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Labor Report


Laborers Union Seeks to Build Training Center in North Philadelphia

Philadelphia’s only majority African-American building trades union plans to develop a new training center in the heart of the city to offer members better access and to improve historically low minority membership in the trades.

Ryan Boyer, business manager for the 5,000-member Laborers’ District Council of Philadelphia, told a group of North Philadelphia residents at a recent community meeting that the council has agreed to buy a portion of the former William Penn High School grounds at Broad and Thompson streets from Temple University. The union wants to build a $25 million, 36,000-square-foot training center there, according to The Philadelphia Tribune.

Sam Staten Jr., business manager for Local 332, told the Tribune that as many as 90 percent of the local’s members live within Philadelphia and some 40 percent live in the neighborhoods surrounding the proposed training center site. Staten, whose father and Local 332 predecessor Sam Staten Sr. helped develop the current training center in the 1980s, said that registrations at the center have lagged in recent years because of the travel distances.

The council expects to keep about 20 percent of its training functions at the Exton facility. It plans to partner with Temple to offer academic courses at the North Broad Street site, in addition to the union’s own curriculum. Part of the training will be dedicated to teaching members skills that will help them if they want to pursue a higher-paying trade.

The proposal was well-received during the community meeting, according to the Tribune. Neighbors asked that the community be given access to the training center’s meeting rooms and that the union offer training opportunities for residents of the area.

Coal Mine Reopening Expected to Generate Dozens of New Union Jobs

A newly awarded $1 million Redevelopment Assistance Capitol Program grant will help a Northeastern Pennsylvania mining company to reopen an inactive surface coal mine near Mount Carmel and support 25 to 30 new union jobs for the next 20 years.
Blaschak Coal Co., based in Mahanoy City, has already begun to remove material previously placed in the pit by the site owner, Mallard Contracting, as part of a reclamation process, according to Blaschak holds a 20-year lease and expects to mine 200,000 to 300,000 tons of anthracite coal annually. The company expects to spend $13 million to reopen and equip the mine, which sits along State Route 61 west of Centralia.

United Mine Workers who staff the facility will be expected to earn $65,000 to $85,000 per year, more than double the median household income for the region.
In announcing the RACP grant, Wolf reportedly said that as mining activity moves across the property, land will be reclaimed and made available for alternate community uses.

Two Months Later, Inquirer Examines How Janus Is Impacting Labor Negotiations

Two months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against public-sector labor unions in its Janus vs. AFSCME decision and with the nation settling in for the Labor Day weekend, the Philadelphia Inquirer took a closer look at how the controversial court decision may change how unions – both public- and private-sector – advocate for their members at the negotiating table.

The report noted that in anticipation of an unfavorable Janus outcome and an accompanying financial setback, many unions took preventative measures. They trimmed their own operating budgets and asked members to voluntarily reaffirm their standing in the union.

In the weeks since the ruling, organizations like Americans for Fair Treatment have launched campaigns in Pennsylvania and other states to encourage workers to relinquish their union memberships. Other anti-union organizations like the National Right to Work Foundation, have ramped up their advocacy and financial backing of public-sector workers who sue their former unions to recoup past dues and fair share fees.

Meanwhile, union leaders have been left to reengage and reenergize their members while cultivating new partnerships to build stronger support networks.

Union Participation Rebounding in One of Nation’s Most ‘Pro-Business’ States

Texas, which has one of the lowest union participation rates among U.S. states, saw its union membership grow by 81,000 workers in 2017, which may be a new signal of a broader resurgence for organized labor, according to a recent report by The Dallas Morning News.

The membership growth represented a 17.5 percent spike in union participation that raised total membership statewide to 543,000 workers. It also raised the state’s union participation rate from 4.0 percent to 4.7, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Just seven states now have a lower participation rate than Texas, although the state ranks eighth-highest in union membership volume due to the size of its workforce.
Pennsylvania, with 665,000 union members ranks fourth by volume trailing only California, New York and Illinois. Pennsylvania’s participation rate of 12.0 percent ranks it 16th in the nation.


Trump Cancels Pay Raises, Regional COLAs for Civilian Federal Workers

In a letter to U.S. House and Senate leaders, President Trump wrote he will cancel scheduled pay increases for federal civilian employees, as well as their scheduled localized cost of living raises, known as locality adjustments. CNN reports that almost two million workers were due for a 2.1 percent rate increase in January.

“We must maintain efforts to put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and Federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases,” Trump wrote.

A widely published Associated Press article noted “the president last year signed a package of tax cuts that is forecast to expand the deficit by about $1.5 trillion over 10 years.”

According to CNN, “Congress has an opportunity to effectively overrule the President's edict if lawmakers pass a spending bill that includes a federal pay raise. The Senate passed a bill this summer that included a 1.9% raise for federal workers. The House's version did not address federal pay. Senate and House negotiators will negotiate a final measure in the coming weeks. Trump's 2019 budget proposal, released earlier this year, included a pay freeze for civilian federal workers. It's not clear if Trump would approve a budget that includes the pay increase; the White House has not issued a formal veto threat of the Senate's bill.”


August 2018 National Jobs Update

The seasonally adjusted national unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.9% from July to August 2018. Over the month, unemployment rolls decreased by 46,000 individuals, lowering total unemployment to 6.234 million. National unemployment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Unemployment – 6,234,000
  • Change Over Month –   DOWN   46,000
  • Change Over Year –   DOWN   893,000
  • Change Over Trump Term –   DOWN   1,408,000
  • Rate Change Over Month – no change     
  • Rate Change Over Year –   DOWN   0.5%
  • Rate Change Over Trump Term –   DOWN   0.9%
  • Rate Change Over Obama 2nd Term –   DOWN   3.2%

As indicated above, total unemployment’s rounded percentage of the labor force, or unemployment rate, remained unchanged over the month (rate = unemployment / labor force). 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 can be a sign of a strengthening economy from more people working and/or more individuals searching for jobs. However, the national labor force fell by 469,000 individuals from July to August 2018, a combination of total employment* dropping by 423,000 individuals and total unemployment down by 46,000 individuals as noted above.

Since President Trump took office, the national labor force has grown by 2.058 million individuals (unemployment -1.408 million & employment +3.466 million). While this growth is encouraging, continued improvement will be needed to match labor force growth seen over President Obama’s second term (3.955 million: unemployment -4.829 million & employment +8.784 million).

  • Total Labor Force – 161,776,000
  • Change Over Month –   DOWN   469,000
  • Change Over Year  –   UP   1,178,000
  • Change Over Trump Term –   UP   2,058,000
  • Change Over Obama 2nd Term –   UP   3,955,000

Non-farm* jobs grew by 201,000 month-over-month in August 2018, an improvement from the monthly addition of 147,000 jobs in July 2018. With the increase in August, average monthly non-farm job growth thus far under President Trump stands at 189,000, nearly 30,000 below average monthly growth of 217,000 seen over President Obama’s second term. Year-over-year, the national economy has added 2.330 million new non-farm jobs, 195,000 less than the 2.525 million non-farms jobs added year-over-year in President Obama’s last August (2016) in office. 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 – 149,279,000
  • Change Over Month –   UP   201,000
  • Change Over Year –   UP   2,330,000
  • Change Over Trump Term –   UP   3,583,000
  • 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.