State Rep Patty Kim and Rep Jason Dawkins Push Minimum Wage Issue
by Alex Lloyd Gross
Imagine working for a company that is doing well. Your meager pay has stayed the same since 2009. Upper management, who decide your pay think you don’t need one. Yet these people are the highest paid in your industry , anywhere in the United States. Welcome to Pennsylvania. The state that keeps the lowest paid workers in poverty by refusing to raise the state minimum wage by even a penny. For the past 15 years they get $7.25 hr.
There have been talks to raise it before. The senate even tried to push it to $9.50/hr . They raised it but the house would not even consider it. Now, with a new speaker and new labor secretary, things look good to bring it to a vote. One person at the forefront of this is Patty Kim. She is from the Harrisburg area.
The reason it has not gone up is because Jim Cox a former State Rep from the Republican Party refused to even put previous attempts up for a vote in the committee. He did the bidding from Gene Barr, a lobbyist making $175.00 /hr or more who was hired by chambers of commerce and business groups to keep the wage low, at the expense of Pennsylvanians. “Now we have Jason Dawkins as the Labor chair”, Kim said. Dawkins, who represents people in Frankford said that he will have no time for the likes of Barr or anyone else.
“I can guarantee you that when I get Patty Kim’s bill, this will be voted on and votes out of committee, this has to happen”, Dawkins said. He wants to have a conversation with republicans to get this passed in the house and wants to have plans in place to keep the safety net in place for people. He knows there are plenty of people in his district that are working for less than $10.00/hr and he will change that.
“We need to tag any raise with a cost of living adjustment. It’s not fair that the legislature and most people get something but not the lowest employed people.” Kim said. The pandemic shutdown proved that people will not work for what they were paid before. Many companies could not find employees. One company needs to look no farther than Dollar General. They were forced to pay their New Jersey employees $13.00/hr because the minimum is so much higher there. They were offering around $10.00/hr in PA. People refused to work there and stores were not stocked properly and a lot of stores closed due to staffing issues.
Food was not put out on shelves at local supermarketss as there was no one to do the work in many cases. “Even in deep red Florida, the minimum wage is going to $15.00/hr, if they can do it, so can we” Kim said.
Opponents trot out the same excuses that “It’s not the right time to do this” or “Everything is around $15.00/hr so we are not going to waste our time on this issue” Barr would say that to let the business set the wage. To that, Dawkins said ” Just about every business gets help from the State or Federal Government., by way to tax breaks, loans, or whatever and as long as the government is involved, we have a right to insure they are paying a living wage to their employees.
To those small businesses that claim to go under, proponents say no jobs will be lost. Both the employee and the owner will be absorbed into the workforce by a bigger company, paying more money. The wage might not go to $15.00/hr but both Kim and Dawkins are confident that it will be raised to something.