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Labor Report

Tartaglione Opposes Budget Bill That Ignores Low Wage-Earners

Senator Tartaglione voted “no” on House Bill 790, the $34 billion 2019-2020 state spending plan that failed to include language to raise the Commonwealth’s long-stagnant minimum wage.

Despite vocal opposition, the Republican-led Senate adopted the budget bill, 42-8, on June 27 and advanced the legislation to the governor’s office for his consideration.

The full Senate vote occurred one day after the Senate adopted legislation, 26-24, mostly along party lines to eliminate the state’s general assistance program that provides modest, temporary, and reimbursable cash assistance to poor people in crisis, including those with disabilities and illnesses, crime victims, and disabled military veterans.

Pennsylvania last raised its minimum wage in June 2006 via Senator Tartaglione’s SB 1090 as part of the budget negotiations that year. The measure raised the state’s minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.15. Pennsylvania’s minimum wage later increased another 10 cents an hour when the federal government enacted a $7.25 minimum wage.

Senator TartaglioneSenator Tartaglione’s SB 12 proposes to raise the minimum wage to $12 this year and to $15 by 2026 through annual increases of 50 cents. It also would eliminate the sub-minimum wage for tip-earning workers, who can make as little as $2.83 in hourly wages. After 2026, the bill would tie the minimum wage to annual cost of living adjustments.

SB 12 awaits action in the Senate Labor and Industry Committee. The same proposal awaits action as a separate bill in the Pennsylvania House. Both bills have the governor’s support. Senator Tartaglione will continue fighting for legislative action on the issue.

One day earlier, Senator Tartaglione also voted “no” on HB 33, the legislation that proposes to eliminate the general assistance program that provides temporary transitional income of about $200 a month to just over 11,000 Pennsylvanians as they await approval for federal safety net benefits.

Despite her opposition to the budget, Senator Tartaglione supported many of the provisions contained within it, including funding increases for early education, public education, higher education, career and technical training, student grants, and public libraries. The bill also funds health care and social services for more than 4,000 additional senior citizens and people with disabilities.

PennLive Examines Why Minimum Wage Legislation Stalled (Again)

As the Republican-led Pennsylvania House generated budget legislation that did not include language pertaining to a proposal by Democrats to raise the minimum wage, examined why the majority party ultimately wouldn’t entertain even a compromise on the issue as part of the 2019-2020 budget process, which concluded this week.

In late January, Governor Wolf, Senator Tartaglione, and Representative Patty Kim were joined by many of their legislative colleagues to announce a joint plan to raise the minimum wage (as detailed in the previous article in this Labor Report). But matching bills in the Senate and House still await action in their respective Labor Committees.

It's been 4,737 Days since the PA Legislature last Raised the Minimum Wage“Many thought (the joint proposal) would at least seed the ground for discussion that could lead to something smaller,” PennLive reported. “And in fact, Wolf’s press secretary said Monday evening that the governor’s negotiators did scale back their demands through the spring. But that compromise was never found.”

The news article cited numerous stated or perceived reasons why a “deal did not get done.” For one thing, senior House Republicans opposed it and chose to direct the conversation about low earners toward the “thousands of unfilled jobs in Pennsylvania right now that already pay more than the state’s minimum wage.”
Procedurally, budget bills are generated and voted upon in the House before they reach the Senate.

Further, opponents of new minimum wage legislation also focused on a determination by the non-partisan Independent Fiscal Office that the proposal could create a net loss of 34,000 jobs (both part-time and full-time) statewide. However, the same IFO report stated that the minimum wage proposal would directly result in pay raises for about 2 million Pennsylvania workers, and would indirectly result in raises for additional workers now earning just over $15 an hour.

“Sources familiar with this spring’s negotiations said there were efforts by both sides to explore a smaller increase, but Republicans’ counters came with no boosts in out-years, exemptions build in for so-called ‘training wages’ for teenagers, and clear language to prevent cities like Philadelphia from going higher than the state’s rate,” PennLive reported.

4,000 Philly Jobs Threatened by Planned Facility Closings

NurseThe Philadelphia area workforce took a double hit on June 26 when the largest oil refinery on the East Coast and one of the city’s oldest hospitals each revealed their plans to permanently cease operations.

Philadelphia Energy Solutions employs more than 1,000 workers directly and provides jobs for “thousands of contractors” at two adjacent refineries in the Lower Schuylkill River area of the city, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Hahnemann University Hospital employs about 2,500 on North Broad Street in Center City, the paper reported separately.

Both facilities are slated to close in the coming months.

“I’m deeply concerned about the impact that the closure of these large companies will have on local workers and their families, and I’m disappointed that we are seeing these closures happening in such quick succession,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a news release. “I want PES and Hahnemann workers to know that the City and all of our workforce development, labor, and private sector partners will do everything we can to help them during this difficult time.”

An earth-shaking explosion and major fire devastated the PES site early on June 21. The blast propelled shrapnel into the sky and into the nearby residential community, while the flames burned for days. Five non-life-threatening injuries were reported among workers, but there were no fatalities. The cause remains under investigation.
The complex produced 335,000 barrels of refined petroleum per day and had been beset by years of financial troubles marked by a series of ownership changes and a bankruptcy reorganization that concluded last year. The petroleum industry’s use of the site dates to 1866. The first refining units were installed in 1870.

Hahnemann is even older, having been founded in 1848 as the nation’s first homeopathic medical college. California-based Paladin Healthcare purchased the financially struggling hospital in September 2017 as part of a package deal with St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children.

The hospital has continued to lose “millions of dollars each month” under Paladin, the company has said. It remains under contract with the city as an emergency services provider and separately is under contract with Drexel University to provide clinical instruction to medical school students.

Tartaglione and the Senate Philadelphia delegation have hosted numerous conference calls and meetings with stakeholders, while the Joint House and Senate Delegations under the leadership of Senator Tartaglione and Representative Jason Dawkins, penned a letter to the governor asking him exercise all executive powers necessary to ensure that the hospital “remains open and continues to provide vital patient care services.”

The full letter is available here.

Kenney said the city has requested detailed financial statements from the hospital in an effort to solve its financial troubles, but has not obtained the desired information. On the state level, the Department of Health has ordered the hospital to “cease and desist” any actions it is taking to advance the closing until regulators approve a closure plan.

In January, Senator Tartaglione joined nurses from Hahnemann and St. Christopher’s on their picket lines to demonstrate for safe nurse staffing levels and fair labor contracts at both facilities. The Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals represents about 800 Hahnemann employees.

NLRB Chair Launches EEOC Complaint Against Agency’s Inspector General

The pro-business chairman of the National Labor Relations Board has filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the board’s independent inspector general in a move that critics suggest is motivated more by politics than workplace fairness.

National Labor Relations BoardCiting numerous unidentified sources who are close to the agency or on congressional staffs, BloombergLaw reported that Chairman John Ring’s complaint against Inspector General David Berry is the latest salvo in a rift stemming “from Berry’s role in compelling Republican board members in February 2018 to withdraw” from a landmark joint-employer ruling that was widely viewed as favoring employers and as one of “the most consequential labor policy changes for the agency during the Trump administration.”

As a result, the board was forced to vacate its so-called Hy-Brand decision that would have severely reduced joint employer liabilities for affiliated businesses. Berry’s office had determined that Republican board members had conflicts of interest based on their connection to the case through their prior employment.

“Ring joined the board as chairman as that episode was ending and immediately moved to re-enact nearly the same joint employment policy that had been nixed,” Bloomberg reported.

Ring’s new complaint generally deals with the IG’s alleged harsh treatment of agency employees. Berry’s chief role as IG is to investigate staffers, according to the news service report.

Congress Proposes Legislation to Mandate Bargaining Rights for Public Workers

AFSCMEThe American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has praised the introduction in Congress of legislation that proposes to codify the collective bargaining rights of public employees under federal law for the first time.

In a press release, the union said the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act “would safeguard public sector workers’ right to a seat at the table by setting a minimum statewide standard of collective bargaining rights that states must provide.”

Representative Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania introduced the proposal in the House, while Senator Mazie Horono of Hawaii introduced matching legislation in the Senate. reported that the legislation faces a rocky road to passage through the Republican-controlled Senate and the Trump White House. Yet, it “would represent a major shift in U.S. labor laws, essentially making the right to organize a fundamental right for all U.S. workers.”

Vox further reported that a record number of workers went on strike last year due to stagnant wages and benefit cuts, including grocery store clerks and hotel housekeepers. But public schoolteachers blazed the trail for public-sector workers in the aftermath of the landmark Janus ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that banned public-sector unions from collecting fair share fees against the wishes of non-members.