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Labor Report

Tartaglione Joins Philadelphia Nurses to Picket for Safe Staffing Levels

Sen. Tartaglione joined picket lines at two Philadelphia hospitals on Jan. 3 where registered nurses are fighting for a safe staffing commitment and fair compensation from their common employer.

Nurses from St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Juniata Park and Hahnemann University Hospital in Center City have been negotiating since August with American Academic Health System, the private, for-profit company that bought both medical facilities last January. The nurses are members of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) and have been working without a contract since their last collective bargaining agreement expired in November.

Union leaders say that management has been unwilling to include minimum nurse-to-patient ratios in a new contract while offering fair compensation that will enable the hospitals to retain and recruit talented nurses.

PASNAP leaders cite research documenting that increased nurse staffing levels correlate directly to fewer patient fatalities, fewer medical complications, earlier patient discharge dates, and improved satisfaction for patients and their families. Meanwhile, wage improvements correlate to higher nurse retention and job satisfaction.

Tartaglione has been a leading advocate in the Pennsylvania Senate for safe nurse staffing levels. During the 2017-18 legislative session, she co-sponsored S.B. 214 to establish minimum nurse-to-patient ratios under state law. The state already has minimum staffing ratios for child daycare facilities. But there are no such requirements for hospitals.

Today’s picketing did not coincide with work stoppages at St. Christopher’s or Hahnemann. Organizers described the events as informational in nature. PASNAP represents about 1,400 nurses at the two medical facilities and more than 8,000 members statewide.

Visit Sen. Tartaglione’s Facebook page for video of both rallies.

20 States Raise Minimum Wage, but PA Still Mired at $7.25/hr

In a January 2 news release, one of Pennsylvania’s leading authorities on labor-related issues, the Keystone Research Center, reported that 5.3 million American workers saw their wages increase at the start of the new year as 20 U.S. states raised their minimum wages.

Pennsylvania is not one of those states, although four of its neighbors (New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Ohio) have higher minimum wages in 2019. Pennsylvania’s rate remains at the national minimum of $7.25. Lawmakers haven’t raised it since 2006.

“The increases in our neighbors include a $0.25 per hour adjustment for inflation in Ohio and New Jersey, a $0.50 per hour increase in Delaware, and a $0.70 to $2.00 per hour increase in New York State – the biggest increase (being) in New York City,” KRC said.

“The failure to raise the Pennsylvania minimum wage will mean that Pennsylvania workers in food services and other lower-wage sectors will continue to lag behind their counterparts in neighboring states – especially in rural counties where low-paying service industries are a large part of the local economy.”

In his “Capitol Notebook” column, John L. Micek of the Patriot-News wrote that Gov. Tom Wolf and Democratic state lawmakers – led by Sen. Tartaglione in the Senate – have routinely pushed for minimum wage increases in recent years, but the Republican majority has refused to act on those proposals. Democrats are expected to reintroduce minimum wage bills in the new 2019-20 session.

Although Democrats gained seats in both chambers in the 2018 election, the Patriot-News reported they may face stronger resistance to minimum wage reform.

“Republicans in the state House and Senate may have lost seats, but that has left them with smaller and more deeply conservative majorities in each chamber,” Micek wrote.

Conversely, advocates argue that raising the minimum wage has bipartisan support among Pennsylvania voters and that Republican lawmakers from those rural areas may feel pressured to support the increase.

White House Cancels Scheduled Raises for Federal Workers

It may not have been a white Christmas for federal workers, but it was a freezing one.

Three days after Christmas and with hundreds of thousands of government employees out of work due to the ongoing shutdown, the Trump administration followed through on its previously announced plan to freeze federal workers’ pay for 2019, according to CNN.

The measure nixed a 2.1 percent across-the-board raise that was set to take effect this month and canceled a yearly adjustment of paychecks known as the “locality pay increase” that is based on regional costs of living.

“Lawmakers could include a pay raise for 2019 in a spending bill to reopen the government,” CNN reported, “but negotiations have been at an impasse over money for Trump’s border wall.”

About 380,000 federal workers are furloughed as 420,000 others continue to work without pay.

In announcing the cancelled raises, the president cited the need to “maintain efforts to put our nation on a fiscally sustainable course.” The Congressional Budget Office has calculated that the 2017 tax reforms enacted by the president and Republican congress will add $1.8 trillion to the national deficit within a decade.

Meanwhile, Vice President Pence and other senior administration officials are in line to receive annual raises of about $10,000 this month because a pay freeze first enacted by Congress in 2013 and renewed each year since then has been allowed to expire amid the government shutdown.

December 2018 National Jobs Update

The seasonally adjusted national unemployment rate rose to 3.9% in December 2018, up 0.2% from the prior month. Over the month, unemployment rolls increased by 276,000 individuals, with total unemployment rising to just below 6.3 million. Unemployment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Unemployment – 6,294,000
  • Change Over Month –   UP   276,000
  • Change Over Year –   DOWN   278,000
  • Change Over Trump Term –   DOWN   1,271,000
  • Rate Change Over Month –   UP   0.2%
  • Rate Change Over Year –   DOWN   0.2%
  • Rate Change Over Trump Term –   DOWN   0.8%
  • Rate Change Over Obama 2nd Term –   DOWN   3.3%

As indicated above, total unemployment’s rounded percentage of the labor force, or unemployment rate, increased 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. In December 2018, the national labor force grew by 419,000 individuals, a combination of total employment* rising by 142,000 individuals and total unemployment up by 276,000 individuals as noted above.
Since President Trump took office, the national labor force has grown by 3.547 million individuals (unemployment -1.271 million & employment +4.817 million). While this growth is encouraging, continued progress will be needed to match labor force growth seen over President Obama’s second term (3.930 million: unemployment -4.906 million & employment +8.836 million). National labor force statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Labor Force – 163,240,000
  • Change Over Month –   UP   419,000
  • Change Over Year -   UP   2,604,000
  • Change Over Trump Term –   UP   3,547,000
  • Change Over Obama 2nd Term –   UP   3,930,000

Non-farm* jobs grew by 312,000 over the month in December 2018, well above economist’s projections and the second largest monthly gain over President Trump’s term so far. Despite this growth, average monthly non-farm job gains under President Trump stand at only 199,000, almost 20,000 below average monthly growth of 217,000 over President Obama’s second term. National non-farm employment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Employment – 150,263,000
  • Change Over Month –   UP   312,000
  • Change Over Year –  UP    2,638,000
  • Change Over Trump Term –   UP   4,567,000
  • 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.