L&I Committee Side Steps Workers on Overtime Pay and Union Rights

DmVg_MBW4AETiYZWednesday, September 5 marked a very eventful day for the Pennsylvania House Labor and Industry Committee.  During their morning session in the Irvis building in the Harrisburg Capitol Complex, the Committee held a public hearing on Governor Wolf’s proposed updates to our Commonwealth’s Overtime Regulations.  The Executive, Administrative and Professional (EAP) salary exemption threshold has not been updated since 1977.    

The right-wing majority on the Committee is headed by Representative Kauffman, who refused to allow workers or supporters of the change to speak in the hearing.  Instead, only the Department of Labor and Industry Secretary Oleksiak and Deputy Secretary for Safety and Labor-Management Relations Jennifer Berrier were allowed to speak to the merits of the change.  The Committee’s Majority favored the subsequent panel of six employers testifying on the “burden” of paying for overtime work.  This decision ignores the fact that 60% of the public comments submitted on the changes support raising the threshold.

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The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO believes, as do the majority of Pennsylvanians, that workers should be paid for every hour worked.  Considering the decades-long neglect of the Overtime regulation, thousands of Pennsylvania workers are misclassified, given inappropriate job titles with nothing to reflect their duties, placed on salary and denied compensation for their hours worked.  More than 465,000 Pennsylvania workers would benefit from raising the threshold. Unfortunately, none of them were allowed to speak at yesterday’s public hearing.

In the afternoon, the House Labor and Industry Committee convened a public hearing on House Bill 2571, introduced by Representative Kate Klunk.  This bill seeks to go further than the Supreme Court’s Janus vs. AFSCME ruling by instituting redundant and, frankly, nonsensical reporting protocols with the intent to disparage unions to members and nonmembers.  HB 2571 is supported by The Fairness Center, Americans for Prosperity, and Americans for Fair Treatment; three organizations funded by corporate special interests for the sole purpose of busting unions and moving an extremist, right-wing political agenda.   Keith Williams of Americans for Fair Treatment called unions “deceitful and manipulative”; unsurprisingly, his organization is running a door-to-door, “astroturf” campaign to encourage union members to drop out of their union. 

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This panel of dark-money, anti-worker corporate lobbyists truly demonstrated the political leanings of the House L&I Committee’s majority leadership. Following this display, SEIU Local 668 President Steve Catanese, PSEA Executive Director Jim Vaughn addressed the Committee and delivered testimony in defense of their union members and of the rights of all public employees.  The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO opposes House Bill 2571, and any of the attempts to undermine union members, workers’ rights or our unions.