(WHTM) – As we approach Labor Day weekend, the State of Labor in Pennsylvania seems strong as unemployment is down and job openings are up.
However, the minimum wage in Pennsylvania remains much lower than in surrounding states.
As the nation prepares to honor workers, many lawmakers say it’s time to change that.
At Harrisburg’s Elementary Coffee Shop, owner Andrea Grove says she pays her staff $16 “because they’re the most important piece of this business. Very simple, without them, I could have all the coffee in the world. Without them, we’re not going anywhere.”
A handful of House Democrats chose this shop to once again call for a minimum wage hike. For Patty Kim (D-Dauphin and Cumberland), the issue’s been a slow drip as she’s been pushing it for each of her 11 years.
Kim said, “There are economists that say that it is really important to secure the floor of the minimum wage so that we don’t go backward. Folks, it is still legal to pay somebody $7.25 an hour in Pennsylvania.”
Izzy Smith-Wade-El (D-Lancaster) said, “Do you really believe that somebody who works a 40-hour week shouldn’t be able to afford an apartment or groceries? Because I don’t think you do.”
The House passed a bill increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour in three years and then tying it to the rate of inflation thereafter. It has stalled in the Senate.
Manuel Guzman Jr. (D-Berks) said, “There are certain politicians in that building not too far away from here that are blocking that progress from happening. And they are literally putting themselves against the workers of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. They’re literally siding with the corporate interests that commonwealth foundations of the world.”
In a statement, Senate Republicans blame the House for not laboring enough to negotiate a deal, noting it’s in recess until late September.
“There is no valid reason for the House to not reconvene and work with us to find common ground,” said Kate Flessner/Senate GOP Spokeswoman.
Senate Leader Joe Pittman (R-Armstong, Indiana, Jefferson, and Westmoreland) signaled he’s open to a hike, but $15 is too high.
“Leader Bradford missed a golden opportunity to deliver a win for his caucus when it comes to changing the minimum wage,” said Pittman. “I made it quite clear both publicly and privately, that our caucus was open to a compromise on minimum wage. The events of the last few months make reaching consensus on this issue less likely.”
Kim says she believes everything is negotiable.
“We believe in the compromise. But at this point, if we raise it to $15 an hour, we would help a million people. Every time we bring it down, we’ll help less and less people, which we don’t want to see.”
The Democrats at the coffee shop note that their bill is really a copy of the minimum wage bill from State Senator Dan Laughlin (R-Erie).