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Labor Report

PA Labor Department Delivers Overtime Rules Update to Regulatory Panel

Overtime rules updates proposed by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry will expand overtime eligibility to 143,000 workers and strengthen overtime protections for 251,000 more.

The new rules are contained in a final regulation that the department submitted to the state’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission and legislative oversight committees on October 17 following a public comment period and extensive stakeholder outreach. Senator Tartaglione’s comments and others can be found on the IRRC website.

The IRRC must approve the final regulation before it can take effect.

In a news release, the department stated that Pennsylvania’s overtime rules have not been updated in more than four decades. As a result, “a salaried worker earning as little as $23,660 a year, which is below the federal poverty line for a family of four, can work over 40, 50, 60 or more hours a week and not be guaranteed overtime at time-and-a-half.”

The new regulation modernizes overtime rules, clarifies requirements, and updates the salary threshold to reflect current wages typical of executive, administrative, and professional occupations. The current threshold of $455 a week would be raised to $875 a week.

Further, the new regulation would clarify the duties that define executive, administrative, and professional occupations so that the definitions closely align with the federal overtime regulation. This consistency helps employers to determine which employees must be paid at the overtime rate for extra hours worked.

32BJ SEIU Averts Philly Office Building Strike, But Negotiations Beckon in Pittsburgh, NJ

Large office building operators in Philadelphia and about 3,000 janitors represented by 32BJ SEIU averted a possible strike by agreeing on a new four-year contract on October 15, hours before the expiration of their previous deal.

Neither side released details of the pact which is subject to member ratification. A rank-and-file vote is expected within two weeks, the Inquirer reported.

The affected workers staff about 120 major office buildings in the Center City and University City sections of Philadelphia, such as the two Comcast towers, the PECO building, and the FMC Tower. The building managers negotiate collectively as Building Operators Labor Relations (BOLR). The members were typically earning $17-$19 an hour under the prior contract.

“The workers, largely African Americans or immigrants, have been union members for nearly a century, making them among the first low-wage service workers to be unionized in the city,” the Inquirer reported.

In advance of the agreement, 32BJ Vice President Gabe Morgan told Al Dia, “If we want to tackle poverty in Philadelphia, we need to make sure that there is a pathway to the middle class for the workers who make Center City’s growth possible.”

Several members of Philadelphia City Council introduced a resolution stating that workers “should not be asked to sacrifice their benefits and retirement security in order to create more profits for an industry that is undeniably booming.”

On the heels of the agreement in Philadelphia, 32BJ service workers in Pittsburgh rallied in the Strip District on October 17 to demand better wages and benefits. That same day, 32BJ leaders in New Jersey began negotiations on behalf of 7,000 members who clean more than 500 buildings throughout the state. About 200 members rallied with elected officials in Newark to mark the start of contract talks.

UAW Wins Wage, Healthcare Concessions, But Plant Closings Could Hinder Tentative GM Deal

The tentative four-year contract agreement reached by the United Auto Workers and General Motors on October 16 includes two annual raises , two annual bonus payments, and unprecedented ratification bonus payments to UAW members.

Yet, the agreement would allow GM to permanently close three plants. Some rank-and-file members may not be willing to accept that concession as the proposed contract goes to a union-wide vote.

In the meantime, UAW leaders have opted to remain on strike at GM pending the ratification vote. The union will conduct local-level informational meetings for members from October 19 through 25. It has not announced voting dates.

In summarizing the tentative agreement for members, union leaders wrote, “Striking is never an easy decision but your sacrifices reminded General Motors of the power and might of SOLIDARITY. Brothers and sisters, we stood up with one loud, clear voice and said: ‘No More.’ Together, we lasted one day longer.”

Some auto industry watchers believe that the GM contract, should it be ratified, would increase the pressure on the nation’s other major automakers, particularly Ford with its imminent UAW negotiations.

GM has agreed “to pay a record $11,000 ratification bonus. It will also grant 3 percent raises over two years and 4 percent lump-sum bonuses in the other two (years),” one industry blogger noted. “Temporary workers that have been with the company at least 90 days will get $4,500 bonuses.”

In addition, “GM also agreed to make no changes to the existing healthcare plan. Saving on healthcare, which is one of the largest employee expenses for all automakers, including Ford, is one place where Ford and others had hoped to save money. GM, Ford, and FCA had all stated that the existing healthcare plans would be too expensive in the coming years.”

Mack Trucks Workers Launch First Strike in Decades with Job Security a Central Issue

A leader of the United Auto Workers local that represents employees at Mack’s Macungie, Pennsylvania, cab and vehicle assembly plant said that the union’s newly launched strike of the truck manufacturer is mostly about job security.

The UAW Local 677 shop chairman reportedly told the Morning Call that “the union wants Mack to commit to keeping all Class 8 truck assembly in the Lehigh Valley.” Other union issues include wage increases and progression, cost-of-living allowances, shift premiums, work and holiday schedules, health and safety, seniority, retirement plans, health and prescription coverage, overtime, subcontracting, and temporary workers, according to PennLive.

The work stoppage began just before midnight on October 12, almost two weeks after the most-recent three-year contract expired, and directly involves about 3,600 Mack employees in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Florida. Another 3,000 workers at a Volvo plant in Virginia have also been laid off because they need Mack-produced engines and transmissions. Mack is a subsidiary of Volvo Group.

Mack proclaims that every truck it builds for the North American market “gets its start” at the Macungie facility. The strike is the first in more than three decades at the company.

A Morning Call columnist asserted that union members should draw hope from the UAW-GM tentative contract agreement reached on October 16 that their own strike will “pay off.”

“Jobs like those at Mack pay well. But workers don’t have to be satisfied with the status quo,” he wrote. “And it’s when the economy is rolling that they should be demanding a bigger share of the pie. Eventually, the economy won’t be rosy, so it’s important to cash in during high times.”