Minimum impact: Low-paid Pennsylvanians deserve a better wage

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America needs a raise. And that includes Pennsylvanians working for low wages.

Although 21 states next year will have minimum wages above the federal level, Pennsylvania’s is stuck at $7.25 an hour, the same rate set by Congress for the country in July 2009.

But calls are growing to reduce income inequality and to inject more money into the economy.

The average income for the wealthiest 5 percent of households jumped 17 percent in the last 20 years, the Census Bureau reports, yet income for the middle 20 percent of households barely rose 5 percent. As to the slow-to-recover economy, more spending is needed by consumers to buy the products that will create the jobs that will put people back to work.

Raising the minimum wage to help workers at the bottom of the income ladder would remedy both. In Washington, senators have proposed increasing the federal minimum to $10.10 an hour in steps over two years. But the record in Congress for accomplishing much of significance has been poor.

Pennsylvania lawmakers have their own proposal — raise the state minimum wage to $9 in 60 days, then $10.10 a year later. But most of the backers are Democrats and the government is controlled by Republicans.

Regardless of party, Pennsylvania officials who claim to care about fair treatment of workers should look at the example of neighboring states. Although West Virginia and Maryland have the same minimum as Pennsylvania, in New York in 2014 the wage will be $8; in New Jersey, $8.25; and in Ohio, $7.95.

It’s time for workers at the bottom to share in some of the profits at the top. Raising Pennsylvania’s minimum wage is a place to start.

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