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Labor Report

Minimum Wage Push Begins Again

DOllarYou’ve heard about my new proposal to get Pennsylvania's minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by the first of 2016, now join me and Raise the Wage PA on Monday as supporters travel to Harrisburg to organize our thoughts and join forces to ensure final enactment of this much needed increase.

The 2015 kickoff event will begin at noon and conclude following a march to the Capitol at 2:30 p.m. to talk with legislators about the need for adopting my legislation. Registration is suggested.

My Senate Bill 195 would move PA’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.67 this July 1 and to $10.10 on Jan. 1. SB 196 would make the tipped minimum $3.95 an hour on July 1 and 70 percent of the regular minimum (or $7.07/hour) on New Year’s Day 2016.

While it was somewhat surprising to learn that York County Sen. Scott Wagner is planning to offer legislation to increase the minimum wage 50 cents each year for the next three years, I must say again that that hike would not be sufficient.

We applaud the fact that a staunch Republican member of the General Assembly is acknowledging Pennsylvania's minimum wage problem, but moving it to $7.75, $8.25, and then $8.75 over the next three years – with no possibility of future cost-of-living increases – just doesn't cut it.

Michigan's minimum wage is $8.15 now but some good solid studies are finding that not even that level of base earnings is enough to meet a worker’s basic needs.

Citing a study by the Michigan League for Public Policy, the Traverse City Record-Eagle editorial board noted that “Not one of Michigan's 83 counties lists $8.15 per hour or less as meeting the basic needs wage.”

Pennsylvania’s and Michigan's economies are similar, so why would we accept that taking two years to increase the commonwealth's base hourly wage to $8.25 would accomplish anything?

I don't accept the reality of what would be a token increase if Sen. Wagner's proposal is adopted.

They say that a rising tide lifts all boats, so join us on Monday and let's work together to make sure we’re adding more than just a paper cup of water to Pennsylvania's minimum wage lake.

Where Minimum Wage is Moving

JObsEven though 24 states pay their frontline workers more than the $7.25 minimum that Pennsylvania pays, other states – and some of the states that already pay more per hour – are talking about even higher minimum wages.

As I wrote last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called for a $15 minimum wage in his State of the City address. If approved, the base hourly rate would more than double our minimum by 2019.

The New York State Wage Board proposed a $7.50 an hour tipped minimum wage. That would be 50 percent more than waiters, bartenders and other tip-reliant workers are currently earning, and the increase will take effect at the end of this year if Gov. Andrew Cuomo approves it. I believe he will.

Democrats in Oregon said this week they will work to enact legislation that would move their state’s minimum wage to $11.50 next year, $13.25 in 2017, and $15 in 2018.

And, if you’re going to bad mouth increasing the minimum wage, don’t do it the way House Speaker John Boehner did it on 60 Minutes last month. Just don’t.

Ford Workers Get More Pay

JObsBecause it hired more entry-level employees than its labor agreement with the United Auto Workers allowed, Ford Motor Co. said this week it will raise the hourly wages of 50 employees by $9 to $28.

The Detroit News explained it this way: “According to the most recent figures on the Ford-UAW website, the automaker had 14,239 full-time entry-level hourly employees as of Jan. 18, and was allowed 14,308 — a difference of just 69 workers. The UAW says that since then, the cap has been exceeded.

“Ford this week said it would give its hourly workers profit-sharing checks of about $6,900 in March. Last year workers received a record $8,800.”

The power and productivity of unions on display at Ford Motor Co.!

That Icky Feeling I Get With Unemployment

MoneyIt’s good that unemployment rates are falling, right? Right? Then why do few of us feel that lower jobless numbers are not telling the entire story?

I’ve addressed this issue before in my Labor Report, but Gallup CEO Jim Clifton shared a great explanation this week about the disconnect between lower unemployment rates and, well, happiness.

The U.S. unemployment rate is artificial.

“If you, a family member or anyone is unemployed and has subsequently given up on finding a job – if you are so hopelessly out of work that you’ve stopped looking over the past four weeks – the Department of Labor doesn’t count you as unemployed,” Clifton wrote. “That’s right. While you are as unemployed as one can possibly be, and tragically may never find work again, you are not counted in the figure we see relentlessly in the news – currently 5.6%.

“Right now, as many as 30 million Americans are either out of work or severely underemployed. Trust me, the vast majority of them aren’t throwing parties to toast “falling” unemployment.”

A point well taken, and it probably rings true on the state level.

The unemployment rate also doesn’t account for the number of workers who are underemployed, as Clifton agrees.

“I hear all the time that ‘unemployment is greatly reduced, but the people aren’t feeling it.’ When the media, talking heads, the White House and Wall Street start reporting the truth – the percent of Americans in good jobs; jobs that are full time and real – then we will quit wondering why Americans aren’t ‘feeling’ something that doesn’t remotely reflect the reality in their lives. And we will also quit wondering what hollowed out the middle class,” Clifton said.

I think he nailed it.