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Labor Report

10 Days for $10.10

CheckThere is a clear need and many, many positive reasons for increasing Pennsylvania’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10. Our campaign to make this finally happen picked up steam this past week when my fellow Senate Democratic caucus members took to the floor to participate in “10 Days for $10.10”

While Sens. Art Haywood, Judy Schwank and I urged lawmakers to act on one of the many proposals that would accomplish the increase, Sen. Wayne Fontana continued the campaign this week, along with Sens. Rob Teplitz and Daylin Leach.

It’s good we’re doing this, and I hesitate a little to share this, because there is now a Republican movement in some states to prevent any kind of local minimum wage increase unless mother state does it first.

Places like Maine and Michigan, where Republicans control the legislatures, have proposed measures to block local minimum wage increases.

Heck, GOP lawmakers in Harrisburg stopped Philadelphia from having its own sick leave law because it was different from other cities in the commonwealth.

Now you understand my hesitation.

Not to trivialize this – because continuing our poverty-ridden $7.25 an hour is a human tragedy – but I came across an interesting chart the other day titled, “Real Cupcake Wages.”

CupcakeBasically, economics professor Justin Wolfers is saying the decline in hourly wages (PA’s minimum has not been increased since 2009 and has been eroded by inflation) means “workers today can afford 7 percent fewer cupcakes than eight years ago.”

Minimum wage workers can’t afford other things, too – like real food – but you get the point.

The Dali Lama once said, “Even when a person has all of life's comforts - good food, good shelter, a companion – he or she can still become unhappy when encountering a tragic situation.” Fewer cupcakes is not a tragedy, but it’s an endemic result of a declining economic situation. It’s also a tip of the hat to what could become a new round of class warfare.

Michael Burnley wrote today in Philly Magazine that the rich and the not-so-rich could come to blows if simple things are not done, like raise the minimum wage.

Quoting billionaire investor Nick Hanauer, Burnley reported that we are “closer to a French Revolution than people realize.”

“No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising.”

SearchEmployment Beat

More workers found the unemployment line in May, but nearly four-times that number were added to the state’s labor force meaning PA’s unemployment rate ticked up just 0.1 percentage point in May to 5.4 percent.

The increase counts 7,895 more individuals joining unemployment rolls over the previous month, and total unemployment is now 347,566. However, PA’s overall labor force tabulated 25,600 new individuals between April and May.

The commonwealth is now 20th for employment growth since Gov. Tom Wolf took office. We’re also ahead of all but one of our neighboring states in total non-farm employment and private employment growth surveys since January.

It is possible more people could be working here or in other states if companies didn’t take so long to hire new people.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that technology, of all things, is to blame for the slowdown.

“The U.S. currently has 5.4 million job openings—the most since the current record-keeping system began in 2000—but the number of people getting hired has yet to fully recover from the recession, according to the Labor Department,” the Journal reported.

Dollar$10 Lady

I think it would be apropos to have a minimum wage that equals the new $10 bill the federal government is talking about. Hopefully, though, Pennsylvania’s minimum wage will be more than $10 an hour once the new greenback hits the streets in 2020.

It’s a great idea and this should have happened a long time ago.

You can help/vote on who this person will be on the new $10. The U.S. Treasury will launch a website for your consideration and input. It is also planning a social media campaign that will rely on the hashtag #TheNew10.