Rabb reintroduces legislation to raise the minimum wage in Pa. and expand it to apply to vulnerable members of the workforce
HARRISBURG, March 12 – State Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Phila., has reintroduced legislation that would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour and expand it to apply to vulnerable members of the workforce.
“Raising the minimum wage is a matter of providing dignity to hardworking people – some of the hardest working people in our commonwealth – and in so doing, prioritizing equity for people who are very often the most vulnerable among us,” Rabb said. “There are a lot of misnomers out there that, paired with misinformation, skew how some people who oppose raising the minimum wage view this issue. But at its essence, ensuring no one is paid a poverty wage is simply a matter of doing the right thing.”
The term “small business” is one misnomer Rabb said he wants to clarify, especially in data that government entities use when considering changes to minimum wage laws. He discussed this point during a recent Commerce Committee meeting.
“Most people believe that small businesses are mom-and-pop shops,” Rabb said. “The federal government defines small businesses as [having] fewer than 500 employees, which is a massive number.”
Rabb said most people think of their local pizzeria when they think about small businesses, but the classification includes corporations that have hundreds of employees.
“In the United States, 99.7% of all businesses are considered small businesses,” Rabb said. “You can’t compare a company with 450 employees with one that had just four or five employees despite them both being defined by the federal government as small businesses.
“Neighborhood businesses are likely to be more invested in their employees than much larger corporations, whose products or services are not marketed to the locations where they are headquartered,” Rabb said.
Rabb asked Matthew Knittel, director of the Independent Fiscal Office and one of the testifiers at Thursday’s hearing, if he had a breakdown of minimum wage data based on the different employee count groups that fall within the definition of small businesses. Knittel told Rabb he could get that data for him.
Rabb said testimony during Thursday’s Commerce Committee hearing highlighted another common misconception: the people who earn minimum wage are teenagers who work at fast food restaurants.
Knittel said a previous analysis showed almost half of Pennsylvania’s minimum-wage earners are older than 24.
State Rep. John Galloway, D-Bucks, the Democratic committee chairman, said during the hearing that the average age of a minimum-wage earner in Pennsylvania is 35.
Rabb said the contrast between the misconception and the facts surrounding who is working for minimum wage in Pennsylvania contributes to the lack humanity the issue is shown.
“Most of the people who are earning minimum wage pay are people who have bills like rent and utilities, and many of them have children to care for,” Rabb said. “They cannot make ends meet and fulfill their financial obligations being paid minimum wage, even if they’re working multiple minimum-wage jobs concurrently. There are only so many hours in a week, and when someone is earning a meager hourly pay for every working hour, there simply aren’t enough hours in the week for them to pay their bills. That needs to change. No one should be working 40 or more hours a week and still be unable to pay their bills.”
Unlike Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal, Rabb’s legislation would extend to vulnerable workers in the labor force, including gig workers, incarcerated workers and workers with severe intellectual disabilities.
Ten other House Democrats have signed on as co-prime sponsors of the legislation:
Reps. Jessica Benham, D-Allegheny; Manuel Guzman Jr., D-Berks; Carol Hill-Evans, D-York; Sara Innamorato, D-Allegheny; Emily Kinkead, D-Allegheny; Rick Krajewski, D-Phila.; Summer Lee, D-Allegheny; Danielle Friel Otten, D-Chester; Joe Webster, D-Montgomery; and Napoleon J. Nelson, D-Montgomery.