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A $15 Minimum Wage Increase Could Help Majority of Pennsylvania Workers, Report Says

In Bucks County, around 71,000 workers would benefit from the wage hike, which accounts for 21 percent of the workforce.
Union and labor activists in New York rally to seek a $15 per hour minimum wage. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

During his budget address at the State Capitol last week, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro renewed his push to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, calling on lawmakers to pass a bill that would make this possible. For the last 15 years, the minimum wage in Pennsylvania has remained stagnant at $7.25 an hour, while surrounding states have made notable increases. 

As of January 1, a total of seven states now have minimum hourly wages of $15 or more, including nearby states New York, New Jersey, and Maryland. Meanwhile, another six states have approved gradual increases to $15 over the course of a few years. 

“It’s time we raise our minimum wage to $15 an hour, because we’re falling behind,” Shapiro said during his speech. “It’s anti-competitive and it’s hurting our workers.” 

He argued that increasing the minimum wage would create more competition and opportunity in Pennsylvania, benefiting both workers and employers. 

House Bill 1500, which passed the PA House in June 2023, would incrementally increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026 and set the hourly tipped wage at 60 percent of the minimum wage. Under the bill, the minimum wage would then be indexed to inflation, starting in 2027. The legislation needs to pass the Republican-led Senate but has not yet been put up for a vote. 

Despite this inaction, Shapiro said he’s “encouraged” by leaders in the Senate who have “shown a willingness to engage on this issue,” urging lawmakers to pass the measure. “Let’s finally get this done,” he said.

READ: Bucks County Democratic Party Chair Steve Santarsiero Reflects On The 2023 Blue Wave, Ready To Build On The Momentum In 2024

New research demonstrates the impact a $15 minimum wage could have on Pennsylvania residents and the state economy. 

According to a new report from Keystone Research Center, around 776,000 Pennsylvania workers would be directly affected by a minimum wage increase, and another 568,000 would indirectly see a slight pay increase due to market adjustments. Estimates show that the average affected worker would see a $2 per hour raise for full-time employment. 

In Bucks County, around 71,000 workers would benefit from a $15 wage, which accounts for 21 percent of the workforce. “A higher minimum wage will lift family incomes, help working people afford necessities, restore local economies to health, and save tax dollars,” the analysis notes. 

image 4 - Bucks County Beacon - A $15 Minimum Wage Increase Could Help Majority of Pennsylvania Workers, Report Says
Image courtesy of Keystone Research Center.

Although some arguments against raising the minimum wage have long been based on the false assumption that most minimum wage employees are teenagers working for pocket change, the report reveals that 84 percent of workers in Pennsylvania who would benefit from a wage increase are over the age of 19. More than half are between 20 and 39 years old. 

“Families are living on these wages,” Claire Kovach, a senior research analyst at Kesytone Research Center and the author of the report, told the Bucks County Beacon. “The majority are working full time hours and they’re just looking for enough to get by.”

Of these affected workers, women, people of color, and parents to children under 18 would disproportionately benefit from a $15 an hour wage. A higher proportion of Pennsylvanians living in rural areas would also benefit, as well as those who have the educational attainment of a high school diploma or less. Raising the minimum wage would not only help workers better pay for child care, housing, food, and other basic necessities, but it would also have an impact on the state.

READ: Workers Have Helped Usher in a New Era of Union Militancy in the United States

“Money in the pockets of low wage workers is spent directly back into the economy. It is a huge economic stimulus,” Kovach said, adding that a higher minimum wage would also benefit businesses by reducing employee turnover and increasing productivity. 

“This is a popular issue,” she added. “And the only reason that we don’t have a higher minimum wage is because our legislature hasn’t passed a higher minimum wage.” According to a 2021 state-wide poll from Franklin and Marshall College, around 67 percent of Pennsylvania voters support increasing the state’s minimum wage. 

“Every single day that we don’t raise the minimum wage, we’re effectively saying to someone, ‘Hey, we think your current job needs to be done, but we don’t think you deserve enough to live.’ And I think more people are realizing that,” Kovach said.

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Catherine Caruso

Catherine Caruso is a Pennsylvania-based freelance writer with a focus on culture, politics, education, and LGBTQ rights.

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