Subscribe to E-Update here.  
Labor Report

State Officials, Philly Medical Community Working to Mitigate Hahnemann Closing and Protect St. Christopher’s

Senator Tartaglione hosted a meeting of high-ranking Philadelphia-area hospital executives and public officials on July 18 to evaluate the local and regional impacts of the announced closure of Hahnemann University Hospital and the ongoing service reductions at the facility.

Representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the office of Governor Wolf, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Temple Health, Einstein Healthcare Network, Jefferson Health, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia identified several key areas of concern with plans for input from the Southeastern Pennsylvania and Philadelphia delegations of the Pennsylvania Senate. Senator Tartaglione chairs both delegations.

This meeting was the first of what Senator Tartaglione expects will be numerous gatherings of the working group to ensure that the community’s healthcare needs continue to be served efficiently and effectively in the absence of Hahnemann and that displaced Hahnemann workers have opportunities to transition into new employment.

Meanwhile, the ownership of Hahnemann continues to press forward with its Chapter 11 bankruptcy. On July 16, Philadelphia Academic Health System – an affiliate of the California-based investment firm Paladin Healthcare – announced it will keep the hospital open until September 6, but “will continue to sharply reduce operations long before then,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The plan is subject to approval by state regulators.

Two days later, the Inquirer reported that Drexel President John Fry has notified the institution’s staff that it will lay off about 40% of its physicians and clinical staff due to the planned closure of the hospital, which is the medical school’s primary teaching hospital. The figure amounts to about 320 positions. Fry reportedly informed them that Tower Health Medical Group will become the college’s new partner and will be able to offer about 60% of the faculty and staff employment in their current positions.

That news followed a July 17 announcement by four of the city’s medical institutions that they would partner to explore the purchase and preservation of Hahnemann’s financially sound sister institution, St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in the city’s Juniata Park neighborhood. Einstein, Jefferson, PCOM, and Temple are involved in the partnership, the Inquirer reported.

“In a time of difficult transition for health care in Philadelphia, four health-care organizations stepping up to do what’s right by St. Christopher’s patients is truly emblematic of neighbors helping neighbors,” Chief Medical Officer Achintya Moulick said. “This will ensure continuity of care and service to the children of the community it serves, especially the underserved population.”

Both St. Christopher’s and Hahnemann fulfill a vital community need by providing acute care and specialized medical services to people who may lack sufficient insurance coverage and the financial resources to obtain care elsewhere.

In a pair of articles published this week, the Inquirer and each provided context on the financial decisions and motivations that led to the bankruptcy and threatened closing of a 171-year-old medical institution.

“There’s not much stopping private equity titans from buying distressed hospitals and replacing them with luxury condos,” a Vice columnist wrote.

Writing for the Inquirer, two Ph.D. candidates from Rutgers University’s history department stated that the threatened hospital closing warrants comparisons to the chronic underfunding and ultimate closure of the city-operated Philadelphia General Hospital in 1977, a facility that like Hahnemann served a largely low-income and under-insured population.

U.S. House Adopts Historic Minimum Wage Bill, but Senate Unlikely to Consider It

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives made it clear where they stand on the minimum wage issue when they voted on July 18 to adopted legislation that would raise the federal rate from $7.25 an hour to $15 over the next six years.

The House adopted HR 582, known as the Raise the Wage Act, 231-199, but the measure is not likely to advance in the Republican-controlled Senate, where the leadership has said it will not take up the issue. Three Republican representatives voted for the bill in the House, while six Democrats voted against it. House Republicans attempted to amend the bill with language that would exempt businesses with fewer than 10 workers or less than $1 million in annual income, but the amendment failed, according to the Washington Post.

“Polling has found a $15 minimum wage to be broadly popular with the public,” the Post stated. “A Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey last year found 60% of U.S. adults supported raising the national minimum wage to $15 an hour, while 37% were opposed.”

Separate public opinion polls have indicated that Pennsylvania voters also overwhelmingly support a raise in the minimum wage. Pennsylvania hasn’t raised its minimum wage in 13 years, while the federal wage has remained stagnant for a decade.

With the federal legislation likely to meet roadblocks before becoming law, Senator Tartaglione continues to advocate for her legislation that would raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage along a similar schedule as proposed on the federal level. It would lift the state minimum from $7.25 to $12 this year and to $15 by 2025 by way of annual increases of 50 cents starting in 2020. It would also eliminate the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers of $2.83 an hour and would tie the minimum wage to annual cost of living adjustments after 2025.

Senator Tartaglione’s plan has widespread support among advocates, as well as Democrats in the Senate and the PA House, where matching legislation is pending. Governor Wolf also supports a $15 minimum wage.

Wall Street Execs Collect Big Raises in 2018 Despite Poor Company Performance and Lagging Worker Wages

Despite poor financial performance of the companies in their care, top-level executives at Wall Street companies in the S&P 500 collected median raises of 8.5% last year, compared to 5.6% for all of the index’s CEOs, according to recent Wall Street Journal analysis.

“Meanwhile, firms in the (financial) sector posted a median total shareholder return of -17% in 2018, while the median return for the index as a whole was -5.8%,” the Journal reported. “Median pay for finance CEOs was $11.4 million for the year, $1 million below the overall S&P 500 median.”

Average hourly earnings among American workers grew just 3.5 percent from December 2017 to December 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

PA Supreme Court Gives Approval for Pittsburgh’s Paid Sick Leave Law

Pittsburgh has the legal authority to require that the city’s private employers provide workers with paid sick leave, according to a new Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that reversed two lower court determinations.

On July 17, the court determined by majority decision that neither Pittsburgh’s Home Rule Charter, nor state law prohibit the city from enforcing an ordinance adopted in 2015 by City Council and signed into law by Mayor Peduto. The measure requires all companies with at least 15 employees to allot at least 40 hours per year in paid sick leave to full-time workers.

Opponents of the ordinance previously won appeals at the Common Pleas and Commonwealth Court levels as they successfully argued that Pennsylvania law states that municipal home rule charters “shall not determine duties, responsibilities, or requirements placed upon businesses, occupations, and employees,” the Associated Press reported.

However, the majority of the state’s highest court found that the ordinance falls within the city’s authority to advance the cause of disease control and prevention, according to the AP. That is, the paid sick leave law allows ailing workers to stay at home and reduces the risk of them spreading illnesses on the job. The city has not announced when the ordinance will take effect.

Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ joined the city in appealing the lower court’s decisions. The Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association and the Building Owners and Managers Association of Pittsburgh were among the parties opposing the ordinance.

Philadelphia has had a paid sick leave ordinance in effect since 2015. It requires companies with at least 10 employees to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. A maximum of 40 paid sick hours may be earned each year. Companies with less than 10 employees must allow unpaid sick leave.

Amazon Prime Day Does Brisk Business, Despite Widespread Worker Protests

A planned protest and boycott of Amazon’s “Prime Day” promotion attracted about 75 demonstrators outside the company’s Shakopee, Minnesota, fulfillment center and hundreds more in cities around the nation, as well as some widely circulated social media posts, but the effort did little to impact the company’s sales, according to a report.

Consumers bought over 175 million items on Amazon during the two-day sales event on July 15 and 16, according to the company, which outperformed last year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday totals combined.

Despite the brisk sales, the demonstrations also included thousands of workers in five European countries. Employees wanted to protest what they claim are the company’s poor working conditions and pay.

U.S.-based labor organizations including the AFL-CIO, UFCW, and CWA joined the calls for a boycott.

“Before you rush out and start shopping and filling that cart, I hope you’ll take a minute to think about the working people who are working behind the scenes to make those deliveries happen,” AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler said in a videotaped statement. “Show Amazon that Prime Day is not just for shopping. It’s for respecting the rights of working people.”

“It’s time to stop putting profits ahead of people. With the recent move to one-day Prime shipping, Amazon workers are being forced to meet impossible demands at increasingly unsafe speeds,” UFCW President Marc Perrone said in a posted statement. “Americans have had enough with a broken economic system that rewards shareholders with billions of dollars while hardworking men and women receive pennies from the very companies they make a success.”

DelCo Human Services Provider Implements $15 Wage Floor

A Delaware County-based human services organization with about 1,500 employees is raising its minimum starting wage to $15 an hour.

The Daily Times reported that Elwyn announced the new base wage in May and began implementing it on July 1 as part of the non-profit agency’s Living Wage Initiative. The latest raises affected about one in every four of the agency’s direct service workers, while union employees will get raises as part of the collective bargaining process no later than 2021.

“Elwyn has always set the tempo for change in our industry,” CEO Charles McLister said. “With the launch of this initiative, we have declared that employee engagement is the most important variable in our pursuit of excellence. The professionals who support Elwyn’s children and adults are the heart and soul of the organization. Their success will determine sustainability.”

Founded in 1852, the agency provides services to children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as those with physical, medical, emotional, and behavioral health challenges.