April 21, 2020
During Monday’s press conference in which Gov. Tom Wolf announced an extension of the stay-at-home order for Pennsylvanians until at least May 8 — while providing a glimmer of hope that limited parts of the business sector may finally come back to life soon — a question was asked regarding what would happen if a furloughed employee refused to return to work because he or she made more money on unemployment.
Wolf’s response was that if employers wish to avoid this problem, they simply should pay their employees more, as if all business owners have a limitless supply of money from which to draw.
It was an incredibly tone deaf response from a governor who was once a business owner himself and should, therefore, know better. It was also quite fitting that this response came on a day that saw protestors flock to Harrisburg to oppose Wolf’s stay-at-home order and seemingly-arbitrary business closures.
Needless to say, we are very disappointed with the governor’s remark.
Chances are most employers who have chosen to furlough or lay off employees have done so not because they are greedy 1 percenters fixated on profit margins that will keep droves of shareholders happy, but because those employers have no other choice if they wish to keep the business afloat.
When a business is fighting for mere survival during an unprecedented challenge such as the one our state and nation are facing now, giving raises to workers just isn’t feasible.
For some, increasing staff compensation wasn’t affordable before COVID-19 tore through the nation’s economy like a tornado, let alone now.
Critics of Wolf’s decision to lead Pennsylvania down the path he has have questioned whether he realizes just how damaging the economic toll is and will continue to be the longer the shutdown remains in effect.
The governor has tried to frame this whole ordeal as a painful-but-necessary measure and has told us several times that he is very aware of how difficult this is on Pennsylvanians everywhere.
But at best, Wolf’s flippant comment was an ill-fated attempt to obtain support for raising the minimum wage — something that’s long been on the governor’s to-do list. At worst, it illustrates a governor out of touch with the very Pennsylvania citizens with whom he claims to empathize.
We are sure many employers would love to be able to pay their workers more. Most business owners are hard-working, honest people who want to do right by their employees and the communities in which they live and work.
But, despite how the governor made it sound on Monday, it’s just not that simple and he, more than most, should’ve known that already.