For many years Lobbying by low-wage workers and their supporters, Pennsylvania’s minimum wage has stagnated at the federal level at $ 7.25 per hour for more than a decade.
But with the surge in COVID-19 delta mutations, the ongoing labor shortage across Pennsylvania, and the stagnation of economic recovery caused by the nasty signs of inflation, it’s finally time for the legislature to act. Is it?
Republicans and Democrats say so as well.
Senator Dan Laughlin of R-Erie said raising the minimum wage was “the right thing to do now.” Senator Laflin and Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, are co-sponsors of a bill that will bring Pennsylvania’s minimum wage up to $ 10 per hour and link future wage increases to inflation.
Laughlin said he was confident that the bill would pass the House and Senate this fall and hopes to land at Governor Tom Wolf’s desk by the end of the year.
Wolf has expressed support for a democracy-supporting bill that will raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $ 15 per hour by 2027, but the Laflin bill requires supporters to raise Pennsylvania’s wages. It may be the best chance. Republicans haven’t cast support behind the Democratic bill sponsored by Senator Christine Tartaglione of D-Philadelphia.
Is it the time now?
The promotion of the minimum wage increase this summer is backed by the stagnation of economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies across the country, both large and small businesses, struggle to hire enough staff to run at full capacity. Currently, there are 9.3 million jobs in the United States. This is the highest number since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking its data in 2000.In Pennsylvania, the state’s Ministry of Labor and Industry Website Shows 178,358 jobs.
Many, including Laughlin, have linked staff shortages to an additional $ 300 a week in federal unemployment allowances, saying that those who receive the money are discouraged from returning to work. These benefits are expected to expire on September 6, but have already expired in many states.
The reality is more complicated, says labor economists.
In a February Pew Research survey, 66 percent Unemployed Americans who “seriously thought” to change the field of their work in a pandemic.
Sarah Damaske, a labor economist at Pennsylvania State University, said: “People remain away from the workforce, either because of lack of childcare or because of unvaccinated children.”
Risa Kumazawa, a labor economist at Duquesne University, said 26 states had already finished their $ 300 unemployment allowance early. “We didn’t see anyone returning to the workforce,” Kumazawa said when the number of jobs came out in July.
Damaske pointed out the $ 600 federal unemployment allowance under the CARES Act, which expired in July 2020, as a clue as to the impact of a $ 300 unemployment reduction. She said the decline in benefits had little impact on the workforce — the number of people working or actively looking for work remained about the same.
But what it did was to make the conditions “substantially more difficult” for low-wage workers and their families.
“Interviews with unemployed people in Pennsylvania show that the closer people get to poverty, the less money they receive from unemployment and the worse their job search,” said Damaske.
“They were trying to understand —” Well, I have this small amount of money a month, how can I make it? How can I balance this check with this check? ”
Both Damaske and Kumazawa said raising the Pennsylvania minimum wage could alleviate the labor shortage that could last into the fall.
It’s not just a labor shortage. The signs of inflation, the rise in overall prices of goods and services, are also a concern for economists. But that’s another issue that could potentially be mitigated by implementing higher minimum wages in the state.
The consumer price index, which measures the cost of a wide range of goods and services, rose 5.4% in June. This was the fastest increase since the 2008 financial crisis. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned last month that prices could continue to rise in the coming months.
Both the Tartaglione and Browne and Laughlin bills plan to link the minimum wage to inflation. This means that the minimum wage can go up when inflation occurs.
Laughlin said some of his bills were non-negotiable. He believes that ensuring that the minimum wage rises when inflation occurs is the best way to ensure that Pennsylvania earn a living wage and get out of poverty.
“It’s one of the bills I’m most proud of and I’ll argue that it stays there. If anyone tries to fix it, I’ll put it back.”
If Laflin’s bill to raise the Pennsylvania minimum wage to $ 10 an hour is passed, it will come into effect by the end of the year.
$ 10 or $ 15?
Most Americans — 62% according to Pew Research — I agree that the minimum wage should be higher.
However, the question of how much an employer has to pay is controversial.
Laughlin said $ 10 per hour is a reasonable number, as most business owners support it. He said he received little backlash from industry supporters. Supporters of the restaurant industry, such as John Longstreet, CEO of the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodges Association, have shown support for raising the minimum wage to $ 10.
But other minimum wage advocates have said that $ 10 isn’t enough, but if it’s their only choice, they support it.
“I like $ 12 with a path to $ 15, but I’m not going to refuse to raise the minimum wage,” said Tartaglione. “People are struggling at $ 7.25.”
Senator Art Haywood of D-Philadelphia is the only democratic sponsor of the Laughlin bill and the sponsor of the Tartaglione bill. Haywood said he chose to cast support behind both because it was the “road” to bring Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $ 15 an hour.
“It’s immoral not to pay a decent minimum wage,” Haywood said.
Pa in the midst of inflation and staff shortages. Is it time to raise the minimum wage?
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