HARRISBURG, May 5, 2015 – With mounting public pressure and a governor who has called for Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to be increased to $10.10 an hour, a committee co-chaired by Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione listened today as workers, employers and opponents discussed the issue during an informational hearing.

“Supporters clearly showed reasoned, real-world evidence for the increase,” Tartaglione said following the three-hour session before the Senate Labor and Industry Committee.

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Sen. Tartaglione has introduced a five-bill package that would up Pennsylvania’s base hourly rate from $7.25 to $10.10 in January, add an annual cost-of-living adjustment, and move the tipped minimum wage to 70 percent of the regular minimum.

Other lawmakers – Republican and Democratic – have also proposed increases. Today’s hearing, however, was to consider the plusses and minuses of increasing the minimum wage to something higher than the current poverty-level rate. No specific bills were discussed.

Following the hearing, Tartaglione held a press conference with some of the employers and workers who clearly demonstrated the need for an increase, and also showed how paying employees more helps them and their businesses.

The co-owner of Pittsburgh’s Bar Marco, Robert Fry, said his restaurant’s decision several years ago to offer base $35,000 a year salaries to employees – and do away with the tipped minimum wage – has been an excellent policy.

“There are significant cost offsets that come with better paid staff, including lower turnover, reduced waste and increased efficiency, and better employee performance and loyalty,” Fry said in his testimony. “All of this saves my business money in the short run as well as the long run.”

Another Pittsburgh-area business owner, Simon Arias, said he pays his employees more than double the minimum wage.

“Paying a higher wage has not hurt my business, but has been a sustaining factor in my growth,” Arias, the owner of Arias Agencies, Wexford, testified. “My employees know they can grow along with my business, and over half have been with me for at least 7 years, with the rest at least 2 and a half years.”

Workers, also, spoke with passion as they explained why lawmakers must approve a higher base hourly rate.

While Maria Perez and Chuck Harford are currently making a little more than the federally required minimum wage, they said $10.10 would help them with cover their basic daily needs.

“I am very fortunate that I live with my mother. However, I know and worry that a major repair to my car or an illness could be devastating to me,” said Harford, who works at an independent grocery store in Duncannon, Dauphin County.

“In three years that I’ve been working (at Brightside Academy Child Care Center, Philadelphia) … I only got a $.10/hour raise. I get paid $620 every two weeks. Somehow I manage to pay rent which is $700, plus bills for electric, car note, insurance, gas and cable,” Perez said. “We all have credits from colleges and also have major experience in the work field, but we struggle to take care of our children while we educate yours.”

In all of the testimony, Sen. Tartaglione said there is one thing that stands out that people should remember.

“Raising the minimum wage is as controversial today as it was in 2006 when we last increased the hourly rate,” Tartaglione said. “What’s also the same is the gloom and doom from opponents. However, today, the real employers who are paying higher wages and the employees who need higher wages are showing the way forward for the commonwealth.”


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