While many of us are planning at least an average holiday in terms of volume of gifts and size of family gatherings and meals, Pennsylvania’s base hourly wage doesn’t even get minimum-wage earners to the point of being able to enjoy a below-average Christmas.
To go “over the river and through the woods” from here to Pittsburgh, it costs nearly $34 if you don’t have E-Z Pass. A minimum-wage worker has to work nearly 5 hours to pay for that trip to grandma’s house.
An average Christmas dinner — with turkey and all of the average trimmings — costs about $50. A minimum-wage worker has to work just about an entire day to be able to afford that meal.
One of the most-popular gifts this year is the Kindle Fire tablet, which costs about $180. If a minimum-wage worker has a loved one who likes to read, he’ll have to continue buying used paperbacks because buying that tablet as a gift will take 25 hours of toil for the poverty-level $7.25/hour.
President Obama called for an increase in the minimum wage this month. Ten other states, including Ohio, increased their minimum-wage rates and tied them to inflation for 2013. They took out the politics by agreeing that base wage earners deserve to at least be compensated when there is inflation.
And five other states, including New York and New Jersey, passed minimum-wage increases effective in 2014.
Pennsylvania’s minimum wage has been stagnant since 2009, and our tipped minimum wage has not been raised for 15 years.
I was successful in raising the state’s minimum wage to $7.15/hour seven years ago. The federal government then pushed up that floor to $7.25/hour. It’s been far too long since the last increase.
I have introduced legislation, SB 858, to increase the minimum wage incrementally to $9.00/hour by 2015. After 2015, my bill would tie minimum-wage increases to the rate of inflation according to the consumer price index, just like other states have done or are planning to do.
I have also introduced legislation to raise the tipped minimum wage from its current $2.83/hour to 70% of the regular minimum wage rate by 2015.
I’m not the only state lawmaker who is proposing to increase the minimum wage, so there is more than enough evidence and shared opinion that this must happen, and it must happen soon.
When Charles Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol,” he said: “Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it.”
Darkness IS cheap. Our minimum-wage workers DON’T like it. This legislature and this Governor must depart from the current course.
As Dickens said: “If the courses be departed from, the ends will change.”