ABINGTON, May. 6, 2015 – At a news conference held at the Inter-Faith Food Cupboard, State Senator Art Haywood and U.S. Congressman Brendan Boyle joined activists, business owners, and community leaders in Montgomery County supporting an increase in the minimum wage to at least $10.10 an hour.
“Hard-working Pennsylvanians are going hungry in return for an honest day’s work. What we have in our state is a minimum wage that promotes poverty,” Senator Haywood said, citing studies by Feeding America and the University of California, Berkeley showing that most enrollees in public assistance – and most food pantry clients – come from working families. Haywood has co-sponsored legislation that would raise the minimum wage in Pennsylvania to at least $10.10 an hour.
At the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, full-time workers receive only $290 a week in gross pay. Congressman Boyle, who recently supported a federal minimum wage hike to $12.00 an hour, described the impact of raising the wage on self-sufficiency: “Raising the wage will grant hard-working Americans increased financial independence, so they will no longer have to rely on an estimated $152.8 billion in public assistance funding just to make ends meet.”
Joining Haywood and Boyle was Rebecca Kelly, coordinator at the food cupboard, and JoAnne Sessa, Secretary Treasurer for SEIU 668, the Pennsylvania Social Services Union. Kelly said that the number of food cupboard clients she assists has doubled since she began her work in 2002. Raising the wage would allow many of the food cupboard’s clients to buy their own fresh groceries and invest dollars into the community, Kelly said.
Sessa, who has spent twenty-six years as a welfare caseworker in the suburbs of Philadelphia, described clients who sought public assistance help during their lunch breaks or between shifts of two or three part-time jobs. “For far too many Pennsylvanians, the public conversation in America today is no longer about the American Dream. It’s about survival. And it shouldn’t be,” Sessa said.
A number of Montgomery County business owners attended the conference, including Michael F. O’Connor of La Barberia, a barber shop located in Jenkintown and center city Philadelphia. O’Connor has advocated for increasing the minimum wage because of the importance of maintaining employee loyalty and avoiding costly staff turnover.
Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 in Pennsylvania would immediately increase pay for more than 1 million workers, creating an estimated 6000 jobs across the commonwealth through additional consumer spending. The last time Pennsylvania saw an increase in the minimum wage was in 2009, when it was raised to the current rate of $7.25 an hour. After adjusting for changes in pricing, the minimum wage is worth less today than it was in 1968.
“On the one hand, we say we want you to be self-sufficient – find an opportunity. Then we have a minimum wage that is so low it puts people right back onto public assistance. Lawmakers are endorsing hunger by allowing the minimum wage to be less than $10.10 an hour,” said Senator Haywood.
Contact: Melissa Ostroff