PA Senate Democrats Hold Policy Hearing on OSHA Protections for Public Employees

PA Senate Democrats Hold Policy Hearing on OSHA Protections for Public Employees

Harrisburg – May 20, 2021 – At the request of Senator Tina Tartaglione (D- Philadelphia),  Democratic Chair of the Senate Committee on Labor & Industry, the Pennsylvania Democratic Policy Committee held a virtual public hearing to discuss Senate Bill 310  and OSHA protections for public employees.

“For more than 50 years, America’s private-sector employees and federal employees have benefitted from the safeguards and the peace of mind provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). It is a travesty that Pennsylvania’s public employees don’t have the same protections,” Senator Tartaglione said. “All workers have the right to a safe and healthy workplace, and they have a right to know they won’t face retribution when they speak out about deficient and dangerous conditions. My Senate Bill 310 would extend critical OSHA protections to all Pennsylvania workers.”

Senate Bill 310 would establish the Pennsylvania Occupational Safety and Health Review Board within the Department of Labor and Industry. Currently, Pennsylvania workers at state and local government agencies do not have Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) protection. This proposed legislation would extend OSHA safety rules to public employees of the commonwealth, all legal political subdivisions, public schools, public transit systems, and non-profit organizations in Pennsylvania.

“Workers deserve to know that when they come to work, their health and safety is a priority and not an afterthought.  No one should have to accept that life threatening conditions are just part of a job, and workers in every profession and field should have OSHA protections.  I am proud to support Senate Bill 310, and I am so grateful to Senator Tartaglione for championing this bill in the Senate and making workplace protections a priority in our caucus,” Sen. Katie Muth (D- Berks/Chester/Montgomery), chair of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, said.

“According to the AFL-CIO Death on the Job Report, 8.1 million public sector workers lack OSHA protection nationwide. In 2019, their injury and illness rate were 64 percent higher than employees in the private sector,” Mike Maguire, Director of Political & Legislative Affairs at AFSCME Council 13, said. “Since the establishment of OSHA in 1971, more than 627,000 worker’s lives have been saved. Let’s extend those protections to our commonwealth’s public sector workforce.”

In opposition to the Senate Bill 310 were Keith Wentz, Manager of Risk Management & Underwriting at the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP), and Stuart Knade, Esq., Chief Legal Officer of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

Wentz noted in his testimony that he and his organization do not believe that further OSHA protections are needed for public employees because there are already voluntary safety boards and random inspections of facilities.

Knade said that implementing OSHA protections for public employees in Pennsylvania would be difficult because OSHA was not written with them in mind, creating issues with implementation. He also said that the implementation would be cost prohibitive.

Both Wentz and Knade agreed to continue further conversations with Senator Tartaglione on Senate Bill 310 and public employee protections.

“Costs actually go down when you make your workplace more safe,” Rick Bloomingdale, President of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, said. Bloomingdale said in his testimony that the same arguments that Wentz and Knade gave today were used in the 1970s when OSHA was first enacted. However, over the years, OSHA has proven to be a draw for employees and employers in the private sector.

Bloomingdale said that there is less employee turnover, higher morale, and less incidents leading to injury and need for workplace compensation because of OSHA regulations in private sector workplaces.

“According to the National AFL-CIO’s Annual Death on the Jobs report, in 2016, state and local public-sector employers reported an injury rate of 4.7 per 100 workers, which is significantly higher than the reported rate of 2.9 per 100 among private-sector workers,” Bloomingdale said.

Jeff Ney, Treasurer of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), explained in his testimony that teachers are also excluded from OSHA protections.

“Like me, so many public employees are shocked to learn that these basic protections don’t apply to them or to their place of employment,” Ney said. “The common-sense protections contained in SB 310 will also ensure that our students have a safe and healthy educational environment – which is the most basic and indispensable factor in fostering academic excellence. School employees’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions.”

Maguire, of AFCME said in his testimony that workers are more than just resources, they are human beings and they deserve workplaces that treat them that way.

“This is the most important bill to AFCME,” concluded Maguire.

Below are all who participated in today’s hearing:

  • Keith Wentz, Manager of Risk Management & Underwriting, County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) 
  • Stuart Knade, Esq., Chief Legal Officer, Pennsylvania School Boards Association
  • Rick Bloomingdale, President of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO
  • Mike Maguire, Director of Political & Legislative Affairs, AFSCME Council 13
  • Jeff Ney, Treasurer, Pennsylvania State Education Association
  • Dr. David Levine, UC Berkeley, Haas School of Business

Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D- Allegheny) also attended this hearing, as did Senators Anthony H. Williams (D- Philadelphia/Delaware), Lisa Boscola (D- Lehigh/Northampton), Lindsey Williams (D- Allegheny), John Kane (D- Chester/Delaware), and Amanda Cappelletti (D- Delaware/Montgomery).

The full recording of this roundtable, as well as the written testimony from participants, can be found at senatormuth.com/policy. A full recording of this hearing can also be found on the PA Senate Democratic Facebook page.

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PA Senate Democrats Hold Hearing on Raising the Minimum Wage for PA in Honor of MLK Day of Service

PA Senate Democrats Hold Hearing on Raising the Minimum Wage for PA in Honor of MLK Day of Service

Harrisburg – January 18, 2021 – At the request of State Senators Art Haywood (D-Montgomery/Philadelphia), Christine Tartaglione (D-Philadelphia), and John Kane (D- Chester/Delaware) the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Policy Committee held a virtual public hearing on raising the minimum wage for Pennsylvanians. The hearing was held on Martin Luther King, Jr’s Day of Service to honor his legacy of fighting for worker’s rights and economic justice.

“It is unacceptable that Pennsylvania continues to allow its minimum wage to be the poverty wage of $7.25 an hour,” Haywood said. “We hold this hearing today on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of service to continue the work that Dr. King started demanding dignity and respect for all workers, and that starts by paying workers a living wage.”

The Pennsylvania General Assembly last raised the minimum wage in July 2007 to $7.25 per hour. The six states bordering Pennsylvania have enacted minimum wage laws exceeding the $7.25 rate effective in the Commonwealth. Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, and Ohio have enacted higher minimum wages than Pennsylvania’s, which has been stagnate at the federal minimum for more than a decade.

Alissa Barron-Menza, Vice President of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, said that minimum wage was first introduced in 1938 during the Great Depression, and that a livable minimum wage is an essential economic recovery tool.

“This increase is a vital tool for shared recovery that will be good for business, good for customers and good for the economy,” Barron-Menza said.

Morris Pearl, Chairman of the Patriotic Millionaires, also said that a raise to the minimum wage is good for the economy. He said that a strong economy needs people with money to spend in order to maintain it.

“Investors are overwhelmingly in favor of raising the minimum wage,” Pearl said.

Currently, 29 states and the District of Columbia have minimum wages above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, including all states surrounding Pennsylvania.

“The fact that Pennsylvania’s General Assembly hasn’t raised the minimum wage since passing my legislation in 2006 is reprehensible,” 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.”

Sen. Tartaglione is the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 12. This legislation would immediately raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $12 an hour for all Pennsylvania workers, with a pathway to $15 an hour by 2027. This bill would also eliminate the tipped minimum wage for Pennsylvania, ensuring all workers are making a living wage that is not dependent on patron generosity or lack thereof.

“I was a union plumber for almost four decades, and I know how important livable, family-sustaining wages were for myself and all of our members,” Kane said. “It’s a big problem that our minimum-wage workers haven’t seen a raise in over a decade — we need to guarantee that all Pennsylvanians are paid a livable wage.”

Gene Barr is President & CEO of the PA Chamber of Business and Industry said that his organization does not believe that a raise to the Pennsylvania minimum wage is the most, “effective way to drive assistance.”

Barr said that a raise to the minimum wage will hurt small businesses, will lead to more automation, and that continued work with the state on reducing barriers to employment and expanding an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) are better solutions.

“There is majority business support for raising the minimum wage beyond currently enacted levels – despite what you may hear from the opposition,” Barron-Menza countered to Barr. “For example, a 2016 survey of 1,000 business executives across the country conducted by LuntzGlobal for the Council of State Chambers found that 80 percent of respondents said they supported raising their state’s minimum wage, while only eight percent opposed.”

“No one should be working a full-time job, or multiple full-time and part time jobs, and still be living in poverty because their employer is not required to pay them a livable wage,” Sen. Katie Muth (D- Berks/Chester/Montgomery), chair of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, said. “All workers deserve the dignity and respect of a livable wage, and we must raise the minimum wage for Pennsylvania.”

William Spriggs, Professor of Economics at Howard University and Chief Economist at AFL-CIO stated in his testimony that raising the minimum wage is also essential in ending the gender and racial wage gaps widely acknowledged to exist by economists.

Spriggs also said that subminimum wage is paying people less in the service industry ($2.83 in Pennsylvania for restaurant workers) or is biased on where they live, and also has, “very racist roots.”

Ashona Denise Osborne joined the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) fight for $15 an hour minimum wage after working minimum wage jobs her whole life, raising her son as a single mother, and realizing that even getting her Associates Degree in childcare is, “still not enough.”

Many other Senators also attended this hearing including Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D- Allegheny), Amanda Cappelletti (D- Delaware/Montgomery), Carolyn Committa (D- Chester), Maria Collett (D- Bucks/ Montgomery), Wayne Fontana (D- Allegheny), Vincent Hughes (D- Montgomery/Philadelphia), Tim Kearney (D- Chester/Delaware), Steve Santarsiero (D- Bucks), Nikil Saval (D- Philadelphia), Judy Schwank (D- Berks), Sharif Street (D- Philadelphia), Anthony H. Williams (D- Delaware/Philadelphia), and Lindsey Williams (D- Allegheny).

Below are all who testified in today’s hearing:

  • Gene Barr, President & CEO of the PA Chamber of Business and Industry
  • Alissa Barron-Menza, Vice President of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage
  • Morris Pearl, Chair of Patriotic Millionaires
  • Manuel Rosaldo, Centre County Wage Justice Coalition, Assistant Professor of Labor Relations, Penn State University
  • Jacqui Rogers, Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition
  • William Spriggs, Professor of Economics, Howard University and Chief Economist, AFL-CIO
  • Kadida Kenner, Director of Campaigns at the PA Budget and Policy Center
  • Ashona Denise Osborne, SEIU Worker from Pittsburgh
  • Lateefah Curtis, Worker from Philadelphia
  • Adesola Ogunleye, Worker from Philadelphia

The full recording of this hearing can be found at senatormuth.com/policy.

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PA Senate Democrats Urge Action on Legislation for Working Families, Pledge to Oppose Partisan COVID Task Force

PA Senate Democrats Urge Action on Legislation for Working Families, Pledge to Oppose Partisan COVID Task Force

Harrisburg, PA − April 8, 2020 − The Senate adjourned Tuesday afternoon after the House Republicans indicated they would not be taking up Senate Bill 841, legislation that would have enabled local municipalities to hold their meetings remotely, permitted e-notary use; lengthened the time period a property tax payer can receive an early payment discount and delay penalties for late payments to Dec. 31st; and allowed businesses to make delayed payments on EITC. Another important amendment offered by Senator Pam Iovino (D-Allegheny) allowed school districts to renegotiate contracts to ensure contracted school workers can get paid and continue to receive benefits.

The amended SB 841 passed the Senate with bipartisan support. While the Senate Democrats and Republicans chose to put partisan difference aside, the House Republicans were pushing to please special interests and big donors. Intending to use this crisis as leverage, Speaker Turzai and his caucus passed legislation to prematurely allow businesses to reopen during this public health crisis and create a partisan task force to interfere with the Governor’s disaster response, both of which unnecessarily risk lives and threaten to expend the emergency.

“While the Governor and Department of Health Secretary offer leadership on public safety in daily briefings and Democratic members of the PA House and Senate draft legislation to protect working people who are either out of work or employed on the front lines of essential businesses, Republicans are putting lives at risk and undermining the Governor and Secretary Levine’s best efforts to end this crisis,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, Jr. “Instead of taking the advice of our Health Secretary, they are trying to slow down our response and hasten the re-opening of non-essential businesses against the guidance of every public health entity in the country.”

The House Republicans were seeking even more egregious measures to provide civil immunity to big businesses, upend school districts ability to pay their teachers, and leave our corrections department employees at serious threat of the Coronavirus. Perhaps worst of all, the language does nothing to protect frontline workers, provide assistance to those that are out of work, or to help small businesses weather this crisis.

In an amendment to Senate Bill 327, House Republicans designed a task force with partisan appointees to usurp the Governor’s ability to rapidly respond to this quickly-evolving crisis. Their bill would require the Secretary of Health to leave PEMA, take hours away from public health crisis planning and defend her work in front of a redundant, political body.

The Senate Democratic Caucus will not support these bills. Alternatively, this caucus will be supporting legislation on the following issues:

  • The American Working Family Relief Action Plan for front-line worker protections (Collett/L. Williams)
  • Protecting workers during public health emergencies (Santarsiero)
  • COVID-19 Food Worker Safety Act (Tartaglione)
  • COVID-19 Grocery Store Worker Safety Act (Tartaglione)
  • Payment of contract services in schools (Iovino)
  • Childcare assistance (Schwank/L. Williams)
  • Emergency expansion of the Family Medical Leave Act to provide paid sick leave (Farnese)
  • Crisis grants for volunteer fire and EMS companies due to COVID-19 (Brewster)
  • Require business interruption insurance to cover COVID-19 related business closures (Hughes)
  • Eviction protection for all disaster emergencies (Farnese)
  • Coronavirus disease and schools: allowing for online instruction (Dinniman)
  • Creating a Common Wealth Fund to collect donations from individuals to provide for essential needs of those in need (AH Williams)
  • Providing a presumption of eligibility for Workers’ Compensation benefits for workers that get sick in the workplace (Tartaglione)
  • Ensuring receipt of a stimulus check from the Federal government is not included in an individual’s income for purposes of qualifying for social safety nets (Schwank)
  • Exempting stimulus checks from the Federal government from State and local taxation (Brewster)
  • Collaborating with financial institutions to mandate mortgage loan forgiveness, assistance to homeowners that were laid off due to state emergencies (Farnese)

“While many working Pennsylvanians are suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic, facing lost hours or even complete unemployment, others who find themselves in more fortunate circumstances have expressed a desire to help their fellow citizens by either donating to a local charity or patronizing local businesses,” said Senator Anthony H. Williams. “By establishing the “Pennsylvania Common Wealth” restricted account, taxpayers could redirect all or a portion of their stimulus check to the state, which in turn would be authorized to direct those funds into programs which help the neediest Pennsylvanians – property tax & rent rebates, temporary assistance for needy families, CHIP or medical assistance.”

“Pennsylvania needs solutions that help protect its working people who have been hit the hardest by the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic,” Senator Vincent Hughes said. “We in the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus have put forth a number of policy proposals that would do just that, meanwhile House Republicans have chosen to ignore these needs and push an agenda that jeopardizes public health and puts additional pressure on working people by delaying immediate relief. Our mission should be helping people in this unprecedented time of need and we will remain vigilant in protecting hardworking folks across the commonwealth.” 

“As public servants, our most important duty is to protect the health, safety and welfare of our citizens. This includes making difficult decisions in challenging times. We all want businesses to reopen, employees back on the job, students back in classrooms and some semblance of normal life to resume, but that cannot happen unless we first continue mitigation efforts and follow the advice of our scientists and experts,” said Senator Wayne D. Fontana. “Anything contrary can set back progress and cause further harm on our economy and most importantly, on human health. The bipartisan legislation the Senate approved provides some necessary guidance and relief to local governments, businesses, school employees and property taxpayers during this unprecedented situation. It is unconscionable that House Republicans blatantly disregarded that duty and have chosen not to act.”

“The spread of coronavirus has not quieted the voice of special interests in Harrisburg and that’s tragic,” said Senator Larry Farnese. “Mitigation through isolation is working and we have to recognize that sacrifice through legislation that actually helps front-line workers instead of just saying nice things on social media.”

“This crisis and the Commonwealth’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic requires leadership, transparency and cooperation – not partisan politics,” said Senator John Blake. “While we’ve worked well with the Senate majority on real solutions that actually help people in this crisis, the House majority looks to undermine the executive authority of the Governor as well as the advice of medical and scientific experts regarding public health.  I applaud the work being done by Governor Wolf and his administration to keep Pennsylvanians safe and to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. I will continue to support important legislation to help our business community, front-line workers and medical professionals; and to protect our citizens, schools and local governments across this state. We need to remain vigilant in following the recommendations of the PA Department of Health and the federal CDC.”

“Issues that the Commonwealth was already facing have been exacerbated by this pandemic, and child care services and early learning programs are near the top of the list. Childcare centers are teetering on the brink of insolvency, which is why part of our legislative package addresses early childhood learning and safe, quality childcare. We will not be able to restart Pennsylvania’s economy without this key component,” Senator Judy Schwank said. “Additionally, it’s vital that the income requirements of state programs like PACENET and Property Tax and Rent Rebate are adjusted so that Pennsylvanians receiving federal aid are not penalized later.”

“The key to an effective response to the pandemic is to ensure that our citizens are protected, health risks are addressed, and our economy restarts quickly,” Senator Jim Brewster said. “That’s why I introduced a six-point stimulus plan that will help small business, protect workers and create jobs once we are clear the threat posed by the pandemic. In addition, we need to make sure to address the immediate and long-term needs of first responders and all workers and businesses who are providing essential services during this time of extraordinary stress.”

“There is no segment of our Commonwealth that hasn’t been upended by this crisis. Everything is a priority. But in order to save livelihoods, we must first save lives,” said Senator Maria Collett. “As a nurse, I know firsthand the challenges our health care workers are up against and the urgency of passing legislation like the American Working Family Relief Action Plan for Front-Line Workers. Our doctors, nurses, first responders, senior care aides and others should not have to worry about getting sick or infecting others while performing their essential work.”

“It is irresponsible for the state to reopen businesses at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak. Those who are not essential workers should remain home,” said Senator Art Haywood. We need to do all we can as legislators to support essential employees risking their lives on a daily basis,” said Senator Haywood (D-Montgomery/Philadelphia). “I will continue to support the work Governor Wolf and Secretary Levine have done to inform the public to remain safe and stay home.”

“The citizens of Pennsylvania are counting on their elected representatives to save lives by responding swiftly, pragmatically, and in a bipartisan manner to slow the spread of this highly contagious virus,” said Senator Pam Iovino. “To fulfill our duty to the public, we must follow the consensus guidance of public health professionals, focus on protecting front-line essential workers, and put in place protections that allow furloughed or unemployed workers and small businesses to weather the economic disruption.”

“As the Democratic chair of the Local Government Committee, I worked with stakeholders for weeks to craft the provisions of SB 841, I am disappointed these commonsense measures, which passed the Senate with bipartisan support, are being held up by House Republicans for little reason,” said Senator Tim Kearney. “The House should immediately pass SB 841 and focus on bringing relief to Pennsylvanians, rather than sabotaging the Governor’s efforts to keep our families safe.”

“Yesterday, the majority party in both chambers failed to use their legislative power, where they can literally pass any bill they want to, and instead decided to pack up and go home without,” said Senator Katie Muth. “Failing to pass meaningful bills when people are fighting for their lives is simply negligent.”

“Now is not the time to play politics,” said Senator Steve Santarsiero. “Saving lives has to be the first priority.  In order to do that, we must all do our part and follow the Governor’s and Department of Health’s plans as they’ve been explained to us countless times. SB 841 is just one of many ways our caucus has worked in a bipartisan effort to provide relief to those who need it most. However, SB 327 is exactly what our healthcare professionals warn us against. Promoting a premature return to normalcy will only undermine our effort to keep the public safe, and further endanger thousands of lives.”

“Government’s most important role is the protection of its people. Since the COVID-19 crisis the Senate has met three times, with little to show for it. Communities across the commonwealth have no interest in the paralysis of government especially in the most desperate of times.  What they do care about is the protection of our essential workforce, the interruption of our small businesses,  job loss, staying in their homes and educating their children. The only thing that matters is the preservation and protection  of every resource needed to keep families safe during this health crisis,” said Senator Sharif Street.   

 “We need to be back in Harrisburg, we need to get back to work.  We must work together to ensure our communities are protected during uncertain times.”

 “As thousands of Pennsylvanians continue to get sick and hundreds die, now is no time to play partisan politics,” Senator Tina Tartaglione said. “As public leaders, we must unite behind the common goal of reducing the threat of this virus and mitigating the harm being done to our constituents. The package of bills we have proposed will directly help all Pennsylvania families, including essential workers, displaced workers, first responders, school children, those who have become sick, and those in need. I urge all legislators from all political parties to support these bills.”

“Stopping the spread of COVID-19 and saving lives is our top priority. We also need to protect and support our constituents, our communities, and our businesses,” said Senator Lindsey Williams. “Our front-line essential workers – our hospital workers, grocery store workers, emergency service personnel and others – cannot afford to wait for PPE. They needed it weeks ago. Our childcare facilities need our help to stay open and provide care to the children of our essential workers while they risk their lives for us. Our small businesses need financial support to stay afloat. Our municipalities need the ability to meet remotely and make decisions that will ensure the safety of all of residents. There are a lot of needs right now and our constituents do not have time for us to waste playing partisan games or naming bridges. The Senate Democrats have offered concrete solutions that will help people. We should all be working together to get them to the Governor’s desk for signature as soon as possible.”

More information on the work of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus during the COVID-19 crisis can be found at pasenate.com/covid19.

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Legislators React to Grand Jury Report Calling for New System of Investigating Sexual Misconduct Claims

Legislators React to Grand Jury Report Calling for New System of Investigating Sexual Misconduct Claims

HARRISBURG, August 27, 2019 – After a months-long review of a sexual misconduct complaint against a former Pennsylvania House member, a Dauphin County grand jury has called for the Pennsylvania Legislature to create a new, independent Office of Legislative Responsibility to create a centralized reporting system for victims to report sexual harassment and sexual misconduct.

Among other things, the grand jury recommended the new independent office be led by a qualified investigator, have subpoena power in consultation with the district attorney in the relevant jurisdiction and have authority to investigate any alleged misconduct, not limited to sexual harassment or assault.

Members of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus have welcomed this idea and plan to move forward when the legislature returns in September.

“Women in the capitol deserve to be safe, to feel safe, to be heard, and to be respected,” said Sen. Larry Farnese (D-1). “We must act swiftly and stand together to enact these policy changes to create a better working environment for everyone in the Capitol.”

“To protect the safety of all individuals in and around the Capitol, as well as those who interact with the General Assembly anywhere throughout the Commonwealth, we must empower and encourage victims to report alleged incidents of harassment and misconduct as soon as possible,” said Sen. Christine Tartaglione (D-2). “By creating an office dedicated to investigating these incidents independently, we will be sending a powerful message that the Pennsylvania Legislature takes all allegations seriously and that every voice will be heard.”

“This process has revealed the deficiencies in policy and reporting that has failed to keep women safe in and around the Capitol for years,” said Sen. Judy Schwank (D-11). “It is time that we take this conduct seriously and create a reporting process that affords victims the opportunity to come forward in safety and with dignity. It is time for today’s legislative leaders to lead the way in creating a path forward to ensure that the workplace is a safe place for all.”

“The findings of the Grand Jury Report reiterate what we already know and what the #MeToo Movement has made clear for years: there can be no tolerance for workplace harassment. Period,” said Sen. Maria Collett (D-12). “Our General Assembly needs to hold itself to the highest standards and lead by example by implementing and improving the procedures in which we address all claims of workplace harassment by adopting these recommendations. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the legislature as we take up this issue when we return to session.”

“Having an independent office as a central reporting and investigation unit makes some sense,” said Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-18).  “It will help ensure consistency and efficiency in all caucuses and both Chambers.”

“As a career public servant, I believe that members of the General Assembly should be held to the highest standards of ethics and behavior to uphold the public trust,” said Sen. Pam Iovino (D-37). “The establishment of the Office of Legislative Responsibility will serve to ensure that public trust. An independent office will secure credible due process for all victims, regardless of gender, as well as all accused.”

“Our current system of reporting and investigating claims of workplace harassment is woefully inadequate and, in many cases, damaging to the very people it is designed to serve,” said Sen. Lindsey Williams (D-38). “We need to take this opportunity to implement the Grand Jury’s recommendations and create a system that ensures all victims and witnesses alike are protected from retaliation and encouraged to report instances of workplace harassment.”

“The recommendations of not pursuing criminal charges in this incident is a direct example of how the “justice” system and old boys club enable rape culture and abuse of power in our government,” said Sen. Katie Muth (D-44). “How many more of us have to be harassed, bullied, assaulted, and raped before real accountability is enforced?  The recommendations made by the grand jury should’ve been mandated decades ago. Until there is true, unbiased, outside oversight of the members of the General Assembly, the current system of internal regulation and self-policing will continue to cause more harm, corruption, and wasted taxpayer dollars on salaries for predators and those that enable them.”

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Members of Pa Senate Democratic Caucus Request Disaster Declaration on Gun Violence

Members of Pa Senate Democratic Caucus Request Disaster Declaration on Gun Violence

Harrisburg, Pa. − June 24, 2019 − Members of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus today jointly sent a letter to Governor Tom Wolf requesting a disaster declaration for gun violence in the Commonwealth.

“We believe it is necessary to raise the public’s awareness of the massive loss of human life and the suffering inflicted on affected family, friends and neighbors where this tragedy is unfolding daily,” they wrote. “Just as you have signed six disaster declarations to provide every tool at the Commonwealth’s disposal to combat the opioid epidemic, the death toll and impact from illegal guns should merit immediate and coordinated attention.”

Specifically, a disaster declaration could do the following:

  • Establish a task force led by the Department of Health to create and implement a public health framework for addressing gun violence
  • Establish a command center in the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to coordinate state and local law enforcement response
  • Enhance the Joint-Local State Firearm Taskforce through additional personnel and funding to take illegal guns off the street
  • Expand information gathering and sharing between all levels of law enforcement and community groups
  • Increase law enforcement presence, both local and state, in targeted areas where gun violence is most prevalent
  • Expedite and expand grants and other funding sources for community groups and nonprofit associations with a proven record of violence reduction and prevention
  • Provide additional state resources for behavioral and mental health
  • Bringing to bear the significant wealth of knowledge and experience in the Departments of Health and Human Services to provide de-escalation and de-confliction training throughout the community
  • Require the Pennsylvania Department of Education provide training and professional development on trauma-informed education

View full letter →

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Members of Pa Senate Democratic Caucus Request Disaster Declaration on Gun Violence

 

Democrats Introduce Package of Legislation to Curb Workplace Harassment

Democrats Introduce Package of Legislation to Curb Workplace Harassment

HARRISBURG, PA, March 26, 2019 – Democrats from the Pennsylvania House and Senate today introduced a package of legislation aimed to curb harassment in the workplace, along with support from Governor Tom Wolf and Victim’s Advocate Jennifer Storm.

 

 

 
“As a caucus, we’ve worked with stakeholders and advocates and our own employees to craft a package of legislation that we believe can curb sexual harassment and do more to protect its victims,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, Jr. “Each of our bills in this package is aimed at expanding protections to individuals regardless of the size or type of their employment, because time is up on workplace harassment.”

“Workplace sexual harassment and discrimination didn’t begin overnight, and so it will take some time to properly correct,” Gov. Wolf said. “It’s not as easy as putting a few big-name figures in jail. We need to identify the everyday behaviors and correct them if we want Pennsylvania to be a great place to live and work. People can’t do their best work when they feel uncomfortable. You deserve to be treated in a way that meets basic standards that represent how we want all workers in Pennsylvania to act, and you should be treated with the respect and dignity that all workers in Pennsylvania deserve. That’s why I’m advocating for legislation to prevent workplace sexual harassment and discrimination in both the public and private sectors.”

The bills will be introduced in identical form in each chamber. They do the following:

  • Cover contractors and unpaid interns under the protections of the Human Relations Act
  • Amend the Human Relations Act to require employers to provide training to employees and to require standardized fair practice postings to specifically include examples of harassment and discrimination
  • Require sexual harassment training for lobbyists
  • Extend the Human Relations Act to include domestic workers
  • Provide right to jury trial, punitive damages and an extended statute of limitations under the Whistleblower Bill
  • Expand the Human Relations Act to include coverage from four employees to one employee, add the right to a jury trial, punitive damages, attorney fees and extend the statute of limitations
  • Require employers to adopt written workplace harassment policies and reporting procedures
  • Add sexual orientation and gender expression or identity to the list of classifications protected under the Pa. Human Relations Act

“For years, workplace harassment has been a pervasive issue in career fields across Pennsylvania and this nation. We need to harness the momentum and strength of the #MeToo movement and reverse years of discrimination in the workplace,” said Senator Larry Farnese. “No one, regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation, should be pressured by, or suffer from, the weight of workplace harassment.” 

“We need to make it clear that there is no place for any form of harassment and there will be no tolerance for it either,” said Senator Wayne D. Fontana. “With this legislative package, we are taking definitive steps that both send a strong message and back it up with substantive changes to how harassment can be prevented, how it should be handled and how victims should be treated.”

“Protecting whistleblowers on workplace harassment and discrimination is a small part of the solution to change our culture.” said Senator Haywood. “I am introducing this legislation again knowing that we have a long way to go.”

 “In today’s business climate, when employers often turn to independent contractors and unpaid interns to fulfill their staffing needs, Pennsylvania law must account for and protect all worker classifications. Everyone is entitled to a workplace that is free of harassment and discrimination,” Senator Tartaglione said.

For more information, visit PaSenate.com/harassment 

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