At Christmas, Wolf, allies call on Legislature to hike minimum wage | Thursday Morning Coffee

Bills in the state House and Senate would raise the current $7.25 minimum, which hasn’t been raised for more than a decade.

December 23, 2021 7:20 am

Demonstrators participate in a protest outside of McDonald’s corporate headquarters on January 15, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. The protest was part of a nationwide effort calling for minimum wage to be raised to $15-per-hour (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images).

(A scheduling note: This newsletter will be off until 1/3/2022 for a holiday break. From all of us at the Capital-Star, our best wishes for a happy holiday and peaceful New Year.)

Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

With more than two-dozen states set to hike their minimum wage in 2022, the Democratic Wolf administration is urging the Republican-controlled General Assembly to follow suit when it returns to session in January.

“Pennsylvania’s food service, retail and social services workers have deserved a minimum wage hike for many years, but today the need is even more urgent. Millions of Pennsylvanians – many of them the frontline workers we called heroes in the early days of the pandemic – are struggling to support their families on hourly wages under $15,” Gov. ​Tom Wolf said in a statement his office released on Wednesday. “The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the global economy, and we see that reflected in a very reasonable reluctance of workers to take low-wage jobs in the midst of rising inflation.”

Pennsylvania’s current wage of $7.25, which is tied to the federal minimum wage, hasn’t been raised for more than a decade, despite repeated calls by Wolf and his Democratic allies in the General Assembly. In the meantime, all six of Pennsylvania’s neighboring states have higher minimum wages, according to data compiled by the Economic Policy Institute.

The wages in five of the six border states, except for West Virginia ($8.75/hr.), are all set to rise in the New Year, according to the EPI and administration data:

  • Delaware: $9.25/hr. to $10.50/hr., 1/1/22
  • Maryland: $11.75/hr. to $12.50/hr., 1/1/22
  • New Jersey: $12/hr to $13/hr., 1/1/22
  • New York: $12.50/hr, with index raise, to $13.20
  • Ohio: $8.80/hr., with index raise starting 1/1/22

In his statement, Wolf argued that the state’s current wage is a deterrent to working families with “young children [who] literally cannot afford to work these jobs if the cost of child care eclipses their paycheck. I’m urging the General Assembly to pass legislation that increases Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $12 an hour and creates a pathway to $15.”

State Rep. Patty Kim, D-Dauphin, is the sponsor of a state House bill that would raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $12/hr. and then to $15/hr. (screen capture)

Wolf called on Republican leaders in the state House and Senate to act on companion bills sponsored by Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione, D-Philadelphia, and Rep. Patty Kim, D-Dauphin, that would raise the wage to $12/hr. right away and eventually to $15/hr. Both bills also scrap the tipped wage for service workers.

On the GOP side of the aisle, Sens. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, and Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, have proposed raising the wage to $10/hr. and tying future increases to inflation, the Capital-Star reported in August.

Most Americans — 62 percent, according to the Pew Research Center — agree the minimum wage should be higher, the Capital-Star previously reported. But the question of how much employers should be required to pay is contentious.

Republicans and their allies in the business community have argued that a $15/hr. wage is too high. For some lawmakers, such as Laughlin, tying future hikes to inflation is non-negotiable.

Others, meanwhile, are searching for a middle ground.

Sen. Art Haywood, D-Philadelphia, is the only Democratic sponsor of Laughlin’s bill and is also a sponsor of Tartaglione’s bill.

Haywood told the Capital-Star that he chose to throw his support behind both because each is a “step along the way” to bring Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“A failure to pay a decent minimum wage is immoral,” Haywood said at the time.

In a statement, Tartaglione also said a wage hike is long overdue.

“Our Legislature has failed to raise the minimum wage and provide a livable wage to our lowest earners,” she said. “This inaction is not just a failure in policy, but a failure in humanity and decency. Pennsylvanians deserve a living wage. We need to join the 25 states that will raise their minimum wage in 2022 and provide a livable wage to our commonwealth.”

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
Pennsylvania’s courts appear poised to intervene in the state’s contested redistricting process unless the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf can come to some agreement in the next six weeksStephen Caruso reports.

Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed a bill mandating schools to upload their curricula and lists of textbooks online for public access.

The leaders of four Pennsylvania state agencies met virtually Wednesday to remind the Pennsylvanians who need them of mental health and substance abuse disorder resources available this holiday season, Cassie Miller reports.

From me, a column: A plaque at Colonial Williamsburg challenges visitors: ‘What difference will you make?’ In our troubled times, the answer has never been more important.

Federal law still treats marijuana as an illegal drug, creating headaches for statesCapital-Star Washington Reporter Jacob Fischler writes.

President Joe Biden will continue a pandemic-spurred pause on student loan repayments until May 1, Jacob Fischler reports.

In today’s edition of Helping the Helpers, our partners at the Uniontown Herald-Standard highlight the efforts of a child care program in Connellsville, Pa., that gives peace of mind to working parents.

Philadelphia will extend its eviction diversion program into 2022, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, an addiction survivor says you shouldn’t wait until after the holidays to seek help if you’re struggling. And labor is on the march this holiday season, opinion regular Fletcher McClellan, joined by Elizbethtown College graduate Ashlee Reick writes.

(Image via The Philadelphia Tribune)

The Inquirer explains how stolen guns are fueling Philadelphia’s gun violence epidemic.

Despite a rise in cases, Allegheny County will not impose a mask mandate, the Post-Gazette reports.

Black bear’s gonna black bear. One has been spotted ambling through suburban Dauphin CountyPennLive reports.

COVID-19 rapid tests are in short supply in the Lehigh Valley, the Morning Call reports.

Five Luzerne County municipalities are looking to form a regional police force, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub is asking for the public’s help to find two men who have been missing since OctoberWHYY-FM reports.

Republican lawmakers looking to expand a partisan election probe to include the inspection of voting machines must wait until next month, a state court judge ruled Tuesday, the Associated Press reports.

Health officials in Erie County have confirmed a case of the omicron variantGoErie reports.

The U.S. House’s select Jan. 6 committee wants to interview U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-OhioRoll Call reports. It already is seeking an interview with U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, who has refused.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:


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What Goes On
The decks are clear. Enjoy the silence.

Gov. Tom Wolf holds a 10 a.m. newser at Hershey Park’s reindeer stable, where he’s set to announce that Santa’s reindeer have been cleared for flight over the commonwealth.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Belated best wishes go out to Colin Deppen at Spotlight Pa., and to Julie Blust, of 32BJ SEIU, both of whom celebrated on Wednesday. Up to date best wishes go out to Gillian McGoldrick, of LancasterOnline, who celebrates today. Congratulations all around, friends.

Heavy Rotation
And we’ll go out for the year with what is, indisputably, the best Christmas pop song of all time. Here’s the immortal and utterly wonderful ‘Christmas Wrapping,’ by The Waitresses.

Thursday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
With the season already on a temporary, pandemic-imposed hold, the NHL and the NHLPLA announced Wednesday that the league will not be sending players to the 2022 Olympics.

And now you’re up to date. Happy holidays, friends.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.