“POOR” PENNSYLVANIA: U.S. CHAMBER CASTS A CRITICAL EYE AT THE COMMONWEALTH’S EMPLOYMENT POLICIES
Most interested observers know that the United States Chamber of Commerce consistently ranks the West Virginia legal system, generally speaking, quite poorly for employers. In fact, West Virginia is usually ranked well below its neighboring states in these studies. Well, West Virginia may finally have some company in the Chamber’s eyes.
In a notable development, the Chamber recently released a study that – at least from the labor and employment perspective – ranks West Virginia as having a better legal climate than Pennsylvania based on an “Employment Regulation Index” the Chamber created. The Commonwealth was ranked as “poor” in the study, while West Virginia garnered a “fair” categorization.
The Pittsburgh Post Gazette recently reported on these findings and cited comments from Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, who introduced the Chamber study. It appears that the key points to achieving a labor-friendly environment – and corresponding high ranking – include having:
- Significant recent tort reform efforts;
- A funding mechanism for work training programs as opposed to any increase in unemployment compensation funding;
- Affirmative right-to-work statutes;
- General reliance upon federal legislation as opposed to affirmative state action in the labor and employment arena;
In Pennsylvania, the particular negatives cited in the study were the high percentage of labor unions, generous workers’ compensation coverage, and the number of employment-related lawsuits. Worse, this ranking was achieved despite the Commonwealth’s recent election of a business-friendly Republican governor, as well as the fact that the Employee Free Choice Act has gotten no support at the state level no matter how large the union presence there.
Not surprisingly, Pennsylvania’s leaders of organized labor are highly critical of this study. The Post Gazette cited Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President, Rick Bloomingdale, as terming the ranking the “most bogus study (he has) ever seen,” and generally remarking that it is simply another attempt to undermine efforts of organized labor.
While this ranking is obviously a negative for Pennsylvania employers, at least they can take solace in the fact that they aren’t alone at the party.