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Minimum Wage’s Wins and Losses as PA Watches

min wage

Perry Como crooned about Seattle: “The bluest skies you’ve ever seen are in Seattle/ And the hills the greenest green in Seattle.”

The skies might seem bluer and the hills, greener, today for minimum wage workers in Seattle because that city’s mayor, Ed Murray, proposed a bipartisan plan to increase its base hourly rate from $9.32 to $15 over the next three to seven years.

$15 an hour!

Won’t companies just shut their doors and eliminate all of their employees at this drastically fair wage? No. They will not. How can Seattle justify this fair wage? Listen to Mayor Murray. He called the growing wage gap “one of the great issues of our time” and said the failure of governments to not increase the minimum wage is “preventing us from fulfilling our responsibility to provide for the common good.”

Seattle’s $15 minimum wage, if approved Monday by city council, would give small businesses until 2019 to reach the new base rate if they do not offer health care or tips. All other small businesses would pay $15 an hour by 2021.

Small businesses are defined as having a maximum 500 employees. Large businesses with more than that would have to pay workers $15 by 2017.

Pennsylvania’s General Assembly continued this week to do nothing about considering an increase in its increasingly putrid $7.25 an hour minimum.

If the commonwealth continues to fail some of Pennsylvania’s hardest working women and men, our minimum wage will definitely become an embarrassment by the time its $7.25 is less than half of Seattle’s $15.

But my scorn for Republicans who continue to stand in the way of commonsense legislation on this issue is also spread over Washington D.C. this week.

In Congress, Senate Republicans, including Sen. Pat Toomey, failed to move a bill that would have increased the national minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. The Pennsylvania Republican predicted such a vote would mean the loss of 118,000 Pennsylvania jobs.

Here’s what the Economic Opportunity Institute thinks will happen if Seattle City Council approves Mayor Murray’s $15 minimum wage: “When workers stay in their jobs longer, employers have lower hiring and training costs, and productivity increases. This helps explain why employers can pay higher wages without cutting jobs.”

EOI goes on to say that “all the minimum wage increases of the past 25 years had no significant impact on jobs. The increases did raise monthly incomes for low-wage workers and decrease turn over.”

It is becoming more obvious to me every day that Republican opponents of increasing the minimum wage are reading their party’s talking points more than they are reading the historical facts of how this truly impacts employment and the economy. The bottom line is irrefutably positive. The status quo is mean-spirited and wrong.

Let’s vote on my Senate Bill 1300 and Senate Bill 1099 (tipped minimum) … or any proposal that is now before the Pennsylvania legislature. Our minimum wage earners need action now!

Behind the Veil of PA’s 6% Unemployment Rate

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate, as you know, is down to 6 percent. The nation’s jobless rate just dropped a dramatic 0.4 percent to 6.3 percent. One of these rates is better than the other, I believe, and here is why.

In April, 288,000 Americans found new jobs, which was the largest month-to-month increase in more than two years and put total employment gains for 2014 at more than 1.38 million.

Help wantedPennsylvania, on the other hand, has generated 800 jobs since the start of the year. And, many of our counties continue to wallow in much higher unemployment.

Huntingdon and Philadelphia counties are at the top with 8.4 percent unemployment, Cameron and Pike counties are second at 8.1 percent unemployment, and Luzerne and Monroe counties are third with 8 percent joblessness.

A significant irony for three counties – Fayette (7.8 percent), Tioga (7.3 percent), and Wyoming (7.9 percent) – is they have some of the highest employment in Marcellus Shale drilling companies. Of the 10 counties with the highest amount of drilling activity in the state, only four have rates below the state average of 6.0 percent. So the alleged benefits of Marcellus Shale activity, clearly, are not being equally spread.

All of this is why I say 6.3 percent unemployment is better than 6 percent.

Corbett’s Stubbornness on Voter ID Leads Nowhere

Hopefully for the last time, a state judicial panel has voiced its decision on Gov. Corbett’s bad idea to require voters to produce identification when going to the polls.

voter idCommonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley said this week that he would not reconsider the previous ruling to overturn PA’s Voter ID law.

“Petitioners established a clear right to relief from enforcement of the photo ID provisions in the Voter ID Law,” McGinley said in his “Conclusion & Verdict.” “The right to vote, fundamental in Pennsylvania, is irreplaceable, necessitating its protection before any deprivation occurs … Denying the requested relief would only add to the chaos in implementation and inaccurate messaging that has ensued since the statute’s enactment and Respondents’ [Corbett administration] inconsistent implementation.”

The governor has 30 days to appeal the judge’s latest correct decision. Hopefully he will finally realize that wisdom sides with the people.

Made in PA

While Pennsylvania may be considered conservative when it comes to liquor laws, the commonwealth certainly has a long history of making and partaking in many types of spirits over the years.

Pre-revolution, Americans were drinking nearly four gallons of alcohol per day and Pennsylvania served as a chief alcohol supplier, especially along the East Coast. In fact, during the early 1800s, more alcohol was being shipped out of distilleries in Pennsylvania than in Kentucky.

During this time period, Frenchman Charles Jacquin moved his cordial and liqueur business to Pennsylvania’s City of Brotherly Love, where it remains an employment staple for local residents today. 

At Charles Jacquins et Cie on Trenton Avenue in Philadelphia, employees belonging to Local Teamsters 500 have perfected the distilling process for the vodka, rum, gin, liqueurs and other specialty items they produce every day.

Jacquin'sWith local ingredients at the heart of their recipes, their products are all-natural and boast an international reputation of providing some of the highest quality products on the liquor store shelves.

Not only did the company develop Chambord, but it is also responsible for giving the world Pravda vodka, which is produced at a state-of-the art distillery in Poland, Rock & Rye and St. Dalfour Gourmet French brand foods, teas, jellies and jams, which are produced in France. 

Although it has reached international status today, Charles Jacquin et Cie remains a Pennsylvania-based company and a local treasure that represents the state’s early beginnings in the alcohol industry.