This week, the Reading-Berks Central Labor Council held a town hall meeting on issues facing the state legislature with PA AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder and staff members from State Senator Schwank, Representatives Rozzi, and Caltagirone’s offices. The panel, moderated by United Steelworkers Local 6996 President Dean Showers, took questions from the audience and listened to their concerns on a wide range of issues, beginning with “right to work”.
“’Right to work’ legislation is a sham . . . it’s about making the already wealthy even richer”, stated a member of Sheet Metal Local 19. “I’ve spoken to our brothers and sisters in Alabama [a RTW state], and they have nothing good to say about “right to work”, added a member of USW Local 54. Moderator Dean Showers chimed in stating: “Union collective bargaining agreements raise the standards of living for all.”
The discussion turned to the issue of pensions for state employees and teachers. Secretary-Treasurer Snyder explained some of the frustration often felt by those who do not fully understand the very complicated issue: “The pension debacle has been going on for years, but teachers and cops are not our enemies. The workers have never missed a pension payment. . . We have a solution which was passed a few years ago. Act 120. It’s been working and we have to continue to let it work.”
The evening wrapped up with equal parts enthusiasm for raising the minimum wage in Pennsylvania and fixing the problem of ever increasing property taxes. Many participants and panelists voiced their concern for seniors on fixed incomes who could not afford to remain in their homes due to rising property taxes and the sheer impossibility of even affording a home on $8 an hour. The town hall finished after 9 pm, having lasted for longer than expected, with many audience members staying to speak with the panelists individually. Overall, the event demonstrated that there is a real desire for more information and more dialog on so many of the complex issues Harrisburg has to tackle.