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A New Push to Raise Pennsylvania's Minimum Wage

Ten years ago, when Pennsylvania’s minimum wage was $5.15 an hour and thousands of working families had fallen into poverty, I was in the middle of a long, hard fight to pass legislation raising it to account for inflation.

It was an uphill battle.  The governor was against it.  The House majority was against it.  The Senate majority was against it.

But with the help of fair-wage advocates like the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, the Economic Policy Institute, and organized labor, we were able to change minds and push the bill through.  Gov. Rendell even changed his mind and signed my bill into law, raising Pennsylvania’s minimum wage over two years to $7.15 an hour.

Today, we again have a governor and bicameral majorities that oppose adjusting the minimum wage for inflation, even though the last time we did it, Pennsylvania’s poverty rate took its biggest drop in decades. Opponents’ predictions of job losses were debunked with strong growth in low-wage service and health-care jobs.

Opponents of minimum wage adjustments will trot out the same old theories about job losses and inflation, even though the minimum wage is 100 years old and has been raised more than two dozen times without affect on employment among low-wage workers.

This time, we’re going for a permanent fix by adding an inflation index, and we’re going to include tipped workers, whose $2.83 minimum wage hasn’t changed in years and is now among the lowest in the nation.

Over the next few months I’m going to be organizing a new push to pass legislation that I’ve introduced for three consecutive sessions without movement.   Public support for fair minimum wages is overwhelming.  Opponents will try at all cost to keep a vote from happening because voting against keeping low-wage workers out of poverty doesn’t sit well anywhere in the state.


SEIU, Lawmakers Prevail in Health Center Court Dispute

SEIU and state lawmakers successfully stopped closures of state health centers until a court challenge could be heard.

Chalk up another big loss for the Corbett administration in the state courts as he continues to spend his time cutting jobs instead of creating them.
The governor’s plan to close dozens of state health centers has been put on hold by the state Supreme Court last week.
In April, several state lawmakers and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) filed a lawsuit to prevent the closings arguing that the closures would require legislative approval. The Supreme Court issued a temporary injunction on July 18, halting the closures until the lawsuit is heard in court.

The effect of the injunction on three health centers that have already closed is not clear, and the state Department of Health has said it is reviewing the court’s decision.

My colleagues and I maintain that state health centers provide critical services, such as immunizations, health education and outreach programs, and are especially vital in rural communities.

Pennsylvania already ranks 43rd among states in per-capita spending on public health. Consolidating operations in distant counties defies the purpose of the health centers, which is to make sure services are available in places where they may be otherwise hard to access.


PA Job Creation Continues Lackluster Pace

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate for June 2013 was 7.5 percent –the same rate as May.  While this is not a negative sign, a look at data across the nation reveals that Pennsylvania is trailing in regard to its overall progress on the employment front. 

Since the end of the recession, Pennsylvania has failed to achieve the same levels of job growth and unemployment reductions as have other states.  From June 2012 to June 2013, not only did neighbor states New York, New Jersey and West Virginia experience larger dips in their unemployment rates than Pennsylvania, but U.S. unemployment has shown faster improvement in its unemployment rate than Pennsylvania during this same time period.  In fact, the national unemployment rate has fallen at a faster pace than Pennsylvania’s rate since Governor Corbett took office in January 2011.

In a state where public and private sector employers are pursuing policies of staff reduction, rather than expansion, and the governor continues to pursue corporate tax reduction policies in exchange for temporary job growth, there is scant potential for Pennsylvanians to find credible employment. 

Under the current administration, Pennsylvania’s job creation rate has been unable to keep pace with its unemployment rolls, leaving far too many Pennsylvanians in the categories of unemployed and long-term unemployed.  Pennsylvania ranked 41st out of 50 states in job growth between December 2012 and June 2013.  Further, in comparison with the six surrounding states, Pennsylvania’s year-over-year employment growth was below four of those states, and its employment growth since June 2011 was below five of those states. 

Within individual fields of industry, Pennsylvania’s employment numbers have declined in mining and logging; trade, transportation and utilities; construction; manufacturing; and information for the month of June 2013 and in a year-over-year comparison.  While job growth in education and health services has increased slightly in June 2013 and during the past year, future employment in these fields may be hampered by the latest Republican-controlled state budget.  As the FY 2013-14 budget failed to appropriate adequate funds to Pennsylvania’s public schools, more district layoffs will likely result over the next year.  Moreover, the state turned its back on a much-needed opportunity to create 35,000 healthcare-related jobs in Pennsylvania by failing to pass the Senate-supported Medicaid expansion provision in the budget. 







Watch Live PA & U.S. UNEMPLOYMENT RATE (6/12 - 2/13)