Council resolution to encourage minimum wage increase

A proposal to double Pennsylvania’s minimum wage over several years is finding support on Pittsburgh City Council.

Councilman Dan Gilman said he will introduce a resolution Thursday endorsing the state House bill, whose prime sponsor is Rep. Patty Kim, a Dauphin County Democrat. Her legislation would bump the statewide base hourly wage to $12 next year, up from the current $7.25, and grow it incrementally until it reaches $15 in 2024.

The measure, among several bills angling to increase the minimum wage, has yet to see a committee vote.

“We are surrounded by states that have increased the minimum wage and have higher wages than Pennsylvania,” Mr. Gilman said Monday. “Our wages continue to be at a point that are not family-sustaining. We have workers in Pennsylvania working full-time jobs who cannot afford child care, who cannot afford housing, who struggle to put food on the table.”

That puts the state at a competitive disadvantage in “attracting a vibrant workforce,” he said. He said it was too early to say which other council members may help introduce the resolution, a symbolic gesture that deepens the city's emphasis on wage issues.

In November 2015, Mayor Bill Peduto signed an executive order requiring city employees to be paid at least $15 an hour within five years. A separate city program has offered public recognition to certain businesses that raise their minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, or $3.93 an hour for tipped employees.

Pennsylvania last increased the statewide hourly minimum in July 2009, when it climbed 10 cents in line with an uptick in the federal minimum. In his most recent budget proposal, Gov. Tom Wolf sought to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour.

Still, critics have cautioned a higher base wage could harm job growth, employers and workers themselves. At the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, government affairs director Alex Halper cited “very serious concerns” over Ms. Kim’s bill.

He said experience and research show that significant increases in “what are typically entry-level wages” can hurt employment.

“Employers are forced to sometimes cut back on hours, scuttle plans to expand or actually cut jobs,” Mr. Halper said, adding that the chamber would prefer more targeted policies, including an emphasis on job training and workforce development.

“We have many positions throughout Pennsylvania for which there are not qualified applicants,” Mr. Halper said. “These are good, career-oriented jobs [for which] we ought to be looking for ways to get individuals trained.”

Ms. Kim said the Pittsburgh council effort, known as a “Will of Council,” would help propel her bill. This marks the third term in which she has introduced legislation to increase the minimum wage, she said.

In other council developments, the city has announced public hearings this month on several matters. A council hearing at 1:30 p.m. July 10 will center on future tax abatement for development. At 2 p.m. July 12, council will take input on the idea of a “sanctuary city” designation. And at 6 p.m. July 18, members will hear comments on how to pay for an affordable housing trust fund.

City Council chambers in the City-County Building, 414 Grant St., Downtown, will host the first two hearings. The last one will be held at Kingsley Association, 6435 Frankstown Ave., Larimer. Hearing participants may register by visiting or calling 412-255-2142.