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Commentary: It's long past time to raise the minimum wage in Pa.

June 28, 2016 - By John Dodds

JUNE 30, 2006. That was the last time the Pennsylvania Legislature voted on minimum wage legislation. Since then, 29 states and the District of Columbia have raised their minimum wages, including all of the states that surround our state. California, New York and New Jersey have voted a $15 minimum wage, but in Pennsylvania, we still are at the national bottom, $7.25 per hour.

Hundreds of thousands of working people toil in low-wage jobs that we need done in this state. Workers in nursing homes, day-care centers, restaurants, housekeeping, food service, hotels, home health care, etc., are greatly affected by a rock-bottom minimum wage. The minimum wage sets the floor for wages at the bottom, and, without regular increases, these workers remain in desperate straits, trying to make ends meet and support families.

Ten years without a vote is frustrating when two-thirds of Pennsylvanians support a minimum wage of at least $10 per hour. The Republican leadership in the Legislature has made sure that no vote is taken, despite the 1.3 million workers who would get raises if the minimum wage were raised to $10.10 per hour. In Philadelphia, over 135,000 working people would get raises if the wage were increased, putting over $135 million in new wages into the local economy. We need legislation, which has languished in committee for nearly two years, to be voted on to bring low-wage workers up to levels enjoyed by people in the rest of the nation.

Gov. Wolf has pressed for a $10.15 minimum wage. Dozens of organizations have joined the Raise the Wage PA coalition to advocate for a fair minimum wage, but we cannot even get a vote to be held. Why can't we let democracy work and allow a vote on an issue so vital to many workers and families?

The parents of over 500,000 Pennsylvania children would benefit from a $10.10 minimum wage. Fifty-nine percent of those impacted by this issue are women, and 87 percent are over age 20, not teens working summer jobs. It is estimated that a higher minimum wage would generate $225 million into the state coffers, making it easier to balance the budget for the coming year.

Ten years is far too long to go without even a vote on a decent minimum wage for Pennsylvania. It is time to act!

John Dodds is the director of the Philadelphia Unemployment Project.

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