Boost minimum wage to help workers and state

Democrats have a proud tradition of fighting for workers and the middle class. That fight still matters.

HARRISBURG, Aug. 30 – Labor Day is a time to celebrate the contributions working men and women make to our collective wealth and well-being. It's long past time for Pennsylvania workers to share in that wealth.

Measured by corporate wealth and CEO income, America is the wealthiest country in the world at the wealthiest moment in our history. But those measures don't tell the whole story.

Here in Pennsylvania and the rest of America, millions of working people and the middle class are being squeezed out.

Between 1948 and 1979, two-thirds of income growth in the United States went to the bottom 90 percent of earners. Since 1979, that same share of income growth went to just the top 1 percent, and nearly all recent income growth in America went to the top 10 percent.

Adjusted for inflation, income for almost everyone else actually declined.

This Labor Day, tens of thousands of parents in Pennsylvania -- many of them women -- are working full-time for wages that don't allow them to pay the rent, put good food on the table, or afford someone to watch their children while they work. More of these families are falling behind and slipping into poverty without a living wage.

Every state around Pennsylvania already raised its minimum wage. Pennsylvania's woefully inadequate minimum wage is hurting our lowest-paid workers, as well as the middle-class workers who earn just above them. An increase in the minimum wage would directly and indirectly boost the earnings of more than 1.2 million Pennsylvanians -- nearly one out of every four working people.

The benefits of higher pay go beyond workers and their families, to local businesses, our economy and our state budget.

A sensible minimum wage increase would boost total wages in Pennsylvania by $2 billion and this new spending power of working families would generate about 6,000 new jobs.

Higher pay for workers also means more tax revenue for the state – without raising taxes – while also helping to balance the state budget and local budgets by reducing demand on public assistance programs.

These benefits already showed up in other states where worker wages rose -- like Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Maryland and West Virginia.

As an economic-growth and budget-balancing tool, allowing working people to earn more to support their families deserves at least as much consideration as expanding gambling or borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars.

Let’s honor the meaning of Labor Day this year by finishing the necessary work of balancing Pennsylvania's budget while helping the working people who create wealth for employers but too often don't benefit from it. Let’s give working families the overdue raise they need and deserve. 

Democrats have a proud tradition of fighting for workers and the middle class. That fight still matters – perhaps more today than in a long time.

Democrats will continue fighting here in Pennsylvania, and across the country, to make sure workers share in the benefits of the prosperity they were instrumental in creating, and that middle-class families will have better pay for many Labor Days to come.