Representative Patty Kim along with labor, religious, community, women’s and worker’s groups rallied at the State Capitol Thursday, in support of raising the minimum wage. The rally was part of a Day of Action in Pennsylvania.
“I’m speaking out for the hundreds of single moms working two to three jobs at minimum wage. Many tell me they just want one good paying job, so that they can spend more time with their children,” said Representative Kim. “We should reward hardworking people with a wage they can survive on.”
Representative Kim sponsored a bill to raise the minimum wage. “There is no excuse, we need to pass my bill, House bill 1896. We need lawmakers from both sides to join me because this could help one million Pennsylvanians across the state,” said Representative Kim.
“The average minimum wage worker is 35 years old. When you go to McDonald’s or Walmart, I don’t see teenagers at the cash register. I see middle age workers, mostly women, mothers, and some grandmothers. What does a child think when his mom is working all the time and still has to stand in line for food stamps,” said Representative Kim. “Let’s encourage self-reliance and end dependence. Increasing the minimum wage will do that and save the state money in public welfare services.”
The group called for raising the minimum wage to at least $10.10 an hour in Pennsylvania. Supporters say it will help one million working families afford basic needs and boost the state’s economy. They say that hundreds of thousands of full-time workers are living in poverty, and nearly one in five Pennsylvania workers would get a wage hike if the minimum wage were raised to $10.10 or more.
Not everyone supports raising the minimum wage. Gene Barr CEO & President of Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry says he is concerned about any increase.
“We’ve never said some people won’t get a raise, some people will. But, some will never get that chance to get their foot in the door, and get the experience that they need to become successful in life. It’s really rolling the dice about what we are going to do with our economy and individual people,” said Barr. He believes that raising the minimum wage will hurt small businesses. “Small businesses will have to make some real decisions on the fixed amount of money that they have in order to pay labor. Some will have to cut back, some will fore-go hiring, some will have to layoff. That is the reality of their struggle.”
“At a time when we should be creating jobs, wherever we can, we are trying to implement, unfortunately, these policies, that will serve to hurt. If they are not hired at $7.25 an hour, why would they be hired at $10.10 an hour. The reality is, this will be a huge detriment to hiring,” said Barr.
In Pennsylvania, the Legislature passed the last minimum wage increase in 2006. The federal minimum wage rose to $7.25 per hour in 2009, which increased the wage in Pennsylvania. Today, 21 states have a higher minimum wage than Pennsylvania, including Ohio, New York, New Jersey, West Virginia and Maryland, which passed a law in early April to raise its wage.
Democrats utilized a rarely used parliamentary maneuver called a Discharge Resolution that would move Kim’s bill, H.B. 1896, from committee to the full House for consideration.
Kim said the move is necessary because her bill, H.B. 1896, has languished in the House Labor and Industry Committee since it was introduced in December because of the refusal by House Republicans to even bring the bill up for debate.
She also noted that an attempt by Democrats in the U.S. Senate to bring a federal minimum wage bill up for a vote.
“People are struggling every day because of low, stagnant wages and Republicans in Congress and Harrisburg refuse to act,” Kim said. “We, as a state must take a leadership role and vote to increase the minimum wage to help restore the middle class by lifting thousands of Pennsylvanians out of poverty.”
Kim’s bill would increase the minimum wage from the current $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour and then to $10.10 per hour a year later.
Increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would boost the earnings of a full-time worker by more than $5,900 to $21,008. For a single mother with two children who works 40 hours per week, this would get her family above the poverty line, which is $19,530 for a household of three.
“The time has come for Pennsylvania to join the other 25 states that have voted to increase their minimum wage above the current federal level of $7.25 per hour,” Kim said.