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Building Maximum Steam on Minimum Wage

Rick Santorum said this week that he is in favor of increasing the minimum wage. He also said the GOP’s opposition to proposals to increase the base hourly rate “just makes no sense.”

I am tempted to leave this at his comment, but more is happening on this front. The movement is definitely positive.

Santorum is right, of course. The ongoing Republican opposition to increasing the minimum wage and lifting hardworking men and women out of poverty makes no sense. It is incalcitrance, only, that is keeping this from happening in Pennsylvania. Governor Corbett is the head incalcitrant here. Hopefully, he will finally listen to a high-ranking member of his own party.

If he doesn’t listen to the former Republican U.S. senator, I hope he is beginning to listen to the growing chorus of people and experts who are clamoring more loudly for a minimum wage increase.

AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka speaks at a rally near the Art Museum in support of raising the minimum wage. In New Jersey, a group launched a website arguing against a higher wage. JANE M. VON BERGEN / Staff
Onetha McKnight Senator Tina Tartaglione

Throughout Pennsylvania on Thursday, Raise the Wage Coalition – a group I worked with earlier this year when I introduced my new proposal (Senate Bill 1300) to increase the minimum incrementally to $10.10 an hour – spread out across the state to urge action on this increase.

I participated in the Philly press conference and urged action on SB 1300 and my companion bill, SB 1099, which would increase the tipped minimum wage to 70 percent of the regular minimum.

In addition to Philly, Raise the Wage held events in Allentown, Doylestown, Erie, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Pittsburgh, Radnor, and Wilkes-Barre.

The Keystone Research Center also released an important study this week. It said that an increase in the base hourly rate to $10.10 would help more than one million Pennsylvanians:           

  • 51,700 workers in the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton metropolitan area,
  • 49,900 in Bucks County,
  • 25,800 workers in Erie County,
  • 49,200 workers in the Harrisburg-Carlisle metro,
  • 49,000 workers in Lancaster County,
  • 113,400 workers in Philadelphia,
  • 34,400 workers in Pittsburgh and 179,300 in the Pittsburgh metro, and
  • 50,600 workers in the Scranton--Wilkes-Barre--Hazelton metropolitan area.

The time, clearly, is now to vote on increasing the minimum wage.

National Labor Look

Fewer people applied nationally for jobless benefits last week. To analysts, this sudden change is signifying an improvement in the labor market.

The U.S. Department of Labor said 26,000 fewer people filed initial claims for unemployment compensation for the week ending May 3. For the past four weeks, however, Labor said claims are up by 4,500 former employees.

unemploymentRemember, in Pennsylvania, the number of people looking for work shot up by 12,000 in March while resident employment increase by 7,000 more than that and the number of unemployed state residents was down to 390,000. 

Nationally, employment growth is averaging more than 200,000 jobs per month in the first four months of the year. Employers in April added 288,000 jobs to their payrolls, the most since January 2012.

The next unemployment update for the commonwealth is scheduled to be release soon after the Memorial Day holiday.

Unemployment Omen?

Jobless numbers can be stretched, twisted and interpreted in many different ways, but this number caught my attention this week: 79.8 percent.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this 79.8 percent represents the labor force participation rate in the U.S. for Americans who are between the ages of 25 and 29. And, it has not been this low since 1982 when this statistic was first crunched.

Pulling 25 to 29 year olds to this mark is an astonishing 4.28 million young women and men who did not have a job and have not actively sought one in the past four weeks.

Made in PA

Pennsylvania is known for its rolling hillsides of plowed earth in which its agricultural traditions are deeply rooted.  Pennsylvanians know farming is not an easy occupation, since much of a farmer’s income depends on uncontrollable forces, such as the weather and market values of the goods and produce they grow.  In recent years, out of desperation, some farmers have succumbed to the monetary offers of corporations and builders, and other farmers have struggled to feed their livestock or grow sufficient produce to yield sufficient profits.  To help farmers make informed decisions about the futures of their farms and to ensure a healthy, sustainable food supply is made available to Pennsylvanians, the PA Farmers UnionPennsylvania Farmers Union was formed. 

Stemming from the National Farmers Union, which began in 1902, the Pennsylvania Farmers Union represents the interests and voices of farmers across the commonwealth.  Members are able to gain assistance on product pricing issues and thwart off private interests who want to buy farms and farmland for residential and industrial development.  Beyond self-sufficiency and profitability, the PA Farmers Union is working to inform farmers in the state about the best and smartest practices to secure their crops and livestock in the healthiest, most sustainable ways.  Additionally, more products produced by union member farmers are finding their way to the kitchen tables of individuals and families who cannot afford fresh foods.  Through this organization, Pennsylvania’s farmers are gaining strength and independence to help make their lives a little easier, and residents of this state are gaining high-quality local products grown through responsible farming practices.   In a culture acutely aware and demanding of the terms “organic”, “fresh,” and “sustainable” in nearly everything they buy, the PA Farmers Union should be considered a good thing in this state.





PA Farmers Union