As the Pennsylvania Legislature considers bills to raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $10.10, a new report breaks down the big-picture and local benefits of hiking the minimum wage.
Currently, minimum wage in Pennsylvania is $7.25, the lowest amount allowed by federal law since 2009.
HB 250 (sponsored by Rep. Patty Kim) and SB 195/196 (sponsored by Sen. Christine Tartaglione) would raise the minimum wage to $10.10. Kim’s bill would raise the tipped minimum wage to 75% of that rate; Sen. Tartaglione’s SB 196 would raise the tipped minimum wage to 70% of the minimum wage. Governor Wolf has stated that he supports the effort.
Boosting the minimum wage to $10.10 would raise the wages of 1.2 million workers and create 6,000 new jobs, according to a new Policy Watch report from the Keystone Research Center. The report also breaks down the impact of a raised minimum wage by county.
From the report:
When a significant number of jobs in Pennsylvania don’t pay enough for our neighbors to afford the basics – things like food, car repairs and eye glasses – the local economy suffers. For many in our communities wages are so low that they are forced, even while working, to rely on the local food bank to help make ends meet. Policies to raise the wage and benefits floor can help restore spending on the basics and, in the process, boost the local economy.
Notably, in the Western Pennsylvania counties of Mercer, Armstrong and Indiana, a $10.10 minimum wage would raise the wages of workers by 30% or more.
Additional highlights from the report:
*The majority of workers in Pennsylvania that would get a raise as a result of a statewide minimum wage increase are adults (87%) working full-time (50.3%).
*Philadelphia and Allegheny counties have the largest number of workers that would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour at 135,640 and 113,852 respectively.
*In 46 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, at least one in four workers would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.
One the reasons so many adults would benefit from a minimum wage increase is that on average, from 1969 to 2015, the purchasing power of the minimum wage has fallen by 0.4% a year. As corporate lobbying has successfully suppressed the wage floor, the purchasing power of laborers working full-time has plummeted. After adjusting for inflation the hourly earnings of the bottom fifth of workers in Pennsylvania are lower today than they were in 1979.
To attempt to correct that fundamental imbalance, 29 states have already raised minimum wage above the federal minimum of $7.25. Pennsylvania is one of only two states in the Northeast that has not followed suit.
Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 will significantly affect both male and female workers, though more women (58.6%) than men (41.4%). In descending order, white (73.4%) Black (12.4%), Hispanic (9.1%) and Asian (5%) workers will benefit the most from the hike.
Last week, Pennsylvania workers rallied for an increase in the minimum wage in Fight for 15 events across the state. A 2014 poll revealed that the majority of Pennsylvanians, both Republicans and Democrats, support raising the minimum wage.
A recent study revealed that corporations under-paying workers with minimum wage—in some cases, by the very same businesses lobbying to keep that minimum wage artificially low—are forcing taxpayers to subsidize full-time workers with benefits to the tune of $153 billion a year.
The Washington Post called it a “hidden cost” of low minimum wage.
The Agenda for Women’s Health is a legislative package of bills sponsored and supported by the Women’s Health Caucus of the Pennsylvania Legislature, a bipartisan, pro-choice group of lawmakers committed to promoting evidence-based policy solutions to real problems faced by Pennsylvania women.
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-Tara Murtha, WLP Staff