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Labor Report

Minimum Wage: The $15 Variety

Recently New York passed a $15 per hour minimum wage similar to what we have seen in other large US cities. Here in Pennsylvania, employers continue to pay poverty-level wages to their frontline employees. I continue to advocate for a $10.10 minimum wage in the Keystone State as a starting point.

In both cases, the difference between the “haves” and the Dollar“have nots” is growing worse.

The New York Wage Board is now onboard the $15 minimum wage train – for fast food workers!

“The board said this increase should be implemented by 2018 in New York City and by 2021 in the rest of the state. If State Labor Commissioner Mario Musolino accepts its recommendation, nearly 180,000 New Yorkers who work in the fast-food industry will benefit from the policy,” reported Jobs With Justice.

In Oregon’s biggest city, elected officials have decided to give voters the chance to decide if minimum wage earners should pocket $15 an hour.

“Employers having 500 employees or fewer would have four years to transition, while those with more than 500 employees would have to comply by 2017. Future increases would be tied to inflation,” the Portland Press Herald reported.

The Washington Post’s Lydia DePillis has a good look at what’s happening with what now seems like a nationwide tsunami in favor of $15 an hour. The Service Employees International Union is strongly referenced:

“The SEIU is picking its targets very deliberately, in places where they know [a minimum wage hike] can pretty easily pass, or bypass the legislature,” says Michael Saltsman, director of the Employment Policy Institute, which is funded in part by the restaurant industry. “The fact that it’s passed in some of these places does create a sense of momentum, but it’s not necessarily more broadly based.”

Meanwhile, there has been no movement in Pennsylvania on $10.10 an hour nor on a raise for tip-dependent workers to 70 percent of that higher base hourly wage. My Senate Bill 195 has not been considered since it was referred to the Senate Labor& Industry Committee in January.

One of the other bills in my five-bill package, Senate Bill 198, was highlighted yesterday by the Norristown Times-Herald. Simply put: SB 198 would crack down on employers who steal wages.

Read more here.

ADA Realities

It was good to read about the realities of the Americans with Disabilities Act now that it has reached its 25th anniversary.

While more physical improvements have been made at the workplace – so employees who need walkers or wheelchairs or are visually impaired, for example, can get to the office – the psychological hurdles remain.

Disability“Since the ADA was passed, architecture and infrastructure have improved. Yet attitudes and opportunities have not. Today there are many on-ramps to get into buildings, but far fewer to get into jobs,” reported.

If Pennsylvania needs another state to mirror in this realm it can look to Delaware and the National Governors Association.

“As chair of the National Governors Association, Gov. (Jack) Markell encouraged his fellow governors to make improving opportunities for people with disabilities a priority. During his tenure, he spearheaded the effort to find solutions for drastically improving the employment rate for people with disabilities. Under his yearlong tenure as chair of the NGA, he met with a number of advocates, representatives and employers on how best to integrate individuals with disabilities into the workforce that outlines the most effective strategies for hiring individuals with disabilities,” the newspaper proclaimed.

Pennsylvania does help people with disabilities in many ways, but it is at the workplace where things really need to change. Just because someone’s mobility is different than what is considered normal doesn’t mean they are not capable – or more than capable – of doing the job well.

Job SearchPA Unemployment

Pennsylvania’s jobless rate remained unchanged in June at 5.4 percent. Still, according to my analysts, the jobs situation is beginning to improve under Gov. Tom Wolf’s leadership.

Total unemployed individuals dropped by 2,800 in June, with total unemployment standing at 344,729. More encouragingly, that decline happened when month-over-month labor force comparisons increased by more than 6,400.

Much of this growth is due to employment gains since the Wolf administration took over.

Since January, the commonwealth has added 31,500 new jobs and that is nearly 10,000 jobs higher than the employment growth during the Corbett administration’s first six months in office.

Pennsylvania is now 3rd among its neighboring states for private employment growth since January.