Mauck, Hill-Evans lead calls for minimum-wage hike
- York County officials and activists are calling on the state to raise the minimum wage to $12 by 2018.
- Under a bill co-sponsored by York City's state Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, the minimum wage would rise to $15 per hour by 2024.
Thousands of families in York County are being left behind by Pennsylvania’s unwillingness to raise its minimum wage, West York Mayor Shawn Mauck said Thursday.
Pennsylvania’s minimum-wage stagnation has left millions clinging to their wallets, desperately fearing an unexpected expense will plunge them into financial ruin, according to Mauck and other officials and activists who gathered Thursday at the York County Administrative Center in support of a bill to raise the state's minimum wage.
Introduced at the beginning of June, House Bill 1520 aims to raise the minimum wage from the federally mandated rate of $7.25 per hour to $12 per hour by the start of 2018. It would be the first increase since 2009.
The state’s minimum wage would then increase by 50 cents each year until 2024, when the minimum wage would hit $15 per hour under the bill co-sponsored by state Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, D-York City.
“Pennsylvanians have gone without a raise for far too long — nearly a decade since the last federal minimum-wage increase,” Hill-Evans said. “It’s time that not just the Republicans but the Republicans and the Democrats both step up.”
Hill-Evans said there are more than 1.4 million Pennsylvanians living on minimum wage. Of those, 90 percent are older than 20, 60 percent are women, 250,000 are older than 55 and 150,000 are single parents, she said.
Opportunity gap: Minimum-wage workers live paycheck to paycheck, but by the time payday comes around, most have no money to tuck away after paying for rent, groceries, education, health insurance, gas and other basic necessities, Mauck said.
Inflation, taxes and the cost of life’s basic necessities continue to rise, but millions of Pennsylvanians’ wages haven’t come close to keeping pace, Mauck said.
Minimum-wage workers face “a constant assault on their pocketbooks, but yet they have no opportunity to grow their income,” he said.
With nothing in their savings accounts to bail them out in an emergency, many families are forced to swallow their pride and ask for government assistance, which usually comes with public scorn, Mauck said.
“This bill hopefully helps them compete a little more every day and maybe put a couple nickels in the savings account so they can save themselves,” Mauck said. “That’s what America’s about. It’s about opportunity — giving people opportunities to provide themselves a good life, provide their children opportunities. They can’t do that on $7.25 an hour.”
Ikysha Jones, of York City, spoke Thursday about her struggles to support her children on near-minimum-wage jobs while also trying to manage her severe migraines.
Jones said she was recently offered a job at a local nursing home, but she turned it down because of the wages.
After impressing the nursing home staff, Jones said she was offered a wage of $8 an hour. But when she turned up for orientation, Jones said her paperwork indicated she'd be paid $7.25 per hour.
"I did not take that job," Jones said. "The labor that they would require from me was not worth the pay."
Reading a poem she wrote, Jones said no matter her hard work and dedication, "I am still on government assistance now, pondering how — working as a slave for minimum wage, or two or three more, at a place I see my feet on the floor more than the house I struggle to afford."
Small business "boon": Small businesses in York County and throughout the state should view a minimum-wage increase as an opportunity to grow their sales and have a more effective workforce, Mauck said.
If employees are always wondering how to pay their bills, they are not doing the best job they can while at work. By raising the minimum wage, millions of employees could focus more on their jobs and increase their production, he said.
These employees would have money left over after paying bills, which could provide something of an economic stimulus for small businesses and shops in West York and York County, Mauck said.
“The more we invest in the people, the more they invest in our neighborhoods, and we’ll see businesses pick up from that as well,” he said. “Right now they have no money to go buy a Coke or a slice of pizza. They are just getting by.”
Hill-Evans said increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour would “feed the economy,” as more than 1.4 million Pennsylvanians would have access to a disposable income.
“A lot of our small business are being overlooked by those who don't have the disposable income,” she said. “Now they’ll be able to go into a little boutique and buy that extra bracelet or necklace that they wouldn't have been able to afford before. So for small businesses, it's a boon.”