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Saying Yes, Yes, Yes to Increasing the Minimum Wage

If it was Gov. Corbett’s strategy to let Pennsylvania companies decide the minimum wage for themselves, you could say his strategy is working. Truthfully, however, that is not his strategy. His modus operandi, instead, is to just say “no” to an increase in PA’s base hourly rate and to continue to deny our hardworking men and women the right to a more livable wage for an honest day’s – or week’s – work.

Despite the bad information this governor repeats from the state’s chambers of business, more companies are better understanding what it means when minimum wages are increased, and more companies are doing just that.

IKEA executives recently decided it would up its lowest hourly rate from $9.17 to $10.76 and, where the cost of living is higher, to as much as $13.

What’s their logic?

“IKEA’s acting U.S. president, Rob Olson, stated that raising wages would ultimately benefit the bottom line by reducing employee turnover and boosting recruitment,” according to the National Law Review.

Such reasoning would be shocking had we not already shared the findings of countless studies – even the ones opponents have used to pooh-pooh increasing the minimum wage – that have said the very same thing as President Olson.

I applaud IKEA and every other company that has carefully considered all sides of the argument and has decided it is in the best interest of their bottom line and their employees’ welfare to increase their lowest hourly rate for its least-experienced workers.

Increasing the minimum wage has positively impacted total employment in states that have approved such raises.

“Of the 13 states that increased their minimum wage in early 2014, all but one (New Jersey) are seeing employment gains,” the Center for Economic and Policy Research found at the end of June. “The experience of the 13 states that already increased their minimum wage in 2014 paints a very positive picture for Washington (D.C.) and its low-wage workers.”

New Jersey suffered the worst change in employment of any state at -0.56 percent.

Of the 43 states that have enjoyed some percentage change increase in employment, Pennsylvania was 41st, according to CEPR, and 12 of the 13 states that have increased their minimum wage have all outpaced PA in employment growth. likes the part of the center’s study that said “nine states that upped their minimum wages on January 1, 2014, have experienced more economic growth than the 37 states that didn’t institute an increase.”

And there’s more!

According to the latest poll of “small business owners with employees” that was paid for by the American Sustainable Business Council, 61 percent of them said they now favor raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 and then adjusting annually, depending on the cost of living.

As columnist David Brodwin wrote in “This new polling data contradicts the oft-repeated claim that raising the minimum wage will kill profits, eliminate jobs and cut growth. Apparently the people doing the hiring and paying the difference don’t agree with those dour predictions.”

My legislation, Senate Bill 1300, would slowly increase Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2016 and tie future increases to the cost of living.

My other bill, SB 1099, would increase PA’s tipped minimum to 70 percent of the regular minimum.

While just as important, but not talked about as often, SB 1099 would correct minimum pay structures that some, like the Economic Policy Institute, now consider to be broken.

“Since 1991, the ‘tipped’ minimum wage that employers must pay has remained stagnant at $2.13, while the non-tip minimum wage has inched up to the current $7.25. That means the portion of tipped workers’ take-home pay that patrons’ tips are supposed to produce has increased from 50% to just over 70%,” also reported this week.

Pennsylvania’s tipped minimum is $2.83 an hour, which is better than the federal tipped wage. Still, employees who depend on tips in the commonwealth are counting on their tables and customers to now provide 61 percent of tipped wages, up from half.

Because there is so much good statistical information about why Pennsylvania should increase its minimum wages, it is almost comical that people would continue to oppose this much needed change.

And, fortunately, the Will Ferrell website,, articulates this absurdity the best with its new spoof, “John Boehner Explains the Minimum Wage.”

This isn’t really funny, however. Just sad. The tragedy remains that tens of thousands of Pennsylvania workers continue to not receive fair pay for a long day’s work.

The big restaurant chains claim they can’t afford to increase their minimum wage rates, but the statistical evidence proves they can. As the Daily Kos showed this week, the ratio of CEO pay to the minimum wage hit 721-to-1 in 2013.

Where Pay Inequity Begins

CheckThe Pennsylvania General Assembly has been working hard this session to learn how to best level the salaries of women and men who perform the same job. A new study by the National Center for Educational Statistics could help our investigation.

NCES said, according to, that men start making more money than women as soon as four years after they graduated from college.

“Men with a full-time job were making a median of $51,100 compared to the $42,000 that women earned,” the financial magazine reported.

Fortune does a good job of considering reasons why this disparity in pay ripples so quickly after graduation, so please give it a read.

If you’d like to look at the entire NCES study, click here.

In Harrisburg, the Joint State Government Commission will be exploring existing federal and state laws to better understand the pay inequality issue and suggest corrective actions.

1st Class Union Strength

Postal Workers UnionA post office is not the only place you can buy stamps, but the spread of its products and services to other nontraditional places has raised some union eyebrows, and appropriately so.

This week, Staples decided to stop its pilot program to sell stamps and some USPS services because of growing discontent over Staples’ use of non-union employees to do long-established union labor. And, Staples employees are paid less than USPS workers.

The American Postal Workers Union had been against Staples’ pilot program. The new venture stopped when the American Federation of Teachers in Massachusetts announced its boycott of the office-supply chain, followed by Massachusetts Democrats and gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley.

“With organized labor most recently seen losing a Supreme Court case, the Staples boycott is a good reminder that unions remain significant players politically,” the Boston Globe surmised.

Made in America

Ice CreamWhen the thermometer rises above 90 degrees and the backyard sprinkler isn’t lowering your core body temperature, why not peel yourself off of your chair – very carefully – and try a delicious frozen treat made by hard-working union employees across the U.S? 
The following companies employ members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM), International Association of Machinists (IAMAW), United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) and the United Auto Workers (UAW) to produce ice cream products that you can find in the freezer section of most grocery and convenience stores:

  • Good Humor
  • Breakstone
  • Breyers
  • Labelle
  • Laura Second
  • Carvel
  • Kraft
  • Land-O-Sun Dairies
  • Perry’s





Paycheck Union Strength