By Alex Lloyd Gross
On January 22 2019 Senator Art Haywood participated in a rally to raise the state minimum wage outside a McDonalds restaurant at 29 E Chelten Ave. It was 10 degrees outside and over 200 people showed up for a rally. He was back at the same McDonalds today, September 27, 2019 . Originally this was going to be another rally to shame a millionaire business owner who pays his employees $8.75 per hour or less. However owner Dereck Giacomantonio agreed to speak with Haywood to reach a deal on employees pay. The rally was cancelled. A press conference was held instead. This is progress, considering a year ago Giacomantonio hung up on Haywoods office.
Currently, the Pennsylvania Senate and House republican leadership is blocking any wage increase by not taking a vote on it. Yet, they talk about being amenable to raising the wage. The problem is, it is not a priority for them. It must be noted that they just got a yearly Cost Of Living Adjustment,(COLA) or in other words, a raise.They got this because they voted themselves this increase because it is difficult for them to live on $78,000 per year. This, while they refuse to even discus raising the wage by even 25 cents, keeping many workers below poverty, at $7,25/hr.
“The rate of $7.25/hr is a burden on families. It last went up 13 years ago. I am confident that this rate will go up this year. If not, it is an election issue and we will win in 2020,” Haywood said. Republican leadership is beholden to big business which does not want this to happen. They write huge checks to the legislators hoping to keep the minimum wage issue off the table. So far it’s working. Not for long. “This issue is supported by the majority of people in Pennsylvania, not the special interests of of big business. If lawmakers are trying to keep their seats, this issue is crucial. We have support for a raise all over the state,” Haywood said.
Republican lawmakers have ignored facts, brought up their own statistics to thwart any effort on the wage increase. “You people are all over the place, some want $15/hr some want $10/hr others want12/hr, there is no consistency,” balked a representative from Stan Saylor’s office. When pressed for a number they would not give anything. Therein lies the problem. No one is talking to anyone. No one wants the wage to go up to $15/hr overnight. This must be done in increments.
“Governor Wolf just had a phone call with the senate and house leadership about this issue,” Haywood said. The classic standby line that jobs will be lost, prices will go up just got proven to be “fake news”. The truth is just over the river in New Jersey, or Across the state to Ohio or any of the neighboring states . They all have a higher rate than Pennsylvania and jobs and their local economy booming. “Those people have more money to spend”, said John Meyerson, a local organizer who supports raising the wage.
The fact that Senator Haywood is able to talk with this owner and get people a pay increase is good, but what about the rest of the state? “This is just the beginning, the minimum wage issue is a priority for us and we are working to get this done,” he said. Voters are beyond furious that a few wealthy politicians that got lucky in life are keeping them in poverty, Next year, the republicans that don’t want to discuss this issue will get another COLA.
“I have a solution, let big cities like Philadelphia set their own minimum wage if you are that concerned about your area”. Haywood said. Philadelphia voters overwhelmingly voted in a symbolic vote to increase the minimum wage to $15/hr over time.