Pennsylvania’s current minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
HARRISBURG — He stood at the podium as Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday, but Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor talked about the minimum wage as a businessman.
“I was in one of those businesses that used to be known for paying minimum wage or less,” Wolf said about his time running The Wolf Organization, which included lumber yards, building products, and residential construction.
He scoffed at Pennsylvania’s current minimum wage of $7.25.
“That’s not a living wage,” said Wolf, who has pushed for minimum wage increases every year since he was first elected.
While announcing his proposed Pennsylvania economic goals for 2021, Wolf argued the state should increase its minimum wage to $15. He tried to combat the argument that the increase would hurt businesses.
Based on his experience, he said, paying workers a living wage leads to more productivity.
“I found, and I think if you look at most businesses, if you don’t pay your workers a wage that allows them to build a family and have a good career, you’re not going to get the best results from your workers,” Wolf said. “You’re going to have high turnover. You’re going to have high training costs. And that ultimately may end up costing you more than it would to be fair to your workers in terms of giving them a living wage.”
Pennsylvania’s last minimum wage increase was in 2009. All of the states around Pennsylvania have higher wages, with the lowest being Ohio’s $8.80.
The majority-GOP state Legislature has repeatedly refused to raise the minimum wage.
Advocates have said the increase would help people the economy continues to leave behind. Women make up 61% of the people working minimum wage jobs. People of color make up 27% of those who earn minimum wage.
Wolf said he would like to see the wage increased to $12 an hour, then raised 50 cents every year until it reached $15.
To Wolf, skimping out on employees’ wages isn’t good business practice.
“I would urge my fellow business owners who still believe that’s the surest way to a good profitable business, it’s really not,“ he said.
He asked those business owners to find other ways to protect their profit margins.
President Joe Biden has also argued for a $15 minimum wage, and Democratic members of Congress have proposed legislation that would increase the minimum wage gradually until it reaches $15 per hour by 2025. Wolf admitted that if Congress passes a federal wage hike, Pennsylvania’s attempt is a moot point.
However, he wants the legislature to move forward with it. Wolf also argued that the increase could lead to $100 million in new tax revenue.
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