Subscribe to E-Update here.

Pennsylvania Watches as Another State Ups its Minimum

Congratulations, Michigan minimum wage earners! Your Republican governor’s decision this week to approve an increase in your base hourly rate to $9.25 an hour by 2018 is good for you and bad for Pennsylvania. Why bad? Because it means the commonwealth’s working poor have fallen another step behind in the number of companies and states that are acting to protect their own.

MoneyThe Michigan legislature voted overwhelmingly in favor of the increase and admitted it did it to quell the increasing demand for a hike to $10.10 an hour.

Said Gov. Rick Snyder: “I commend my partners in the legislature for finding common ground on a bill that will help Michigan workers and protect our state’s growing economy.”

Michigan will increase its minimum wage by $2 to “protect” its economy. Ever since introducing the first bill to increase Pennsylvania’s minimum wage, you know I’ve been saying – and showing – that such an increase will not hurt our state’s economy.

Now we have Republicans (in another state) admitting this is so.

At last count, there are 13 bills in the PA General Assembly that propose to increase our paltry $7.25 hourly bottom – and not one of them has received consideration in the House or Senate committee to which they’ve been assigned. This includes my Senate Bill 1300, which would incrementally increase the minimum to $10.10/hour, and SB 1099, which would set the tipped minimum to 70 percent of the set regular minimum rate.

PA Republicans and Gov. Tom Corbett are the reason this is not happening for minimum wage earners statewide.

Thankfully, Mayor Michael Nutter presides in Philadelphia. Primary election voters overwhelmingly ratified his executive order requiring city subcontractors to pay their workers $10.88 an hour, which is 150 percent of the federal minimum and, currently, the commonwealth’s minimum wage.

Unemployment Left, Right, Left

Pennsylvania’s jobless rate dropped again in April, which helps the perception that the state economy is improving. It is improving, if only incrementally and not everywhere when compared to other states.

The ongoing problem areas?

The presence of natural gas drilling companies in the Marcellus Shale region of the commonwealth are helping to put people to work, but some of those counties (Fayette, 7.3 percent; Wyoming, 7.1 percent; Tioga, 6.5 percent) still have some of the highest unemployment rates in the state.

Statewide, 33 counties, including Philadelphia, had unemployment rates in April that were higher than the state rate of 5.7 percent. Eleven counties’ unemployment rates were at 7 percent or higher:

  • Cameron County, 7.9 percent
  • Huntingdon County, 7.7
  • Fayette County, 7.3
  • Luzerne County, 7.2
  • Monroe County, 7.2
  • Bedford County, 7.1
  • Pike County, 7.1
  • Potter County, 7.1
  • Wyoming County, 7.1
  • Forest County, 7.0
  • Somerset County, 7.0

There are some positive notes, to be sure. Pittsburgh’s seven-county region added more than 22,000 nonfarm jobs in April, which helped to lower its unemployment rate to 5.6 percent.

Philadelphia has added 13,600 new jobs since the start of 2014, and that has helped to drop its unemployment rate to 6.8 percent, according to federal officials.

Looking at veterans as they return from the battlefield to private enterprise, more work needs to be done.

While much better than the 15 percent veteran unemployment rate of 2010, the 2013 jobless count for Gulf War II vets who have served since 9/11 was still at 9 percent. The unemployment rate for all veterans floated at 6.6 percent.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 60 percent of the 722,000 unemployed veterans in 2013 were 45 years old and older. Thirty-five percent of them were between the ages of 25 to 44, and 5 percent were 18 to 24.

Pennsylvania veterans experienced an unemployment rate of 7.7 percent.

Made in PA

Beyond its agriculture, Pennsylvania Dutch traditions and Amish culture, Lancaster is a place where business and craftsmanship meet to support industries serving as the backbone of this state and nation. Since 1939, ITT Engineered Valves, situated in the heart of Lancaster County, has been employing individuals skilled in metal-crafting to manufacture valves for various applications ranging from the production of medical drugs, natural gas and steel to the treatment of wastewater.

While originally owned by the Grinnell Corporation, the company’s facility in Lancaster was bought and expanded by International Telephone & Telegraph (ITT)—a Puerto Rico-based phone company—in 1961. Today, Lancaster is home to one of ITT’s 16 valve-manufacturing facilities. With global productions underway, ITT valves have become integral to the operations of top-grossing corporations in the biopharmaceutical, mining and energy-related industries worldwide.

In 2009, thanks to the hard work and dedication of the Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics and Allied Workers (GMP) Local 36, the ITT facility in Lancaster successfully underwent a makeover – known as the “Lean Transformation” – during which the manufacturing facility was again expanded.

Engineeered ValvesBy adopting cultural changes, reevaluating its operations and reconnecting with its employees, the company’s Lancaster facility emerged stronger and more dynamic than previously. Now, employees at this location feel like a valued, integral part of the company more than ever, and productions at ITT Engineered Valves have benefitted from an enhanced workplace.

Amid the nation’s growing anti-labor sentiment, ITT remains a company rooted in the skilled trades with a modern business approach that ensures its future has no limits.  





Engineered Valves