Shapiro announces partnership with NJ to protect worker’s rights

Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro recently announced a partnership with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy to protect worker’s rights and strengthen labor law enforcement in their two states.

Shapiro and Murphy visited the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) District Council 21 training facility in Philadelphia last Thursday to announce their intention to form an interstate task force to address wage theft and worker misclassification in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. 

The task force will look to improve the collaborative enforcement of the two state’s labor laws and enable business competition. 

“We need to give students like those here at FTI the opportunity to chart their own course in life. That’s why my budget includes comprehensive investments in career and technical education and apprenticeships,” Shapiro said. “But our work can’t stop at increasing opportunity – we also need to protect workers’ rights once they’re on the job. 

“I’m proud to join Governor Murphy to announce that Pennsylvania and New Jersey will strengthen our partnership to stop wage theft and worker misclassification. Pennsylvanians and New Jerseyans work hard, and we will not let them be cheated out of the benefits they’ve earned.” 

To facilitate data sharing, joint investigations, and cooperative referrals, Pennsylvania and New Jersey entered a regional Memorandum of Understanding agreement in 2019. The new commitment to a continued partnership between the two states seeks to further bolster those efforts and maintain a continuing focus on worker protections. 

Murphy said New Jersey’s partnership with Pennsylvania reaffirms the two state’s joint commitment to strengthen labor law enforcement.

“Every day hard-working New Jerseyans and Pennsylvanians deserve to live without fear that their employers are taking advantage of their rights,” said Murphy. “With the formation of an interstate task force, our message will be clear – workers’ rights are to be respected, defended, and upheld.” 

Ciocca Dealerships expands with another New Jersey acquisition

Just about one week after announcing it had acquired a dealership group in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, Allentown-based Ciocca Dealerships is adding another New Jersey dealership. 

Ciocca has finalized an agreement to acquire Flemington Car and Truck Country Family of Brands in Flemington. The new franchises include Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Subaru, Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram, Infiniti, Ford, and Lincoln. 

The acquisition brings the total number of stores to 40 stores with 25 unique brands. 

“Ciocca Dealerships looks forward to building on and maintaining the great foundation, reputation, and legacy the Kalafer family has established in Flemington, New Jersey,” said Gregg Ciocca, president and CEO of Ciocca Dealerships. “Our goal is to provide the same exceptional service and commitment to the community that the associates and customers of Flemington Car & Truck Country have grown to appreciate.” 


Survey shows businesses recovering from pandemic impact

Most business owners in the region are saying their business is nearly back to normal since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Provident Bank has released an economic outlook survey finding that 86% of business owners in Pennsylvania and New Jersey say they have fully recovered or expect to fully recover in 2022 from the economic impact of the pandemic.  

The survey covered the top challenges and conditions Pennsylvania and New Jersey businesses expect to face in 2022.  

A big challenge was the workforce, with 50% of respondents saying there are not enough applicants to fill open positions.  

Despite that shortage, however, more than 45% of companies said they plan to increase hiring in 2022.  

The survey also found that more than half (51%) of respondents said the majority of their staffs will be working in the office over the next 12 months. 

Approximately 57% of business owners have made cybersecurity a top priority for their organization and are well prepared in this area. 

Provident Bank surveyed 381 C-level executives and business owners between the ages of 25 and 90. About 25% of respondents were in the technology industry and about 14% were in retail. 




Pa. remains among states with highest property tax rates in 2020; taxes on single family homes up 5.4% nationwide

Pennsylvania remained in the top 10 for highest effective property tax rate in the nation in 2020, according to a report from ATTOM Data Solutions, an Irvine-California-based property database.

The Keystone state’s average property tax rate was 1.64 percent in 2020, which remained unchanged from 2019.

Nationwide, $323 billion in property taxes were levied on single-family homes in last year, up 5.4% from $306.4 billion in 2019, according to ATTOM. The average single-family home’s property tax was $3,719 in 2020, resulting in an effective tax rate of 1.1%, down slightly from 1.14% in 2019.

New Jersey remained at the top of the list with a 2.2$ tax rate. New Jersey also had the highest average property tax on a single-family home, at $9,196, which was more than 10 times the average tax of $841 in Alabama, the state with the lowest average levy.

States with the highest effective property tax rates in 2020
1. New Jersey 2.2%
2. Illinois 2.18%
3. Texas 2.15%
4. Vermont 1.97%
5. Connecticut 1.92%
6. New Hampshire 1.86%
7. New York 1.68%
8. Pennsylvania 1.64%
9. Ohio 1.62%
10. Nebraska 1.53%

Information on property tax averages per county nationwide can be found here.

Motorcoach industry struggles, seeks $15B in federal aid

Trans-Bridge Lines has hired back most of its laid-off staff, but buses still aren’t running. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –


When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most businesses in the region, Tom JeBran, owner of Trans-Bridge Lines of Bethlehem had to lay off 121 of his 165 employees because demand for bus service collapsed and keeping the busses running was no longer viable.

Now, thanks to the Paycheck Protection Program, LeBran has been able to hire back most of them. He  put them to work servicing and updating vehicles, cleaning and training to prepare for the day commuter and charter bus service can resume.

But PPP only helps for eight weeks, he said. What happens after that?

Unless something major changes, he’ll likely have to lay those people off again. The PPP just isn’t enough help.

Like the restaurant industry, the motorcoach industry is unlikely to get back to normal conditions anytime soon.

The American Bus Association estimates that nationally, the motor coach industry and, in particular charter buses, will likely only return to around 25% capacity by the end of the year.

Even if TransBridge can return to 50% capacity, which will likely be the limit set upon his industry by surrounding states, it isn’t viable, JeBran said. “You can’t survive very long on that,” he said. To even attempt to do so would mean doubling fares and he doubts many people would be willing or able to pay that.

Because of such circumstances, and because of the likelihood that many small- to medium-sized bus companies may fold, the motor coach industry is asking the federal government for more help.

Peter Pantuso, president and CEO of the American Bus Association, said his organization has been joined by many regional bus associations, including the Greater New Jersey Motor Coach Association, of which Trans-Bridge is a member, in calling for federal aid. The industry is asking for $15 billion in aid, with $10 million in grants and $5 million in loans, to help bus companies survive the long-term damage of the COVID-19 crisis.

He noted that the federal government included $85 billion in the last stimulus package for airports, transit systems and trains.

“Motorcoach was the only transportation industry to not get funding,” Pantuso said. “We aren’t asking for more. We were left out.”

There are around 3,000 motorcoach companies with more than 36,000 vehicles on the road and 100,000 people employed in the industry, Pantuso said. Many other industries, including restaurants, theaters and sports venues also rely on revenue brought in by people taking bus trips, accounting for another 2 million jobs impacted by the motorcoach industry, he said.

To make their point, independent motorcoach companies will be converging on Washington, D.C., May 13 for “Motorcoaches Rolling for Awareness Day,” to promote the economic impact of their industry. Decorated buses from all 50 states will drive into D.C. to participate. Even Hawaii will be represented, Pantuso said.

The American Bus Association and other partners in the industry have been advocating for the funds with members of Congress and Pantuso says he’s gaining support as more legislators become aware of the situation.

Meanwhile, JeBran is hoping that the diversity of Trans-Bridge may help get his buses back on the road sooner than some. Since Trans-Bridge also has a significant commuter business to destinations such as New York City, he is hoping that once workers start commuting again there will be enough of an uptick in demand for buses that he can get some vehicles and drivers back in service. But he knows that the fate of his business lies in the hands of others and decisions have not been made.

Whether theaters reopen in New York, or whether the Eagles decide to have fans in the stands in Philadelphia for the upcoming football season, will impact the number of charters Trans-Bridge will offer. So he has to wait and see what the rest of 2020 will bring for his business.


Pennsylvania joins neighboring states to plan a return to normal

As the infection rate of the coronavirus shows signs of flattening, Gov. Tom Wolf has joined with the governors of five neighboring states to begin planning how the region’s economy will re-open.

Led by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the governors of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Delaware, are forming a joint task force to design a reopening plan for each state.

The coordinating group will work together to develop a fully integrated regional framework to gradually lift the states’ stay at home orders while minimizing the risk of increased spread of the virus.

“We are creating a plan to let people know that we indeed do have a future,” Wolf said. “We have to restore the hope that this pandemic has taken from us…and do what it takes to re-enter and get our economies moving again.”

Each state will name a public health official, economic development official, and chief of staff to serve on the task force, which will begin work immediately. The task force will share a database because the populations of the six states are connected, Cuomo said.

The group will create a framework using every tool available to accomplish the goal of easing social isolation without triggering renewed spread – including testing, contact tracing, treatment and social distancing – and will rely on the best available scientific, statistical, social and economic information to manage and evaluate those tools.

Service Electric sells New Jersey operations to Altice USA

Ed Walson is president of Service Electric Broadband of NJ. 

A New York-based cable television provider said it plans to purchase Lehigh Valley- based Service Electric Cable T.V’s New Jersey operations for $150 million.

Altice USA said it has reached an agreement to acquire substantially all the assets of regional cable operator Service Electric Cable T.V. of New Jersey Inc.  With this acquisition, Altice USA extends its footprint into neighboring communities providing broadband, video, mobile and news offerings to thousands of additional homes and businesses in New Jersey.

The transaction is expected to close by the third quarter of 2020, subject to regulatory approval.

Based in Upper Macungie Township, Service Electric was founded by John Walson in 1948. He created the nation’s first cable television system in Mahanoy City when the mountains surrounding the Schuylkill County town made it difficult for the residents there to receive television broadcast signals.

Its New Jersey office is in Phillipsburg.

Service Electric could not be reached for comment.

Pennsylvania and New Jersey credit union groups join forces

The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association and the New Jersey Credit Union League have announced a merger of the two organizations.

Membership of both trade groups have voted in favor of the merger, which will become effective Jan. 1.

The new name, tentatively, will be the PA/NJ Credit Union Association.

Michael Wishnow, senior vice president of marketing and communications for the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association said they will be looking into a rebranding campaign and that will include a new logo for the combined organization and an official name will be finalized.

While the two organizations serve different institutions with different laws in different states, they share a lot of the same needs Wishnow said.

“There’s actually far more in common than there are differences,” he said. “Our economies are similar. Our demographics are similar. We both have a large number of credit unions in our state.”

He said they are also seeing the trend of mergers and acquisitions so both states are seeing fewer but larger credit unions serving a wider range of people.

In fact, Wishnow said, it’s becoming far more common for interstate credit unions to join forces. They are actually the 12th merger between interstate credit union associations in the country.

Wishnow said the primary roles of the two groups are similar, they advocate for credit unions and provide education, networking and business services, and will benefit from each other’s offerings.

“Somethings in Pennsylvania they don’t do in New Jersey and vice-versa,” he said.

Lobbyists will be maintained both in Harrisburg and Trenton as well as Washington, D.C., he said.

There will be no layoffs as a result of the merger and both organizations will maintain their local offices.