There is an old saying in government – “Those who are involved in politics the least get screwed the most.” This statement has never been more true than it is today.
If not for labor unions, there would be no organized voice for working people in the political process. Virtually every special interest group has political action committees who help elect sympathetic candidates and make sure their voices are heard by government decision-makers. Wealthy individuals like the Koch Brothers spend hundreds of millions of dollars trying to influence the political process, and you can be sure their interests do not align with yours! These are the same people who want to end labor unions through “right to work for less” laws, fund the Tea Party extremists, eliminate prevailing wage and project labor agreements, and make it harder for average citizens to vote.
Local 98 has been hard at work defending your rights in Harrisburg and City Hall. With conservative Republicans controlling the Governor’s Office and the state legislature, Local 98 has led the fight with other Pennsylvania labor unions to stop the same anti-worker, corporate-supported legislation that has recently emerged in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan.
For the last few years, right-wing corporate interests have been hard at work attacking collective bargaining, introducing “right to work for less” legislation, and jeopardizing the future of our industry. Local 98 will not stand by and allow Pennsylvania to become the next battleground state for workers’ rights, and we have been heavily involved in making sure decision makers at all levels of government are working to protect your interests.
IBEW Local 98 is involved in politics to make sure the voices of working people are heard loud and clear. We support candidates who support the interests of working people and value economic development and the importance of a hard day’s work. We also participate politically to make sure the wages and standards that organized labor has fought so hard for remain intact. After all, the best negotiated contract can be undone with a single piece of legislation.
Local 98 works hard to advocate for the adoption of “best practices” in the construction industry. Below are just a few highlights of some of the issues with which we have recently been involved.
Statewide Licensing of Electricians
State Representatives John Taylor and Ed Neilson sponsored a bill (HB 1585) to require statewide licensure for electricians and electrical contractors who do inside work. PA is one of a handful of states without this requirement already in place. Licensing will allow our members to work anywhere in PA and in many other states without obtaining other licenses. It will also help crack down on unskilled, untrained, and undocumented workers by requiring all electricians to have the same high skill level that our members already have. Local 98 is strongly supportive of this legislation, and our members will be able to easily obtain a license due to the rigorous training and experience they already have. This bill is expected to have a committee hearing in 2014.
LINK: Details and Full Text of HB 1585
Transportation Funding – PASSED
In 2013, State Senator John Rafferty sponsored the first comprehensive transportation funding bill for Pennsylvania since 1997. This bill will raise $2.3 billion in additional annual spending for critically needed infrastructure upgrades to roads, bridges, and mass transit systems. This additional funding could generate up to 60,000 jobs across the state, and includes hundreds of millions for SEPTA projects in the Philadelphia region – including the funds necessary to start long-range projects like the subway extension to the Navy Yard.
Non-union contractors have been aggressively lobbying officials in Harrisburg to allow 1-to-1 journeyman to apprentice ratios on every construction job in the state. This change would allow these contractors to cut their payroll costs by replacing experienced journeymen with less expensive labor–when many of these contractors do not even run true apprenticeship programs! This change would devastate employment prospects in the construction industry over the long term for journeymen. Local 98 has aggressively expressed its opposition to this proposal. Our apprentice training director, Michael Neill, is a member of the Pennsylvania Apprenticeship and Training Council. The Apprenticeship and Training Council so far has not approved any of these devastating ratio modification requests.
[Letter to Senators – Apprentice Ratios]
In the wake of the tragic building collapse at 22nd and Market, Local 98 has worked closely with City Council and State Rep. Bill Keller to enact tougher code requirements and better enforcement practices for construction and demolition. Jim Dollard, our safety coordinator and nationally recognized code expert, presented testimony to lawmakers about the shortcomings in existing practices that need to be addressed. Many of his suggestions were adopted into city law, with legislation pending in Harrisburg to generate millions more for stronger enforcement.
LINK: Details and Full Text of HB 1877
Councilmen Bobby Henon and Jim Kenney have been hard at work cracking down on unscrupulous developers and contractors who pay their workers cash, cheat the system out of taxes, and cut corners when it comes to safety and worker protections. They recently passed a tough new contractor bill in City Council to prohibit third-party permits and increase enforcement and accountability to run these bad actors out of town.
Uniform Construction Code
Since 2011, Pennsylvania has operated under a broken system for evaluating new building codes. As a result of this dysfunction, our state continues to operate under the 2009 codes with little hope of modern codes being adopted until at least 2015. Local 98 has advocated for legislation to fix the UCC Review and Advisory Council process to make it easier for new codes to be adopted statewide. City Councilman and Local 98 member Bobby Henon currently sits on the UCC Review and Advisory Council and is advocating for changes to the way the RAC operates from his seat on the board, as well.