State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

The State House Sound Bites Podcast is now called State of the State and is a part of PA Post, a digital-first, citizen-focused news organization to hold Pennsylvania’s government accountable to its citizens.

Layoff prep in full swing at state UC centers

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Dec 13, 2016 4:42 AM

UC workers protest soon after learning about their impending layoffs. Many have filed appeals with the state. (Photo by Katie Meyer/WITF)

(Harrisburg) -- More than 500 people employed at three of Pennsylvania's Unemployment Compensation offices are losing their jobs right before Christmas.

The reason was political, and has erupted into a partisan battle.

But behind the scenes at the Altoona, Lancaster, and Allentown UC centers, the furloughed employees and state officials are working make sense of the situation.

The news of the layoffs came November 16th, after the GOP-led Senate declined to vote on a funding bill that had been supported by Democratic Governor Tom Wolf.

Two days later, Labor and Industries Secretary Kathy Manderino was giving a teleconference speech to the laid-off workers, telling them the funding loss had shocked her, and that they deserve better.

Now, the state and the unions that represent the furloughed workers are assisting them.

Carla Hodge, with AFSCME Local 13, said right now, they're working to get some people re-employed as quickly as possible.

Under their contracts, "they have placement rights," she explained. "So [state workers] come in, they help them fill out applications, and they help fit them into other state positions where they are available."

Employees can also file appeals to claim they're being wrongfully furloughed, and many have done so.

Hodge says beyond that, there really aren't many options. 

"From our understanding, there's nothing," she said. "There's nothing. The furlough's going to happen, and they're just preparing for it."

James Jensen is one of the furloughed workers, as is his wife. He said they aren't taking their disappointment at losing their jobs out on Manderino.

The couple got the opportunity to meet her soon after her speech, and Jensen said they shook her hand and thanked her for making the best of the situation.

"For a brief moment," he said, "we were in the position of comforting the Secretary, letting her know we did not blame her, and hopefully relieving her of some the burden she was bearing."

Published in News, State House Sound Bites

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