A pair of bills that overwhelmingly passed the State House of Representatives have stalled in the Senate until the legislative session resumes in October. While the bills received strong bipartisan support and were heavily supported by Pennsylvania’s building trade unions, they lost steam in the Senate during June’s budget negotiations due to pressure from ABC and other groups.
One of the bills, House Bill 716, was introduced by Rep. John Galloway (D-Bucks) and would create a joint task force to examine the financial impact of worker misclassification in the Commonwealth. In 2011, then Governor Tom Corbett signed Act 72 into law, establishing the Construction Workplace Misclassification Act, which created specific guidelines for the classification of employees and independent contractors. Since then, construction groups have claimed that the law doesn’t go far enough and enforcement is slight on violations of existing law. HB 716 would create a task force made up of four legislative caucus appointees, the Attorney General, and the Secretaries of Budget and Labor & Industry. ABC contended that the bill was an unnecessary waste of taxpayer resources, as an examination of financial impact could be performed by the Bureau of Labor Law Compliance and the Legislative Budget & Finance Committee, which was formed in 1959. After opposing the bill in the Senate and encouraging several pro-business members to speak out against the bill, legislative leadership opted not to consider the bill this spring.
The second bill, House Bill 1170, was introduced by Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R-Lehigh) and would extend Pennsylvania’s current requirement for e-Verify on public works projects to private construction. ABC was vocal in its concerns about extending that requirement to other industries that are more problematic in the utilization of undocumented workers. Perhaps more concerning is the bill’s process for investigating complaints related to private construction projects. Under HB 1170, the Department of Labor & Industry would be free to show up to a jobsite or workplace unannounced, copy and seize documents, and interrogate employees. Furthermore, the bill does not prevent the Department from turning over initial investigatory authority to the Attorney General. For years, the Attorney General has utilized similar authority under Pennsylvania’s Prevailing Wage law to harass and intimidate merit shop contractors with Prevailing Wage violation threats. Again, ABC voiced these concerns and assembled a strong opposition of pro-business members of the Senate who protested for merit shop protections.
While the debate on both bills will continue throughout the summer and into fall, ABC remains committed to ensure protections for the merit shop.
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July 29, 2019