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Labor Report

Tartaglione to Co-Host Policy Committee Hearing on Raising Pennsylvania’s Minimum Wage

Senator Tartaglione will co-host a hearing of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee on Monday, January 18th, to examine the issue of raising the minimum wage in Pennsylvania. The Senator will be joined by Policy Committee Chairwoman Senator Katie Muth, as well as Senators Art Haywood and John Kane. The hearing will be held virtually via Zoom. Individuals may register here by providing a name and email address. The session will also be livestreamed at

Senator Tartaglione will soon re-introduce legislation that proposes to raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $12 an hour this year, following by annual increases of 50 cents until the rate reaches $15 in 2027. For each ensuing year, the rate will be adjusted automatically based on the consumer price index. The bill will be Senate Bill 12 and mirrors legislation introduced by Senator Tartaglione in the 2019-2020 session.

Pennsylvania’s General Assembly hasn’t raised the state’s minimum wage since 2006 when it adopted legislation introduced by Senator Tartaglione to increase the rate from $5.15 to $7.15. Three years later, Congress increased the federal minimum wage to $7.25, a rate which remains in effect throughout the Commonwealth.

Although the PA Senate adopted legislation in 2019 allowing for a much smaller minimum wage increase, Republican leaders of the PA House have refused to allow votes on any proposed minimum wage raises.

“The fact that Pennsylvania’s General Assembly hasn’t raised the minimum wage since passing my legislation in 2006 is reprehensible,” Senator Tartaglione said. “While I have continued to sponsor new minimum wage legislation every session since, the majority has failed to take action, leaving the last increase workers have seen to be a 10-cent federal increase in 2009. Pennsylvania’s minimum wage workers deserve better.”
Pennsylvania is one of 21 states where the effective minimum wage is also the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. The minimum wage has been raised in all six states that border the Commonwealth.

In addition to raising Pennsylvania’s minimum wage rate, Senator Tartaglione’s legislation proposes to repeal preemption, thereby allowing municipalities and counties to raise their own minimum wage rates above the statewide level. Some 45 localities across the country have already raised their minimum wages above their corresponding statewide rates. Pennsylvania is one of 25 states where preemption remains in effect.

Further, Senator Tartaglione’s bill would end the sub-minimum wage for tips-earners, which can be as low as $2.83 an hour. It would expand the powers of the PA Department of Labor & Industry to recover wages and penalties for violations of the Minimum Wage Act, increase monetary penalties for violations, and bring enforcement into line with the nation’s Fair Labor Standards Act.

PA Labor & Industry Department Working to Resolve Delayed Extended Benefits Payments

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry announced via Facebook and Twitter on January 14th that some Extended Benefits recipients reported not receiving their payments as scheduled.

Extended Benefits (EB) is the state-level program for individuals who have exhausted their 26 weeks of eligibility for the state’s Unemployment Compensation (UC) program and exhausted all eligibility for the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program. EB provides up to 13 additional weeks of benefits.

The Department stated that it is actively investigating the issues that caused the disruption of payments and there is no need for individuals to contact the Department to resolve the issue. EB payments will be distributed once the issues are resolved.

Benefits recipients with other issues regarding their claims may continue to contact the Department directly via Claimants may also contact their state legislators for assistance in resolving any benefits issues. Individuals who need help contacting their state senator may contact Senator Tartaglione’s office via 215-533-0440 or by visiting and submitting your questions on the Unemployment Assistance form.

Senator Brewster Sworn into Office Following Federal Court’s Rejection of Election Challenge

Incumbent State Senator Jim Brewster was belatedly sworn into office on January 13th one day after a federal judge in Pittsburgh rejected the latest legal challenge to the certified results of the November 3rd general election.

Brewster, a Democrat, won the 45th District race by 69 votes, but the Republican Senate majority refused to seat him on the official swearing-in day, January 5th, after Brewster’s opponent challenged the validity of certain Allegheny ballots based on a technicality.

U.S. District Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan resoundingly rejected the claims of Brewster’s opponent. Previously, two other courts of law, including the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, had affirmed the validity of the results and Brewster’s victory.

“Contrary to (the challenge), the court finds that the Supreme Court expressly held that the undated ballots at issue remain valid ballots that are properly counted under state law,” Ranjan wrote. “This, because (the) federal constitutional claims all depend on the invalidity of the ballots under state law, those claims necessarily fail on the merits.”

Following the District Court ruling, Brewster’s opponent announced she would not pursue an appeal.

Senator Brewster issued the following statement upon his return to the Senate: “It is an honor and privilege to serve the citizens in the 38 communities that are a part of the 45th District,” Brewster said. “I will continue to pursue a broad agenda that is focused on families.”

A resident of McKeesport, the Senator represents portions of Allegheny and Westmoreland counties. He was first sworn into office in 2010, then reelected in 2012, 2016, and 2020.

Control of U.S. Senate Could Change as Soon as Inauguration Day, but May Take a Bit Longer

With leadership of the U.S. Senate poised to change parties as a result of Democratic victories in the Georgia runoff elections, several actions must occur before the gavel changes hands.

Technically, the transition could occur as soon as Inauguration Day, January 20th. But that hinges on the swearing-in of Georgia’s two Senators-elect Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, as well as the swearing in of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ appointed replacement in the Senate, Alex Padilla.

The current composition of the Senate is 51 Republicans, 46 Democrats, 2 Independents (who both caucus with Democrats), and 1 vacancy (the Georgia seat that was won by Ossoff). Warnock’s victory over an incumbent Republican will lower the Republican Caucus to 50, leaving the body in a 50-50 split for voting purposes. The Vice President also presides over the Senate and casts the deciding vote in any ties. Therefore, Harris will be able to cast the deciding leadership vote upon her swearing in.

Before Warnock and Ossoff may be seated, their elections must be certified by the state of Georgia, whose elections officials have said should happen by the end of day on Inauguration Day. For Padilla to be seated, Harris must first resign the seat.

The Vice President-elect has chosen not to resign from the Senate in advance of Inauguration Day. Her earlier resignation would leave the seat vacant with a Republican majority still overseeing the Senate.

It is believed that Harris will resign from the Senate on the same day as her swearing in as Vice President. Bloomberg reported, “The current plan, according to a person familiar with the discussions, is for Padilla to be sworn in on the Senate floor minutes after the inauguration.”

With the three new Democratic Senators in office, as well as Vice President Harris, the Democratic Caucus would immediately gain power to set the chamber’s agenda. The Democratic Leader, who has been Chuck Schumer of New York, would become the Majority Leader.

Whole Foods Slices Employee Break Times by One-Third as Employee COVID Concerns Escalate

While Foods Market, a subsidiary of Amazon, has reduced paid break time for many of its 90,000 employees from 15 minutes per shift to 10 minutes, a move that has drawn criticism from workers and their advocates.

A group of employees who identify as the “Whole Worker Union” posted the company’s notification on their Twitter feed on January 9th, noting “This includes the time when you are coming and returning from the break room.”

CBS News reported that the policy affects workers in the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, South, and Southern California.

“Whole Foods workers in many states get two paid breaks during a typical eight-and-a-half-hour shift,” the network stated. “They’ll now have 10 minutes less to rest each workday.”

Employees are not required to clock out for rest breaks, but they must clock out for lunch periods.

“Returning late from a meal or rest period or leaving early for a meal period may result in corrective action under the current time and attendance policy,” the employer notice stated, according to the workers’ group.

Whole Foods employees have been trying to unionize formally since Amazon bought the chain in 2017. Early last year, Business Insider reported that the company uses a “heat map” to track locations that may be moving closer toward unionization. The system charts factors including “external risks,” “store risks,” and “team member sentiment.”

External risks include local union membership size, distance between a store and local union, number of labor law complaints filed against the location, and number of “incidents” involving labor activity and organizing.

CBS noted that the break time cuts come eight months after the parent company, Amazon, rescinded its $2 per hour hazard pay for employees working during the pandemic. Yet, the United Food and Commercial Workers have cited a new surge in COVID-19 cases involving grocery workers.

“The (UFCW), which does not represent Whole Foods workers, said a new surge in grocery COVID outbreaks — specifically in Southern California and the Seattle area — have heightened the risks facing workers,” the network reported.