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Labor Report

Casey, Colleagues Urge Health Secretary to Keep Hahnemann Residency Positions within PA

Pennsylvania’s two U.S. senators, Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, along with four U.S. House members from the Philadelphia area, have called upon Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to help ensure that hundreds of medical students affected by the Hahnemann University Hospital bankruptcy can continue to complete their residency requirements within the state.

In a July 30 letter to Azar, the members of Congress urged the department to take action so that the 550 graduate medical education (GME) residency positions at Hahnemann remain in Pennsylvania. They also requested details about how the administration will assist in a smooth transition for patients, faculty, staff, and medical residents.

“The closure of Hahnemann, a safety-net hospital, could leave a gap in care for some of the most vulnerable populations in Philadelphia. It will also cause employment disruption for nearly 800 faculty and clinical staff and the displacement of hundreds of medical students,” the legislators wrote.

Joining Casey and Toomey as signatories on the letter were U.S. Reps. Brendan Boyle, Dwight Evans, Mary Gay Scanlon, and Madeleine Dean.

Under the Affordable Care Act, when a hospital closes, its GME slots must be permanently redistributed to other institutions. Any institution can apply to obtain those slots.

“We urge the Department to ensure these residency slots remain within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania during the permanent cap transfer phase of this closure process,” the letter stated.

Some of the individual residents affected by the Hahnemann situation have already opted to pursue their careers elsewhere. In an August 1 press release, Riverside University Health System of California detailed the story of a physician who was about to begin her final year of residency when Hahnemann announced it would end its anesthesiology program. So she decided to relocate 2,700 miles away. Meanwhile, Temple University has accepted 84 medical residents and fellows who were affiliated with Hahnemann, according to 6ABC.

New Poll Reaffirms Overwhelming Popular Support for $15 Minimum Wage

The vast majority of Americans favor raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, according to the newly released results of a Pew Research Center survey.

The polling found that two-thirds of Americans support the idea, including 41% who said they “strongly favor” it. Just 15% of respondents said they strongly oppose a $15 minimum wage. Pew conducted the survey from April 29 through May 13.

Support and opposition for the proposal was divided generally along political party lines with 86% of Democrats favoring the idea and 57% of Republicans opposing it, Pew reported. Yet, within the Republican party, 59% of those who identify as moderate or liberal favor the $15 minimum wage. That’s a stark contrast from the 69% of self-identified conservative Republicans who oppose such a wage increase.

The Pew findings generally echoed polling conducted in January by The Hill and HarrisX. That survey found that 55% of registered voters support a $15 minimum wage, while another 27% support a lesser minimum wage increase. The Hill-HarrisX poll also found that “70 percent of Republican voters want a higher federal wage floor, with 36 percent supporting $15 per hour.”

In March, the National Employment Law Project reported that two-thirds of likely voters in 57 “battleground” Congressional districts favor raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2024. NELP surveyed 800 registered voters in Democrat-held purple districts.

“The share of respondents strongly in favor of this proposal (36 percent) exceeded the total opposition to the proposal (32 percent opposed, with 17 percent strongly opposed),” NELP found.

Seventy-four percent of those surveyed agreed that the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is too low.

Also in March, a Franklin & Marshall College Poll found that nearly seven in 10 Pennsylvanians support raising the minimum wage to at least $12 an hour, including 47% who indicated they strongly favor the idea. Forty-four percent of Republicans said they support a $12 minimum wage.

Higher Minimum Wage States Outpacing Low-Wage States for Employment, Income Growth

Over the last five years, states with higher minimum wages have out-performed low minimum-wage states for employment growth and personal income growth, analysis that appears to contradict long-held conservative arguments that higher minimum wages hurt booming economies, according to Bloomberg.

In a July 26 opinion column, the news agency stated that since the federal government last raised the nation’s minimum wage to $7.25 per hour in 2009, “29 states have approved minimum wages above the federal level. California, New York and Washington were among the first to start phasing in a $15 hourly rate, and their economies expanded with bigger boosts in personal income, job growth and consumer spending than the 21 states resisting anything above $7.25, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Since 2015, the economies of the higher minimum-wage states are substantially more robust than the rest of the U.S.”

Among the 10 states with the fastest-growing rates of employment since 2015, just three are in the low minimum-wage group. Meanwhile, six of the 10 states with the slowest employment growth are in the low minimum-wage group.

“The dichotomy reflects the trend of low minimum-wage states suffering from a shrinking job market relative to states with higher minimum wages,” the article noted.

Likewise, only three of the 10 states with fastest-growing personal income rates since 2015 are among the low minimum-wage states. And seven of the 10 states with the slowest personal income growth are states where a $7.25 minimum wage is still the law of the land.

“When California enacted its $15 minimum wage three years ago, critics predicted that the new law would increase unemployment and punish retailers and restaurants,” Bloomberg reported. “Instead, the largest state, with almost 40 million people, reported record-low unemployment of 4.2% and the biggest increase in personal income of any state over the past five years.”

Multiemployer Pension Bill Passes U.S. House, Faces Senate Opposition

With bipartisan support, the U.S. House adopted legislation meant to provide financial relief to the nation’s distressed multiemployer pension plans, but the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act – commonly known as the Butch Lewis Act – still faces significant opposition in the Senate.

Twenty-nine House Republicans joined the Democratic majority in voting for the bill on July 24, according to The Hill. The legislation proposes to create a Pension Rehabilitation Administration within the Department of the Treasury to oversee a trust fund that would provide low-interest, government-guaranteed loans that pension plans could pay back over 30 years.

There are about 1,400 multiemployer plans in the U.S. with about 10 million participants, including active workers and retirees. “A large number of those (are) facing the threat of running out of money, placing workers’ ability to retire – and the overall economy – at risk,” The Hill reported.

The Teamsters’ Central States Pension Fund and the United Mine Workers’ Pension & Retirees Healthcare are among the most high-profile struggling plans that would likely be eligible for the loan program.

On August 1, another Western Pennsylvania-based Teamsters fund reduced monthly pension benefits by 30% for about 5,000 grocery store clerks, parking lot attendants, and other workers, as well as about 17,000 retirees, according to the Post-Gazette. In Southwestern PA and Western Maryland, another threatened Teamsters fund has 3,000 retirees and 488 contributing members.

The Butch Lewis Act – which named after a deceased Cincinnati Teamster who fought pension cuts – is also meant to relieve financial pressure facing the federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Program, which pays benefits to members of failed pensions and is underfunded by $60 billion, the Post-Gazette stated.

In a news release, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters celebrated the House action: “Years of hard work and countless visits to the nation’s capital by working and retired Teamsters finally paid off last night (with) legislation that will protect the solvency of multiemployer pensions and bring retirement security to some 1.5 million Americans whose nest eggs are currently threatened.”
The bill now moves to the U.S. Senate for consideration.

“The legislation faces slim odds in the Senate, where Republicans previously declined to support a similar bill, which they deemed a government bailout,” Politico reported.

Private Equity Takeovers Have Led to 1.3 Million Retail Layoffs in the Last Decade

A new study commissioned by a series of worker advocacy organizations has concluded that more than 1.3 million Americans have lost their jobs in the last decade as a result of private-equity ownership of retail businesses, the Washington Post reported.

The figure includes 600,000 retail employees and more than 700,000 in related industries. While the same sector added one million new jobs during the same period, the high rate of worker turnover demonstrates the volatility of Wall Street-owned businesses, which largely employ people at the low end of the pay scale.

“Wall Street has become the new boss for an ever-growing number of workers across the country,” said Charles Khan, organizing director of the Strong Economy for All Coalition, a group of labor unions and community groups in New York that was involved in the study. “That’s meant layoffs, shrinking paychecks and benefits cuts for millions of people.”

Ten of the 14 largest retail bankruptcies since 2012 have been at private equity-owned companies, such as Toys R Us, which laid off 33,000 workers last year amid a bankruptcy liquidation.

Taking advantage of a booming economy and low interest rates, private equity firms and hedge funds have been aggressively acquiring debt-ridden retail companies since the mid-2000s via leveraged buyouts with the stated objective of turning around the businesses, the Post stated.

“In practice, though, they routinely sold off real estate holdings, cut workers’ pay and benefits, and jettisoned jobs to turn a quick profit for investors, according to Heather Slavkin Corzo, a senior fellow at Americans for Financial Reform and the director of capital markets policy for the AFL-CIO,” the Post wrote.

Real estate often constitutes a struggling company’s most valuable assets. By selling the real estate, private equity firms can turn a quick profit while leaving the retail operations with the added burden of paying rent on buildings they used to own.

Click here to view the full report, Pirate Equity: How Wall Street Firms are Pillaging American Retail.

July 2019 National Jobs Update

The seasonally adjusted national unemployment saw no change from June to July 2019, remaining at 3.7%. Over the month, unemployment rolls increased by 88,000 individuals, marking a third consecutive monthly increase and pushing total unemployment back above 6 million. National unemployment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Unemployment – 6,063,000
  • Change Over Month –   UP   88,000
  • Change Over Year –   DOWN   182,000
  • Change Over Trump Term –   DOWN   1,502,000
  • Rate Change Over Month – no change 
  • Rate Change Over Year –   DOWN   0.2%
  • Rate Change Over Trump Term –   DOWN   1.0%
  • Rate Change Over Obama 2nd Term –   DOWN   3.3%

As indicated above, total unemployment’s rounded percentage of the labor force, or unemployment rate, saw no change 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. Marking a third consecutive monthly increase, the national labor force grew by 370,000 individuals from June to July 2019, a combination of total employment* rising by 283,000 individuals and total unemployment up by 88,000 individuals as noted above, pushing its total to a new record high of 163,351,000.
Since President Trump took office, the national labor force has grown by 3.658 million individuals (unemployment -1.502 million & employment +5.160 million). Over President Obama’s second term, the national labor force grew by 3.930 million individuals (unemployment -4.906 million & employment +8.836 million). National labor force statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Labor Force – 163,351,000
  • Change Over Month –   UP   370,000
  • Change Over Year -  UP   1,142,000
  • Change Over Trump Term –   UP   3,658,000
  • Change Over Obama 2nd Term –   UP   3,930,000

Non-farm* jobs grew by 164,000 over the month in July 2019 while overall growth for the year remains down. Year-to-date, percentage non-farm job growth stands at its lowest level (Jan. to July) since 2010. Additionally, average monthly non-farm job gains through President Trump’s term thus far (191,000) remain below average monthly growth (217,000) seen over President Obama’s second term. National non-farm employment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Non-Farm Employment – 151,431,000
  • Change Over Month –   UP   164,000
  • Change Over Year –   UP   2,246,000
  • Change Over Trump Term –   UP   5,736,000
  • Change Over Obama 2nd Term –   UP   10,412,000

*Total employment for labor force provided by U.S. Census Household survey. The separate BLS Establishment survey measures non-farm jobs only.