Democrats take to Harrisburg market to argue for higher wage in Pennsylvania

If you’re not thinking about your employees, you’re not taking them into account, and that’s a shame.”

  • Katie Meyer

(Harrisburg) — At Elementary Coffee, a stand that operates three days a week in Harrisburg’s Broad Street Market, the starting salary is $12 an hour.

Owner Andrea Grove said when she opens a brick and mortar location this summer, she’s hoping to raise wages even more, and offer health insurance.

“Our business in general is really based on equity,” she said. “If you’re not thinking about your employees, you’re not taking them into account, and that’s a shame.”

Pennsylvania’s minimum wage is $7.25 an hour—lower than any bordering state.

In his budget proposal earlier this year, Governor Tom Wolf pitched a $12 -an-hour minimum that would gradually increase to $15 dollars.

The Independent Fiscal Office estimates it would lose the commonwealth around 33,000 jobs—a number many opponents of a wage increase have brought up as reason to abandon the idea.

Patty Kim, a Democratic representative from Dauphin County, said it’s a necessary trade-off.

“Should I raise a million people’s hourly rate and lose 33,000 jobs?” she asked. “We have to pick and choose our battles, but in the long run I think this is going to be beneficial for Pennsylvanians.”

Kim added that for businesses that already offer a higher wage, like Grove’s, “it’s not an afterthought. It’s not, ‘can I afford it?’ It’s the people, my workers first, and then we’re going to build on that.”

Republicans have said the governor’s wage proposal is too high.

However, spokespeople for the House and Senate said negotiations on the issue are ongoing as part of the state budget—which is due at the end of June—and a smaller increase may be possible.

House GOP spokesman Mike Straub noted, however, some members “will be hard sell on any increase at all.”

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