To be competitive, Pennsylvania must have a level labor playing field that does not discriminate against workers based on affiliation or lack thereof with any group, must allow the marketplace to determine wages and benefits, must allow the same rules to apply to all groups regarding apprenticeship and training and must not require compulsory membership in any labor-related group as a condition to employment. 

Reform Unemployment Compensation to Control Costs and Disincentives to Re-Employment
The Commonwealth is best served by a public system of Unemployment Compensation (UC) insurance that will alleviate the economic hardships of the involuntarily unemployed.  Likewise, the system should stabilize the workforce and reduce the impact of unemployment on the economy.  At present, Pennsylvania’s UC Fund is about $2.5 billion in debt to the Federal government – a debt that will have to be repaid through a tax on employers if the system is not soon reformed.  Pennsylvania’s UC costs are out of line with other states and need to be addressed.  Our UC system should provide both economic security and incentives to re-enter the workforce.  The system should also provide equitable treatment to both claimants and taxpayers.  The Pennsylvania business community believes we must: 

  • Limit UC to temporary, partial benefits based on actual earnings with eligibility restricted to only those persons who are unemployed through no fault of their own.  There must be periodic review and updating of benefit schedules and wage base indexes without automatic adjustments and with attention given to maintaining the solvency of the state’s UC fund.
  • Fairly compute employer contributions through an experience rating calculation.
  • Compel those applying for UC benefits to register for employment search services, counseling and re-training through Pennsylvania CareerLink; and must be compelled to accept work if it is offered before benefits are exhausted.
  • Adjust and limit Pennsylvania UC benefits to account for other benefits such as employer-paid severance benefits. 

Related Legislation:
SB 789:  Reforms to UC
HB 916:  Reforms to UC

Create a Fair and Just Workers’ Compensation Law
Pennsylvania employers are committed to promoting safety and health in the workplace.  In the event of work-related occupational injuries and illnesses, Pennsylvania’s business community supports the payment of benefits to injured employees.  But, Pennsylvania’s business community opposes any amendments that further erode employers’ protections under the Workers’ Compensation (WC) law and/or provide benefits without regard to employers’ rights, interests and concerns.  Pennsylvania’s WC law must be amended to ensure that: 

  • Benefits are only for work-related occupational injuries and illnesses.
  • Benefits are adequate, yet not excessive. They should not create a disincentive to return to work.
  • The ultimate goal is to return employees to productive, gainful employment. However, in the event of work-related occupational injuries and illnesses, employers are responsible for providing proper, reasonable, and quality medical care. Employees are responsible for accepting proper, reasonable, and quality medical care and advice so as to recover as fully and quickly as possible. 

Related Legislation:
HB 512:  Workers Comp benefits for emergency responder personnel
SB 671:  Annual COLA for Workers Comp

Eliminate Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) for Public Projects
Projects Labor Agreements (PLAs) are pre-hire or pre-award contractual agreements between owners of a construction project, whether private or public, and construction unions.  While PLAs take many different forms and contain many different provisions, they typically mandate that companies working under such an agreement adhere to one or more provisions regardless of whether they or they workers belong to a union.  These provisions include but are not limited to the hiring of workers directly from union hiring halls exclusively, paying union wages and benefits, requiring workers to pay union dues, requiring workers and owners to contribute to retirement plans or health plans (even though non-union workers will never benefit from such plans), agree to permit the union to represent the workers in all job-related matters, agree to provisions of the union collective bargaining agreement, and agreeing to follow union work rules.  While nonunion companies may still bid and be awarded contracts using a PLA, they typically do not because they must, in some cases, fundamentally change the way they operate their company.  The lack of competition inherently raises the bidding price for work.  There are no studies that show any significant changes in quality of the work product, training and skill levels, safety considerations or any other measurable when comparing union workers to nonunion workers.  When considering state-funded jobs and the requirement to pay every worker a set prevailing wage, the argument that PLAs ensure “family sustaining wages” is moot. In the Commonwealth, around 20% of the construction industry is compromised of union workers.  Considering this number, the added costs and the lack of any real benefit, PLAs should not be allowed on taxpayer funded projects.  Everyone should have an opportunity to work on these projects without having to follow the rules and requirements of any union as a condition precedent.

Reform Prevailing Wage
State prevailing wage laws are usually modeled on the federal Davis-Bacon Act, a depression-era wage subsidy law enacted in 1931.  Like the federal act, these laws mandate the area’s “prevailing wage” be paid on public funded projects.  Because of the vast problems associated with implementing these laws and the great discretion given to the Department of Labor and Industry in setting the “prevailing” rate, the amounts often required far exceed the actual market-based pay rate and usually reflect the union rate.  This amounts to higher labor costs on state-funded projects.  Improvements to Pennsylvania’s prevailing wage law would save countless taxpayer dollars while still ensuring that “family sustaining wages” are paid to workers and increasing the money available for additional projects.  Many in the private sector believe that prevailing wage should be eliminated.  However, at a very minimum, the Prevailing Wage Act must be amended to raise the prevailing wage threshold from the current $25,000 implemented in 1961, to an amount equivalent to today’s dollars; and to redefine the definition of “prevailing” and the calculation methodology to reflect the occupational or market-based wage for the county in which the work is being done.

Related Legislation:
SB 281 Contracting (counties)
SB 282 Contracting (third class cities)
SB 283 Contracting (second class townships)
SB 284 Contracting (first class townships)
SB 285 Contracting (boroughs)
SB 286 Contracting (towns)
SB 287 Contracting (intergovernmental)
SB 288 Contracting (second class counties)
SB 290 Contracting/Purchasing
SB 291 Contracting/Purchasing
SB 294 Contracting
SB 792:  Prevailing Wage reforms
SB 795:  Prevailing Wage reforms
SB 796:  Prevailing Wage reforms (local option) 
HB 278:  Contracting (second class townships)
HB 279:  Contracting (first class townships)
HB 280:  Contracting (third class cities)
HB 281:  Contracting (boroughs)
HB 282:  Contracting (towns)
HB 283:  Contracting/Separations Act
HB 284:  Contracting (counties)
HB 286:  Contracting/Purchasing
HB 287:  Contracting/Purchasing
HB 288:  Contracting/Purchasing (public auditoriums)
HB 289:  Contracting/Purchasing
HB 290:  Contracting (second class counties)
HB 291:  Contracting (intergovernmental)
HB 292:  Contracting (parking authorities)
HB 293:  Contracting (transit authorities)
HB 294:  Contracting (municipal authorities)
HB 709:   Options on Prevailing wage for school districts 
SB 293:   Purchasing/Contracting (Schools)
SB 296:   Purchasing/Contracting (Schools)
HB 285:   Purchasing/Contracting (Schools)

End Compulsory Unionism
Currently, Pennsylvania workers do not enjoy the freedom to choose whether to work for a living without being required to join and pay dues to a union in some industries.  This compulsory unionism goes against our fundamental freedoms.  Moreover, studies have shown that Right to Work states typically enjoy a higher standard of living that their counterparts.

Remove Apprenticeship Ratios that Inhibit the Training of a Skilled Workforce
Currently, the state apprenticeship council – in what appears to be an arbitrary process – sets training ratios of apprentices to journeymen for private, non-union employers.  No training ratios are established for or imposed upon union training programs.  This creates an unfair imbalance on the number of workers that are potentially hired and trained by non union companies, ultimately making these firms less competitive in the marketplace.  Training ratios, if they are going to exist at all, must be uniformly applied to all employers regardless of union/non-union status.

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Top Issues

The goal of Pennsylvania policymakers should be to make it the smart business decision for employers to locate, expand, and hire here in this commonwealth rather than in one of our competitor states. Likewise, the goal of federal policymakers ought to be to optimize conditions for economic growth in the United States so American businesses can compete worldwide. This means we must restrain state spending, enact pro-growth business tax relief, provide limits on lawsuit abuse, improve the regulatory climate, and ensure we have a trained workforce. Our state government cannot tax-and-spend the way to good fortune for all; but we can grow the private sector by attracting new business investments and expanding the tax base, then prosperity will surely follow.

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