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Minimum Wage Tide

DollarIf the push to increase the minimum wage across the nation was a tidal wave, Pennsylvania would be the proverbial doubter lingering on the beach and believing the swell of water was too far away to be threatening.

Voters in the Republican-majority states of Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota will get the chance, on Election Day, to decide if their base hourly wages should be higher than their current $7.25.

If they vote yes, they will join 10 states and the District of Columbia in raising their minimum wage rates this year. To date, 23 states and D.C. have erased their $7.25 minimums with something higher.

The legislature is not talking about increasing the minimum wage in the commonwealth during the short calendar we have in Harrisburg; one that is now half over. I’d like to believe the ongoing groundswell of change would impact us, but the governor and GOP leadership here have been recalcitrant on the subject.

I wish we had a law on the books like they do in Wisconsin. There, Wisconsin Jobs Now is planning to use a 1913 law that says its minimum wage “shall not be less than a living wage.”

“The ‘living wage’ law, which (Jobs Now Director, Peter) Rickman said is unique to Wisconsin, requires the Department of Workforce Development, after receiving a ‘verified complaint,’ to investigate and determine within 20 days ‘whether there is a reasonable cause to believe that the wage paid to any employee is not a living wage.’ The law further defines a living wage as one needed to maintain ‘minimum comfort, decency, physical and moral well-being’,” reported the Wisconsin State Journal.

States are using a similar living wage protection when they’ve approved cost of living increases. My proposal to increase the minimum wage in PA to $10.10, Senate Bill 1300, would also do that.

We need higher minimum wage rates to help hardworking – and deserving – workers earn fairer wages and lift themselves out of poverty. We also need to do this to change the United States' reputation as the leader among developed countries in low-wage jobs, according to Morgan Stanley.


SignThankfully, more companies are opting to increase their base hourly rates. And, according to this week, more companies say the minimum should be $10.

“A new poll of HR and hiring managers across the country suggests that approximately 83 percent not only think there should be a minimum wage, but say it should be higher than it is now. The survey of 2,188 full-time managers by Harris Poll for showed that 55 percent thought that federal minimum wage should be $10 or more per hour,” Erik Sherman reported.

When it comes to employment growth as it is tied to the minimum wage, Pennsylvania continues as the country’s doormat.

PA is 47th in employment growth from January 2011 to this August at just 2.26 percent.

The four neighboring states with minimum wage rates higher than the federal level continue to outperform us in percentage job growth since January 2011. New Jersey's employment growth over this period is almost a full percentage point higher than PA's while Ohio, New York and Delaware all have experienced more than twice the percentage employment growth experienced by the commonwealth.

Unemployment Update

UnemploymentSlightly more people filed for unemployment compensation last week, but the 12,000 who did are not making economists worry.

CNBC is reporting that the slow recovery appears to be continuing.

“The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 1,250 to 293,500.

“A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors influencing the state level data. Claims are hovering near their pre-recession levels, an indication that labor market conditions are tightening despite August's sharp slowdown in job growth.”

Family & Medical Leave

CareBecause too many corporations have their teeth in federal laws, the conversation about family and medical leave for workers is bubbling again.

The U.S. Department of Labor said this week it is financing feasibility studies, by three states and Washington D.C., of paid family and medical leave.

“Too many working families today can't afford to take the time they need to care for their families or themselves because they lack any form of paid leave,” said U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. “We need to do more to give people the tools to be responsible employees and good caregivers, so they don't have to choose between the families they love and the jobs and economic security they need. These federal grants will further our understanding of this issue."

Made in America

SterlingwearIt’s that time of year when many of us sort through and change out our cooler summer wardrobes for our warmer winter attire.  As you’re sifting through garments, remember to examine them for holes and wear.  If the main pieces you will be relying on all season have become worn-out, stay ahead of the cold temperatures and begin your search for affordable, quality items now.  Look for replacements that will withstand frequent usage on the bone-chilling days and nights that lie ahead.

This season, if you discover your coat needs to be replaced, consider shopping at Sterlingwear of Boston, Inc.  As the maker of the United States Navy pea coat, Sterlingwear is a long-time, trusted manufacturer of coats that meet U.S. government standards, while offering style and function for the everyday wearer. As a family-run company that has been in the coat business for more than 40 years, Sterlingwear ensures all of its products are made by skilled employees belonging to the New England Joint Board, Local 1.  For those of you who live outside of New England but would like to peruse Sterlingwear’s merchandise, there’s good news.  The company now offers online shopping through its website, so you can view and purchase items from the convenience of your home.

If for no other reason than your respect for a company that has maintained unwavering loyalty to our country and service people, I encourage you to check-out the product line of Sterlingwear of Boston, Inc. today.