Subscribe to E-Update here.
Labor Report

Happy New Year and
Welcome Back to the Labor Report!

PA, USA Unemployment

JobsThe trend for workers in America and in Pennsylvania continues to improve even as economists worry about the slide in foreign markets.

The U.S. Labor Department said yesterday that initial claims for UC benefits dropped by 4,000 to 294,000 for the week of Jan. 3. PA’s unemployment rate, meanwhile, fell to 5.1 percent in November.

Philadelphia and Pike counties are tied for the highest unemployment in the state, at 6.7 percent, while Cameron County is at 6.6 percent, Huntingdon County is counting 6.3 percent unemployment, Luzerne and Monroe counties are at 6.2 percent and Forest and Potter counties have the fifth worst jobless number at 6.1 percent.

Looking at the change in unemployment across the state, 28 counties, including Philadelphia County, saw their November unemployment rates increase over the previous month, 24 counties’ unemployment rates decreased, and 15 counties saw no change.

Pennsylvania’s November unemployment rate compared to the year before was 1.8 percentage points lower, and that was one of the biggest decreases in the country. Of our neighbors, only Ohio has a lower jobless figure (5 percent).

Minimum Wage ReduxPaycheck

We are nearing the day when I reintroduce my proposals to increase the minimum wage and tipped wage in Pennsylvania. No bills to raise the floor from $7.25 per hour and $2.83 per hour were moved out of the Labor and Industry Committee last session, including my S.B. 1300 and S.B. 1099.

Raise the Wage PA is planning a day of action later this month to once again urge lawmakers to behave more like other states in the country. This is the day I will re-introduce my bills to increase PA’s minimum wage and its tipped minimum wage.

The base hourly rate rose in 20 other states moments after counting down to the New Year.

A few days later, a poll of businesses revealed that nearly half of them plan to increase their minimum wage rates this year.

According to the survey, 45 percent say they believe their minimum will rise in 2015. Of those, 54 percent said it will increase at least $2 an hour and 32 percent said their minimum wage could increase $3 or more.

More PA newspapers came out with editorials this week urging opposing members of the General Assembly to join me and supporters in our continued journey to raise the minimum wage.

“The state is a hole of rock-bottom wages and diminished buying power amid a ring of states where governments understand the role of the minimum wage in bolstering the economy, said the Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice in its Jan. 6 editorial.

“At 40 hours a week times 52 weeks, that’s $15,080 in a year’s pay — hardly enough to support one person, much less a family with children,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette opined Jan. 4. Pennsylvania, and the nation, can do better.

While it’s good news that some businesses are not waiting for the Republican-dominated General Assembly to increase the minimum wage, it doesn’t mean we don’t need to take action on this issue. There should be a greater sense of urgency to change the minimum wage legally because many businesses will not pay more to their employees unless they are required to do so by law.

Pennsylvania also cannot bear the ignominy of paying poverty wages to its hourly employees while so many other states have already realized the lost purchasing power of the minimum wage and have taken action to increase it.

Even with raises, some low-wage advocates in other states are saying the minimum wage should be higher.

Fair Wage Business of the Week

Technology is the pathway to our future.  It has allowed us to overcome seemingly insurmountable hurdles to reach new heights in the modern world.  We no longer have to leave our houses to shop, bank or work.  We can perform research from our phones, secure our homes with an app and find new destinations without glancing at a Azaveamap or screen.  One company that is helping us reach these new heights is Azavea, located in Philadelphia, PA.  As a B corporation—an indicator of social, ecological and corporate responsibility—Azavea is working to improve the commonwealth and nation one geospatial analysis at a time.  Further, low wage workers everywhere should be glad to know this tech savvy, progressive company has joined the growing number of businesses advocating for a higher minimum wage in the U.S. 

From tree coverage to food access in low-income areas, employees of Azavea create geographic data software that quickly and easily gathers information for clients to improve their effectiveness and make the world a better place for everyone.  Beyond profit-driven work, the company is dedicated to advancing its own industry and empowering its employees.  Through community outreach, citizen science projects, non-client field research, student fellowships and pro-bono work, Azavea represents the new generation of socially responsible and accountable businesses that are constantly working to overcome today’s challenges to create a brighter tomorrow.  In this technology-based society, Azavea lives at the core of our present-day way-of-life and holds the key to our future.