CP photo by Luke Thor Travis
Last November workers took to Downtown streets to fight for $15/hr
For the past several years Pittsburgh and other municipalities around the state have seen a number of rallies, marches, protests and strikes calling for an increase in the minimum wage. The Pennsylvania minimum wage was last raised in 2009, but at $7.25, it’s half the amount activists want.
State Rep. Patty Kim (D-Dauphin County) has spent the past four years trying to change that. In 2013, she first introduced legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage without success. Last month she proposed it again. The legislation would increase Pennsylvania’s hourly wage from $7.25 to $12 in 2018, and then increase it each year until it reaches $15 in 2024.
"People who make a lot more than minimum wage say let the market determine the wage of workers, let it happen naturally. They say we don't need the government to set the rates because it will eventually rise on it's own," Kim said at a June 28 rally in Harrisburg. "When I hear that, not only do I get angry, I hear, 'let's let minimum wage workers suffer as long as possible, let's let minimum wage workers and their families struggle until maybe the employers and maybe the corporations will realize that we need to raise the rates. No thank you, we're not going to do that, we're not going to wait. We need to raise the minimum wage now."
Yesterday Pittsburgh City Councilor Dan Gilman emphasized how Pennsylvania's lower minimum wage hurts the state when he introduced a will of council in support of raising the statewide minimum wage. It was unanimously passed by council. Pennsylvania is surrounded on all sides by states with higher minimum wages
of $8.10/hour or more. And according to Kim, these states all boast lower unemployment.
“Every state around us has stepped up to the plate. Ohio, West Virginia, New York, Maryland, they've raised the wage," Gilman said at the July 6 City Council meeting. "Pennsylvania's done nothing. We aren't competitive. It stifles innovation. It hurts small business and it hurts the core of our communities.”
is also supported by One Pennsylvania, an advocacy organization that has been holding fast food worker strikes around the state since 2014. This week they applauded city council for support the the state legislation.
“Municipalities and states all over the country are beginning to recognize that $15 an hour is what American workers everywhere need to survive and support their families,” One Pennsylvania Executive Director Erin Kramer said in a statement. “We applaud our City Council’s support of state and local legislation that puts working families on the path to securing a $15/hour minimum wage. The facts are clear: raising the minimum wage is not just the right thing to do; it’s a smart economic decision as well. For Pennsylvania to remain a competitive state, working families must thrive. This starts with paying a living wage of $15 an hour.”
There has long been support for raising the minimum wage among Pittsburgh elected officials. In November 2015, Mayor Bill Peduto signed an executive order that would raise the minimum wage in steps to $15/hr by 2020. And raising the minimum wage also has support from other government officials at the state level. In his budget proposal this year, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour.