NOVEMBER 2014, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News
Pennsylvania minimum wage falls below surrounding states, raising federal level becomes unlikely
BY PAUL TUCKER
REGION, November 5th - With the election season over and the Republican party being successful in strengthening their ability to have legislation passed through both sides of the Pennsylvania General Assembly by gaining seats in both chambers of the legislature, raising the minimum wage for state workers becomes even more complicated and unlikely.
The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington DC supports increasing the federal bench-mark to $10.10 an hour, which President Obama has proposed.
The current minimum wage, which covers most workers employed within many industries excluding some retail and service establishments and farms and also employ students at wages of no more than 15 percent below the minimum with proper certification, is $7.25. The federal minimum wage has not been raised since 2009.
Some states have tired of waiting for the Republicans in Washington to support an increase and have began raising their bench-mark wage above the federal wage.
Maryland, New Jersey and New York have increased their minimum wage above the federal level, while Republicans in Harrisburg have successfully blocked raising the minimum wage in Pennsylvania, currently the same as the federal level of $7.25 an hour.
There are 19 state’s and the District of Columbia that have a higher minimum wage than the federal standard. New Jersey’s minimum wage increased in January to $8.25 an hour.
However, in Pennsylvania raising the wage has been blocked by Republican legislators and their business supporters. Republican Governor Tom Corbett, who lost to Democrat Tom Wolf on November 4th denying him of a second four-year term, made it clear he did not support raising the benchmark. Mr. Corbett stated the higher was would harm Pennsylvania’s economy despite that the wage in surrounding states is higher.
But, according to data released by the Department of Labor in July, job growth in the 13 states that have increased their minimum wage has been more robust than states that have not. Average job growth in states that have increased the benchmark was 0.85 percent this year while in states that have not increase their wage was 0.61 percent.
Mr. Wolf made it clear he would support rasing the benchmark and before his victory stated he will push for the increase if elected.
Meanwhile, on October 10th the United States Conference of Mayors urged Congress to raise the wage to $10.10 and mobilized existing support from mayors across the county who favor the increase.
More than 70 mayors signed the a letter supporting the raising of the federal minimum wage.
Raising the wage would give approximately 28 million across the county a wage hike.
Members of the right-wing pro-business groups recently stated, without facts, that minimum wage increares are “Union lifesavers.”
They argue that raising the wage enables labor union organizers to approach a nonunion employer struggling to pay the new wage and assist them in unionizing their workers by signing a “neutrality agreement” in return for the union will then use collective bargaining waiver within the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct) to allow the employer to pay less than the minimum. The action would be against the law and would subject the labor organization to legal ramifications. The measures will increase the minimum wage in San Francisco to $15 an hour by 2018.
On November 4th voters overwhelming approved raising the minimum wage for workers in the Bay Area of California. Voters passed two initiatives in Oakland and San Francisco by huge margins that will increase the wages for 190,000 workers in that area.
With the Republicans gaining enough seats in the United States Senate that will allow them to hold the majority beginning in 2015 for at least the next two years, it is extremely unlikely the federal benchmark will be increased.