Renewed Push for Jake Schwab Public Worker Safety Bill is Welcome News in Erie
The AFL-CIO organized six public events across the state of Pennsylvania Wednesday pushing to see "Jake's Law," -- a public sector workplace safety bill pass this term in the house and senate.
State Representative Pat Harkins first introduced House Bill 1082 in honor of Jake Schwab an EMTA mechanic killed on the job. Although he and Tiffany Schwab, Jake's widow have done all they can to push the measure over the last few years, it has never gotten to the floor for a vote.
It will be five years in November since the deadly public work place accident, that killed the 48-year-old EMTA mechanic.
John Renwick President of ATU local 568 is frustrated that action on the bill has not progressed. "Very frustrated, Jake’s anniversary is coming up in November for 5 years...Tiffany’s been through two committee meetings the only thing I’ve heard is how much money it’s going to cost and that’s unacceptable," Renwick said.
Tiffany told Erie News Now in an email, "repeating this over and over is difficult, the people who can make this happen need to stop up and do their part now."
According to sources at the bus garage, when the jack Schwab requested for the bus he was working on wasn't available, he improvised using another piece of equipment, that failed. The bus shifted and its air suspension imploded, shooting out a metal part that caused a fatal head injury.
His wife and co-workers want to make sure something like that won't happen again. Renwick feels that safety changes since the accident at EMTA are just for appearances. "I was just trained the other day on how to properly use a ladder and I’m a bus driver," he said.
Union leaders who were in the private and public sector were all represented at a news conference in city hall. They don't understand why all workers don't have the same protections OSHA has afforded the public sector since 1971.
UE 506 President Scott Slawson now working for Wabtec said, "Quite frankly it was shocking that all workers in the state of Pennsylvania aren’t covered by OSHA regulations. We work for an OSHA star certified company which means we invite OSHA into our plant, to come in and evaluate and tell us what we can do safer, and safety of all working people is first and foremost the most important thing."
State Senator Dan Laughlin wanted to see the Harkins measure move the last two times around, but now is promising to help move the senate companion measure, Senate Bill 464. "I'm happy to help out...run the Senate bill to try and get it done, Laughlin said. "In hearings last year, cost was the worry, but I think most of the public sector work places are fairly safe so I don’t think complying is going to be very costly to them," Senator Laughlin added.
Schwab was remembered then and now with the symbol of a mechanic's rag, something he always had in his pocket. "This is a shop rag for Jake," Renwick said. "He always had a shop rag in his back pocket so this is just a piece of Jake that follows all of us around and it will never leave."
Schwab's wife and co-workers hope there's momentum for the legislation this time. Without OSHA style safeguards in public work places, they fear nothing will change.