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Daily Archives: January 16, 2019

Report: Construction Contractors Cheating Workers, Taxpayers

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By: Andrea Sears

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Unscrupulous contractors in southeast Pennsylvania routinely are violating labor laws and victimizing customers, including state and local government, according to a new report.

The report from the Keystone Research Center found many contractors in the regional Philadelphia construction industry are in a race to the bottom.

Stephen Herzenberg, author of the report, calls that “destructive competition” – cutting costs by misclassifying workers as independent contractors, cheating them out of overtime pay, investing little in worker skills and in some cases operating unsafely.

“When construction contractors and subcontractors compete by violating the law, wage theft, threatening workers’ health and safety, in the end nobody else wins,” he states.

The report says imposing stiffer penalties for labor law violations and directing more resources to enforcement agencies would help safeguard workers, law abiding contractors and taxpayers.

Herzenburg points out that effective enforcement can pay for itself by directing revenue from fines and penalties to enforcement agencies, and it can change the current landscape of the construction industry.

“It creates a situation where, instead of people violating the law becoming the rule, you get back to what you’re supposed to have, which is most companies complying with the law,” he explains.

The report cites a study that found the Philadelphia residential construction industry operates “informally” with no pretense of adhering to state or federal labor laws.

Herzenberg notes that the skilled construction trades are among the last pathways available for blue collar workers to move into the middle class, and reining in construction companies that break the law benefits everyone.

“In the end, that’s not only good for our middle class, it’s actually a better way to run your economy,” he stresses. “You end up with a more productive economy as a whole as well as a more productive construction industry.”

Career and Technical Education Needs More State Funding

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By: Andrea Sears

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania’s career and technical education centers, or CTCs, need additional funding in the next state budget, according to a new report.

There are 74 CTCs in the state, preparing some 55,000 high school students to enter a variety of fields as soon as they graduate. Last year, the state boosted funding for the centers by $10 million, the first increase in nearly a decade.

Kari King, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children – the group that released the report – says raising the state subsidy was a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done.

“That is really about 8 percent of overall funding, and 2 percent of funding is from the federal government,” says King. “So, 90 percent of the cost to send students to CTCs falls directly on school districts.”

The report calls on state policymakers to include an additional $10 million investment in CTCs as part of the 2019-to-2020 state budget.

King points out that the demand for graduates with backgrounds in career and technical education is growing.

“It prepares students for a range of in-demand jobs that can offer pathways to careers, like new media or health care or construction, in the manufacturing sector or even in law,” says King.

Despite the demand, there are currently 13 school districts in the state that don’t offer career and technical education options.

King adds that basic education funding needs to increase by some $400 million in the coming state budget. So, increasing funding for CTCs also gives school districts more flexibility.

“It’s really relieving the burden on the back end for the school districts,” says King. “So, it frees up some money on the basic education side that they can put elsewhere in their budgets.”

Gov. Tom Wolf is scheduled to deliver his annual budget address on February 5.

Chesapeake Bay More Polluted for First Time in Decade

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By: Laura Rosbrow-Telem

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Chesapeake Bay became more polluted last year for the first time in a decade according to a new report from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation – and a majority of the pollution came from Pennsylvania.

The foundation’s “State of the Bay Report” said extreme weather from climate change – including record rainfall in the summer – caused large amounts of dirty water to flow into the bay. In particular, increased pollution from farms and city streets drained into rivers and streams, especially the Susquehanna River.

According to Harry Campbell, Pennsylvania executive director for the foundation, more than half the state of Pennsylvania is part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

“It’s all about Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams and the lands that drain into them,” Campbell said. “And if we were to sustainably and successfully address this issue, we have to start at that source.”

Campbell recommends cost-effective, green solutions such as planting more trees along city streets, rivers and streams. This would help absorb nitrogen and other pollutants from the air and runoff from the land. According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, Pennsylvania has 19,000 miles of polluted rivers and streams.

Campbell also advocated helping farmers so that less debris and pollutants from agricultural areas enter bodies of water. He said helping farmers adapt will likely cost the state resources beyond what is available in the farm bill.

“There is a need for additional logistical, technical and financial assistance to help get the plans that are necessary to keep soils and nutrients on the land instead of in the water,” he said.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William Baker applauded the Keystone State’s efforts to improve the watershed.

“The Commonwealth is actually developing a good science-based plan as to how to move forward,” Baker said. “But there is simply no evidence that they have the political will to fund it.”

Baker had some pointed words for the president.

“The Trump administration’s anti-environmental policies must be stopped,” he said.

He urged the public to oppose the administration’s denial of climate change and efforts to roll back environmental protections.

The foundation’s State of the Bay Report is available at cbf.org.

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