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SB1300 Unified Call to $10.10

In 10 Pennsylvania communities this week, Raise the Wage PA joined community and elected leaders to once again call on General Assembly leadership to move my minimum wage proposals. SB1300 (Tartaglione) would increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour by 2016, and SB1099 (Tartaglione) would increase the tipped wage to 70% of the minimum wage by 2015.

From Philly to Pittsburgh, the message rang out again that Pennsylvania must act now to ensure a fairer wage for our front-line workers.

Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks), who is a co-sponsor of my proposal, Senate Bill 1300, beautifully and simply demonstrated the hardships minimum wage earners now face every day when she showed that one hour’s pay would not be enough to purchase a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs and a box of cereal.

Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) said in Allentown that an increase in PA’s minimum wage is needed “to promote economic opportunity for all our citizens.”

It’s a big deal that Sen. Browne spoke in favor of increasing the minimum wage as he is the Senate Republican Majority Whip. We need more GOP leaders to follow his example and come out in favor of this necessary increase.

In Pittsburgh, Rep. Dom Costa (D-Allegheny) tried to spend the $52 an average minimum wage earner gets to spend each week after taxes are paid. He quickly learned he couldn’t buy what he wanted at the grocery store because he didn’t have enough cash.

“What if the kids were sick and needed over the counter medication? You wouldn’t even be able to buy that, but obviously you would need that, so that would require you to give back even more of the food you bought. So you’re making a choice between, do I hope they feel better, and not buy something like that or do I tend to their illnesses,” the state rep said.

Working with my colleagues and Raise the Wage PA wasn’t my only activist role in getting a minimum wage increase. I also mailed a letter to Senate Labor & Industry Committee Chair Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne) to ask that she allow SB 1300 and SB 1099 to be voted on by her panel.

“The time for action is now,” I wrote in my Sept. 23 correspondence. “I urge you to schedule a vote on my bills to raise the minimum wage before the end of the 2013-2014 legislative session. Together, we can improve the lives of thousands of minimum wage workers who deserve dignity.”

Maximizing the Minimum … Elsewhere

MoneyThis week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order increasing the Big Apple’s living wage to $13.13. This will impact individuals who do not receive benefits from their employers, if their employers are tenants of a building that currently accepts city subsidies. A Washington Post blog discussing this mid-level victory pondered the impact this may have on the rest of the nation's minimum wage struggles, as the cries for a higher minimum wage that were once viewed as absurd have quickly become a reality for many workers...except in Pennsylvania.

When the calendar flips to 2015 in less than three months, New Jersey’s minimum wage law will deliver a cost-of-living increase of 13 cents to base-hourly-wage employees throughout the Garden State. On Jan. 1, New Jersey’s minimum wage will be $8.38.

The Consumer Price Index is also generating an additional 15 cents an hour for Ohio’s minimum wage earners, which means the Buckeye State’s lowest wage will be 85 cents more than it is here.

And, the Obama administration issued its “final rule” this week to increase the minimum wage for workers on federal service and construction contracts to $10.10 an hour.

“No one who works full time in America should have to raise their family in poverty, and if you serve meals to our troops for a living, then you shouldn't have to go on food stamps in order to serve a meal to your family at home,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez.

Under this rule, future minimum wage increases for federal contractors will be linked to the Consumer Price Index.

The Perils of a Low Minimum Wage

PerilsWe know – and feel – that the economy is recovering. We also know – and feel – that the recovery has not been smooth and people continue to struggle.

On Wednesday, the Washington Post splashed this headline on its website: “The middle class is poorer today than it was in 1989.” And, now you know why the 2014 economic recovery often feels like a mirage.

“This is a story about stocks and houses,” the Post reported. “The middle class doesn't have much of the former, which has rebounded sharply, but has lots of the latter, which hasn't. Indeed, only 9.2 percent of the middle 20 percent of households owns stocks, versus almost half of the top 20 percent. So the middle class has not only missed out on getting a raise, but also on the big bull market the past five years.”

Feelings about this economy are exacerbated by stories showing that the richest of the rich are laughing – extremely hard.

In just one year (from last year to this year), the net worth of the folks occupying Forbes’ American billionaire list jumped a shocking $700 million. From $5 billion to $5.7 billion!

Of course, the stock market has much to do with the heart-thumping performance and Bill Gates continues his hold as the richest man in America. Still the skyrocketing bankrolls have a cumulative negative psychological effect on everyone else.

Not only are Americans struggling if they earn minimum wage, many of our friends and neighbors have not recovered from the recession and are still unemployed.

Stress and a lesser self-esteem are the products of not making money or finding work. Rutgers University, the Urban Institute and the Pew Research Center recently issued studies defining how long-term unemployment hurts families, especially children.

“More than 6 in 10 unemployed and long-term unemployed say they experienced stress in family relationships and close friendships during their time without a job; 55 percent of the long-term unemployed say they will need to retire later than planned because of the recession,” Rutgers’ Work Trends Report concludes.

“In 1960, 93% of men ages 25 to 34 were in the labor force; by 2012 that share had fallen to 82%. And among young men who are employed, wages have fallen over the past few decades. For men ages 25 to 34, median hourly wages have declined 20% since 1980 (after adjusting for inflation),” the Pew study says.

I believe we have more work to do in Harrisburg and in Washington to help our fellow citizens.

Made in America

footballWhile Oktoberfest is nearly over, there are still plenty of fun things to do and reasons to celebrate this fall, especially with football season underway. Whether or not you’re an avid fan of the sport, it’s a great reason to hang out with friends and eat delicious food. To make your tailgating parties union-friendly this season, check out the items below, which are brought to you thanks to our friends at Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM), United Auto Workers (UAW), International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).

Anheuser Busch
Butte Creek Porter
Dundee Nut Brown Ale
Henry Weinhard’s
Labatt’s Blue
Land Shark Lager
Mendocino Brewing Co.
Rolling Rock
Sam Adams
Shock Top

Sodas and Drinks
Barq's Root Beer
Minute Maid

Oscar Meyer hot dogs
Nathan’s hot dogs
Ball Park hot dogs
Farmer John meats
Hebrew National hot dogs
Hormel chicken
Tyson chicken
Healthy Choice chicken
Smithfield chicken
Oroweat buns
Sara Lee buns
Chex Mix
Frito-Lay chips and snacks
Lay's potato chips

French's mustard
Gulden’s mustard
Heinz ketchup
Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
Open Pit Barbecue Sauce
Vlasic pickles