Solving Pennsylvania’s Jobs Dilemma
It is a chicken-and-egg argument – do we have high unemployment because of our sluggish economy or has the economy slowed because of the lack of jobs? What I do know for certain is the House Labor and Industry Committee is not sitting still and waiting for the answer.

During the month of August, the committee, chaired by state Rep. Ron Miller (R-York County), held a series of hearings on right to work and prevailing wage. These issues have been around for a long time, yet these hearings are the first of their kind in Harrisburg in quite awhile.

Right to work statutes currently exist in 22 states. Pennsylvania is not among them. Miller’s committee examined House bills 50, 51, 52 and 53. Each piece of legislation would prohibit agreements between labor unions and employers that make membership, payment of union dues, or fees a condition of employment, either before or after hiring.

The committee also held hearings on three prevailing wage bills and is considering two additional bills on the subject. Prevailing wage is defined as the hourly wage, usual benefits and overtime paid to the majority of workers, laborers, and mechanics within a particular area. While this may seem fairly simple to understand, the debate lies in the manner by which prevailing wage is determined.

Chairman Miller has authored House Bill 1367, which would require Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor to use the Center for Workforce Information and Analysis in determining prevailing minimum wage rates on a county-by-county basis. Opponents argue that workers wages would be reduced. Miller’s contention is that a larger number of people (the Pennsylvania taxpayers) stand to benefit because their tax dollars would in effect be “stretched.” I’m looking forward to debating this issue on the House floor and examining more thoroughly the effect prevailing wage has on the cost of public projects.

Finding a solution to our unemployment dilemma is not easy. What we do know is no economic recovery will in fact take place unless we find a way to create jobs. That means making our state more attractive to business. Legislation dealing with prevailing wage and right to work figures to be part of the discussion, possibly as early as this fall. I look forward to these and other bills being seriously debated as we move to improve Pennsylvania’s business climate.

Contact: Scott Little
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