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Labor Report

Minimum Wage Murmurings

DollarOn its face, Walmart’s announcement this week that it will finally pay its minimum wage employees more money is good news. After all, $9 an hour is much better than $7.25. But there has been skepticism about the reasons for the very profitable company’s declaration.

Time magazine, case-in-point, asked if Walmart’s increase is enough when considering inflation.

“The company isn’t going so far as to tie its baseline wages to inflation. And while any pay raise is certainly better for workers than no raise at all, it’s important to remember that inflation’s impact means raises aren’t always as big as they seem at first,” Jack Linshi reported.

It’s a great argument and one that ties into my reasoning for a cost-of-living increase in my proposal to increase PA’s minimum wage to $10.10 by next year. Senate Bill 197 would add that important element for our base hourly wage earners and tie it to the Consumer Price Index. SB 195 is my proposal to increase the minimum to that $10.10 by Jan. 1.

As Linshi reported:

“The federal minimum wage … has been increasing since 1938. But the purchasing power of that wage … has mostly been falling since 1968. You might notice a slight uptick in the minimum wage’s purchasing power in recent years. That’s because inflation rates were unusually low in the wake of the Great Recession. But as the economy continues returning to normal, expect the minimum wage to lose purchasing power once again.”

Of course, I’m not the only one who is aware of this problem. More people and organizations in Pennsylvania agree that change must happen.

Just read the Citizen Voice’s Feb. 14 editorial, “Benefits outweigh risks in raising minimum wage.”

Naturally, I chuckled when reading the National Retail Federation’s analysis of Walmart’s minimum wage decision.

The cheapest Walmart wages are not going up because “the power of the marketplace” is dictating it.

They’re going up because people are finding jobs...and they are finding better paying jobs. The Walmart minimum wage is also going up because it is finally feeling a sense of remorse that so many of its middle and top executives are earning so much money. The company might also be figuring out that it’s actually cheaper to pay your frontline workers MORE MONEY.

“Companies like Costco and Trader Joe’s have known for a long time that better wages reduce turnover and improve productivity, which saves money over the long term,” reads Lydia DePillis’ column on Walmart’s decision that’s appropriately titled, “The profit motive behind Wal-Mart’s minimum wage hike.”

Real World Reality of an Insufficient Minimum Wage Increase

JobsI’m on record as saying it’s good that York County Sen. Scott Wagner has acknowledged the need to increase PA’s minimum wage. I’m also on record as saying his 50-cents-an-hour annual boost is not nearly enough.

Arkansas is proving my point. It recently upped its minimum wage from $7.25 to $7.50.

The Washington Post then highlighted the impact of the increase on one of that state’s minimum wage earners: Shanna Tippen.

“This raise won’t pull her out of poverty. It won’t free her from enduring months when she can’t afford her electricity bills. But the extra $2 a day, the extra $520 a year, will mean she can buy Luvs diapers for her grandson, even the pricier kind that doesn’t irritate his sensitive skin.

“Not much difference,” Tippen said of the raise, except for one product she buys twice a month. “The diapers, they’re $24.98 at Wal-Mart.”

So, even at Walmart’s new $9 an hour, a minimum wage earner will have to work nearly 3 hours to make enough money to buy just one pack of diapers. How can you not be outraged?

DomeHouse Legislative Update

The House Labor and Industry Committee is scheduled to hold a meeting at 9:30 a.m., Feb. 26, in Room 60 of the East Wing to consider HB 400 (Gingrich), which would require the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation to provide competitive integrated employment opportunities for disabled high school students.

Fair Wage Business of the Week

MusicAlthough only a few more weeks of winter remain this year, green speckled trees and flip flops seem like a distant mirage right now.

If you’re in need of a cure for your winter blues, music may be the perfect medium to thaw your body and transport your mind from the frozen tundra that is Pennsylvania, currently.

If you’re an enthusiast, grab your smart phone or tablet and make a new playlist of your favorite warm weather songs.

If you’re a musician, head to Lynch Music Inc. in Fairview and stock-up on all of your instrumental needs. Lynch offers musical equipment, repair services, sheet music and lessons and is a fervent supporter of a higher minimum wage for employees earning $7.25 per hour in the commonwealth and across the nation, as well.

For nearly 30 years, Lynch Music has proudly displayed its passion for instruments and the music they inspire. At Lynch, every customer is blank sheet music and every employee is a composer equipped with the devices and expertise to turn them into a masterpiece.

From high school bands and budding musicians to professional artists, when it comes to music, Lynch serves the full spectrum of clients. With Lynch Music, every day can be filled with music. Instead of waiting for the snow to melt, I encourage you to explore Lynch’s services and find your happiness today.