COMMITTEE ON LABOR AND CIVIL SERVICE
Monday, May 6, 2019
City Hall, 1401 John F. Kennedy Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19107
Testimony by: Rob Wonderling, President & CEO at the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia
Good morning Councilwoman Parker and members of the Committee on Labor and Civil Service. My name is Rob Wonderling, President and CEO of The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia. I’m here today to offer testimony in opposition to bills 190315 and 190316.
The Chamber’s mission is to attract, retain, and grow jobs for the city and region. We follow principles of economic competitiveness to guide our public policy. We believe that government at all levels must operate in an efficient way to maximize the services that it provides, and the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia works with other organizations to advance an agenda leading to economic growth and prosperity through the PHL Neighborhood Growth Project, which a majority of Councilmembers have endorsed. As currently written, we oppose both bills for the negative impact they will have on industries far beyond the parking industry, but also oppose the bill’s process from introduction to hearing, and the lack of engagement ahead of introduction with the broader business community. On previous bills such as Bill 180469, mandating predictive schedules, Council has engaged in efforts to bring diverse parties around the table and have a conversation that informs legislative outcomes that strike a balance for employees and employers.
Not all businesses and organizations are alike—they range in size, industry, geography, hours of operation, and personnel needs. They should be able to utilize a full set of tools in order to manage their business, employees, and competitive advantage especially when they are overburdened by an exhaustive regulatory environment. It is no secret the parking industry has to compete with a 22.5% parking tax rate, while paying Real Estate tax, BIRT & U&O tax, in addition to managing facility costs to maintain parking lots and manage customer demand related to use the parking lots. Increased taxes and fees have been levied on the parking industry since 2008. Over the last 5 years, the parking industry has lost over 4,000 parking spaces which directly led to a loss of close to 300 jobs. We are at a critical time in Philadelphia and we must do away with the zero-sum game that hurts employees and valuable job creation opportunities. We want to inject one critical question into the process when legislation impacting business is debated: “Does this create jobs?” This bill kills them.
For these set of bills, we do not believe that debatable ends justify the means, given how onerous this legislation is for employers within the parking industry and the industries outlined in the bill. From a practical standpoint, the “reduction in hours” provision which requires employers to have “just cause” for a reduction in hours is burdensome. Many parking employees, such as valet attendants, only work a handful of hours per week, rendering 15% a very slim margin of error for employers dealing with scheduling issues. Similarly, many parking employers’ staffing needs are heavily impacted by unpredictable outside forces such as weather, customer activity beyond the employer’s control and other miscellaneous scheduling challenges. The proposed ordinance suffers additional challenges as the language in the bill seeks to regulate more than just private parking entities. The way the bill is written, auto dealerships, restaurants, and hotels that provide valet service, the Philadelphia International Airport and the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA); a state agency that the City has no authority to regulate based on state law, would be subject to the onerous provisions. If such a bill passes, it will continue the trend of local government acting as the HR department for private businesses in Philadelphia.
The proposed ordinance imposing a just cause standard upon parking employers for all employee terminations is almost certainly preempted in whole or in part by the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”), 29 U.S.C. § 151, et seq., which guarantees the right of private sector employees to organize and engage in collective bargaining. Further, the NLRA prohibits retaliation against an employee for engaging in concerted protected activities, such as attempting to address current terms and conditions of employment with fellow co-workers. This is already regulated at the highest level of government and is not needed at the local level. Although the overly prescriptive “just cause” provision is targeted at the parking industry in this bill, it is only a matter of time before other industries are added and it becomes the general law protecting all private employees in Philadelphia.
We oppose both bills and the process for passage doesn’t allow enough time for a thoughtful discussion on the issue with the broader business community.