Harkins, Merski join Acting Labor and Industry Secretary in calling for minimum wage increase

ERIE, May 12 – Pennsylvania’s working families have been waiting years for an increase in the state’s minimum wage that never comes, even as they watch workers in neighboring states benefit from increased purchasing power, state Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins told listeners at a virtual press event today with the Department of Labor and Industry.

Speaking at the event with Acting Labor and Industry Secretary Jennifer Berrier and an Erie child and home care worker, the lawmakers, both D-Erie, urged support of the administration’s plan to raise the state’s minimum wage of $7.25 per hour to $12 per hour, with a pathway to $15.

“If the past year showed us anything, it’s that we could not have made it without the efforts of store clerks, delivery people, childcare workers and scores of other frontline workers,” Harkins said. “We’ve praised them and told them how much we value them, but at the end of the day, we haven’t done very much to put more money in their pockets or make it any easier for them to pay their bills.

“Our minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 per hour since 2009, even as all the states surrounding us have raised theirs. When I was Democratic chairman of the House Labor and Industry Committee, we pushed hard to find common ground with Republicans in the House and Senate to raise the minimum wage. We made progress in the Senate, but the House Republicans refused to even bring the issue up for a vote.

“Pennsylvania’s workers deserve more than lip service. They deserve a wage that allows them to pay their bills and support their families. It’s time to stop talking about it and do something about it.”

Merski said: “I believe in the saying, ‘A rising tide lifts all boats. As we look at Pennsylvania, it’s time to raise the tide, and we do that by raising the minimum wage. All the states surrounding us have already raised it, which negates the argument that doing so will increase prices or that people will become unemployed. That simply hasn’t happened. It hasn’t happened in New York, where the wage is $7 more per hour than it is in Pennsylvania, and it hasn’t happened in Ohio, where people earn more than $1 more for the same work.

“Pennsylvania has one of the lowest minimum wages in the nation. Not only does that hurt working families, but it also hurts our own state economy. When working families are paid more, they don’t just sock it away – they reinvest it by purchasing things they need – home repairs, car repairs – things that stimulate the economy and create new jobs.

“This is also a dignity issue. More than half of all states have already raised the minimum wage. Pennsylvania used to be a leader in paying workers and valuing the dignity of work. We need to go back to being competitive in those areas.”

A replay of the event is available by visiting this link: https://pacast.com/m?p=18760