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Labor Report

Emergency Hearing Set for Monday Morning to Investigate Sudden, Permanent Turnpike Layoffs

On Monday morning, Senator Tartaglione will co-chair a Joint Senate Committee Hearing to investigate the unexpected and abrupt announcement by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission that it will soon lay off “approximately 500” employees despite recently ratified labor agreements protecting those jobs for the near future.

The hearing of the Transportation and Labor & Industry Committees is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and can be viewed on the Senate Live Feeds page.

In a June 2 news release, the PTC attributed the layoffs of “primarily toll collectors and fare-collection personnel” to the fiscal and public health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, less than two weeks earlier, the PTC unanimously approved Collective Bargaining Agreements with two Teamsters Local Unions in which workers were reassured that their jobs would be safe at least until January 2022, when layoffs related to the Turnpike’s move to an All-Electronic Tolling (AET) system would likely begin.

The labor agreements outline specific severance payment requirements for all employees who are separated due to AET.

“Those Collective Bargaining Agreements were negotiated in good faith by the Teamsters, who were falsely led to believe that they were providing their members with ample time to prepare themselves for future employment opportunities,” Senator Tartaglione said. “The Commission has long known about the impacts of COVID-19 on its operations. I am very eager to learn why the Commission has decided to reverse course so suddenly and harmfully.”

Approximately 500 unionized employees will be directly impacted by the layoffs, while about 200 non-union workers will also lose their jobs, according to Teamsters officials. Most of these workers have been on temporary leave from their jobs since March 16 due to the pandemic. At that time, the PTC explicitly described the furloughs as temporary.

The permanent layoffs are set to begin on June 18. Senator Tartaglione was among more than a dozen of her colleagues to formally request that Governor Wolf suspend the layoffs pending a legislative investigation.

CareerLink Services Expanding as PA Counties Move into Green Phase

As counties move into the green phase of reopening across Pennsylvania, PA CareerLink offices are expanding virtual services and offering limited in-person appointments for job seekers and for employers in those counties.

Physical CareerLink offices closed their doors in March due to the COVID-19 disaster emergency, but most CareerLink employees have been teleworking to provide virtual services to job seekers and businesses. Moving forward, limited in-person services will be available by appointment in counties that have moved into the green phase. CareerLink services are free to job seekers and employers.

Virtual services currently available include adult education classes, all employer services, career counseling, eligibility determination for Workforce Innovation programs and service, job search assistance, on-the-job training programs, resume assistance, virtual workshops, and youth programming and work readiness programs.
Limited on-site services by appointment include copying and faxing documents for the unemployment compensation office, employer services, assistance completing paperwork for Workforce Innovation programs, on-site educational assessment, and use of the PA CareerLink resource room for job search activity.

PA CareerLinkTo schedule an appointment for limited on-site services, contact your local PA CareerLink office. Contact information for each local office is available at

To protect the health and safety of customers and staff, and to continue following COVID-19 social distancing and mitigation recommendations, courtesy telephones will not be available in PA CareerLink offices until further notice.

Individuals with Unemployment Compensation (UC) questions may email or call 888-313-7284 from Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Callers will be able to request a six-digit code for LiveChat.

Individuals with Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) questions may email or call 855-284-8545 from Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance System Launches Two-Factor Authentication for Enhanced Security

On Wednesday, June 10, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry initiated two-factor authentication for logging into the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) system. This procedure enhances the security of the PUA program.

Debit CardAll PUA claimants who visit the official Pennsylvania PUA portal to file their normal weekly certification will be prompted to enter their username and password as usual. At that point the system will send a temporary six-digit verification code to the user by either text message or email. The user must then enter the verification code where prompted to access their PUA claim.

Users who entered a cell phone number when making their initial claim will receive the code by text message. The sender will be identified as “74036.”

Those who did not provide a cell phone number will receive their verification code by email at the address they provided when filing their initial claim. The email sender will be identified as “” and the subject line will be “Verification Code from Pennsylvania's Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Portal.”

In a separate PUA update, the Pennsylvania Treasury resumed issuing PUA payments to the claimants’ US Bank-issued ReliaCards on June 9. Those PUA claimants who do not have a ReliaCard will be receiving one in the mail automatically very soon. In the meantime, they will continue to be paid by paper check.

Direct deposit is not a payment option for PUA at this time due to security reasons. The exclusive use of ReliaCards will help to combat potential scam attempts.

As Philly Art Museum Workers Organize, Management Hires Noted ‘Union Avoidance’ Consultant

Philly Art Museum

In response to a unionization campaign by employees, the 144-year-old Philadelphia Museum of Art has retained a prominent local law firm recognized nationally for its “union avoidance” expertise, and has refused to recognize the bargaining unit voluntarily, organizers say.

In a June 10 news release, the Philadelphia Museum of Art Union, which is seeking affiliation with AFSCME District Council 47, stated that it has received no response from management to the union’s May 22 letter requesting voluntary recognition. In addition, the union alleges that by hiring the Morgan Lewis firm, the museum has contradicted prior assurances by the museum that managers “recognize and respect the right of our employees to be represented by a union.”

Worker organizers further stated, “We ask museum leadership to cease any and all planned union-busting tactics and to publicly commit to absolute neutrality in any union election.”

In the May 22 letter, organizers stated that they had “collected signed authorization cards from a supermajority of union-eligible staff across all museum departments, well exceeding the 30% required to petition for a union election and the 50% required to win that election.” Organizers believe about half of the museum’s 500-member staff would be eligible for union membership.

The letter stated that DC 47 already represents workers at several other Philadelphia cultural organizations, including the Free Library and the Philadelphia Zoo, as well as about 6,000 other professionals in the city’s public and private sectors.

The organizers said they want a union so that the museum can “emerge from the COVID-19 crisis as a safe, accessible, and equitable institution.” The union campaign began over a year ago.

In an unsigned public statement reported by the Inquirer, the museum described Morgan Lewis as a “long-standing outside counsel” that will “help guide us through the unionization process as governed by the National Labor Relations Act.”

An earlier Inquirer article cites other possible catalysts for broader union support among staff, including management’s handling of harassment and misconduct complaints involving two former managers. The complaints included inappropriate romantic involvement with subordinates in one case, as well as repeated physical and verbal abuse in another case.

By seeking union affiliation, employees are following the lead of workers at other museums in other major cities. In recent years, employees of the Guggenheim and New museums in New York and the Frye Art Museum in Seattle have joined unions, the newspaper reported.