Rep. Mark B. Cohen
202nd Legislative District
Philadelphia County
Democratic Chairman, State Government Committee
Minimum Wage Information

Federal and Pa. minimum wage is $7.25. A minimum wage earner working full time, with no days off, earns $15,080 or only 82% of the federal HHS Poverty Guideline for a family of three (a traditional measure of minimum wage adequacy). Rep. Mark Cohen has introduced legislation in Pennsylvania to raise the minimum wage to at least $9, as advocated by President Barack Obama. Currently, 18 states have minimum wages higher than the federal government.

Cohen legislation H.B. 1057.

2011 HHS Poverty Guidelines

Persons
in Family

48 Contiguous
States and D.C.

Alaska

Hawaii

1

$10,890

$13,600

$12,540

2

$14,710

$18,380

$16,930

3

$18,530

$23,160

$21,320

4

$22,350

$27,940

$25,710

5

$26,170

$32,720

$30,100

6

$29,990

$37,500

$34,490

7

$33,810

$42,280

$38,880

8

$37,630

$47,060

$43,270

For each additional
person, add

$3,820

$4,780

$4,390

 

 

The Benefits of Raising the Minimum Wage

 

The Minimum Wage: Information, Opinion, Research

 

Raising state and federal minimum wages within reasonable limits benefits many working families. How much will it do so? Proponents and opponents alike often exaggerate its impact, and even realistic economists who support increases warn that a higher minimum wage is not a cure-all for poverty. With that said, studies point to the following benefits of a minimum wage that keeps up with the cost of living and with other wages.

 

  • It is good for poor families. Minimum wage increases help millions of people who work not only at the minimum wage but below it and just above it as well. While an increase of a few thousand dollars per year will rarely by itself lift a person or a family out of poverty, it does ease the struggle to pay for groceries or child care or rent, and it adds meaning and dignity to labor. A reasonable minimum wage is an indispensable step towards the goal of reducing poverty, along with other steps that include credits on taxes, better education, and broader health coverage. A fair minimum wage is not enough, but it is essential.
  • It is good for communities. With it, low-wage workers spend more at local businesses and rely less on local social service agencies for assistance. The changes help build the local tax base and reduce the spending of local taxes on social assistance programs.
  • It is good for businesses. Minimum wage increases have resulted in reduced absenteeism, less turnover, and better morale among employees, as well as reduced recruiting and training costs for employers, all of which contribute to higher productivity.
  • It is good for minority working women. More women than men fill the lowest-wage jobs in retail, health care, and restaurants and hotels, and a third of them are African-American and Hispanic.
  • It is good for the tax payer. Unlike government assistance programs, the minimum wage helps the working poor without adding to the tax bill.
  • It is good for the nation. A strong minimum wage helps reduce the gap in incomes between the poor and the wealthy in America. When such a gap becomes too wide, democratic values are threatened, because the freedoms to vote, speak out on public issues, and enjoy a stable and open society are not meaningful for those who are worn out by struggles for the basics of life.
  • Its disadvantages have been exaggerated. The most common objection to minimum wage increases continues to be that if small business owners are faced with high labor costs, they will reduce the number or hours of their employees and might close their doors. But studies show that this scenario overlooks the flexibilitiy of employees and employers when the minimum wage changes. States that increase their minimum wages have stronger job growth compared to states where the minimum wage is static. And the risk of business failure does not increase when the minimum wage does.

 

--Brock Haussamen; revised 2011