House Dems, labor leaders meet in Allegheny Co. | Five for the Weekend

Nationally, the union membership rate dropped to a 40-year low of 10.1% in 2022, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics

By: - February 4, 2023 7:25 am

Members of the House Democratic Policy Committee meet with union leaders in Pittsburgh on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023 (House Democratic Policy Committee photo).

Happy weekend, all. 

With the House not scheduled to return to Harrisburg until later this month, House Democrats met with union leaders in Allegheny County on Friday to discuss public support for labor unions and the importance of organizing in Pennsylvania.

The roundtable, which was held at IBEW headquarters in Pittsburgh, was co-hosted by state Reps. Dan Miller and Emily Kinkead — both Allegheny County Democrats, and included Darrin Kelly, president of the Allegheny/Fayette Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO; Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Angela Ferritto; UFCW Local 1776 President Wendell Young IV; Silas Russell, executive vice president of SEIU Healthcare PennsylvaniaSam Williamson, Western Pennsylvania District Leader for 32BJ SEIULeonard Purnell, organizing director for UFCW 1776 and Maria Somma, organizing director for United Steelworkers

Labor leaders told the lawmakers that despite widespread public support for labor unions, they are concerned about declining union membership numbers and how it will impact income inequality in Pennsylvania and beyond.

“As union membership falls, income inequality grows,” Williamson said. “It’s bad for the economy and bad for everyone in the American workforce – except, of course, CEOs.”

Nationally, the union membership rate dropped to a 40-year low of 10.1% in 2022, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

Meanwhile, an August 2022 Gallup poll found that 71% of Americans approve of labor unions. The poll also found that just 16% of Americans live in a household where at least one resident is a union member.

“Unions are part of the fabric and history of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania,”  Miller said. “The history of our state can’t be written without recognizing the contributions unions have delivered for Pennsylvania workers – and Pennsylvania’s economy. Unions not only help put food on the tables for the families of workers, but they have also been the driving force behind innovation, setting prevailing fair wages and securing worker safety. Unions’ lasting legacy, however, continues to be their ability to provide a better way of life for millions of workers and their families.”

As always, the top five stories from this week are below.

Inside the hallways of Pennsylvania’s Capitol Building on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (Photo by Amanda Berg for the Capital-Star)

1. Pa. House stalemate stops constitutional amendments from appearing on May ballot

When Pennsylvania House Speaker Mark Rozzi gaveled out the lower chamber this week, he also stopped a series of proposed constitutional amendments from appearing on this spring’s primary election ballot, including long-awaited relief for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

Since the General Assembly opened its new two-year session this month, Rozzi, D-Berks, has found himself in the middle of a partisan battle over operating rules, leaving the House unable to vote on — let alone pass — any legislation.

Meanwhile, the state Senate approved a three-part constitutional amendment package that includes a two-year window for survivors to sue their abusers and institutions that covered up their crimes in civil court.

Transmission lines in Louisa County, Va. (Photo by Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

2. PUC launches investigation into PPL Electric over ‘unusually high bills’

The state entity charged with oversight of utility companies across the commonwealth announced this week that it would initiate an investigation of PPL Electric Utilities (PPL) over “unusually high bills recently received by customers.”

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) announced Tuesday that it referred PPL to its Independent Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement, which enforces state public utility codes and PUC regulations, for investigation after receiving complaints from PPL customers.

The investigation will examine “the circumstances surrounding unusually high bills recently received by customers served by PPL Electric Utilities (PPL), along with the accuracy and integrity of PPL’s billing practices,” the PUC said in a statement.

The ceiling of the main Rotunda inside Pennsylvania’s Capitol building. May 24, 2022. Harrisburg, Pa. (Photo by Amanda Berg, for the Capital-Star).
The ceiling of the main Rotunda inside Pennsylvania’s Capitol building on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (Photo by Amanda Berg for the Capital-Star).

3. What to know about this week’s 27th Senatorial District special election

Pennsylvania voters in the 27th Senatorial District will head to the polls on Tuesday for a special election to decide who will fill a state Senate seat vacated by a Republican lawmaker last year.

Unlike the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, the upper chamber has been able to organize and advance legislation since lawmakers returned to Harrisburg and opened a new two-year legislative session this month.

But the race will fill the seat vacated by former Sen. John Gordner, R-Columbia, who resigned in November after accepting a position as counsel to Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland. The winner will serve the remainder of his term, which ends in 2024.

College Lecture Hall
(Getty Images)

4. More than 1.1M in Pa. applied for Biden’s student debt relief | Monday Morning Coffee

With President Joe Biden’s student debt forgiveness program now in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court, the White House went on offense last week, blasting out state-by-state breakdowns of how many Americans stand to benefit from it.

In all, 26 million people in all 50 states applied — or were automatically eligible — for the onetime relief, the administration said last week. That included 1.15 million Pennsylvanians, 743,000 of whom saw their applications approved and sent to loan servicers, the data showed.

A voter and her child cast a ballot during the midterm primary elections in Virginia in June 2022 (Alex Wong/Getty Images/The Conversation).

5. What W.Pa. voters need to know ahead of the Feb. 7 Special Election for the House

Voters in three Allegheny County House Districts will determine which party controls the General Assembly’s lower chamber in a Special Election next month.

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled earlier this month that the Special Election would be held on Feb. 7, in line with House Democrats, who argued that any delay would result in a lack of representation for the people of the 32nd, 34th, and 35th legislative districts.

And that’s the week. We’ll see you back here next week.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.