ERIE LAWMAKER’S BILL SETS SAFETY RULES FOR PUBLIC EMPLOYERS
By Jeff Cox, Pennsylvania Legislative Services | April 26, 2017
Rep. Patrick Harkins (D-Erie) held a news conference today to announce his intention to reintroduce House Bill 1082, the Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health Act and also known as “the Jake Schwab Worker’s Safety Bill.” He explained he introduced the same bill last session in memory of Erie resident Jake Schwab, an Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority employee who died as a result of a workplace accident in 2014.
Under the provisions of the legislation, workplace protection would be provided to public employees in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by establishing Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA)-equivalent safety rules for public employers. This would include the commonwealth, any of its political subdivisions including school districts and any office, board, commission, agency, authority, local transportation organization or other instrumentality and any nonprofit organization or institution currently exempt from the OSHA standards.
Several prominent labor union leader expressed support for the legislation. William Dando, legislative director for AFSCME Council 13 said that his group “strongly urges support for House Bill 1082. Noting the states of Connecticut, Illinois, Maine and the neighboring states of New Jersey and New York have established similar OSHA-like protections, Dando asserted, “It is the right thing to do.”
Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale commented, “All workers deserve a safe workplace.” He said, “It is such a shame that we have second class citizenship for public sector workers.” Bloomingdale argued the legislation would drive down absenteeism and increase productivity.” Bloomingdale stated, “This is a people bill, this is a worker bill and there should be no second class citizenship just because of the name of your employer.” On behalf of the members of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, Bloomingdale said, “We are committing our resources of our affiliates and ourselves to make sure we get this passed once and for all.”
Dolores McCracken, vice president, Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), said, “When public employees go to work every day they should expect that their workplaces are safe and free of the kinds of hazards that could make them sick or put them in danger.” She observed, “Unfortunately, not all of Pennsylvania’s public employees have that peace of mind.” McCracken stated, “Rep. Harkins’ bill will change that.”
Gabe Morgan, vice president, SEIU 32BJ, spoke about one of his members, Christopher Trakimas, who died as a result of a boiler explosion in a Philadelphia school in January, 2016. He stated, “There is no reason why Chris should have died and there is no reason anyone should die in similar circumstances.” According to Morgan, “All that needs to happen is to put the protections into place that exist for millions of workers in this country already.”
John Renwick, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 568 in Erie, said, “Let us make this the time to do something.”
Joining the labor leaders and Rep. Harkins at the news conference were Rep. John Galloway, minority chairman of the House Labor and Industry Committee, and Representatives Bryan Barbin (D-Cambria), Ryan Bizzarro (D-Erie), Scott Conklin (D-Centre) and Eddie Pashinski (D-Luzerne).
Sign the Petition to Show your Support for HB1082: http://bit.ly/2qbzfeh