2016 marks the end of another two-year session of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. The 2015-16 legislative session had both successes and setbacks for Pennsylvania’s working people. Due to an incredible act of cooperation and collaboration between Labor leaders and legislators, progress was made in partially fixing the state’s unemployment compensation system.
In 2012, Act 60 was passed, creating some serious issues for the Commonwealth’s unemployment system. Both unionized and non-unionized workers – tens of thousands of previously eligible, unemployed claimants – have been denied their rightfully earned, and completely paid-for, Unemployment Insurance benefits.
This November, legislation passed both the House and Senate, providing nearly 44,000 cyclical workers in Pennsylvania access to Unemployment Insurance benefits in the times of the year when they have no work. In a victory for the labor movement, Governor Wolf signed the bill accompanied by President Bloomingdale, Secretary-Treasurer Snyder, and fellow Labor leaders.
Also during this session, the efforts of the Labor movement were able to defend public-sector pensions from repeated attacks. The actions of our dedicated activists were able to help prevent further cuts to the retirement benefits of hundreds of thousands of public-sector workers and teachers across the Commonwealth.
The Labor movement was disappointed with the state’s decisions regarding the Wine and Spirits stores and the rights of workers to engage in constitutionally protected activities during labor disputes. The publicly-owned Wine and Spirits stores employ 5,000 Pennsylvanians and provide more than $566 million to the General Fund annually in profit, taxes, and services. Last June, legislation passed that privatized the sale of wine and reduced the overall revenue the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board annually receives. In addition, legislation passed that attempts to outlaw activities that have historically been constitutionally protected actions during labor disputes.