CACLV: - The Keystone Research Center today announced the release of a new report showing the impact of increasing the Pennsylvania minimum wage from $7.25 to at least $10.10. They studied the impact on all 67 PA counties. A $10.10 minimum wage would give 65,382 workers a raise in the Lehigh Valley and boost the state's sluggish economy, according to the report. For Lehigh County, a boost in the wages of 35,582 workers would increase total wages by $52.1 million; in Northampton County, increased wages of 29,800 would increase total wages by $43.3 million.
In the region, which includes Carbon County, women working who would be affected by an increase to $10.10 per hour outnumber men. Consistent with state averages, the typical worker in Lehigh and Northampton counties who would get a raise is an adult, over the age of 20, working full-time.
"When workers can pay their bills, the whole economy thrives: the landlord hires contractors, the contractors go out to dinner, and the servers buy clothes. It's time we realized we really are all in this together," said Alan Jennings, executive director of the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley.
While workers in several industries call for $15 an hour and the right to join a union, advocates say that the state should ensure that every worker in Pennsylvania makes at least $10.10 an hour.
The advocates called on state lawmakers to increase the minimum wage to at least $10.10 for all workers, including tipped workers, and tie the rate to inflation, as well as increase the fines for employers who commit wage theft against their employees and strengthen enforcement efforts.
Across the state, wages are so low that hundreds of thousands of workers are living in poverty. In the Lehigh Valley, more than 1 in 5 homeless heads of households are working. These low wages are not just so low they result in hunger and homelessness, but they are stalling our economy and hurting communities. It's time to update the wage floor so people can meet their basic needs, like food, medical care, and gas.
Increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 would give over 1.2 million Pennsylvania workers a raise, according to the Keystone Research Center. It would put nearly $2 billion into the state's economy. The benefits would be felt throughout Pennsylvania, with nearly one in four workers in the state's 48 rural counties and more than 700,000 workers, or 18 percent, in the state's urban counties getting an increase in wages. In addition, more than 200,000 people in each of Philadelphia and Allegheny counties would get a boost.
"More than 80 percent of workers who would get a raise by increasing the minimum wage to at least $10.10 are adults age 20 and older, not affluent teens with after-school jobs" said Mark Price, an economist with the Keystone Research Center. "Raising the minimum wage would also help close the wage gap between women and men -- nearly six-in-ten workers who would get a boost in pay are women, including thousands of single moms."
The PA minimum wage has not been raised since 2007, which is stalling our economy and harming communities. Today, a person working full-time making the minimum wage has an annual income of only $15,080, which is below the poverty line for a family of two. To make matters worse, the wage floor has not kept up with the rise in consumer prices. As a result, the minimum wage is 23 percent lower today than it was in 1968.
Compared to other states, minimum wage workers in Pennsylvania are falling behind. Already 29 states have increased their minimum wage above the federal government wage floor of $7.25, including all of our neighboring states, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia and Maryland.
"No one working full-time should have to live in poverty or rely on emergency food pantries to feed their family," said Janet Ney, of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Lehigh Valley and Northeast Pennsylvania.
"Rigorous research over the past 20 years has proven that raising the minimum wage boosts workers' pay and their purchasing power without causing job losses," said Price. "Raising the minimum wage puts money in people's pockets which they then turn around and spend in the local economy."
The failure of employers to pay fair wages is creating stress on working families and forcing taxpayers to subsidize corporate profits through increased costs for social programs. Wages for low wage workers in Pennsylvania and nationally have stagnated in the past six years. Lower waged Pennsylvania workers have lost $.24 per hour or 3% relative to inflation since the last increase in the minimum wage in 2009.
"The hardworking people who serve our food, clean our hotels and care for our children deserve a raise," said John Dodds, of the Philadelphia Unemployment Project. "Working families are the engine of our economy, but they haven't received a raise since before the Great Recession. It's time to do the right thing by raising the incomes of 1.2 million Pennsylvania workers, which will boost our economy and strengthen local communities."