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Economic research group suggest raising minimum wage

01.04.11

JANUARY 2011, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Economic research group suggest raising minimum wage

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, December 22nd- Seven other states in the nation will increase their minimum wage to keep pace with inflation on January 1st, 2011. The planned increases, which is automatic inflation-based adjustments ranging from 9 to 12 cents, will modestly boost the incomes of approximately 647,000 minimum wage workers in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. The indexed increases came about through ballot initiatives in six states and 2005 legislation in the state of Vermont.

The Keystone Research Center and the National Employment Law Center have called for Pennsylvania Republican Governor elect Tom Corbett and the Pennsylvania incoming legislature to do what the seven states will being doing on January 1st, 2011 and increase the minimum wage in Pennsylvania to keep pace with inflation.

“Regular increases in the minimum wage are critical during tough economic times. These small increases mean that thousands of minimum-wage earners like health aides, child care workers, restaurant workers and retail clerks will be able to put food on the table, provide for their children, and keep a roof over their head,” stated Mark Price, Keystone Reserach Center and labor economist.

As a result of the January 1st increases, 17 states and the District of Columbia will have minimum wages above the federal level. Pennsylvania increased its minimum wage above the federal level in 2007, but the federal minimum wage caught up when the United States Congress raised it to $7.25 per hour in 2009.

The federal minimum wage currently pays a full-time minimum wage earner just over $15,000 per year. Three-quarters of minimum wage earners are adults 20 or over, and in many cases their earnings provide a vital contribution to family income.

“Regular increases in the minimum wage also give low-wage earners parity with state lawmakers whose incomes are already indexed to inflation in Pennsylvania,” added Mr. Price.

“The minimum wage, first established nationally in 1938, was one of the key tools used to lift consumer spending and help the economy recover from the Great Depression. For three decades after that, the United States minimum wage increased faster than inflation, at roughly 3 percent per year, and unemployment fell and then remained low,” stated Keystone Research Center economist and Executive Director Stephen Herzenberg.

“Minimum wage increases go directly to workers who spend the money immediately, because they have to, on basic necessities like food, gas, rent and clothing,” Mr. Herzenberg added.

According to the Keystone Research Center, a economic research organization in Harrisburg, lagging wages or “wage deficit” in Pennsylvania has led families to rely increasingly on debt-financed consumption before the recent recession. The failure to steadily increase the minimum wage is part of what led to the wage deficit.

The annual wages of most full-time Pennsylvania workers are $3,000 to 3,750 less today because the benefits of growth have gone mostly to very high wage earners. As a result of this deficit, many consumers took on home-equity loans and other debt. When the housing bubble burst and the economy stalled, consumers could not longer use debt to increase their spending.

“Long-term, boosting the incomes of working families and strengthening the middle class are the only ways to restore healthy job growth without unsustainable deficit spending. Increasing the minimum wage to keep pace with inflation would be a great place to start,” added Mr. Price.

OSHA and Iron Workers Union renews safety alliance

01.04.11

JANUARY 2011, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

OSHA and Iron Workers Union renews safety alliance

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, December 16th- The United States Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), recently announced a renewed alliance with the Steel Erectors Association and the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Re-Inforcing Ironworkers Union in Pennsylvania.

The agreement means OSHA and its alliance partners will continue to promote workplace safety and health, and provide guidance and training resources for steel erection workers.

Local 36 in South Whitehall represents Iron Workers Union members throughout the Lehigh Valley.

“The first two years of our alliance have been a tremendous success. With fall hazards a leading cause of death in the construction industry, we will keep working closely with our alliance partners to identify methods for reducing falls and other hazards,” said Al D’Imperio, director of OSHA’s Philadelphia Area Office.

According to OSHA, since its inception in November 2008, the alliance has provided safety and health cross-training sessions to more than 1,000 steel erection workers and safety and health professionals in Southeastern Pennsylvania alone.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHAct) of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to assure these conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training education and assistance.

Through the Alliance Program, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration works with groups committed to worker health to prevent fatalities, injuries and illnesses.

These groups include labor unions, consulates, trade or professional organizations, faith and community-based organizations, businesses and educational institutions.

OSHA and the groups work together to develop compliance assistance tools and resources, and to educate workers and employers about their rights and responsibilities.

Alliance Program participants do not receive exemptions from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration programmed inspections but are encourage to participate in the safety training.

For more information on the program visit OSHA’s website at:
http://www.osha.gov/dcsp/alliances/index.html.