Tis the week before Christmas and State Senator Wagner gave 600 hundred call center employees and thousands of Pennsylvanians a giant lump of coal. This Monday three of the Commonwealth’s eight unemployment call centers are going to start handing out layoff notices to roughly 600 employees and eventually shut their doors.
This move from Senator Wagner is intended to put a strain on the state’s unemployment system as a whole. Laid off workers having trouble navigating the online application process may have wait for hours on hold in order to reach a state employee, and since the workload has basically doubled for the other four call centers, it is possible that workers may have to wait weeks or months to have their applications processed and start receiving their unemployment checks. To make matters worse, Governor Wolf signed a bill last month that would allow almost 44,000 seasonal construction and retail workers and truck drivers the opportunity to collect unemployment when they are not working.
But what is the motive behind all of this?
Late at night on December 1st, an irate call center employee emailed Senator Scott Wagner through his campaign website. The soon to be laid off employee called out the Senator by starting off with “you were the one bragging to not bring [House Bill 2375] up for a vote and that we deserve to lose our jobs at unemployment,” and goes on to state that they are a Republican who is not in line with the union. The employee then goes on to tell the Senator “you all need to grow a pair of balls and take responsibility. You are all to blame. All of you need TO get a CLUE!” At this point, the enraged email ends with the employee warning Senator Wagner that career criminal politicians were the reason why.
Senator Wagner sends a gem of his own from his personal Comcast account the following morning. Senator Wagner tells the soon to be laid off worker that “I appreciate your email – you are clearly mistaken to assume that I am a career politician – you should do your homework on me – from your email it is safe to assume that you are affected with the layoffs.” He then goes on to give his Magic Bullet theory. Wagner believes that Governor Wolf is blaming the senator for the unemployment so Governor Wolf can lay off other state workers. The senator continues with “I will not tolerate Governor Wolf putting a gun to my head and demand we find another $57.5Million Dollars for L&I when in fact $420 million has been wasted since 2006 – the people who wasted this money should be fired instead of low level layoffs – do you agree? And finished with “trust me on this – I am not a career politician – and I have big balls. Question is do you have the backbone to meet with me and get the full story?”
SEIU Local 668 President Tom Herman described Senator Wagner’s actions as something “purely political by a wannabe governor.” The union president explained that there was a deal in place on the passage of House Bill 2375 between Governor Wolf and the four caucuses, but on the day of the vote Senator Wagner convinced Senate leadership to pull the final vote from the agenda. While the bill was making its way through the Senate, Senator Wagner did not take a vote on the bill in the Labor and Industry and Appropriations committees. Herman explained that his members are very angry at the moment, and have been encouraged to contact the Senator by any means necessary. Regarding the senator’s ballsy email, Herman said that it was “arrogant, unprofessional and pompous,” but quipped something along the lines that this is not anything new coming from Wagner’s office.
Senator Wagner’s full email:
I appreciate your email – you are clearly mistaken to assume that I am a career politician – you should do your homework on me – from your email it is safe to assume that you are affected with the layoffs = there is a much bigger story – the Lancaster UC center was scheduled to be closed in June of 2017.
There are other layoffs taking place that are not call center employees – the call center layoffs are giving Governor Wolf cover to lay-off more people and blame me and the senate.
I will not tolerate Governor Wolf putting a gun to my head and demand we find another $57.5Million Dollars for L&I when in fact $420 million has been wasted since 2006 – the people who wasted this money should be fired instead of low level layoffs – do you agree?
Of course you pay union dues – what is your union doing to stop the layoffs ?
I would be happy to meet with you.
Trust me on this – I am not a career politician – and I have big balls.
Question is do you have the backbone to meet with me and get the full story?