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Oped: GOP blocks PA minimum-wage hike for entire session

John Dodds
Raise the Wage PA Coalition

As the 2015-16 Legislative session in Harrisburg comes to a close a very visible issue is being swept under the carpet for another year by the Republican leadership.

John Dodds

Twenty-nine states, including every state surrounding Pennsylvania have raised their minimum wages. Only PA and New Hampshire in the northeast continues to set the minimum wage at $7.25. Across the nation a movement for $15 has led to many massive increases in wages for low wage workers in cities like Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco and states like California, New York, Massachusetts, and Washington.

But in the PA Legislature the Republican leadership makes sure the issue never comes out of committee. It is more than10 YEARS since the last time the PA Legislature voted on the issue of minimum wage. This is despite recent polling that shows that that 74 percent of Pennsylvanians support at least a $10.10 minimum wage and 62 percent support a $15/hour minimum wage. The leadership knows if a bill comes to the floor it would pass, due to the overwhelming public support for the issue. Thus, blockade it in committee for the duration.

Stagnant wages remain a major issue in the state and the nation. That has been a major driver for the outsider candidacies of Sanders and Trump during the current elections. Wages for the bottom 70 percent of the nation’s work force have been stagnant for over 35 years, as unions have been in decline and the manufacturing base has been moved overseas.

More than 2 million PA workers would get a raise if the minimum wage went to $15. 1.3 million would benefit from even a raise to $10.10, for which Governor Wolf and  many Democratic  legislators have been advocating. Five hundred thousand people with children would get a raise with a $15 minimum wage in PA and 63 percent of those benefiting would be full time workers. Ninety-two percent would be over 20 years of age. Such an increase would put billions of dollars of new wages into the state’s economy also, helping to stimulate economic growth through consumer spending

How long can low wage workers remain without a helping hand from the PA Legislature? That is a question that needs to be considered as people go to the polls in November. The Republican majority in Harrisburg seems unable to find a way to increase the state minimum wage in any amount. With so many workers struggling to make ends meet, a fair minimum wage is the least that they should do for people in our state.

— John Dodds is coordinator of Raise the Wage PA Coalition