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More Minimum Wage Optimism

MinWAgeIt feels better knowing Pennsylvania will have a new governor in 2015 who is supportive of a higher minimum wage. Our job to make sure that happens will continue to be a struggle, however, as the philosophical make-up of the General Assembly has changed.

The general feeling across this great country of ours is that more states WILL adopt a higher minimum wage in 2015, so I am hoping that movement forces action here.

The Fiscal Times reported this week that minimum wage supporters are gearing up to build on their successes from the General Election (voters in South Dakota, Arkansas, Nebraska and Alaska overwhelmingly said yes to higher minimum wages).

My proposals to incrementally increase PA’s base hourly wage to $10.10 by 2016 and to make the tipped minimum wage 70 percent of the regular minimum fell silent when our two-year session ended this week.

I will be back with new proposals in January, and so will other lawmakers.

Continuing to allow poverty wages to be paid to hardworking employees is bad business.

Unemployment Rate & The Economy

SearchLast week, I told you about the employment situation in the U.S., and, since it is so important to the future of our state and nation, I'm continuing that dialogue today.

Historically, drops in the unemployment rate have meant people were, by and large, finding good jobs that paid well. But the descending of the unemployment rates across the country and in Pennsylvania is not equating to good feelings. People are still very worried about tomorrow.

Westwood Capital’s Daniel Alpert shared a more concrete example of why this unease exists in an extensive statistical column published this week by Business Insider.

Why does pessimism persist when unemployment rates have dropped more than 40 percent in many places? According to Alpert, it’s because people who are going back to work are being paid less. Much less.

“36% of the jobs in the U.S. and, more importantly, 45% of all the jobs created since January 2011, gross an average of less than $500/week,” Alpert wrote.

“The impact on U.S. wages and payrolls in 2014 has been different from the experience of 2013, but the underlying cause is the same. And so is the result – limited increases in aggregate disposable income. (Federal Reserve) Chair Janet Yellen should heed the inner voice telling her that something is not right, because the foregoing demonstrates a still-ailing labor situation in the U.S., not the vibrancy read into headline statistics.”

Alpert looks at low wage and high wage private sector job creation, the average rate of change of hourly wages and personal consumption to write his article and reach his conclusion. It is a compelling analysis.

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate has dropped from 8.2 percent four years ago this month to 5.7 percent in September.

The wise response in analyzing this decline is to simply say it’s good that more Pennsylvanians are working, but we need to keep fighting to make sure the jobs they are getting are more supportive and family sustaining.

After all, $500 a week is $12.50 an hour. That’s not much more than where we want to be with the minimum wage.

We cannot be a state that prides itself on cheap labor. We must value workers much more than we currently do.

Labor News of Note

NLRBPresident Obama tried again this week to get his appointment seated at the National Labor Relations Board.

On Wednesday, he pulled back his initial choice of Sharon Block and put forward Lauren McFerran. Politics, again, is the reason for the change in nominees. Feel free to read this saga here.

Kudos to Volkswagen for allowing unions to represent its workers at its Tennessee plant.

In a day of dwindling labor muscle, this is a positive step. Even if, as the New York Times reported this week, it is not everything the United Auto Workers was hoping to receive.

Fair Wage Business of the Week

BluPathAt BluPath Design in Philadelphia, function and sustainability meld with architectural planning and design to provide quality, environmentally sound structures of beauty. Thanks to responsible business owners like Laura Blau, founder and principal of BluPath, workers across the U.S. are one step closer in their struggle to raise the minimum wage.

This company deserves a thumbs-up not only for its eco-friendly practices, but also, for supporting a boost in the current federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour.    

Although Blau began her career as an artist, she followed in her grandfather’s footsteps by expanding her talents to the field of architecture. Among her company’s credentials are award-winning designs and projects that have been featured on national television and in magazines. 

Today, BluPath’s clients span from universities to non-profit organizations to private residents.

By doing well unto others and their natural surroundings, BluPath embodies the principles that I hope more businesses adopt. While repairing and building structures helps maintain our communities and industries, BluPath’s environmental consciousness, architectural integrity and energy-efficiency are of equal importance in the design-build process.

I applaud this company for setting its standards high, and I encourage you to view its past and present projects for a better appreciation of BluPath’s work.