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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said Thursday the state must raise its minimum wage, offer paid sick leave and better protect workers to end the labor shortage.
“Some 4.3 million people left their jobs voluntarily in August,” Wolf said during a news conference in Pittsburgh. “Many were leaving for better pay. They were leaving for better benefits, just basic things. This is evidence of the considerable leverage workers have right now.”
The governor – as he has many times before – called on the Legislature to raise the state’s $7.25 minimum wage to at least $12 an hour and extend Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards to all public sector employees.
“If you want to get good results, you’ve got to pay for it,” Wolf said. “Theres nothing you get for free and that includes a good, successful company. You need to treat your workers, the engine of your company, fairly.”
As such, Wolf signed an executive order Thursday that directs the Department of Labor and Industry to study the feasibility of implementing OSHA standards in offices under his jurisdiction. He also directed the Department of Economic and Community Development (DCED) to consider whether businesses that apply for funding and aid offer paid leave and pay their workers no less than the minimum wage for state employees – $13.50 per hour, with an increase to $15 in 2024.
“We are in a national conversation about the value of work and the dignity of individuals whose labor is the engine of our economy,” said acting Labor Secretary Jennifer Berrier. “Governor Wolf’s action today meets this moment by centering the needs of Pennsylvania workers so they can support their families and build communities where all work is valuable. The time to take meaningful action that supports workers and promotes economic prosperity is now.”
Pennsylvania lost 500,000 jobs in 2020 as the pandemic squeezed small businesses and led to widespread economic restrictions that persisted for more than a year. The state’s unemployment rate has been slow to recover ever since, partly because, Wolf says, workers are no longer accepting the lower wages and nonexistent benefits that were commonplace pre-pandemic.
“The pandemic has shown a light on how important this really is,” he said. “We want good workers to make our companies successful – we’re going to have to pay for that.”
The Republican-controlled Legislature has repeatedly scoffed at Wolf’s insistence on raising the minimum wage as businesses struggle to recover from 15 months of economic sanctions.
Though some support exists for a $10 minimum wage – as proposed by Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie – Democrats have said such a number is too low for them to consider.
A February report from the Congressional Budget Office concluded that a $15 minimum wage could eliminate 1.4 million jobs across the country.
The Wolf administration has said a $12 minimum wage would raise incomes for 1.1 million residents and give them $4.4 billion extra to spend, injecting $116 million into the state economy. That figure will nearly triple to $321 million in 2027 once the rate reaches $15, the administration said.
Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Greensburg, in a statement emailed to reporters Thursday afternoon, said residents are "tired" of dealing with the lingering economic effects and "uncertainty" caused by Wolf's mandates.
"Today’s announcement is one more attempt to by-pass the voice of the people," she said. "The efforts outlined today to protect Pennsylvania workplaces is a ruse that further opens the door to executive branch overreach, crushes small businesses, and generates greater confusion for employers to keep their employees employed and safe."
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Original Author: Christen Smith | The Center Square
Original Location: Pennsylvania governor says raise wages, boost benefits to end labor shortage