In recent years, the push for states - and even the federal government - to raise the minimum wage significantly has grown ever-stronger. However, it hasn't resulted in as much change as workers' advocates might like, but that may change in the near future as more government officials rally around the cause.
That's certainly the case in Pennsylvania, where Gov. Tom Wolf has repeatedly called for increases to the state's minimum wage, which still aligns with the federal floor of just $7.25 per hour, according to the Pocono Record. On the anniversary of the last minimum-wage increase at the federal level, Wolf once again renewed his call for an immediate increase $12 minimum in the Keystone State to better insulate the lowest-paid workers from financial risk, eventually pushing up to $15.
Of all the states with which Pennsylvania shares a border, it is now the only one that still abides by the federal minimum wage. All its neighbors are now well above that level and several are on an upward trajectory.
"It's ridiculous that a Pennsylvanian earns less for the same job than someone in West Virginia, Ohio or New York," Wolf said. "Pennsylvanians are known for our tremendous work ethic, but too many of them, especially our essential workers, can't afford their basic needs. That must be unacceptable to all of us."
A long time coming
Wolf's latest comments came on July 24, the 11th anniversary of the last time Congress raised the federal minimum, according to CBS News. That's the longest period the country has gone without an increase since the minimum wage was introduced in 1938. Since 2009, the cost of living has increased some 20%, driven largely by a surge in average rental prices of about 30%.
Of course, the Fight for $15 was first established in 2012, and since that time, the value of the proposition has already begun to decline; adjusting for inflation, the buying power of $15 in 2012 dollars is now slightly more than $13 in today's money - a decline of about 13% over eight years. Recent data suggests the average American worker has to earn about $20 per hour to afford even a one-bedroom apartment, the report said.
Some in the government have questioned whether an increase to $15 per hour in the near future would be appropriate for many businesses, given the economic fallout from the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to MarketWatch. However, studies suggest the people working on the front lines of the pandemic are typically those most affected by financial insecurity even when they have jobs - nearly 3 in 5 essential workers earn less than $20 per hour, and almost 1 in 10 earn less than $10.
With all this in mind, companies like manufacturers - which are essential to the ongoing maintenance of the economy - may need to do more to ensure their employees are well-compensated. That can come in the form of higher salaries, but also better benefits, to both attract and retain talent on an ongoing basis.
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