WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU)- Rallies across Pennsylvania today calling for an increase in the state’s minimum wage. That rate now stands at $7.25 per hour.
The folks at one rally in Wilkes-Barre say the minimum wage at its current level is barely enough to make ends meet. In fact, many families earning minimum wage are living below the poverty line.
They came from all over Northeastern Pennsylvania to urge people to support House Bill 1520, which calls for an increase in the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $12.00 an hour in 2018, and up to $15 an hour in 2024.
“Our life insurance agents were out and we see 1,200 members on a daily basis,” says Michael Clemente of Arias Agencies. “Hard-working Pennsylvanians. It’s very hard for them to be able to make ends meet.”
Pennsylvania last raised minimum wage in 2008 when rates stood at $7,15 an hour to its current level.
Many of the people at the rally today work in lower skilled hobs and cant keep pace with rising living expenses like utilities and food prices. Rose Yanko works as a home healthcare provider.
“When you look around everyday, the cost of everything rises on a regular level,” says Yanko.
Opponents of raising the minimum wage argue that it would increase the cost of doing businesses with companies paying more for labor. But ralliers aren’t buying it.
“I think it’s shortsighted,” says Kim Yost of SEIU Healthcare Union in Scranton. “They need to look at it, there may be a cost to employers, but people can’t continue to survive on the wages they are making now.”
A person earning $7.25 an hour for a 40 hour work week earns just over $15,000 a year. The poverty level for a family of four is $24,000 a year.
Lawmakers who support the legislation say it’s the right thing to do.
“Everything else has increased to the point that $7.25 an hour now is the poverty wage,” says Representative Eddie Day Pashinski. “So even if you work 40 hours a week and on weekends, you still qualify for subsistence because you are below the poverty line.”
Opponents of the bill argue that it would only increase the costs of doing business in Pennsylvania and could force smaller companies to actually lay off workers, and/or increase the costs of their products and services.
Governor Wolf says he supports to bill. The battle lines over the legislation are pretty much set up along party lines with Democrats supporting it and many Republicans opposing it.