Katie McGinty has some empathy for restaurant workers. She spent much of her childhood watching her mother march off to an evening shift as a hostess in Philadelphia eateries.
On Monday, the Democratic candidate for governor stopped by Eden, a Shadyside restaurant, to spotlight her call for an increase in the minimum wage and one that would provide equity to workers that rely on tips.
The wage issue is one of several areas where there is general agreement among the Democratic hopefuls. But Ms. McGinty's discussion with Hilary Zozula, the co-owner of Eden, and several other restaurant workers, foreshadowed a dispute that's likely to play out in the general election. All of the Democratic contenders support some form of increase in the wage floor.
Gov. Tom Corbett opposes a unilateral move by Pennsylvania to boost the $7.25 figure. Billy Pitman, a spokesman for his re-election campaign, said the governor's opposition was based on "concern for the impact it would have on the job market as a whole as our economy continues to recover, and whether it would adversely affect the very people it's intended to help."
Ms. McGinty argued Monday that the issue was one of simple fairness. In line with most of her primary rivals, she supports an increase to $10.10 an hour, indexed to inflation. She also maintains that the minimum cash wage for workers who rely on tips should be set at the same rate. Currently the tipped minimum wage is $2.13 across the country, and $2.83 in Pennsylvania. In theory, the business owner is required to make up the difference if a worker's wages, with tips, do not reach the $7.25 minimum, but the workers at the Eden round table say that doesn't always happen.
There are relatively modest differences in the wage proposals of the other Democratic candidates. York businessman Tom Wolf and Rep. Allyson Schwartz of Montgomery County have also called for the $10.10 figure. Both, however, would set the tipped minimum at 70 percent of the overall minimum.
State Treasurer Rob McCord has proposed a $10.70 minimum overall with a cash floor for tipped workers at $5 an hour.
Politics editor James O'Toole: email@example.com or 412-263-1562.