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Jennifer Rafanan Kennedy & Corey O’Connor: Pa. needs higher wages, self-governance

December 2, 2019


December 1, 2019-

It has been nearly 11 years since Pennsylvania’s Legislature took any action to raise the state’s depressed minimum wage. While states all around us passed laws raising wages, Pennsylvanians have been stuck at the lowest level allowed by federal law, $7.25 per hour. After years of workers standing up, rallying and demanding a $15 an hour minimum wage, on Nov. 20 the Pennsylvania Senate passed Senate Bill 79, legislation to increase Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $9.50 by January 2022. The bill will raise wages for more than 300,000 people across the state.

It’s about time, but we need to do better.

More than 1.13 million people in Pennsylvania make less than $12 per hour. Someone working full time at $9.50 will make less than $20,000 per year. No one can afford to raise a family on a salary that low. While $9.50 is better than $7.25, what workers really need is a $15 per hour minimum wage, unions for all and an end to Pennsylvania’s cynical preemption law. Preemption is a tool exploited by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group of corporate lobbyists who meet behind closed doors to create “model bills” that benefit corporations’ bottom lines at the public’s expense. When powerful corporate lobbyists learn that a local municipality is planning to pass a law with which they disagree — usually one that helps working families like raising the minimum wage or paid sick days — ALEC intervenes by influencing state legislators to prohibit local governments from passing their own laws.

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