT Proposal

On the final day of public comments regarding Gov. Wolf’s effort to update the overtime rules in Pennsylvania’s Minimum Wage Act, 15 Republican state lawmakers co-signed a letter to the Department of Labor and Industry calling upon the administration to withdraw the proposed policy changes.

The signatories of the Aug. 22 letter included all but one of the majority party representatives on the House Labor and Industry Committee, including Vice Chairman Ryan MacKenzie. Separately, Chairman Robert Kauffman of Franklin County submitted a July 12 letter to the department’s Bureau of Labor Law Compliance claiming that the proposed rules changes would reduce the importance of the PMWA’s duties standards, would exacerbate discrepancies between state and federal rules, would impair health and human services provider agencies, and would cause “disruptions” for employers and employees.

The MacKenzie letter stated in part: “As members of the House Labor and Industry Committee, we have reviewed the comments submitted by Chairman Rob Kauffman and we wholeheartedly share the concerns he has expressed.”

An Aug. 21 news report published by Central Penn Business Journal referenced another recent letter signed by Rep. Darryl Metcalfe and 14 other members of the House State Government Committee, who referred to the proposed rule changes as an “administrative nightmare” and “excessive.” That letter was addressed to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission.

Senator Tartaglione and Rep. John T. Galloway, who is Democratic chair of the House L&I Committee, each submitted letters in support of the proposed overtime rules changes.

Tartaglione stated: “When the Commonwealth last updated its mandatory overtime regulations in the mid-1970s, more than 60 percent of salaried workers nationwide were protected by overtime laws. Today, the ratio is less than one in 10. … Approval of the Department’s proposed regulations would not only benefit hundreds of thousands of workers, it would also benefit the economy. Workers are also consumers. Ensuring that employers pay them fairly increases their spending power, which is good for the businesses they patronize.”

“Through my role as a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, I can attest to the severe need for improvements to minimum wage rates and overtime rules,” Galloway wrote. “Many of my constituents were affected by the loss of family-sustaining jobs during the recession, and returning employment opportunities are frequently not of the same quality.”

In accordance with rulemaking procedure, the public was given until Aug. 22 to submit comments to the IRRC for the official record. The IRRC has posted links to the public comments and legislative comments submitted.

The IRRC is scheduled to publish a response to the comments by Sept. 21. The department will also consider the comments and propose a final rule, which the IRRC may choose to accept or reject.

The proposed rules would modernize the income thresholds for salaried workers who have the right to collect overtime pay for overtime hours worked. Under current federal law, salaried employees who make more than $23,660 a year are generally ineligible for mandatory overtime pay. That threshold applies to most Pennsylvanians because it supersedes the state’s outdated level, which is as low as $8,600 for some job categories. So, for an estimated 465,000 Pennsylvanians, an employer may choose not to compensate them for the time they work beyond the 40-hour standard.

Labor Secretary Visits Allentown CareerLink to See PASmart in Action

Pennsylvania Secretary of Labor and Industry Gerard Oleksiak visited Lehigh County on Aug. 13 to tour an Allentown CareerLink facility and discuss progress of the administration’s PASmart workforce development program.

According to the Morning Call, about 200 job seekers a day visit CareerLink Lehigh Valley’s Air Products Resource Center to use telephones and computers. The center offers classes to help job seekers improve their resumes and hosts Career Linking Academy to introduce middle-school students to potential career paths.

“It’s great to see the employers here who are working with the CareerLink folks and building those partnerships that are going to continue to reach out to underserved populations, continue to fill their needs,” Oleksiak said. “This is good for both. This is win-win — employers and employees.”

Previously, Oleksiak toured CareerLink centers in Chester, Blair and Erie counties.

New Law Allows Striking Workers in NJ to Collect Unemployment

Striking New Jersey workers now have the right to file for unemployment benefits under legislation signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy on Aug. 10. reported that state lawmakers first proposed the measure two years ago as about 40,000 East Coast Verizon workers waged a six-week strike, including about 4,600 based in New Jersey. Months later, the push for unemployment benefits intensified as about 1,000 union casino workers from the Taj Mahal walked off the job in a contract dispute.

The legislature passed Senate President Stephen Sweeney’s bill in 2016, but then-Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the measure.

The law will “allow workers to express their rights without being starved back to work," Sweeney said at the time.

Despite Tax Credits and Trump Reprieve, Carrier Workers See Bleak Future

Many of the workers who held onto their jobs through Carrier’s threatened shutdown of its Indianapolis furnace factory in December 2016, and President-elect Trump’s subsequent visit to the plant, now see a bleak future for the facility, which has been plagued by rising absenteeism and low morale according to a new New York Times report.

During his visit, the president took credit for preventing the company from shifting the work to Mexico, which saved 700 local jobs. The Times reported at the time that Trump used tax incentives and threats to sway the company to keep the facility operating.

“What’s ailing Carrier isn’t weak demand. Furnace sales are strong, and managers have increased overtime and even recalled 150 previously laid-off workers. Instead, employees share a looming sense that a factory shutdown is inevitable — that Carrier has merely postponed the closing until a more politically opportune moment,” the news agency reported.