There was a time when “carpetbaggers” were Republicans who had to pack their suitcases and shlep them for days and weeks over hundreds of miles in order to enrich their pockets from the misery of others. Now, with the help of a variety of legislative tools, modern day carpetbaggers can destroy people’s lives hundreds of miles away without leaving the comfort of their home offices. Republicans discouraging local legslation to appease special interests is nothing new. Whether it is tobacco, guns, or plastic bags, or our dear departed School Reform Commission, the Republican dominated General Assembly has always been there to make life more difficult for Philadelphians, as well as residents from many other municipalities across the State.
Consider the soda tax. This tax, implemented in 2017, has generated $85 million for early childhood education, libraries, and recreation areas for the City’s residents. For some reason, happy Philadelphians have been very disappointing for Mark Mustio, a Republican representative from Allegheny County, on the other side of the State. Through the badness of his heart, he has therefore introduced legislation to annul the beverage tax in the City.
Now a new piece of legislation targeting Philadelphia is being introduced by a Republican legislator from – where else – York, PA. Representative Seth Grove (R., York) has introduced HB 861, a bill that would prevent municipal governments from creating legislation affecting work rules. This new legislation is specifically targeting Philadelphia’s “Fair Work Week” scheduling law which would require big box stores and chain restaurants to inform employees of their schedules two weeks in advance. The Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia favors the State’s interference with the City’s legislation, describing such legislation as “costly and onerous” by creating “ungodly paperwork.”
The ungodly paperwork, of course, is the time and effort required to create a schedule two weeks in advance. If you are using a computer, it sometimes requires you to click on the “>” at the top of the page to advance a month. With a paper calendar, you may need to actually flip the page. These “costly” movements, according to Rep. Grove, have been responsible for New York’s decline in jobs during the past year, when that city enacted such legislation late in 2017. Of course, that does not explain why Seattle gained jobs in that same period, even though it adopted this legislation four months earlier than New York.
In order to understand why businesses in a city such as Seattle might actually benefit from such legislation, one should ask the question: “Who needs a worker who comes to work too tired to flip those burgers, or so worried about their child’s welfare that they are constantly on their cell phone working out arrangements to have them picked up, transported, and cared for?” This is not just speculation. A study commissioned by the Gap concluded that stable scheduling sharply increased median sales as well as labor productivity.
Rather than learning what works in the various townships and boroughs around the State, Rep. Grove would like to impose a rigid set of laws on those municipalities with a proven track record of failure. One does not need to look further than Greater Philadelphia, which actually gained jobs while the State, under Republican legislative leadership, has lost jobs. This same lack of vision could be the primary reason that Pennsylvania ranks 43rd in the nation with regard to employment. Rep. Grove’s, and other Republican’s love affair with chain stores and fast food restaurants have given them the illusion that municipalities are franchises – dependent upon the corporate whim of the State. This November, help us to free the General Assembly of this illusion.