Councilman Corey O’Connor, author of a new bill that would mandate paid sick days for all workers in the city, held nothing back at a gathering held outside of the Pittsburgh City Council chambers today in support of the legislation. More than 150 people from more than 15 allied groups packed the lobby to champion the bill’s introduction, and I was proud to be there representing Working America and our members who overwhelmingly support this legislation.
“No worker should have to make the choice between going to work sick or staying home without badly needed pay, and right now there are 50,000 Pittsburgh workers without paid sick time,” said Barney Oursler of Pittsburgh United, underlining why so many diverse groups have come together to support paid sick days.
Councilwomen Deborah Gross and Natalia Rudiak, who co-sponsored the bill and garnered support from all four women on the City Council, highlighted the disproportionate impact lack of paid sick days has on women in the workforce, many of whom are often the primary caregivers for their families and struggle to care for sick family members.
Several workers shared personal stories at the event, detailing the difficulties they face on their jobs when they get sick. I was struck by how similar their stories were to stories I often hear from Working America members when I canvass neighborhoods around Pittsburgh.
One worker—a waitress named Taylor—shared testimony that echoed Rachel’s story, another server I met recently. Like 77 percent of all service workers, she currently has no paid sick time. Too often, she has had to choose between serving food to the public while sick or staying home and losing wages that she needs to pay her rent. Lack of paid sick leave is particularly challenging for service workers, many of whom currently are only compensated at the hourly tipped minimum wage of $2.13 an hour.
Lack of access doesn’t just affect workers; it’s a public health concern with implications for the entire community. One parent in Greenfield told me how her child became ill because another child’s parent did not have paid sick days and was forced to send their child to school with the flu. The new proposed law would stipulate that paid sick days can be used to care for an ill family member, as well.
The proposed bill would also protect workers who already have paid sick leave from retaliation. Theresa, a career nurse, spoke during the event about a time she got sick and needed to take paid time off to protect ill patients with compromised immune systems in her unit. Even though she had accumulated the time, her employer tried to discipline her for missing too many consecutive days of work. Though Theresa fought back and was eventually cleared of wrongdoing, the message she received from her employer was clear: Don’t get sick when you’re scheduled to work. Her story is not unique. One of our members in the Brookline area once told me how her company had written her up for not giving at least 24 hours’ notice before using a paid sick day. That’s why the current bill before the Council would set the right tone and allow workers to use their earned sick time without fear of reprisal.
Today’s rally reminded me that, in the end, it’s the stories of people like Theresa and Taylor and Rachel—who face these difficult choices far too often—that drive home why we need to pass paid sick days in Pittsburgh. Everybody gets sick, and it’s not easy to simply lose a day or two of pay and still come out ahead at the end of the month. This bill is an important step in the right direction for Pittsburgh, and our members will continue to mobilize to make sure the City Council does the right thing by Pittsburgh’s working people.
Tags: Paid Sick Days, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh
The city of Philadelphia is set to become the 17th city (along with three states) that requires paid sick leave after Mayor Michael Nutter (D) signed legislation passed yesterday by the City Council. Philadelphia is the second city, after Tacoma, Wash., to pass paid sick days this year so far. Nutter previously vetoed similar laws because he said the economy couldn’t handle the change during a recession.
Councilman William K. Greenlee, who sponsored the bill, said:
The people who do not have paid sick leave are the people who need it the most. They’re low-income workers, single mothers; they’re college students or people just starting in the workforce.
The law goes into effect in 90 days, when businesses with 10 or more employees will be required to give workers a paid hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked, up to five days a year. The sick time can be used for personal illness or that of a family member, or in seeking support after domestic violence or sexual assault. While 200,000 Philadelphia residents will benefit from the new law, it still excludes independent contractors, seasonal workers, adjunct professors, interns, government employees and workers covered by collective bargaining agreements. Businesses that already offer comparable or better paid sick leave to their employees will not have to change their rules. Violations of the law can be punished with fines, penalties and restitution.
As Think Progress notes, dire warnings of the negative effects of paid sick leave laws have failed to materialize elsewhere:
Despite the concern from business that paid sick leave requirements will be too costly, the evidence from places that already have them backs up the idea that they won’t be harmful. The vastmajority of employers have come to support these laws, while they haven’t hurt local economies and, in fact, many cities have outperformed after their laws were enacted.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, bill greenlee, labor, Michael Nutter, Paid Sick Days, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, union
In the past, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has made his position on a paid sick days law very clear. In 2011 and 2013, he vetoed paid sick days bills passed by a majority of the City Council, turning a deaf ear to the nearly 35 percent of Philly’s workforce that doesn’t have access to a single paid sick day.
But third time might be the charm for Mayor Nutter. The Mayor’s Task Force on Paid Sick Leave produced a report this week formally recommending that businesses with more than 15 employees allow all workers to accrue one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked. And Nutter indicated he would support such a bill if it came to his desk:
“A healthy worker is a happy worker, and it’s a person that’s ultimately going to be more productive and just spreading a lot less stuff around the workplace,” Mr. Nutter said after accepting the report of a 14-member mayoral task force formed to study the issue.
In 2013, Working America drove hundreds of calls and emails to the Philadelphia City Council and Mayor Nutter’s office urging support for a paid sick days law. After Nutter’s veto, the Council was one vote short of an override.
The fight this time might be over the details. Councilman William Greenlee, who introduced the 2013 bill and is expected to do so again, thinks “15 employees is a little high” for an exemption. He supports exempting businesses with 10 employees or more.
Another player to watch? Comcast, the Philadelphia-based cable giant that lobbied hard against paid sick days in 2013. “Almost all of the $108,429.25 Comcast spent on lobbying in 2011 was in opposition to paid sick days,” reported PRWatch.org last year, “It also is a major contributor to Mayor Nutter, contributing $7,500 to his campaign in 2011 and an additional $8,500 in 2012.”
We’re hoping that Mayor Nutter, who leaves office next year, will side with Philadelphia workers over the corporations that have funded his previous campaigns.
Photo by PhillyCam on Flickr
Tags: comcast, Corporate Accountability, Michael Nutter, Paid Sick Days, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
It’s an election year and we are quickly approaching the time when working families will have the opportunity to go to the polls and vote against a whole host of extreme candidates who support policies that limit rights, make it even harder to afford a middle-class life and pad the pockets of their corporate buddies. One of the “Worst Candidates for Working Families in the 2014 Elections” is Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett. Here are seven reasons why Corbett has been bad for working people:
1. Corbett promised to make Pennsylvania #1 in job creation, instead the state has fallen to 46th in the country under his policies. [PoliticsPA, 7/22/13; W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, accessed 5/29/14]
2. Rather than addressing the real reasons why unemployment is so high in his state, Corbett blamed drugs. Seriously. In an editorial in Cumberlink, he said: “Many employers that say we’re looking for people but can’t find anyone who has passed a drug test.” [Cumberlink, 10/7/13]
3. As governor, Corbett has cut funding for education and eliminated 20,000 public school jobs. As a result, almost 70% of the state’s school districts had to increase class sizes, despite a state constitutional requirement to fund schools adequately. [Patriot News, 04/16/13; Associated Press, 9/16/11; Allentown Morning Call, 7/20/13; The Sharon Herald, 2/15/13; Salon, 8/19/13]
4. While cutting education, Corbett has made sure to continue to give away massive tax breaks to corporations, to the tune of $3.2 billion a year. That’s a lot of money that could fund proper education and programs to create jobs. [PA Budget and Policy Center, 3/12/13]
5. Not just content to cut education, Corbett’s cuts weren’t felt very equally. A study from the Pennsylvania State Education Association found with the education cuts that “state funding cuts to the most impoverished districts averaged more than three times the size of the cuts for districts with the lowest average child poverty.”
6. Corbett has made it pretty clear that he’s opposed to raising the state’s $7.25-an-hour minimum wage, despite the fact that Pennsylvania’s working families are seeing their incomes fall further and further behind the cost of living. [CBS DC, 1/30/14]
7. Not content to cut funding for state programs, Corbett also sought to cut the revenue streams that fund those programs, too. When he first came into office, he attempted to privatize the state lottery, proceeds of which fund programs that benefit many of the state’s residents. [York Daily Record, 11/1/13]
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Education, Jobs, labor, minimum wage, Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett, unemployment, union
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett (R) will not appeal the Commonwealth Court’s recent decision to strike down the so-called voter ID law.
Gov. Tom Corbett put another nail in the coffin of Pennsylvania’s voter identification law on Thursday, announcing he would not appeal a judge’s decision that the law violated the fundamental right to vote.
The Republican governor issued a statement that defended the law, but he also said it needed changes and that he hoped to work with the Legislature on them.
We’ve written frequently about the voter ID law in Pennsylvania, which contained some of the most restrictive voting restrictions in the country. As many as 750,000 Pennsylvania residents lacked the ID required by the law, many of them seniors minorities, students, and low-income workers.
The law passed in March 2012 mirrored other “voter ID” bills introduced in state legislatures nationwide, all of them based on ALEC model legislation. Prominent ALEC member State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) was one of the laws main boosters in Harrisburg.
The state spent about $7 million trying to enforce the law, while at the same time making huge cuts to education and public services.
“That’s money that could have been spent elsewhere. It’s money that could have gone to schools,” said Philadelphia City Commissioner Stephanie Singer, “It’s money that could have gone to real voter education and that’s really a shame.”
According to MSNBC, Gov. Corbett “raised the idea” of fixing the voter ID law through the legislature, but “suggested it wasn’t a priority.
In 2012, Working America members made educating their communities about the potential new voting restrictions a top priority. Through canvassing, radio, social media, and simple conversations with friends and family, we educated an estimated 425,000 Pennsylvanians before the law was enjoined. The effort was chronicled in detail by Voting Rights News.
If Gov. Corbett is defeated this November, it may be a very long time before we see voter ID in the Keystone State.
Photo by @abc27news on Twitter
Tags: ALEC, Corporate Accountability, Daryl Metcalfe, Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett, voter id, voting rights
Bob Casey, senior senator from Pennsylvania, is urging Governor Tom Corbett to end his attempts to enact that state’s controversial voter suppression law.
“At every turn Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law has been rejected by the courts,” Casey wrote to Corbett’s office, “Continuing this appeal will only continue to cast a cloud of uncertainty over residents who are rightly concerned that this law will prevent them from exercising their right to vote.”
The letter comes three days after a Commonwealth Court judge denied the Corbett administration’s request to reconsider their January decision that struck down the law.
The Pennsylvania law, based on an ALEC model bill and championed by ALEC member legislators like Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, required that voters must show specific kinds of photo identification to cast a ballot. The legislature passed the bill in March 2012 knowing that 750,000 Pennsylvanians, many of them seniors, minorities, and low-income workers, did not have this type of ID.
While Gov. Corbett and his allies in the legislature pushed enormous cuts to education and public services, the state spent $7 million in a bungled, widely mocked attempt to enact the new voting restrictions.
After the law passed in March 2012, Working America members and organizers were able to reach estimated 642,000 Pennsylvanians with information about what they would need to vote. This year, our members are mobilizing in North Carolina to educate their community about that state’s new stringent voting restrictions; which, not coincidentally, is also based on an ALEC model and promoted by ALEC member legislators.
We don’t yet know if the Corbett administration will appeal the ruling and take the case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. But we hope he decides instead to follow the advice of Sen. Casey and thousands of others who want the governor to focus on creating more jobs, not fewer voting rights.
Photo by Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. on Facebook
Tags: ALEC, Bob Casey, Corporate Accountability, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett, voting rights
On April 29, 2014, restrictive voting laws in both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania were dealt major blows.
In Wisconsin, the voter ID law passed in 2011 and backed by Gov. Scott Walker was struck down by a federal judge. U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman wrote that the law placed unfair burdens on poor and minority voters, as well as the nearly 300,000 Wisconsinites who currently lack ID. The law has not been enforced since a state judge ruled it unconstitutional in March 2012.
While attending the Time 100 gala in New York City, Gov. Walker told reporters: “We ultimately think that just like many other issues in the last several years that it will ultimately be upheld.” Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen Plans to appeal.
Over in Pennsylvania, Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard L. McGinley denied the request of Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration to reconsider his ruling that overturned that state’s voter ID law. McGinley struck down the law in January, finding that it put an unreasonable burden on the nearly 750,000 Pennsylvanians who lack photo identification.
The judge “also entered a permanent injunction,” said Pennsylvania ACLU legal director Vic Walczak, “which means the voter ID law cannot be enforced unless and until the [state] Supreme Court takes some kind of action.” The Corbett administration has not yet said whether they plan to appeal.
Those decisions come on the heels of a similar situation in Arkansas, where a judge declared that state’s voter ID law “void and unenforceable.”
These laws were part of a nationwide push for restrictive voting laws after the 2010 elections, backed by the power of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
The Pennsylvania and Wisconsin voter ID laws were both based on ALEC model legislation and pushed by ALEC-affiliated legislators. According to NBC News, lawmakers proposed 62 photo ID bills in 37 states in the 2011 and 2012 sessions alone, and that “more than half of the 62 bills were sponsored by members or conference attendees” of ALEC.
The Pennsylvania law was championed by prominent ALEC member Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, who used taxpayer money to attend ALEC conferences.
So what’s next? Egregious voting restrictions are still on the books across the country, particularly in North Carolina. Working America members in NC have made it their primary focus to educate their communities about the law.
But as the New York Times editorial board put it, Wisconsin’s Judge Adelman has “paved the path” for similar laws across the country to be confronted by the court system.
Photo by vox_efx on Flickr
Tags: ALEC, arkansas, Corporate Accountability, Daryl Metcalfe, Pennsylvania, Scott Walker, Tom Corbett, voting rights, Wisconsin
While Republicans in Washington, D.C., are doing their best to stop a federal increase to the minimum wage, working families and their allies across the country are fighting to increase the minimum wage at the state and local level. America’s working families consistently support a minimum wage increase, supporting the idea that jobs should lift workers out of poverty, conservatives continue to rely upon disproven criticisms of increasing the wage. But Americans aren’t buying the conservative lies and are demanding that Congress and the president raise the wage for millions of workers, including tipped workers. And many of them aren’t waiting for Washington to get the job done, they’re taking action across the country. The federal minimum wage has remained $7.25 an hour since 2009 and wages for tipped workers have been frozen at $2.13 an hour since 1991. Here’s the latest news on the push for a higher minimum wage across the nation:
Alaska: More than 43,000 signatures were collected in favor of an August ballot initiative that would raise the wage to $9.75 over two years, with an annual increase for inflation.
Arkansas: Labor and community groups are pushing for a ballot measure that would raise the the state minimum wage to $8.50 over the next three years.
Connecticut: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (D) proposed increasing the wage to $10.10 an hour. The legislature is now considering the bill.
Idaho: Labor and community groups are working on legislation that would increase the wage in the state that has the highest percentage of minimum wage employees in the nation.
Iowa: With the rallying cry “We can’t survive on $7.25!” working families in Iowa are pushing for a bill that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10.
Los Angeles: The Raise L.A. campaign is working on raising the minimum salaries of hotel workers to $15 an hour while the L.A. County Federation invited Pope Francis to visit the city to help champion economic equality for low-wage workers.
Maryland: Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has joined with Raise Maryland in calling for the state’s wage to be raised to $10.10 an hour. They also are calling for tipped workers to earn at least 70% of the minimum wage.
Massachusetts: The Raise-Up Massachusetts campaign is collecting signatures to put a minimum wage increase on the ballot and is organizing a low-wage worker listening tour.
Minnesota: Working families and their allies are pushing to raise the state minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2015, with future increases tied to inflation.
Missouri: Low-wage and tipped workers organized and testified at a critical committee hearing for a bill to increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour. The bill is active in the state Senate.
Nebraska: The legislature is considering a package of bills backed by local labor groups that would raise the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour and require employers to provide paid sick days.
New Hampshire: The state’s labor movement and community allies have made raising the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour one of their top priorities for 2014.
Pennsylvania: A community coalition launched a campaign to raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
Seattle: Working families in Seattle are trying to recreate the success of allies in SeaTac in an effort to raise the local minimum wage to $15 an hour.
South Dakota: The South Dakota AFL-CIO and allies successfully placed a minimum wage increase on the ballot that will be voted on in November, raising the state’s wage to $8.50 with an annual cost-of-living increase.
West Virginia: The legislature passed a bill championed by the West Virginia AFL-CIO that would raise the minimum wage to $8.75 and would increase the minimum wage for tipped workers.
Do you think America needs a raise? Sign the petition.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: connecticut, idaho, Iowa, Jobs, Los Angeles, maryland, Massachusetts, minimum wage, Minnesota, missouti, nebraska, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rights At Work, seattle, South Dakota, West Virginia
The following is a guest post from Pittsburgh Working America member Kayleigh Metviner
I participated in a press conference on Tuesday with the local chapter of Working America, a national economic justice organization, to call for a Pennsylvania state budget that favors education and social services over corporate tax cuts.
A few hours later, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett presented his vision for the state budget, which was not expected to be anything to cheer about. Now, I am a newcomer to Pennsylvania, and I am not going to write in-depth about Pennsylvania-specific politicians and issues. What I am more interested in here is the disconnect between legislation that is both feasible and favored by a majority of citizens, and the legislation that is proposed by Corbett.
Why politicians who face abysmal approval ratings (23 percent for Corbett last week) still try to get reelected is beyond me, but Corbett’s budget proposal is clearly aimed at garnering support this year. And even though most self-identified progressives would rather drink West Virginia’s water than see Corbett reelected, his attempts to pass legislation that appeals to the majority could still be a good thing. Unfortunately, his actual budget proposal makes that very unlikely.
In his speech, Corbett said that his budget sets the agenda in the “spirit” of expanding public education, which…nice. But the state budget doesn’t have a column for spirit, and very few of us have managed to exchange spirit for goods and services. So where is the money for education coming from?
Mainly from a highly unlikely projected increase in state revenues. Despite having predicted a budget deficit by the end of the 2014-2015 fiscal year just a couple months ago, and despite revenue having come in short even of that projection in January, Corbett’s spending plan is dependent on a 4 percent increase in revenue this year.
In contrast, the budget that Working America and community members across the state support would see education and social services funded mainly by closing corporate tax loopholes, like the well-known Delaware tax loophole that deprives many states (except Delaware) of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.
We presented this proposal before the release of Corbett’s plan because we wanted to make it clear that there is a viable alternative to empty, feel-good promises and more of the same political floundering that leaves the majority of us, in Pennsylvania and around the country, in a perpetual state of disadvantage. Crafting a state budget is undoubtedly a complex matter, but in the face of complexity, let’s turn to logical and equitable solutions, not “spirit.”
Text JOBS to 30644 to join Working America’s movement for economic justice in Pennsylvania.
Photo by onepittsburgh on Instagram
Tags: budget, Corporate Accountability, deficit, Delaware tax loophole, Education, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, public education, Tom Corbett, Working America
The following is a guest post from Working America member Kayleigh Metviner
Volunteers, supporters, and media gathered at Working America’s Pittsburgh office on Tuesday morning to call for an economically just and fiscally responsible state budget, in contrast to the budget proposal anticipated from Governor Tom Corbett (R-PA) later in the day.
With over 500,000 members in Pennsylvania, Working America is a formidable force in the state, and we are overwhelmingly in support of a state budget that focuses more resources on public education, higher education, and social services.
Our members know that money doesn’t materialize out of thin air, so their calls for well-funded education and social services are accompanied by practical and equitable solutions: closing the Delaware tax loophole that deprives Pennsylvanians of hundreds of millions of dollars a year and expanding Medicaid.
Expanding Medicaid will not only allow more Pennsylvanians to access health care, it also has the potential to lower overall health care costs. On top of this, it will be 100 percent funded by the federal government for the first three years, and that rate would modestly and gradually decrease to 90 percent during years after that. Lowered costs from expanded Medicaid, combined with increased revenues from corporations paying their fair share of taxes will enable our state to fulfill its commitment to our public schools.
Several Working America volunteers read community member comments aloud at the press conference. One member urged Governor Corbett to “budget with greater consideration for education support instead of corporate tax breaks/” Another wrote: “Please, stop the practice of subsidizing large corporations with taxpayer money when programs and research to help the vulnerable are so needed.”
We want to thank those who shared their stories and urge all Pennsylvanians to continue spreading the word about the real possibilities for economic justice right here, right now.
Text JOBS to 30644 to join Working America’s movement for economic justice in Pennsylvania.
Tags: Corporate Accountability, Delaware tax loophole, Education, good jobs, Health Care, Jobs, Medicaid, Pennsylvania, public education, Tom Corbett