Category Archives: Low Wage workers

What’s Really Behind the Creation of Pennsylvania’s New E-Verify Law?

By Ryan Deto
City Paper Pittsburgh

Nov 6, 2019 – In Pennsylvania, it’s not uncommon to hear politicians dog whistle to nativism, especially when it comes to labor.

Last month at the Shale Insight conference in Downtown, President Donald Trump received a large applause when he told the crowd he would “always put America first.” In a special election for state senate earlier this year, attack ads were levied against candidate D. Raja (R-Mt. Lebanon), an Indian-American businessman who runs a software company that employs workers from his native India and in Allegheny County, for “outsourcing” jobs and “importing talent.”

And now, a new law has hit Pennsylvania’s books that harks back to similar themes.

On paper, the Construction Industry Employee Verification Act, aka House Bill 1170 (HB 1170) — known more commonly as the E-Verify law — looks to tackle problems associated with labor fairness and to ensure everyone is following the same rules.

It passed with overwhelming support on Oct. 7, moving swiftly through the legislature before Gov. Tom Wolf (D-York) let it lapse into law without signing. (When Pennsylvania governors don’t veto bills within 10 days of reaching the governor’s desk, they become law.)

But there are disagreements on whether the law, which will require employees of construction companies to be run through a verification system to determine if they are legally allowed to work in the U.S., will be able to accomplish those goals.

The bill requires all private construction employers statewide to run new hires through a federal E-Verify system, an electronic database that checks the legal work-status of new hires by comparing the employees’ information to that of the Social Security Administration and federal immigration officials. More than 20 states have mandated the use of E-Verify in some or all industries.

Proponents of the law say it helps catch violators who employ off-the-book workers and thus avoid paying taxes and workers’ compensation fees. But opponents say the law will disproportionately hurt immigrants, noting the ineffectiveness of similar laws in other states and arguing it could lead to the deportation of undocumented immigrants and exacerbate a labor shortage. Labor unions and immigrant advocates are now wondering why the E-Verify law passed so quickly, and why these potential shortcomings were not fully vetted. Continue reading What’s Really Behind the Creation of Pennsylvania’s New E-Verify Law?

Trump Administration’s Snap Change Is ‘Cruel And Mean-Spirited’

Wolf’s State Human Services Secretary Denounces Measure

By J.D. Prose
Beaver County Times

Sept 23, 2019 – Calling the Trump administration’s proposed changes to a federal food assistance program “cruel and mean-spirited,” a cabinet secretary for Gov. Tom Wolf said Monday that 200,000 Pennsylvanians could lose their benefits.

“The Wolf administration vehemently opposes this change,” said Pennsylvania Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller in a conference call with reporters about the possible changes to eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps.

Miller’s department estimates that 2,544 Beaver County residents and 1,564 Lawrence County residents could lose their benefits under the plan.

President Donald Trump’s administration has proposed prohibiting states from raising or eliminating income limits that allows them to give federally-funded food benefits to people who would not otherwise qualify.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the change would save $2.5 billion a year, but supporters of the current system say it would hurt struggling low-income families, children, seniors and the disabled.

Trump administration officials have also argued that changing the rule would help reduce cases of fraud, but Miller said that in Pennsylvania the fraud rate in SNAP is just 1 percent and “lower than every other human services program.”

Miller said that a Pennsylvania family of four is eligible for SNAP benefits if it earns a maximum of $40,000 annually. However, under the Trump administration’s proposed change, that same family would only be allowed to earn $32,000 or less to be eligible, leaving many families without access to food.

“SNAP helps low-income families reliably keep food on the table without choosing between basic needs,” Miller said. Continue reading Trump Administration’s Snap Change Is ‘Cruel And Mean-Spirited’

Sisters of St. Joseph Work with Migrants at U.S.-Mexico Border

Setting an Example of Solidarity with Workers and the Poor

By Daveen Rae Kurutz
Beaver County Times

Aug 10, 2019 – A group of nuns and volunteers from the Sisters of St. Joseph in Baden is working with migrant families and children at the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas.

They called him a liar.

For months, the Venezuelan man waited patiently with his wife and three children for permission to leave their home country, riddled with political unrest and economic free fall in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. Once granted, the family waited for months in Mexico for consent to enter the United States as asylum seekers.

It was a long and difficult journey.

Just hours after finally crossing the border into the United States, he sat last week with Sister Janice Vanderneck, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Baden, at the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas.

“What a privilege it is to be able to be among the first people to welcome this family to our country,” Vanderneck said. “I was glad to be the person empathetic to their story because he told me that immigration officials called him a liar, thinking that he didn’t understand English.”

For one week, three members of St. Joseph — Sister Jeanette Bussen, Sister Patti Rossi and Vanderneck — are working at the respite center in McAllen to meet and serve migrant families seeking asylum. They are accompanied by Maureen Haggarty, former sister and benefactor, and Carol McCracken, who was inspired by the service and mission work of Rossi.

The respite center is the first stop for those released from a nearby U.S. Customs and Border Patrol holding center. Each day, the respite center serves between 500 and 900 families, providing migrants in crisis with a warm meal, clean clothes and a chance to recover from the first part of their long journeys.

How to help

The Sisters of St. Joseph in Baden has donated more than $10,000 to help replenish supplies at the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas. Items include toiletries, baby bottles, diapers, sealed snack foods and phone cards.

To donate, visit https://stjoseph-baden.salsalabs.org/bordercrisis/index.html.

The center’s volunteers work to educate parents about their rights and responsibilities as asylum seekers and help prepare them to navigate the legal process to determine whether they can remain in the United States. Continue reading Sisters of St. Joseph Work with Migrants at U.S.-Mexico Border

PA Minimum Wage No Longer Defensible

In this March 8, 2016, file photo, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf meets with diner patrons before discussing his executive order to increase the minimum wage for state government employees and workers on jobs contracted by the state, during a news conference at the Trolley Car Cafe in Philadelphia. (Photo11: Matt Rourke / AP)

By York Dispatch Editorial Board

Feb. 22, 2019 – Pennsylvania’s minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. That’s $58 a day; $290 a week; $1,160 a month. Before taxes.

It hasn’t gone up a penny in 10 years. And it was only increased in 2009 because the federal government mandated it. Neither federal nor state lawmakers have added to this pittance since. They should be embarrassed.

In fact, $7.25 an hour was insufficient 10 years ago; it is insulting today.

Gov. Tom Wolf would like to rectify this shameful situation. Republican lawmakers who control the General Assembly, unfortunately, are evidently shameless.

The governor is again proposing an increase in the state’s minimum wage — something he has done each year since he took office in 2015. His proposed $34.1 billion spending plan would hike the lowest legal wage to $12 an hour this year, then nudge it by annual 50-cent-an-hour increments to $15 an hour by 2025.

Unfortunately, more livable wages are something many GOP lawmakers believe Pennsylvania can live without.

As Wolf’s budget plan began wending its way through Harrisburg’s legislative gauntlet, his minimum wage proposal attracted many a critical GOP eye. Continue reading PA Minimum Wage No Longer Defensible

‘Day of Disruption’ Protests in Pittsburgh Target McDonald’s, UPMC, Giant Eagle

Workers’ demands include $15 minimum wage, union rights

By Katelyn Sykes

WTAE Reporter

PITTSBURGH — No 29, 2016 – Thousands of workers are walking off the job and marching Tuesday in cities across the country, including Pittsburgh, where morning protests will be followed by a larger downtown rally in the afternoon.

The Service Employees International Union is targeting McDonald’s restaurants and UPMC with marches demanding a $15 minimum wage and union representation.

Organizers began their "Day of Disruption" marches at McDonald’s on Penn Avenue in East Liberty. Demonstrators went inside to voice their demands, then began circling the restaurant outside and chanting slogans like "Hold your burgers, hold your fries. We want wages supersized."

"I want to be able to take care of my family, to take care of myself, to pay bills," McDonald’s employee Aaron McCollum said. "You can’t possibly do that on $7.25, $7.35 an hour."

The protest then moved to a McDonald’s restaurant on North Euclid Avenue.

"It’s about workers, but it’s also recognizing that workers are more than who they are in between when they clock in and clock out, but that they’re our community members, they’re our neighbors, they’re humans," said Kai Pang, an organizer with Pittsburgh United. "We should have the right to not only survive but thrive in this city."

The group plans a similar protest near a McDonald’s and the federal building downtown during the evening rush hour.

"I’m just trying to fight for something that I believe in," McCollum said.

A press release on behalf of the group added, "Giant Eagle workers will also join the Fight for $15 today, asking that the company start paying family-sustaining wages and stop interfering with Giant Eagle employees’ right to organize."

The union contends UPMC shuttle bus workers have also gone on strike seeking union representation.

UPMC previously announced plans to increase the minimum starting wage for entry-level jobs at most of its facilities to $15 per hour by 2021.

But the union says UPMC needs to move faster, and it accused the network of trying to silence workers and union organizers.

UPMC hasn’t commented on Tuesday’s activity.

"I think more now than ever that we’re standing up for worker’s rights, for economic justice at a time when income inequality is very high and only grows higher," said Pang.

Beaver County Commissioners Urge Raise in Minimum Wage

 

Union-bug

Kneeling: T. Berry; Standing First Row: Commissioner Tony Amadio; Alex de la Cruz; Tina Shannon; Myra Fabrizio; Janet Hill; Second Row: Commissioner Joe Spanik; Randy Shannon; Steven Kocherzat; Linwood Alford; Mark Benkart; Peter Deutsch; Rev. Ed Heist

By Linwood Alford
Council Director of Civil Rights and Economic Development

I want to thank the Beaver County Commissioners Tony Amadio and Joe  Spanik for supporting a resolution "urging the state legislature to approve a raise in the Pennsylvania minimum wage from the pre-sent $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour". The resolution was approved by their two votes, with Com-missioner Dennis Nichols abstaining, at the Commissioners’ meeting of April 23rd.

The Labor Council approved a resolution calling for a raise in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour at its November membership meeting. SEIU Healthcare Pa. staff representative and Labor Council Trustee Kerrianne Theuerl arranged transportation for Council members to attend "Raise the Wage" rallies in Harrisburg in February and Pittsburgh in April.

The minimum wage resolution was placed on the Commissioners’ meeting agenda thanks to the efforts of Mark Benkart, Labor Council Com-munity Services Director and our local Moral Mondays chair-person, and Tina Shannon, president of the 12th C.D. Chapter of Progressive Demo-rats of America (PDA).

Mark and Tina spoke in favor of the resolution at the Com-missioners’ meeting. Also speaking in favor of the resolution were Janet Hill, national vice-president of CLUW, Rev. Ed Heist and your writer.

Minimum wage jobs destroy the morale of those who are unable to support their families even though they are working full time. A raise in the mini-mum wage to $10.10 per hour will build the self-esteem of these workers by assuring them that they can support their families.

Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction that makes people angry against each other be-cause self-preservation will always be the first law of nature. If we can work to eliminate weapons of mass destruction in other countries, why can’t we work to eliminate poverty at home?

I am truly thankful for all those of us who really believe in liberty and justice for all.

Raise the Minimum wage!

 

Our County Commissioners agree!

They will be passing a resolution on Thursday evening at their regularly scheduled meeting to support raising the minimum wage.

They have invited us to attend.

THURSDAY 4/23/15 BEAVER COUNTY COURTHOUSE 6:00 PM

Here in Beaver County, we once had a wonderful standard of living. One wage earner made enough to support an entire family. That money flowed through our community, making life better for everyone. We and our neighbors had money for the services that a proliferation of small businesses offered. Our children went to college and happily shopped for their supplies. Hobbies and recreation abounded. Now we have more minimum wage jobs in our County than ever. More of our neighbors are struggling just to pay rent and put food on the table. If their car breaks down, or they get sick and miss work, their family experiences a crisis. On an everyday basis they have trouble buying warm school clothes for their children. More and more of us are winding up in this position.

Continue reading Raise the Minimum wage!