Rally aims to push Pa minimum wage bill to vote
Salome Johnson hopes the state's minimum wage may one day creep up to $15 an hour. But for now, though, she said she'll settle for the proposed $10.10 an hour, up from the current minium wage of $7.25 an hour.
"People need a living wage," Johnson, of Hallam, said after a rally on the steps of the rotunda at the state Capitol building in Harrisburg on Wednesday. "They could properly house, feed and clothe their families."
Johnson was among a sparse crowd that attended the rally, during which state Sen. Christine Tartaglione, D-Philadelphia, announced she'll introduce a discharge petition to get a measure, Senate Bill 195, to raise the minimum wage to the Senate floor.
Opponents argue an increase would have an adverse effect on the economy.
In committee: Tartaglione introduced her bill to ramp up the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour in January, but it has sat in the Senate Labor and Industry Committee since then. The bill also calls for yearly cost-of-living adjustments to the wage.
"Every single surrounding state pays a higher wage," she said.
Tartaglione led a charge in 2006 to increase the minimum wage to the current $7.25 an hour. That rate took effect in 2009. At the time Pennsylvania approved upping its minimum pay rate, the national minimum wage was still $5.15 an hour.
"The federal government is lagging behind again," said Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Montgomery and Philadelphia counties, adding the minimum wage isn't keeping pace with the cost of bills.
There are numerous bills in the Legislature to increase the wage to anywhere from $8.75 an hour to $15 an hour.
York's bill: Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, introduced in March a bill that would gradually raise the wage to $8.75 an hour.
Under Wagner's proposal, Senate Bill 610, it would increase 50 cents each year until it reaches $8.75 an hour. The measure has been in the Senate Labor and Industry Committee since shortly after it was introduced.
But supporters of a higher minimum wage say $8.75 won't have a drastic impact on workers who are paid the state's minimum.
"But if you raise it to $10.10, you are affecting real numbers," said John Meyerson of Raise the Wage Pa, noting one in four workers in the state would see an increase in their paychecks from the change.
Bad business: Though workers would be paid more if the wage is upped, opponents say it would be bad for businesses.
"We talk to small business owners almost every day. They haven't fully recovered from the recession like they expected to," said Neal Lesher, legislative director for the National Federation of Independent Business in Pennsylvania.
If the wage is increased, it could mean employers may have to scale back on benefits offered to employees or could have to cut back on the number of employees, Lesher said.
About 3 million workers in the nation, and 156,000 in the state, were paid at or below the minimum wage in 2014. Less than half are between the ages of 16 and 19, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf previously said he backs a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour.
— Reach Greg Gross at email@example.com.