Philly hears calls to boost minimum wage

PHILADELPHIA — A coalition of labor and community groups rallied here May 25 to demand an increase Pennsylvania’s minimum wage, which has remained frozen at $5.15 an hour for eight years. Rally speakers demanded that the state Legislature hike the wage to $7.15 an hour to provide adequate worker income and to bring it closer to the minimum wage prevailing in nearby states.

Demonstrators held picket signs with slogans like “We demand fair pay,” and “Think about single mothers.”

Speakers at the rally included state Sen. Vincent Hughes, state Rep. Babette Joseph, UFCW Legislative Director John Myerson, the Rev. Randy Barge of the Calvin Presbyterian Church of West Philadelphia, ACORN spokesperson Donald Stokes and Jeff Chapman, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute.

Organized by the Coalition to Raise the Minimum Wage, the city’s grassroots and labor organizations were well represented at the event. Participating groups included ACORN, Local 3 of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, Jobs with Justice, SEIU, and the Communist Party USA.

About 850,000 workers — 61 percent of them women and 20 percent seniors — stand to directly benefit from an increase in the state’s minimum wage. Black and Latino workers, who are more likely to be working at lower wages than their white counterparts, are expected to benefit significantly from such a hike. Similarly, single mothers stand to greatly benefit from an increase.

As a result of congressional inaction, 15 states, including New Jersey, Delaware and New York, have taken the initiative to boost their minimum wage, most of them to $7 an hour or more. Economists estimate that a full-time, minimum-wage worker in Pennsylvania would earn over $4,000 more per year if the minimum wage were increased to $7.15 an hour.

The rally followed the signing of a city ordinance introduced by Philadelphia City Councilman Wilson Goode Jr. that will increase wages for workers employed through city contracts.