Published: June 3, 2014
By Dennis Owens - abc27 News
HARRISBURG — They filled the Capitol Rotunda and loudly chanted, “What do we want? $10.10. When do we want it? Now.”
They carried signs calling $7.25 a poverty wage and there were more chants, “We can’t survive on $7.25.”
Supporters of an increase in the state’s minimum wage produced maximum volume in an afternoon rally.
“We’ve got Pennsylvanians who work 40 hours a week and are eligible for public assistance,” shouted SEIU president Kathy Jellison indignantly.
“We have to put the political pressure on,” Senator Tina Tartaglione (D-Philadelphia) screamed to thunderous applause.
“We wonder why the rich get richer and the poor get poorer,” added Representative Patty Kim (D-Dauphin).
Kim’s bill would help the poor get a little richer. It would move the minimum wage from the current $7.25 to $10.10 within two years.
Business groups who eyed the rally from adjacent hallways call it a job killer. They insists businesses who are forced to pay workers more will just hire less.
“If they have to look at higher costs on labor they’re gonna have to make decisions about what works,” said Gene Barr, president of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. “For example, restaurants are going to more touch screens on tables because it may be too expensive to have servers there. If we could mandate our way to prosperity then we ought ot just make it $40-$50 bucks an hour. When gasoline prices go up, people don’t go out and say I have to go buy more gasoline. They have to figure out a way to make due with a little bit less.”
But supporters insist there are plenty of studies that show the economic sky doesn’t fall when the minimum wage is increased.
“Every state around Pennsylvania has raised their minimum wage, so it’s time,” said Jellison. “It’s past time.”
The minimum wage in Pennsylvania has been $7.25 since 2008.
It was a perfectly earnest debate in the Rotunda and to many of the ralliers it’s an important issue. But to the important folks elsewhere in the building, it isn’t on the radar screen in the final weeks before the June 30 budget deadline.
While you could hear the noisy rally from the House and Senate sides of the building, Republican leadership is not discussing a raise in the minimum wage with their respective caucuses, according to abc27 sources.
Governor Corbett is also opposed to raising the minimum wage, citing its negative impact on business and job creators.
So regardless of boisterous ralliers, all of the power players in Harrisburg are opposed so an increased minimum wage isn’t happening in Pennsylvania any time soon.
“The Republicans may not be on board,” said Kim. “But the people working two or three part-time jobs, 80 hours a week just to get by, are talking about it.
Talk, they did, Tuesday afternoon, and loudly.
But in Harrisburg, raising their voices, won’t get them a raise.