FILE - In this April 14, 2016, file photo, union organizers, students, and supporters for a $15 an hour wage march through the Oakland section Pittsburgh. Modest income growth for most Americans, strikes by fast-food workers, and the rapid growth of low-paying jobs at the same time middle-income work shrinks have combined to make the minimum wage a top economic issue for the 2016 campaign. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File) Campaign 2016 Why It Matters Minimum Wage
FILE - In this April 14, 2016, file photo, union organizers, students, and supporters for a $15 an hour wage march through the Oakland section Pittsburgh. Modest income growth for most Americans, strikes by fast-food workers, and the rapid growth of low-paying jobs at the same time middle-income work shrinks have combined to make the minimum wage a top economic issue for the 2016 campaign. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

While the gubernatorial candidates are miles apart on many issues relevant to Pennsylvania voters, they are perhaps farthest apart on the economic issues that working families are struggling with now more than at any time in the last decade.

While inflation is a big topic in this election cycle, talking only about prices is an incomplete way to discuss the strain being felt by Pennsylvania’s working families.

As prices remain high, and every news outlet spends endless amounts of time and digital energy talking about it, few, if any, are talking about wages. And given how stagnant wages have been in the commonwealth for a very long time, this seems like a topic that should be getting more attention.

The minimum wage in Pennsylvania currently sits at an embarrassing $7.25 per hour, and has not risen in the last 13 years. That’s right: for almost a decade and a half, the state’s minimum wage has not increased by even a single penny.

Governor Tom Wolf has introduced legislation to raise the minimum wage numerous times, but each effort has been quickly defeated by Pennsylvania Republicans. And with inflation at a 40-year high, it seems odd that any discussion of a minimum wage increase is still dead on arrival in the GOP-led Pennsylvania legislature, but that appears to be the case.

When asked about it during his 2019 run for state Senate, Doug Mastriano, now the Trump-endorsed GOP candidate for governor, implied that he would be in favor of abolishing the minimum wage altogether.

“[L]et the free market decide how much is going to be paid and not the government.”

Democratic nominee Josh Shapiro, on the other hand, has said that raising the wage is necessary, and that it is an investment in Pennsylvania’s workforce.

Saying that Shapiro and Mastriano differ on working-class issues like wages, benefits, and collective bargaining is putting it mildly:

“We need to raise the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour — period. Then we need to make sure that we’re giving people the skills necessary to do the jobs of today and tomorrow,” Shapiro said.

While Mastriano and Shapiro are miles apart on many issues relevant to Pennsylvania voters, they are perhaps farthest apart on the economic issues that working families are struggling with now more than at any time in the last decade.

But one thing is perfectly clear: One candidate is pledging to use the power of the state to help workers, and the other is telling us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.