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Pennsylvania Better Than Neighbors, Except Ohio

JobsThe commonwealth is out with its unemployment numbers for June and, while the 5.6 percent jobless number holds for the second consecutive month, the picture is brighter here than in nearly all of our neighboring states, except for Ohio.

Pennsylvania has lagged behind in its ability to find new jobs for its unemployed, but we are now ahead of Maryland (5.8 percent), Delaware (6.1), West Virginia (6.2), New York (6.6) and New Jersey (6.6).

The Buckeye State is at 5.5 percent unemployment. Compared to this time last year, both Ohio and PA have shaved 1.9 percentage points from their count of people out of work.

While the unemployment rates in Ohio and PA remained the same as in May, Maryland and Delaware each reported 0.2 percent upticks while the remaining three states enjoyed lower rates than the prior month.

As a percentage change in total state employment over the past 12 months, Pennsylvania has moved up 0.99 percent – or by nearly 57,000 jobs. Thirty other states, including Delaware (2.75 percent), West Virginia (1.45) and New York (1.29), added higher percentages of new jobs during that same time period, however.

Learning Minimum Wage’s Travails, Personally, in Ohio

Minimum WageThose who continue to oppose increasing the minimum wage in Pennsylvania do so while hanging on to unproven notions which are only designed to scare people and keep them cemented in the past.

Critics should do as former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland is doing: walking a mile in a minimum wage earner’s shoes.

For the past week, Strickland – who is now the head of the Center for American Progress Action Fund – has been living on a minimum wage budget. He can only spend $77 during the week – for everything.

“I don’t think I’ll be eating very healthy,” he told the Nation of Change. “Bologna’s a lot cheaper than ham. I’ve been eating quite a bit of bread … I was walking by a nice restaurant last night near my apartment and people were sitting outside and eating nice food and drinking. I was thinking, ‘You know what would be nice? To have a cold beer.’ But you know, I didn’t. Ordinarily I would, but if you don’t have much money there’s a lot of things you can’t do.”

Americans United for Change is hoping more public officials take its minimum wage challenge.

I’m hoping one Republican, Gov. Tom Corbett, will accept the $77 and live on nothing else for a week.

Minimum Wage’s 5-Year Drought

Min WageMany people have not had a pay raise in a while. Fewer have had to go five years without an increase. But if someone began making $7.25 five years ago yesterday when Congress approved that increase, they are still making that paltry sum today.

Don’t kid yourself; there are workers who have been making the minimum for at least that long. And, for those who must earn the minimum now, that base hourly rate would have been worth just $6.53 in 2009. Not only have minimum wage earners not been paid more, their baseline earning power is less.

As the Bread for the World Institute reported this week, this 5-year post is “a shameful anniversary.”

“This week’s anniversary is nothing to celebrate. Instead, it reminds us once again that the time to resume honoring our country’s values of fairness and the work ethic is long overdue,” writes Derek Schwabe.

I couldn’t agree more.

As for the tipped minimum wage – another embarrassingly low hourly rate that I am also working to raise to 70 percent of the regular minimum in PA – workers in New York state are banding together to change this outrage.

“According to a report released on July 9 by the National Employment Law Project, a wage order eliminating the tipped subminimum wage would benefit close to 229,000 low-wage tipped workers in New York. Women make up more than 70 percent of the low-wage work force. The wage order would benefit working women and, according to the report, make progress in addressing the gender pay gap in New York,” reported New York Amsterdam News’ Stephon Johnson.

As outrageous as it is that Republican leaders in Pennsylvania will not consider increasing the minimum wage even as an avalanche of evidence supporting such an increase rolls over them every day, the same emotion is now stirring as I read that federal lawmakers are playing with people’s lives and may not consider increasing the base hourly rate.

Then again, if employers want to continue underpaying their hardworking women and men, maybe they wouldn’t mind paying a “bad boss tax” to make up the difference?

How would that work, you ask? According to the Nation of Change, employers would have to pay a levy for underpaying employees.

“That money, in turn, could be used to help support … low-wage workers in a variety of ways, from direct subsidies for food and housing to social programs such as Medicaid or public transportation,” the website reported.

This would definitely be fair. Not only would it help workers but it would take a big bite out of corporate welfare. For as Nation of Change shared, “a study released in April by Americans for Tax Fairness, a coalition of more than 400 organizations that advocate progressive tax reform, estimated that Wal-Mart alone costs taxpayers $6.2 billion annually in public assistance.”

The bad boss tax might also dissuade companies like United Airlines from hiring companies that pay substandard, unlivable wages. You can read more about this latest worker tragedy in a column by Robert Creamer.

Made in America

SwimlineOn a sweltering summer day, many of us retreat indoors to the sweet-sounding call of our air-conditioners. For individuals who are brazen enough to face the heat, staying cool and having fun outdoors can be more challenging, which is why water activities remain a popular summer pastime. Thanks to companies like Swimline Corp., the sun’s ultra-intense rays are no match for your backyard.  From liners and thermometers to flotation devices and pool games, Swimline has everything you need to maintain your pool and keep the fun in your summer.

Swimline, best known for its above-ground pool liners, has been manufacturing pool products since 1971, as a result of the hard work of its employees belonging to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1922. Based in New York, Swimline grew its manufacturing business to include pool covers and accessories when it founded International Leisure Products in 1990. The company expanded its business again when it acquired Hydrotools Inc., which produced pool cleaning equipment and products. Through these business developments, Swimline has become a global name in popular and reliable products to meet every facet of your pool needs.





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