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Equal Pay Day: PA Advocates Urge Minimum-Wage Increase

by Emily Scott, Keystone State News Connection

Mar 17, 2022

Tuesday marked Equal Pay Day, and Pennsylvania advocates gathered to call on the General Assembly to increase the minimum wage, saying it would help eliminate the gender wage gap.

Women make up 51% of the state’s population but, on average, lose about $460,000 over the course of their lifetime due to pay inequity. Advocates say one way Pennsylvania can help close pay disparities is by raising the minimum wage, which was recently proposed in Gov. Tom Wolf’s final budget.

State Rep. Patty Kim – D-Dauphin County – whose minimum-wage increase bill is part of Wolf’s budget, said it’s time for women get their fair share for the work they do.

“Let’s shed the unfair label of working women, that they are somehow less reliable because they have children or they might get pregnant and leave,” said Kim. “Instead, we should view working women as the breadwinner of households, the financial decision-makers, the consumers. If women do well, the family does well.”

The current state minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Kim’s bill would raise the minimum wage and tip wages to $12 an hour by July, with annual increases until reaching $15 an hour by 2028.

Pennsylvania Labor & Industry Secretary Jennifer Berrier said nationwide, women account for nearly 89% of the home health and direct-care workforce and 94% of the child-care workforce – which were deemed essential during the pandemic.

Yet many of them make barely above minimum wage, which Berrier said needs to change.

“These workers continue to keep our economy going, carrying for those who need it most in hard jobs with poverty wages,” said Berrier. “And it’s time for Pennsylvania to ensure its lowest-paid workers, most of whom are women, have the opportunity for a rebound of their own.”

The wage gap is often wider for women of color. On average, Asian American and Pacific Islander women are paid 75 cents for every dollar paid to white men, while Black women earn 58 cents and Latina women earn 49 cents for every dollar paid to white men.

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