Gov. Wolf, elected officials push for minimum wage increase in Frankford

Gov. Tom Wolf and more than a dozen other elected leaders rallied Friday at Frankford Transportation Center in support of increasing the state minimum wage.

Gov. Tom Wolf speaks Friday, Feb. 8, at Frankford Transportation Center during a press conference about raising the minimum wage in Pennsylvania. JACK TOMCZUK / TIMES PHOTO

Gov. Tom Wolf, Mayor Jim Kenney and other elected officials gathered Friday afternoon at Frankford Transportation Center to push for an increase to Pennsylvania’s minimum wage.

Wolf recently presented a plan to increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour beginning in July, with 50 cent increases every year until the rate reaches $15 in 2025. The challenge will be getting the proposal approved by the Republican-controlled state legislature.

Currently, the minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, which is also the federal minimum.

“Morally, this is the right thing to do,” Wolf said at the news conference. “We cannot keep legislating poverty, and that’s what this minimum wage at $7.25 does.”

State Sen. Christine Tartaglione sponsored a bill to raise the minimum wage in 2006, the last time the state increased the rate. She said Pennsylvania should look around at surrounding states that have recently bumped up their minimum wage.

“Sixty-thousand hard-working people go through this station every single day to go to work, and most of them make $7.25 an hour,” Tartaglione said as commuters made their way in and out of the terminal.

Lolita Owens has been a home healthcare worker for 15 years. She takes care of seniors and people with disabilities, a job she described as “extremely challenging.”

“I have a lot of experience, and I’m good at what I do,” Owens said. “I don’t make enough to survive on my own. Literally, not even enough to take care of my family.”

Lolita Owens, a home healthcare worker, speaks Friday, Feb. 8, at Frankford Transportation Center during a press conference about raising the minimum wage in Pennsylvania. JACK TOMCZUK / TIMES PHOTO

Wolf’s proposal also calls for the elimination of the lower minimum wage for tipped workers, which is now $2.83 an hour. In addition, after the minimum wage hits $15, he wants to tie it to the cost-of-living rate.

Obviously, not everyone supports the measure. The Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce opposes Wolf’s minimum wage plan and said it would actually hurt low-income workers.

“Countless independent studies have shown that these policies lead to negative impacts on employment, including job loss,” chamber president and CEO Gene Barr said in a statement.

The Wolf administration has said a minimum wage increase would save federal, state and local governments millions in money used to fund low-income programs like Medicaid.

Others in attendance at Friday’s news conference included Seventh District Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776 President Wendell Young, POWER Executive Director Rev. Gregory Holston, City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., 35th Democratic Ward Leader William Dolbow, state Sens. Vincent Hughes, Art Haywood and Tim Kearney and state Reps. Jason Dawkins, Joe Hohenstein, Jared Solomon, Malcolm Kenyatta, Chris Rabb, Danilo Burgos and Joanna McClinton. ••

Jack Tomczuk can be reached at jtomczuk@newspapermediagroup.com