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Guest Commentary: PA Workers Deserve a Living Wage

Champions of workplace justice and sustainability argue it’s high time for our state to raise the minimum wage

Guest Commentary: PA Workers Deserve a Living Wage

Champions of workplace justice and sustainability argue it’s high time for our state to raise the minimum wage

Business owners, workers and advocates from a diverse range of sectors are uniting in a call to action: raising Pennsylvania’s minimum wage from the stagnant rate of $7.25 per hour to a living wage.

The Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia (SBN) and the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC) have come together to urge the Pennsylvania General Assembly to advance legislation that supports fair, family-sustaining wages. We represent a coalition of businesses and workers committed to sustainability and equity in the workplace. Our organizations, alongside countless others and our business community, know that increasing the minimum wage is not just a moral obligation but a necessary economic measure that will empower workers and strengthen our economy across the Commonwealth.

Pennsylvania’s minimum wage has remained stagnant for 15 years, leaving many workers struggling to make ends meet. Our commonwealth lags far behind neighboring states and the majority of the country, where most have already raised their minimum wages above the federal minimum. New York, New Jersey and Maryland have all recognized the need to ensure their workers can afford basic necessities and have taken action accordingly. Pennsylvania must not be left behind.

As of 2024, it is estimated that the current living wage for Pennsylvania is $21.95 for a single adult and $27.70 for two adults with two children according to the MIT Living Wage Calculator. This means that an adult working full-time would need to earn three times the current minimum wage to achieve a living wage in PA. Previous legislation seeking to increase the minimum wage has been a commendable step in the right direction, but it does not go far enough.

Raising Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to a living wage, including the tipped wage, with annual adjustments for cost of living and inflation, is a crucial step toward building a stronger, more equitable economy.

To truly achieve equity, we need comprehensive legislation that raises the minimum wage right now, including the tipped wage, to a level that reflects the current cost of living and adjusts for inflation annually. This approach ensures that workers do not fall behind as the cost of living continues to rise exponentially, and it provides stability for families striving to build a better future. We are encouraged to see legislation like Senate Bill 1186, which drives Pennsylvania closer to reaching a sustainable living wage.

Local businesses across Pennsylvania, including those engaged with SBN and ROC, are already leading the way by paying their employees living wages. These businesses recognize that fair wages reduce employee turnover, increase productivity, and enhance customer satisfaction. They are ready and willing to see the state adopt policies that support these practices on a broader scale. A statewide fair minimum wage would level the playing field, allowing small and independent businesses to compete fairly while ensuring that workers are treated justly.

“We want to ensure that the opportunities we created were real opportunities, with reliable schedules, lots of on the job learning, and a guaranteed minimum wage of $15/hour. If we are to be a business that cares about our community, then the absolute best thing we can do is be a radically inclusive employer who meaningfully invests in the financial health of our team, so they can then invest in their own communities. On average, our team makes $20-$30/hour, and we will make up the difference to ensure $15/hour if tips are slow. We have found this has helped us both retain and recruit team members. In a time when many industries, and especially the restaurant industry, have struggled to find dedicated staff, we have been able to retain and grow our team.” — Tess Hart, Co-Founder and CEO of Triple Bottom Brewing, an SBN member business.

The economic and social benefits of a fair minimum wage are well-documented. Higher wages lead to increased consumer spending, which in turn stimulates local economies. Families with higher incomes are better able to afford housing, healthcare, education and other essential services, reducing the strain on public assistance programs. Moreover, providing fair wages fosters a more equitable society where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.

Raising Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to a living wage, including the tipped wage, with annual adjustments for cost of living and inflation, is a crucial step toward building a stronger, more equitable economy. Local businesses support this change and are ready to see the state take decisive action. We urge the Pennsylvania General Assembly to champion this cause and help ensure that all Pennsylvanians can enjoy a fair and dignified standard of living.

Devi Ramkissoon is the Executive Director of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia, a non-profit organization that empowers the business community to build profitable enterprises that serve community needs, share wealth, and protect the environment.

Samuel Jones is the Deputy Director of Strategic Partnerships at ROC United and has been at ROC United for 10 years. Samuel lives in Philadelphia and was previously Director of ROC Pennsylvania.

Jude Husein serves as the Chief of State Advocacy and Strategic Initiatives in the Pennsylvania State Senate, leading statewide advocacy efforts. She is known for her exceptional talent in community-driven strategies, amplifying the voices of underserved communities and youth across Pennsylvania.

The Citizen welcomes guest commentary from community members who represent that it is their own work and their own opinion based on true facts that they know firsthand.


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