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AFL-CIO calls layoff of PA Turnpike employees during pandemic 'an extraordinary blow'

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The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO blasted the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission for its decision Tuesday to switch immediately and permanently to a cashless toll system and lay off about 500 toll collection and office workers who process collection receipts.

The announcement of their permanent unemployment is an extraordinary blow. To do such a thing at a time of record unemployment makes a bad situation worse,”President Rick Bloomingdale said in a statement Wednesday. 

Any employer who eliminates jobs at a critical time in the recovery of our Commonwealth ensures even more long-term economic hardship. Instead of laying off 500 workers to embrace automation, we should engage public stakeholders to preserve jobs. This premature and backward decision ignores the economic devastation of hundreds of workers.”

The turnpike declined comment. 

At the start of the COVID-19 emergency in March, the turnpike had switched to all cashless tolling to limit social contact among toll collectors and motorists and already had plans for the full change in fall 2021. The agency said the fact that the system was working well and the agency has lost more than $100 million in revenue since the pandemic began led it to make the permanent change about 16 months earlier than expected.

The agency said layoffs are expected to begin June 18.

Now, motorists pay tolls through a prepaid E-ZPass transponder or have a photo taken of their license plate when they enter and leave the turnpike and receive a bill in the mail.

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