Skip to the content

Report: Increasing Minimum Wage in PA and Beyond Would Help Rebuild Economy

by Emily Scott, Keystone State News Connection

Report: Increasing Minimum Wage in PA and Beyond Would Help Rebuild Economy

With the expanded unemployment benefits from the American Rescue Plan ending last week, a new report from the Keystone Research Center showed Pennsylvania and the federal government are at a crossroads and have a chance to implement policies that can build a stronger economy.

The report took a deeper look at the impact COVID-19 had on jobs and the economy over the last 18 months, which showed Pennsylvania had 360,000 fewer jobs in July 2021 than in Feb. 2020.

Stephen Herzenberg, executive director of the Center, said increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour could boost needed support for Pennsylvania workers.

“For years, Gov. (Tom) Wolf has been proposing, ‘Let’s get on the same track as our neighbors in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, in terms of raising the wages of low-wage workers,'” Herzenberg explained. “Our Pennsylvania lawmakers need to get off the dime and get in line with what our surrounding states have already done.”

The Pennsylvania and federal minimum wage are both $7.25. According to the report, about two million Pennsylvania workers take home an estimated $3 billion less each year due to the state’s low minimum wage.

Among other federal policy solutions that the report suggests enacting include passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act. The PRO Act would protect workers’ rights to unionize and bargain collectively.

Herzenberg pointed out the legislation could also help to address the ways in which companies contribute to climate change.

“Real worker rights again in this country to unionize are both a way to create an economy that works for all and a way to create the kind of social unity we need as a team to reduce carbon emissions,” Herzenberg asserted. “Because the globe is in deep trouble.”

The PRO Act passed the House of Representatives in March and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.