by Jim Willshier, ABC Keystone, Director of Government Affairs
Legislation in Coming
While it looks like the plane is being built while it’s climbing up in the air, legislators in the state capitol are beginning to move their agenda after a slow start. At the time of writing this article, we have seen bills supported by unions move from the House to the Senate – one to enshrine the right to organize in the Pennsylvania Constitution (and bar state legislators from passing future bills related to employer/employee relations) and another that attempts to address misclassification of employees.
ABC Keystone has been vocal on our position for both bills and genuinely seeking to understand the problem either would solve. HB 950 is a step towards amending the state’s Constitution to protect unionizing rights from an organizer’s perspective…even though testimony for its proponents recognizes that everyone in the state that wants to join a union has done so and received representation in negotiations. A change to the Constitution doesn’t affect that existing right at all. The additional language in the bill that proponents don’t discuss is that it bars future legislators from ever passing legislation addressing hours, wages, benefits, safety, etc. If successful, that would have a monumental impact on everyone in the Commonwealth. Several groups join ABC to oppose this bill and question this policy before it moves further.
The other bill, HB 413, for the misclassification of employees, is only focused on ensuring that a contract exists for the work to be performed by the employee. It does nothing to bolster the existing Act 72. It takes no recommendations (good or bad) from the Joint Taskforce on the Misclassification of Employees’ report released in December of 2022. Currently, it only focuses on contractual arrangements with employees. Unlike the Constitutional amendment, this bill is curious about what the authors believe will be solved by this approach and will hopefully be stopped in the Senate. If anything needs to be done beyond Act 72, that conversation must take place, and isn’t happening now.
The good news is that a bi-partisan bill that ABC Keystone collaborated on with a collection of business groups and advocates will advance our re-entry efforts. HB 689 is a joint effort by Reps. Harris and Delozier to continue their “Clean Slate” legislation from 2018 to seal records for low-level drug offenses to help give individuals a second chance. ABC has participated in press events and supported the bill as it moves forward in the House.
A key component of all these bills and those that will soon come is outreach to our legislators to hear directly from you. Conversations about the bills and our policy priorities continue at Keystone member events, Regional Construction Wake-Up Calls. As a result, we had real opportunities to move beyond the surface of what can help get more people back to work and strengthen our economy.
Please keep following ABC Keystone and join our committees to give us the direct pipeline of reality to our policymakers. No one can be an expert in everything, and your practical knowledge is crucial to help provide context to the decisions they must make when a yes/no vote is put before them. So please take advantage of every opportunity through ABC events, and in any other meetings or events you have to give real experiences to color the policies under consideration every day.