|Senator Fontana participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony at Pittsburgh Musical Theater in the West End on June 27 as they unveiled their new entryway and accessible classroom. Learn more about PMT’s programs and educational opportunities at https://pittsburghmusicals.com/.
An Attack Against Workers
Last week, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that union fees violate "the free speech rights of nonmembers by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.” The Court’s ruling in Janus vs. AFSCME will essentially mandate national “Right-to-Work” status for public employees. Public sector unions will no longer be able to collect “fair share” dues from employees who have opted out of the political portion of their union contribution. Fair share covers the costs associated with collective bargaining and other union resources. It does not cover political activities.
The Court’s decision in the case is harmful to working families. As a former union member, myself, I know first-hand just how impactful unions have been to working people everywhere. Unions created the middle class and have been its advocate in the workplace for decades. The Janus decision limits unions’ abilities to collect dues, in the process limiting their ability to fight for workers. Over time, unions have been, and continue to be, the greatest champions for working people. The 40-hour workweek, overtime pay, the end of child labor, increases to the minimum wage, and the creation of OSHA, are just a few of the protections that can be attributed to the efforts made on behalf of working people by unions.
Research has shown that the ability for workers in “Right-to-Work” states to opt out of contributing to unions can hamstring efforts to bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions. “Right-to-work” laws diminish the incentive for workers to become, or continue to be, dues paying members since they can enjoy benefits of the union’s bargaining without helping to underwrite it. In doing so, these laws limit and reduce union membership, undermine financial resources, and ultimately weaken organizing and bargaining capabilities of workers.
Moving forward, it is more important than ever that we continue fighting on behalf of workers. That is why I am proud to stand with my colleagues in the Senate in introducing the PA Workplace Freedom Act. This bill would allow public sector workers to form a union if a simple majority express support, replacing the lengthy and bureaucratic procedure workers must go through now. Instead of requiring a lengthy two-tiered election process, this bill would allow a simple card check where expressing majority support would be sufficient. The legislation also requires access for new employees to certified unions in order for them to explain the benefits of union membership.
“Right-to-work” is a clever play on words that in reality provides workers with less rights, less pay, and less protections. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus should serve as a wake-up-call to all working families that their rights are under attack by corporate special interests. As a former Boilermaker, Teamster, and as a longtime supporter of workers’ rights, I will continue fighting on behalf of workers everywhere.
Did You Know…
Did you know that workers in “Right-to-Work” states earn on average 12.1% less in annual pay than workers in other states and that a recent Gallup Poll shows 61 percent of Americans have a favorable view of unions?
Funding for Programs Working to End Homelessness
FHLBank Pittsburgh and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) are partnering to fund programs across the state that help people in danger of losing their housing with the goal of ending homelessness in the state. FHLBank Pittsburgh is providing $3 million toward the effort called “Home4Good” and PHFA is providing $1.5 million for a total contribution of $4.5 million to launch this initiative.
The funding will be distributed as grants to organizations with programs that help people retain or find housing, as well as those that provide supportive services. Groups seeking funding are advised to apply through one of 16 Continuum of Care organizations in the state. PHFA is currently soliciting these Continuum of Care organizations to enlist their participation.
Continuum of Care organizations that choose to participate will review and prioritize incoming applications for consideration for funding by FHL Bank Pittsburg and PHFA. Their deadline to join this effort is July 13. If a local Continuum of Care chooses not to participate, or if one doesn’t serve a particular area, groups may apply directly to PHFA for this financial assistance.
Practically any organization may apply for funding, including local governments, non-profits, housing authorities and others. The key factors are that they offer programs that prevent or reduce homelessness, they are collaborating with others to address established goals, and they have a track record of success. The deadline for groups to apply for funding under the Home4Good initiative is Sept. 14.
Interested organizations that want to learn more may participate in an informational webinar scheduled for July 9 at 2 p.m. More information, and registration details, are available on the PHFA website at www.phfa.org/mhp/serviceprovider/. On the site, click on the first bullet for the Home4Good initiative. Background information about Home4Good is also available there.
Interested organizations whose questions aren’t answered on the website may contact Bryce Maretzki at PHFA at (717) 780-1867 or by email at email@example.com.
All Senate offices will be closed tomorrow in observance of the Independence Day holiday. My offices will re-open Thursday, July 5 as scheduled. Have a happy and safe 4th!
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program Extended
The deadline to submit an application to the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue for the 2017 Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program has been extended from June 30 to Dec. 31, 2018. If you filed a paper rebate last year, you should have received an application in the mail. Applications are also available at my district offices, online at www.revenue.pa.gov or by calling 1-888-222-9190. As always, my staff would be happy to assist you in preparing your application.
The Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters. Please keep in mind, half of Social Security income is excluded.
The program is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue from slots gaming.
Summer Food Program for Children
Children ages 18 and younger can participate in the Allegheny County Summer Food program which began in mid-June. Summer Food will run in over 70 locations in Allegheny County through August. At these locations children can receive a free breakfast and lunch during the summer recess from school. For more information on the program, including information on locations and times, please call the Allegheny County Department of Human Services at 1-800-851-3838. You may also click here to view a listing of locations.
Upcoming APPRISE Lunch & Learn
The next APPRISE/Allegheny Link Lunch & Learn event is scheduled for Thursday, July 19 at the Human Services Building, located at 1 Smithfield Street in downtown Pittsburgh. The program will begin at noon with greetings and introductions with the presentation and Q&A session running from 12:15 – 3 p.m.
APPRISE is the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) for Pennsylvania’s Medicare beneficiaries. The Pennsylvania Department of Aging created APPRISE to help citizens with Medicare understand their health insurance options so they can make informed decisions about which plan is best for them.
The topic for the July 19 Lunch & Learn is “Medical Assistance Programs: Help paying for the costs of healthcare under the Medicare system.” Individuals with limited income and assets that are enrolled (or about to enroll) in the Medicare system may qualify for additional benefits that will help with the costs for medical care and/or prescription medications that they receive under Medicare. This presentation will identify and explain the various benefit programs available such as The Medicare Savings Program, Extra Help, and Pace. Presenters will examine the eligibility criteria, application process, and benefits provided by these programs.
Anyone interested in attending should R.S.V.P. to Bill McKendree at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-661-1670, ext. 645.
Italian StrEAT Festival This Weekend
The Downtown CDC is hosting the 2nd Annual Highmark Italian StrEAT Festival this weekend. The Festival, located between 6th and 9th Streets on Penn Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh will run this Saturday and Sunday.
From noon – 8 p.m. each day, take a walk through the Festival and experience the tastes, sights, and smells of Italy! The Festival will feature live shows by local Pittsburgh bands and performers, cooking demonstrations by local chefs, Italian wine, a bocce court, raffles, kids activities, and much more. Admission is free.
The Italian Festival brings a vibrant cultural event to Downtown Pittsburgh that benefits the community and provides an opportunity to learn more about the rich Italian and Italian American Heritage that has long been a part of Southwestern Pennsylvania. For more information on vendors and volunteer opportunities please visit www.highmarkstreatfestpgh.com.
The 30th President of the United States, Calvin Coolidge, was born on Independence Day in 1872. He is the only president to have been born on July 4.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
543 Main Capitol |
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
524 Pine Hollow Road
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
|Northside (Mobile Office)
Carnegie Library |
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212