Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf calls for statewide increase to minimum wage
March 11, 2016 12:00 AM
State Rep. Dan Frankel, Gov. Tom Wolf and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald meet with Wigle Whiskey co-owner Mark Meyer during a news conference Thursday at the Strip District business discussing a raise in the state minimum wage.
By Lexi Belculfine / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Three days after Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order requiring state workers under his jurisdiction be paid at least $10.15 an hour, he appeared at a Strip District distillery to call on state legislators to pass a minimum wage increase for all Pennsylvanian workers.
“You’ve got to treat your workers fairly. There is a moral issue there. But there’s also a practical issue. It makes good business sense. If you treat your workers fairly ... you have lower turnover, you have lower training costs, it’s easier to recruit people to come and work for you. These are all things that improve your bottom line,” Mr. Wolf said.
The governor, on his “Jobs That Pay” tour, was joined at Wigle Whiskey on Thursday morning by Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald; Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto; Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills; Senator Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline; Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill; and Deborah Gross and Corey O’Connor, members of Pittsburgh City Council.
“No Pittsburgher who works 40 hours a week should be forced to live in poverty — and that’s what really $7.25 is: $15,000 per year, before taxes,” said Mr. Peduto, who signed an executive order last year phasing in a $15 minimum wage for all full-time city employees.
Until workers are paid a living wage, the mayor said, taxpayers “will pick up the tab for the public assistance for housing, for public assistance for food, for public assistance for transportation.”
Wigle Whiskey was the first business to participate in the city’s Minimum Wage Recognition Program, which highlights small businesses increasing workers’ pay to at least $10.10.
Three posters — which read “The City of Pittsburgh acknowledges Wigle for paying all of its employees a living wage” — went up in February and feature distillery employees on some of 240 city-owned bus shelters in Downtown, the Strip District and parts of Lawrenceville.
Mr. O'Connor, who introduced the legislation, said since then six other businesses have expressed interest in the program that provides at least six months of promotion on city-owned bus shelters for city businesses with 15 to 250 employees that raise their minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, or $3.93 per hour for tipped employees. City council unanimously approved the program in March 2015.
As of Jan. 1, 28 states, as well as Washington, D.C. and territory Guam, have base pays higher than $7.25 — the minimum federally and here in Pennsylvania, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The senate’s Labor and Industry Committee has been looking into the option of increasing the minimum wage, said Jennifer Kocher, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre.
“That review continues as some of our most conservative members have introduced legislation to raise the minimum wage,” she said. “The governor’s action underscores that he has no desire or ability to work the legislature to move [policy] efforts forward. With that said, the senate will continue on a path that will lead to real action is real as opposed to the symbolic steps the governor has taken.”
Steve Miskin, spokesman for House Republicans, said in response to the governor’s urging: “Many House Republican members believe it would be a better use of legislative time to move Pennsylvania into the 21st century… finally, to help these low wage earners transition up the ladder into better paying jobs and careers with benefits. The minimum wage is and was intended as a ‘starting’ wage or ‘training’ wage. It is and was never meant to serve as a ‘living’ wage.”
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