WLP Testified in Opposition to HB 861, Preemption of Local Labor Protections — WLP Blog

The conservative, right-wing, anti-labor General Assembly in Pennsylvania is once again attempting to take away local control over their local labor ordinances. They want to preempt all labor protections that local municipalities have enacted since 2015.  This includes paid sick leave as well as all local anti-discrimination ordinances that go beyond protections provided in state law.  This would include protections for LGBTQIA people, marital and familial status in general (other than familial status protections in housing).  The current bill being debated is HB 861, also known as the “Preemption of Local Labor Protections.” This morning, the Women’s Law Project testified before the House Labor and Industry Committee.  Below is there blog summarizing this testimony.

The bill was not voted on today.  So you have two chances in the House to stop this bill. First, contact members of the House Labor and Industry Committee and ask them to vote no during the committee vote. Second, you can also contact your Representative to raise your voice in opposition to this bill.  You can find your legislator here.

So take a couple of minutes, read the WLP blog on this issue, and then make your calls/emails. Thank you!

 

via WLP Testified in Opposition to HB 861, Preemption of Local Labor Protections — WLP Blog

Today, WLP Staff Attorney Amal M. Bass testified in opposition to House Bill 861(preemption of local laws protecting workers) before the Pennsylvania House Labor & Industry Committee. The Women’s Law Project strongly opposes HB 861, which is sponsored by Rep. Seth Groves of York County.

You can read Amal’s testimony in full here.

What is Preemption?

Preemption bills like HB 861 prohibit local governments from passing local ordinances to meet the needs and reflect the values of their own communities.

HB861 Would be Retroactive

HB 861 is even worse than a typical state preemption bill because it includes a retroactivity clause designed to strip away local protections that have already been implemented, including protections for LGBTQ workers and paid sick days ordinances that provide protections for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

HB 861 Would Nullify a Broad Range of Workplace Protections

The way it is written, HB 861 could apply to almost any local government’s attempt to protect its own workers.

HB 861 Targets Paid Sick Days in Philadelphia & Pittsburgh   

HB 861 would retroactively strip hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania workers of their right to paid sick days.

The Women’s Law Project testified in support of Philadelphia’s paid sick days ordinance, which City Council passed and the Mayor signed on February 12, 2015 after a thorough, multi-year process that drew upon the recommendations of a Task Force representing many perspectives on the issue, including employers.  The local law that resulted from this process provides forty hours of earned paid sick time in a calendar year for workers of employers with ten or more employees, and it provides unpaid sick time to workers of smaller employers.

Philadelphia’s paid sick days ordinance also provides paid leave to employees whose absence is related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. This ordinance is vital for the health and well-being of women and their families in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties, giving paid sick leave to more than 200,000 workers.

In 2015, Pittsburgh joined Philadelphia in recognizing these benefits when it used its home rule authority and its authority to pass public health laws to pass a modest earned paid sick leave ordinance. The Women’s Law Project and attorneys from the Partnership for Working Families filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Pittsburgh’s paid sick days law on behalf of fifty-one organizations committed to women’s health and safety.

However, the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association has challenged this local law, halting its implementation, in a lawsuit currently before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

This is typical in that special-interest groups often seek to block and stall protections from workers so that they may profit from the lack of protections. That doesn’t mean lawmakers representing hard-working constituents should allow them to succeed.

HB 861 is a Direct Attack on LBGTQ Pennsylvanians

House Bill 861 also affects discrimination laws. More than forty municipalities in Pennsylvania have local ordinances prohibiting discrimination on the basis of many protected characteristics, including sexual orientation, which our employment laws at the state and federal levels, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, do not explicitly cover.

HB 861 is equipped with a retroactive provision that could strip protections for LGBTQ workers passed places such as Ambler Borough, Bridgeport Borough, Carlisle, Dickson City, Mount Lebanon, Kennett Square Borough, Narberth Borough, Phoenixville, Royersford, Stroudsburg, and Wilkes-Barre. All of these municipalities passed anti-discrimination laws after 2015, and therefore could trigger HB 861’s retroactive preemption. The bill could also prohibit every municipality in the state from altering or adding to their antidiscrimination provisions in the future.

Local Governments Pass Laws Protecting Workers Because the State Fails to Do So

Pennsylvania is a patchwork of worker protections in part due to the failure of the Pennsylvania Legislature to pass meaningful worker protections, despite overwhelming evidence of the need to do so. HB 861 would undo and prohibit progress at the local level, taking rights away from the citizens of Pennsylvania without filling the void with statewide legislation.

Absurdly, an argument sometimes made for preemption is that Pennsylvania’s patchwork of protections is confusing. If Pennsylvania’s patchwork of protections is a problem, it should be solved by ensuring all Pennsylvania workers are treated fairly with state-level protections, not state-level efforts to nullify local protections.

The Women’s Law Project is a public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.

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Women’s Law Project Statement: Why We Strongly Oppose Senate Bill 3

A 20-week abortion ban is moving through the PA House of Representatives. This bill, known as SB 3, also criminalizes the D&E form of abortion. It passed the Senate last winter and on December 4, 2017, it passed out of the House Health Committee. It is currently listed on the House Calendar for a vote by the full PA House of Representatives on Monday, December 11, 2017.

If you live in Pennsylvania, take a moment and call your state Representative. Tell her/him that you oppose SB3 and that it is an assault on women’s reproductive rights and health. Then say, “Please vote no this bill, and instead support laws that put women’s health first.”

Here’s a link to an easy-to-use call-in action page. It will link you to your Representative and provide a short message calling for a NO vote on SB 3.  This link is provided to you courtesy of Keystone Progress.

Thanks for your activism.

WLP Blog

PENNSYLVANIA–The Women’s Law Project strongly opposes Senate Bill 3, which passed the state House Health Committee last night by a vote of 16-10, along partisan lines.

“Pennsylvania politicians just advanced an unconstitutional bill that seeks to throw doctors in jail for providing standard medical care for their patients,” says WLP Senior Staff Attorney Susan J. Frietsche. “They are using discredited junk science to justify it, and repeatedly refusing testimony from real doctors, or their constituents. Anyone not seriously alarmed at both the goal and the process here is not paying attention.”

By criminalizing D&E, a common and safe medical procedure, for no medical reason, SB3 mandates substandard care for women. By criminalizing all pregnancy termination after 19 weeks for no medical reason, SB3 would force doctors to refuse standard medical care for patients facing crisis pregnancies, forcing them to carry unviable pregnancies to term, against their will and despite…

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IRS Ruling a Victory for Married Same-Sex Couples Across the Country!

Thanks to the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service for doing the right thing on August 29. Those of us who live in states, like Pennsylvania, that have their own version of the Defense of Marriage Act (or a constitutional ban in other states on same-sex marriage) will now, at last, have the full federal economic benefits and protections of marriage as long as you were married somewhere that recognizes your marriage. Meanwhile cases challenging state DOMA’s and constitutional bans in federal court on gay marriage need to go forward. The PA ACLU is leading such a case here in Pennsylvania; this groundswell of support for equality WILL succeed. And like in the Loving v. Virginia case, we will eventually have Freedom to Marry for all consenting adults regardless of sexual orientation.

WLP Blog

Tara R. Pfeifer, WLP Staff Attorney

The Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department announced yesterday that the federal government will recognize the marriages of legally married same-sex couples for all federal tax purposes, regardless of where those couples reside.

This landmark ruling comes on the heels of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v. Windsor in which the Court overturned a key provision (Section 3) of the Defense of Marriage Act.  Section 3 defined the terms “marriage” and “spouse” for purposes of federal law as pertaining only to legal unions between one man and one woman.  Yesterday’s announcement clarifies that when it comes to evaluating the federal tax status of same-sex married couples, it is the “place of celebration” – where the wedding took place – that controls, not the state where the couple resides.  Thus, same-sex couples that marry in one of the states where same-sex…

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Third Circuit Upholds Girls’ Free Speech Rights in School

In September 2011, just before I stepped down as Pennsylvania NOW President, PA NOW along with the Feminist Majority, Legal Momentum, and several other feminist organizations signed onto an amicus brief written by the Women’s Law Project in support of two middle school girls from the Easton Area (PA) School District who participated in a youth breast cancer awareness program by wearing “I ♥ boobies” breast cancer awareness bracelets to school.

"I ♥ Boobies" bracelets made by the Keep a Breast Foundation

Sample “I ♥ Boobies” bracelets that were banned by the Easton Area School District; photo courtesy of Keep a Breast Foundation

Kayla Martinez and Brianna Hawk, then seventh and eighth graders, were suspended for wearing Keep A Breast bracelets on Breast Cancer Awareness Day.  Subsequently the school district instituted a district wide ban on the bracelets because they were supposedly “lewd” statements about women’s bodies.  These young women, citing 1st Amendment rights, refused to take them off and then filed suit through their parents after the district-wide ban was instituted.

On August 5, 2013, the 14-member 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 9-5 en banc decision, upheld the District Court injunction against this ban on educational free speech.  They looked at the question of whether or not speech about women’s bodies and their health could [be] interpret[ed] as lewd, vulgar, profane, or offensive [when that] speech could also plausibly be interpreted as commenting on a political or social issue.”  The court decided that breast cancer is a social issue exception and thus protected speech.  This means that talk about breasts and breast cancer is protected speech in schools throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey, the three states that fall under the jurisdiction of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

According to the Keep A Breast Foundation, the makers of this bracelet, the 3rd Circuit Courts decision

“[M]arks the first time a federal court of appeals has ruled that the First Amendment protects student speech that is plausibly understood as commenting on political or social issues.”

The Court’s bottom-line statement in its en banc decision, I believe, says it all:

“The bracelets are intended to be and they can reasonably be viewed as speech designed to raise awareness of breast cancer and to reduce stigma associated with openly discussing breast health.”

Thanks to Mary Catherine Roper of the ACLU of Pennsylvania  for taking this case to the 3rd Circuit and to Terry Fromson and staff of the Women’s Law Project for working on this issue in support of young women’s free speech rights when talking and taking a stand on their bodies and their health!