State Unemployment Compensation workers and the union that represents many of them are holding rallies across Pennsylvania this week, urging the Senate to pass one more bill before the legislative calendar runs out Wednesday.
Several hundred of the workers are facing layoffs as a result of a funding deficit.
On the Senate’s last scheduled voting day of the year, it opted not to act on legislation that would’ve tacked another year of funding onto a four-year cash stream allocated to the state’s Unemployment Compensation program in 2013.
Now the program won’t get that money, and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said the department must lay off nearly 600 people — many of whom work in the state centers that process jobless claims.
Tom Herman, president of SEIU Local 668 — which represents about 400 of the workers — said this is the biggest cut he’s seen in more than three decades.
He blames the Senate’s GOP leadership.
“The Senate has every ability to come back into session,” he said at a rally in Harrisburg Monday evening.
Democratic Senator Rob Teplitz — who is losing his Dauphin County seat at the end of this session — was also at the Harrisburg rally.
He said this shouldn’t be a hard bill to pass.
“The money is there, the bill says exactly what’s happening, the bill only authorizes this for a year. If there are legitimate long-term concerns they can be addressed,” he said. “We still have time to do [it] if the leadership wanted to do it.”
He conceded though, it doesn’t look likely that the Senate will act.
Herman said says he’s prepared to take legal action if that’s the case.
The Senate had objected to voting on the bill during a lame-duck session. Senate spokeswoman Jenn Kocher has said the governor is using the chamber as a scapegoat.
“It’s the governor’s decision if this is how he deals with this, is to lay off people,” she said in the days after the Senate’s initial no-vote. “This is something that we can take up again in January. This is something that they knew was coming.”