Capitol Roundup: Wolf calls on Legislature to raise Pa. minimum wage

By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected]
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WILKES-BARRE — Building on his commitment to create “Jobs That Pay” as Pennsylvania’s economy continues to expand, Gov. Tom Wolf this week signed an executive order that increases pay for employees under the governor’s jurisdiction to no less than $12 an hour as of July 1, and raises the wage by 50 cents a year until reaching at least $15 per hour in 2024.

“Pennsylvania must be a place where hard work is rewarded, but today too many people cannot afford the basics,” Wolf said in a press release. “This executive order increases the wage floor for state workers and state contractors, but the General Assembly has not given all minimum wage workers a raise in nearly a decade.”

Wolf said more than half of the states have a higher minimum wage, including all of Pennsylvania’s surrounding states.

“Raising the wage puts more money in their pockets which generates business for our economy and makes the commonwealth stronger,” Wolf said. “Hardworking men and women should not have to wait any longer. It’s time for the General Assembly to join me and raise the wage.”

Workers in Pennsylvania earning the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour have only 26 percent of the purchasing power they did in 1979. A family of two working full time and earning minimum wage falls below the poverty line.

Wolf said increasing the minimum wage is a win-win for workers and the economy. He said boosting wages provides workers with more income to purchase items they most need, which generates business for the local economy and reduces costs for state services.

The governor’s executive order also covers employees of state contractors, those that lease property to the commonwealth, and employees who perform direct services for the commonwealth or spend at least 20 percent of their working time on ancillary services related to the contract or lease.

After reaching $15 an hour in 2024, the minimum wage would increase by an annual cost-of-living adjustment using the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.

The current wage floor for employees is $10.20 an hour under an executive order signed by the governor in March 2016.

Cartwright bill would protect

rights of public-sector unions

U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, this week announced the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, which protects the right of public employees to join unions and engage in collective bargaining.

Cartwright said this is a crucial time when public sector unions are under attack; the latest being the Supreme Court’s serious setback to working people in the Janus v. AFSCME decision.

“This is not jurisprudence, this is bare-knuckle politics,” Cartwright said. “I will always fight to maintain collective bargaining rights for hard-working Americans, including my constituents in Northeastern Pennsylvania, where union rights are a time-honored tradition. Strong public and private sector unions built the middle class in our country, and we should not turn back the clock on those struggling families. I urge my Republican colleagues to join us and help pass this legislation that protects middle class American families.”

Cartwright said organized labor is a main pillar of the strong America middle class. He said research shows union members employed by a state government earn 17 percent more than their non-union counterparts, and union members employed by a local government earn 35 percent more than their non-union counterparts. Unfortunately, he said many states outright prohibit their public-sector employees from engaging in collective bargaining to improve wages or working conditions.

Where states fail to provide basic collective bargaining rights for public-sector employees, Cartwright said this bill empowers the Federal Labor Relations Authority to protect the rights of government employees.

Littering crackdown

gets final legislative OK

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Mario Scavello, R-Mount Pocono, to reduce littering across Pennsylvania by requiring offenders to pick up trash received final legislative approval and will be sent to the governor for enactment.

“When you look at all of the trash along our roads, it’s clear that fines alone are not enough to deter this crime,” Scavello said. “Littering is like graffiti and other acts of vandalism — when people engage in it without fear of punishment, it sends the message that no one cares and leads to more litter. It’s time to show we really care.”

Senate Bill 431 requires that for a first offense of scattering rubbish, a person is required to pick up litter or illegally dumped trash for between five and 30 hours within six months, in addition to the existing fine of $50 to $300.

For a second or subsequent offense, the offender may also be required to pick up litter or illegally dumped trash for 30 to 100 hours over one year, in addition to the existing fine of $300 to $1,000.

Furthermore, existing fines are doubled when committed in a litter enforcement corridor and tripled for litter that originated from a commercial business within a litter enforcement corridor.

Wolf signs Statement of Support

for Guard and reserve members

Gov. Tom Wolf this week signed a U.S. Defense Department Employer Statement of Support for the more than 1,300 Pennsylvania National Guard members and reservists who work for the commonwealth, thanking them for their service and pledging to offer support as these Guard members and reservists fulfill their military service while under the commonwealth’s employ.

The governor was joined by the Adjutant General of Pennsylvania, Maj. General Anthony Carrelli, members of the Pennsylvania National Guard, and Col (ret.) Gregory Parish and George Mentzer from the Employer Support for Guardsman and Reservists Program.

The intent of the program is to encourage employers to act as advocates for employee participation in the military.

The first Statement of Support was signed Dec. 13, 1972, in the office of the Secretary of Defense by the chairman of the board of General Motors. President Richard Nixon was the first president to sign a Statement of Support, and in 2005 every federal Cabinet secretary and all federal agencies signed a Statement of Support to signify their continuing efforts to be model employers. Since its inception, hundreds of thousands of employers have signed Statements of Support, pledging their support to Guard and reserve employees. Pennsylvania currently has 31,000 actively serving Guard members and reservists.

“I urge all commonwealth employers to sign similar letters of support to ensure that, when duty calls, Guard members know that they can go without having to worry about responsibilities left behind at work,” Wolf said.

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By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.