Erie mayoral candidates talk jobs, Right-to-Work on Labor Day
Democrat Joe Schember and Republican John Persinger talk jobs, labor and the idea of right-to-work in Pennsylvania and Erie County.
ERIE, Pa. - Some of Erie's biggest companies, such as Erie Insurance, Saint Vincent Hospital and UPMC Hamot are investing more than a $500 million into the city, creating hundreds --possibly thousands -- of jobs.
If elected mayor this November, Democrat Joe Schember believes tax reform will create even more jobs.
"One of the things I want to do on the tax side is implement a new ten-year LERTA, where there would be no additional tax for improvements or new buildings built for ten years," Schember said.
Schembers' opponent -- Republican John Persinger -- is also pushing for lower taxes.
But he wants a more proactive approach to not only creating jobs, but to save existing jobs, such as the 575 positions that will potentially be eliminated at GE Transportation.
"Instead of showing up after GE leaves and say 'we need to talk with the leadership', why aren't we out there hustling for jobs?" Persingers suggests.
Both Schember and Persinger are also pushing for county leadership to follow their plans. But the candidate who wins the general election may have to work with the county executive on another big issue facing the labor industry: right-to-work.
In an op-ed column published last week in the Aug. 30 edition of the Erie Times News, the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership's regional vice president for economic development Jake Rouch suggested it could be beneficial for Erie County should become right-to-work, which means private sector workers would have the option to join a labor union.
That's an idea that's splitting both candidates running for Erie mayor. Persinger is quick to point out that such action would need to be taken by Erie County Council, not the city.
"I'm willing to work with people across party lines to figure out what can we do here in Erie to get people working again," said Persinger.
"I'm not sure right-to-work would do that much," said Schember. "I know the unions would really not like it."
Labor Day 2017 ends as decision bargaining between GE's top union, UE Local 506, and company leaders continues.
Election Day is Nov. 7.