Gov. Wolf visits Erie to outline plan to protect workers, improve pay and paid sick leave

Western PA News

Governor Tom Wolf made a stop in Erie Thursday with a message about his fight to improve worker conditions.

In downtown Erie at United Steelworkers, Governor Wolf spoke about the importance of workers having fair wages, paid sick leave, safer workplaces and quality jobs.

“There are so many job openings that people are choosing the best option for their family. It’s time we stop asking why there is a labor shortage and start asking how we can make jobs better,” Gov. Wolf stated in a news release. “It’s time for us to look ahead and imagine the future of work. That’s exactly what my plan does by creating safer workplaces, guaranteeing paid leave and promoting higher wages for workers.”

Wolf recently issued an executive order supporting workers and urging the general assembly to pass legislation that will give workers more confidence about their working conditions.

He says this kind of legislation will help manufacturing workers in Erie.

“Lower turnover you get back in lower injury rates, in lower workers compensation insurance rates; you benefit in so many ways. This is something that really should be seen as good for employers and employees, especially right now when employers are working very hard to try to attract more employees to come to work,” said Governor Tom Wolf, D, Pennsylvania.

Safer Workplaces

  • The governor’s executive order is directing L&I and the Office of Administration to study the feasibility of implementing Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards in offices under the governor’s jurisdiction.
  • State agencies will also ensure those receiving state grants and contracts protect their employees by following labor laws and understand the consequences of not complying.
  • The governor is urging passage of Sen. Tina Tartaglione’s S.B. 310 and Rep. Pat Harkins’ H.B. 1976 to extend OSHA safety rules to all public employees ​– safeguards the nation’s private sector and federal employees have received for 50 years.

Paid Sick Leave

  • The governor’s executive order is directing the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) to verify a business receiving an offer of assistance provides its workers paid sick leave and pays no less than the minimum wage for state employees
  • The $13.50 minimum wage for state employees and contractors will reach $15 on July 1, 2024, under an executive order the governor signed in 2018.
  • The governor is also urging the legislature to pass S.B. 13, sponsored by Sen. Vince Hughes, and H.B. 1035, sponsored by Rep. Mike Zabel, which would provide paid sick leave to workers in Pennsylvania.
  • An estimated 400,000 Pennsylvania workers lack paid sick leave
  • Providing paid sick leave would improve public health and prevent more people from getting sick, a protection that is beneficial to both workers and their employers.

Increase Worker Pay

  • Pennsylvania’s current minimum wage remains at $7.25
  • Since the last time the minimum wage was increased, its purchasing power has dropped by nearly 17 percent, and the minimum wage has lost nearly 31 percent of its value compared to 50 years ago.
  • In addition to executive action on minimum pay for businesses receiving DCED offers, the governor called on the General Assembly to pass S.B. 12, sponsored by Sen. Tina Tartaglione, or H.B. 345, sponsored by Rep. Patty Kim, to raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $12 an hour with a path to $15 and remove local preemption.
  • Eight states are on a path to $15, including red states, and President ​Joe Biden is raising the federal minimum wage for contractors to $15. Overall, 29 other states, including every state that borders Pennsylvania, has a higher minimum wage.
  • The governor’s executive order also directs L&I to pursue regulatory changes so workers are fairly paid for their work time spent on activities such as security screenings and putting on equipment required for their job.
  • L&I is also pursuing regulations so workers whose wages depend on tips receive the full amount of their tips and that there is better clarity around tipping processes and definitions.  

Other Worker-Supporting Actions

  • L&I will make publicly available a list of bad actors that violate labor laws, misclassify their workers, owe unemployment compensation back taxes or fail to carry requisite workers’ compensation insurance.

Help for Out-of-Work Pennsylvanians

  • To help out-of-work Pennsylvanians, the Wolf administration supports Rep. Gerald Mullery’s HB 549, which streamlines the process for eligible Pennsylvanians to receive unemployment benefits.

State Representative Pat Harkins joined Governor Wolf at United Steelworkers. We’ll have much more the governor’s visit on JET 24 Action News at 5 p.m.

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