Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, the Democratic nominee for governor in the Nov. 2 general election, just stopped by City Hall on his week-long tour to tout controversial comments about unemployment compensation made by state Attorney General Tom Corbett, the Republican nominee. Corbett has been snared in controversy for suggesting Friday, Monday and yesterday that he hears from employers around the state who claim laid-off workers won't return to jobs because they prefer receiving unemployment checks from the state.
Onorato, who trails Corbett in campaign cash and name recognition, calls that bunk. He has capitalized on Corbett's comments to highlight the "philosophical differences" between the candidates. "If you don't understand why there is unemployment, you have no chance to be able to fix it as governor," Onorato told a room packed with union leaders and members. "That's one of the problems with Tom Corbett in this race right now."
Pat Eiding, president of the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO, said working families are "damn mad" about Corbett's comments. "How dare he do that? This is the guy who wants to represent you in the state house," Eiding said. "Here's my suggestion: Let's put him on the unemployment rolls for six months and see if he wants to get back to work."
Pat Gillespie, head of the Philadelphia Building Trades Council, accused Corbett of parroting national GOP talking points about unemployment. "It tells you the guy doesn't have enough sense to know that isn't true in Pennsylvania," Gillespie said, contrasting the candidates like this: "One is a guy who cares, a guy who gives a s*** about us, and the other guy is not."
Onorato, who spoke earlier this week in Pittsburgh and Harrisburg on the unemployment issue, visits Scranton tomorrow. The state Department of Labor & Industry says the average weekly unemployment check is $310 ($16,120 per year) and the top check is $564 ($29,328 per year.) The rolling four-week average as of Saturday had 390,500 people in the state receiving unemployment checks. The unemployment rate was 9.1 percent in May. The June rate is due to be released tomorrow.