Friday, January 23, 2015

Manufacturing Still Matters in Pennsylvania

Industry Accounts for 9.8% of State Employment and $77.4 Billion in GDP

HARRISBURG (Jan. 23, 2015) – Manufacturing is still a large and vital part of the Pennsylvania economy despite misguided policies that have shrunk manufacturing employment and hurt its international competiveness, according to The Manufacturing Footprint and the Importance of U.S. Manufacturing Jobs, a new study from Robert E. Scott, Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Research at the Economic Policy Institute.

Manufacturing directly employs over half a million Pennsylvania workers (563,500)—one in every 10 Pennsylvania jobs. All told (counting indirect supply-chain jobs—engineering services, marketing, etc.—and jobs created by the spending of manufacturing wages and profits), manufacturing accounts for 21.3 percent of employment in the United States—a total of 29.1 million jobs. Moreover, manufacturing jobs are high quality jobs. On average, manufacturing workers earned $2.52 more an hour than other workers in 2012 and 2013. According to the Center for Workforce Information and Analysis, manufacturing wages average about $54,000 in Pennsylvania compared to less than $47,000 in the rest of the economy.

Manufacturing was responsible for 12% of Pennsylvania’s gross domestic product in 2013, or $77.4 billion.

“Manufacturing is not the dying or outdated sector of the economy it’s frequently made out to be,” said Stephen Herzenberg, economist and executive director of the Keystone Research Center. “On the contrary, manufacturing is still an important part of the state economy. It is a source of good jobs, and policymakers should work to shore up and expand our manufacturing sector in Pennsylvania and throughout the country.”

Nearly 20 years of policy failures have eroded U.S. manufacturing. From 1998-2013, Pennsylvania lost 314,000 manufacturing jobs. However, there are steps that can be taken to reverse manufacturing’s decline. In the paper, Scott identifies reducing currency manipulation, shrinking the U.S. trade deficit, and investing in infrastructure and research and development as key ways to rebuild and expand U.S. manufacturing.

An online interactive map allows members of the media and public to access data on the importance of manufacturing in their congressional district, and shows which industry sectors account for the most jobs. A glance at the map of Pennsylvania shows that rural areas through Pennsylvania’s “T” and York, Lancaster, the Lehigh Valley, Reading, and Erie are all areas with above-average shares of manufacturing jobs. The map also shows that all but a couple of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts have a manufacturing employment share near or above the national average. “Pennsylvania’s 13 Republican and five Democratic congressional representatives should be leading proponents of the manufacturing agenda in the United States Congress,” Herzenberg said.

Within Pennsylvania, strong bipartisan support also exists for manufacturing. Gov. Wolf’s “Made in PA” plan highlights the potential to boost innovation, capitalizing on Pennsylvania’s 130 higher education institutions, and the need for 21st century workforce initiatives, including apprenticeship. Former Gov. Corbett’s Team Pennsylvania Manufacturing Advisory Council mapped out an array of state workforce, innovation, and financial initiatives that would boost manufacturing.
“Manufacturing in Pennsylvania is ripe for bipartisan cooperation to create more jobs that pay,” Herzenberg said.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

ACLU Says Law Silences Free Speech Rights of Prisoners

January 13, 2015 - Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service (PA)

PHOTO: Attorney Sara Rose with the Pennsylvania ACLU says a new state law tramples the free speech rights of prisoners and former prisoners. Photo courtesy S. Rose.
PHOTO: Attorney Sara Rose with the Pennsylvania ACLU says a new state law tramples the free speech rights of prisoners and former prisoners. Photo courtesy S. Rose.
PITTSBURGH - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit last week aimed at stopping enforcement of what it calls the "Silencing Act."

Passed by the legislature last year, the act allows prosecutors or victims of a personal injury crime to obtain an injunction to prohibit anyone convicted of such a crime from engaging in any conduct that would cause "mental anguish" to the victim or the victim's family members.

Sara Rose, a staff attorney for the ACLU, says it wasn't hard too see the act's immediate challenges to the First Amendment.

"The broad impact this law could have on the First Amendment rights is significant," she says. "Not only for offenders, but the people who work with them and the people who report on what happens inside of prisons."

The suit was filed on behalf of four former prisoners who are now community leaders, several journalists and media organizations, and a professor who works with prisoners.

Rose notes the impact goes beyond the groups the plaintiffs represent, because the act prevents anyone else from hearing offenders' statements and opinions.

"It violates not just the First Amendment rights of offenders, but also the First Amendment rights of those who wish to hear what they have to say," says Rose.

She adds the law already has gone into effect, but at this point, the ACLU believes no victims or prosecutors have sought an injunction against any offenders.

Rose says a potential financial penalty for prisoners or ex-prisoners who speak out also constrains their right to free speech.

"The law does contain a provision that would allow the court to charge the offender with costs and attorneys fees if the injunction is issued," she says.

The law was aimed at silencing Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1982 and is serving a life sentence. He maintains he is innocent.

Monday, January 12, 2015

McCord: PA Will Benefit from Embracing Clean Power

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service (PA)

HARRISBURG, Pa. - While the Environmental Protection Agencies proposal to curb carbon pollution may be a difficult pill for coal supporters to swallow, one state leader is convinced the benefits outweigh the costs. About 40 percent of Pennsylvania's electricity comes from coal, and the Clean Power Plan calls for the state to reduce carbon emissions from coal power plants 32 percent by the year 2030. 

State Treasurer Rob McCord admits there are costs and concerns to be addressed, but says there's much to gain by embracing the goals of the plan. 

"We have families who depend on the income from working in the coal industry," he says. "But what we need to take a look at is that, in the last decade, we've generated hundreds of thousands of jobs now in green technology industries related to energy, as opposed to the 7,500 jobs in coal."

McCord says the plan would also reduce climate change, and help those who suffer from asthma and other lung conditions by improving air quality. In the last two years, the EPA has received more than eight million public comments supporting federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants. The rules are supposed to be finalized this summer, although GOP leaders in Congress say they'll try to prevent that.

The EPA has crafted the plan so states are allowed flexibility in how they meet their goals. Instead of waiting for federal regulators to decide how Pennsylvania will reduce carbon emissions, McCord says the State Legislature should adopt its own approach with wind and solar power, and other innovations. 

"Net metering is a big opportunity for families; generating green technology is a big opportunity for businesses," he says. "Incentives for conservation, we get a $3 return for every dollar spent on any kind of conservation. All of those things could be put into a customized bill."

McCord believes the savings that result from moving to a clean energy economy can create new opportunities for those families and businesses that have depended on coal for their livelihood. 

"Provide special incentives to transition away from a dependence on coal," says McCord. "We may want to invest in things like carbon sequestration, so that our coal reserves become more valuable as well as safer over time and we could have subsidies for the families that are losing jobs."

McCord says measures implemented to meet the EPA's goals could generate nearly $90 billion per year in savings for less than $9 billion per year in investment between now and 2030.

The Astonishing Cost of Ohio’s Lowest Performing School

Ohio’s most expensive failing school is ECOT, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow. It has theoqesthfaduation rate of any school in the state, yet is never held accountable. It is financed by taking funds away from much more successful schools and districts.
“The Columbus Dispatch wrote recently of the academic failures of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) where the graduation rate of 38% is among the worst of any school in the state. Among Ohio’s 613 traditional public school districts , the lowest graduation rate is 60.9%. In addition, ECOT received all Fs and one D on the state’s most recent report card.
“Despite its abysmal performance record, ECOT continues to expand. More than 14,500 children are currently enrolled, making ECOT the equivalent of the 10th largest school district in the state. The Dispatch story noted that ECOT founder William Lager has donated more than $1 million to Ohio politicians in the last five years as his school has grown exponentially.
“Information at helps clarify the burden that local public schools must bear to cover the costs of students who chose to attend ECOT. Kids in all 88 Ohio counties are impacted. More than 95% of school districts – 586 of 613 districts – have students and money being transferred to ECOT. As one of the state’s 9 statewide e-schools and one of the country’s largest for-profit K-12 schools, ECOT’s poor performance is exacerbated by its extraordinary financial impact on children throughout the state.”

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Educators Say New Pennsylvania Governor's "Mandate" is to Invest in

PHOTO: Educators say Pennsylvania's incoming governor will have a chance to undo funding cuts that have hurt student achievement. Photo montage courtesy of the National Education Association.
PHOTO: Educators say Pennsylvania's incoming governor will have a chance to undo funding cuts that have hurt student achievement. Photo montage courtesy of the National Education Association.
HARRISBURG, Pa. - Incoming Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf faces big budget problems, but educators say he at least received a clear mandate from voters to reverse damaging cuts to schools.

Retired Pittsburgh public school teacher Mike Crossey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), says past policies "blew a big red hole" in the state's budget, and reversed 10 years of improving academic achievement and test scores.

While he says Wolf faces a tough job to undo the damage, Crossey also notes the possibility of bipartisan cooperation following the "big vote of approval" for the governor-elect.

"Tom Wolf has a mandate to come in and not only start investing more in our schools," says Crossey, "but invest wisely so our students, no matter their zip code, have as much a chance to succeed as anyone."

The school funding cuts came as part a broader push to lower taxes and spending, but Crossey says those cuts haven't worked as well as its supporters had hoped, particularly outgoing Governor Tom Corbett. Crossey says Wolf's campaign included proposals to raise revenue, including a tax on gas drillers and closing corporate loopholes. He adds that expanding Medicaid in the commonwealth would bring in almost $500 million.

According to Crossey, the revenue options offer a chance to get school funding and achievement scores back on track.

"You don't throw money at an issue or at a problem, but you invest wisely," he says. "From our point of view, investing money in schools and kids is the best way to grow Pennsylvania."

According to PSEA figures, funding cuts landed hardest on schools least able to deal with them. While the average cut was about $85 per student in the commonwealth's 50 wealthiest schools, Crossey says the cut to the Reading school district was more than $1,300 per student.

"Reading is the poorest city in America. They don't have the tax base or the wherewithal to make up that kind of funding cut," he says.

Crossey addressed the issue in conjunction with the celebration of American Education Week. He says it marks a good opportunity for a fresh, nonpartisan look at how the state is funding schools.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Is Corbett’s attack on Philly teachers a political move based on his secret poll?

Keystone Progress files Right to Know Law request seeking correspondence between Governor’s Office and School Reform Commission to uncover the truth

(HARRISBURG, PA) Keystone Progress (KP) has filed a Right to Know Law request with the Office of Open Records seeking:

1.    All written communications between the Office of the Governor and any member of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission (i.e., Bill Greene, Sylvia Simms, Feather Houstoun, Farah Jimenez, and Marjorie Neff) from August 1, 2014 to the date this letter is received.
2.    All communications between the Office of the Governor and any staff member of the School District of Philadelphia from August 1, 2014 to the date this letter is received.

“We are filing this request for information because the recent attacks on Philadelphia’s schools by Tom Corbett’s School Reform Commission reeks of political opportunism,” said Keystone Progress Executive Director Michael Morrill. “This is especially important in light of the secret poll that the Philadelphia City Paper uncovered last year that recommended Corbett’s campaign should take on the Philly teachers as part of his re-election strategy.”

Morrill is referring to a Philadelphia City Paper article by Daniel Denvir that exposed a secret poll that recommended Corbett should attack Philadelphia teachers as “enemies.” (“Secret poll: Corbett should exploit Philly school crisis, attack teachers union for political gain,” Philadelphia City Paper, 6/19/2013)

The poll summary said, "With Governor Corbett's weak job approval, re-elect and ballot support numbers, the current Philadelphia school crisis presents an opportunity for the Governor to wedge the electorate on an issue that is favorable to him… Staging this battle presents Corbett with an opportunity to coalesce his base, focus on a key emerging issue in the state, and campaign against an 'enemy' that's going to aggressively oppose him in '14 in any case."

The pollster, Public Opinion Strategies, went on to say, “Taking on this fight moves Corbett's approval scores on handling education" and "boosts his overall approval numbers."

“This poll’s recommendation that Corbett should attack Philadelphia teachers and the recent decision by Corbett’s SRC to act on that recommendation right before the election seems to be more than coincidental,” continued Morrill. “That’s why we have filed this Right to Know Law request.”

KP believes in public accountability and regularly files Right to Know Law requests seeking information that should be available to the public.

The Governor’s office has five business days to respond to the request.

# # #

Report Critical of Corbett "Outsourcing" in Pennsylvania

PHOTO: Gov. Tom Corbett is among governors in seven states who are mentioned in a new report about outsourcing billions of dollars in state services to private contractors. Photo credit: Lucidology/
PHOTO: Gov. Tom Corbett is among governors in seven states who are mentioned in a new report about outsourcing billions of dollars in state services to private contractors. Photo credit: Lucidology/
Chris Thomas, Public News Service

HARRISBURG, PA - Shrinking government has meant shifting responsibilities to private industry in some states, and Gov. Tom Corbett is one of seven governors taken to task in a new report that correlates these outsourcing decisions with major campaign donors and mixed results for taxpayers.

In Corbett's case, the Center for Media and Democracy cited what it calls "frequent outsourcing" of legal business to private law firms and the push to privatize state liquor sales.
Economist Steve Herzenberg, executive director of the Keystone Research Center, said a large body of nonpartisan academic research backs the report's conclusion - that transparency is lost when services are performed by private industry.

"Any time when you have questions, legitimate questions, about public service delivery - and it's public - it's relatively easy to take the lid off, to look inside, to figure out what's going on," he said. "It's harder when you've got to pierce the veil of the private contractor."

The governors in the seven states mentioned in the report all are Republicans, but Herzenberg pointed out that Democratic governors aren't immune. He cited questions raised about the appropriateness of former Gov. Ed Rendell outsourcing some state information-technology functions to campaign donor Deloitte during his administration.

In Pennsylvania, the Keystone Research Center has studied the effects of privatization on nursing homes and on water and sewer services. Overall, Herzenberg said, the focus of shifting services should be on whether citizens are getting a good deal - and by that measure, he said, the research is clear.

"These asset sales tend to be shortsighted, in the sense that you get some money up front," he said, "but in the end, citizens pay more, much more than they would if the asset had remained public."

The report said some experts estimate $1 trillion of the $6 trillion of government spending in the United States each year is spent on private contractors.

The report is online at

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Is Pennsylvania delivering on the promise of quality, affordable health care for women?

Is Pennsylvania delivering on the promise of quality, affordable health care for women?
Unfortunately, the answer is no.

In today’s economy, families depend on both men and women to make ends meet. Women across PA are leading households and we’re doing everything we can to support our families, but the deck is stacked against them – especially when it comes to getting the health care our families need to lead healthy, prosperous lives.

The newly-released 2014 Women’s Health Report Card for PA underscores our reality: PA is failing when it comes to meeting women’s health needs, and there’s a lot more state can and should be doing to meet women’s health needs – especially for women of color.

In the report card, which ranks all 50 states on 30 measures of women’s health, including coverage, access to care, and health outcomes,PA was ranked only #22 and got a final grade of C+ -- PA only got a D grade for health care outcomes for women.
You can read the full report here.

Here's the good part -- you can make a difference.  It’s important that we let our elected officials know that PA is falling short and that they can change that.


You can edit a letter that is already started for you — make it your voice and send it electronically to your elected officials with our easy-to-use system.  Just click here to add your voice.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The National ‘Put the Middle Class First’ Bus Tour Headed to Pennsylvania, To Be Joined By U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle

18-State Tour to Underscore Clear Choice Voters Face in November:
Democrats’ Middle-Out Approach to Building an Economy That Works for Everyone vs.  Tom Corbett and Mike Fitzpatrick’s Top-Down Tea Party Approach That Works Only for the Wealthy Few & Big Corporations
Washington DC – Americans United for Change has hit the road with the national “Put the Middle Class First” bus tour to help drive home the clear choice before voters on November 4 between having a Democratic Congress that works for them or a Tea Party Congress that works for corporate special interests like the Koch brothers.  NEXT STOP: Pennsylvania onThursday, October 9 at 10am ET in Philadelphia, 1pm in Harrisburg and 5:30pm in Pittsburgh*SEE DETAILS BELOW. With the backdrop of the 45’ long ‘fair shot advocate on wheels’, Americans United will be joined byCongressman Mike Doyle, Dr. Manan Trivedi, Kevin Strouselocal labor leaders and seniors’ advocates who agree that a strong economy can only be built to last from the middle-out. The alternative? : The Top-Down Tea Party approach espoused by Gov. Tom Corbett, U.S. Reps. Pat Meehan (R-PA-07) and Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA-08) of giving more tax breaks to millionaires that never manage to create job but always manage to undermine middle class priorities like education and Medicare.

While the economy is picking up speed, many American families are still struggling to climb into the middle class and stay there. The reason: incomes have been stagnant or even shrinking for more than a decade at the same time the cost of food, child care, college, housing, retirement security, and basic necessities has soared.  That’s why all eyes are on lawmakers to make critical investments in education, innovation and infrastructure that will create more jobs, opportunity, and an economy that works for everyone. But instead, Tea Party Republicans have stood in the way of every reasonable proposal made by President Obama and Democrats to move the country forward, even if it meant shutting down the government and hurting the economy.  Instead, they have made sure this Congress has been the least productive and most beholden to the special interests in U.S. history. The Enablers: Pat Meehan voted in lock step with the Tea Party 71% of the time and Mike Fitzpatrick rubberstamped their extreme agenda 73% of the time.

Four years in a row, Meehan and Fitzpatrick helped fellow House Republicans pass a budget plan that voucherizes Medicare, slashes Medicaid, Pell grants and child care services, and shortchanges badly needed repairs to America’s crumbling bridges and roads. At the same time, the Ryan-Meehan-Fitzpatrick budget protects Big Oil subsides and gives away $5 trillion in new tax breaks for millionaires and corporations that outsource U.S. jobs. Not to be outdone, Republican Governors like Tom Corbett are enacting their own Robin Hood in Reverse policies, from tax breaks geared towards the super-wealthy, to gutting public education, to refusing to accept available Medicaid resources to cover thousands of vulnerable citizens including Veterans who living one health emergency away from bankruptcy.  The Koch brothers, Big Insurance and Wall Street are clearly very satisfied customers judging by the millions of dollars they continue to funnel into Republican campaigns like that of Corbett, Meehan, and Fitzpatrick.
In contrast, Democrats in Congress have a detailed set of proposals that put the middle class first, giving more Americans a fair shot at getting into the middle class and achieving the American Dream, including: Ensuring women receive equal pay for equal work; Making college affordable; Raising the Minimum Wage; Creating jobs by investing in infrastructure; and Protecting Social Security and Medicare from benefit cuts, voucher and privatization schemes.

WHO:             Dr. Manan Trivedi, Iraq War veteran and Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania's 6th congressional district
Kevin Strouse
, Democrat for Congress in Pennsylvania's 8th District
Joyce Koch of the Koch Sisters
Frank Snyder, Secretary/Treasurer of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO
Wayne Burton, President, PA Alliance for Retired Americans
Alice Hoffman, Executive Board Member, PA Alliance for Retired Americans
John Meyerson, UFCW Retiree, Raise the Wage Coalition
WHERE:       Love Park, 1599 John F Kennedy Blvd, Philadelphia, PA

WHEN:          Thursday, October 9, 2014 at 10 am ET


WHO:             Sandy Strauss, Director of Advocacy and Ecumenical Relations
Alice Hoffman, Executive Board Member, Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans
Mark Price, Labor Economist, Keystone Research Center
Mike Crossey, President, Pennsylvania State Education association
WHERE:       Pennsylvania State Capitol, 3rd St and State StHarrisburg, PA

WHEN:          Thursday, October 9, 2014 at 1 pm ET


WHO:             U.S. Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA 14th District) 
Thomas M. Conway, International Vice President, United Steelworkers
Rick Bloomingdale, President, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO
Carmen Marcantoni, Zone Coordinator, Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans and AFSCME Retiree    
WHERE:       United Steel Workers60 Boulevard of the AlliesPittsburgh, PA 15222

WHEN:         Thursday, October 9, 2014 at 5:30 pm ET