New Year's Day Minimum Wage Hikes Raise Pay for Millions of US Workers But Not in PA; New Legislature Must Change That

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As of today, this first day of 2019, 20 U.S. states will raise their minimum wages, lifting pay for 5.3 million workers across the country and 614,000 in four of Pennsylvania's neighboring states. The increases in our neighbors include a $0.25 per hour adjustment for inflation in Ohio and New Jersey, a $0.50 per hour increase in Delaware, and a $0.70 to $2.00 per hour increase in New York State—the biggest increase in New York City.

Pennsylvania workers aren't among those able to toast in the New Year knowing that some of the benefits of a growing economy will be shared with them in 2019. As KRC labor economist Mark Price detailed a year ago, the failure to raise the Pennsylvania minimum wage will mean that Pennsylvania workers in food services and other lower-wage sectors will continue to lag behind their counterparts in neighboring states—especially in rural counties where low-paying service industries are a large part of the local economy.

Pennsylvania's new legislature needs to change this picture. Given the broad bipartisan voter support for a higher state minimum wage and given that an increase would especially benefit workers in rural counties, conservative lawmakers from those areas should be leading the fight for a higher minimum wage.

Rural lawmakers should also be fighting to eliminate the tipped minimum wage because local restaurants are a large part of their economies. Workers at these rural restaurants often struggle to make ends meet, even while they endure sexual harassment from bosses and customers just to earn a meager living.

House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 1 in the new Pennsylvania legislature should be strong proposals to lift the Pennsylvania minimum wage. These bills should also:
  • eliminate the tipped minimum wage,
  • index the minimum wage to the median wage for full-time hourly workers,
  • eliminate state legislative pre-emption that blocks higher wage cities and counties from raising local minimum wages in line with their higher cost of living, and
  • strengthen enforcement against wage theft so that Pennsylvania workers actually get the pay to which minimum wage, overtime, and other laws entitle them.


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