July 9, 2018
Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order last week that raised the minimum wage for employees who work for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and contractors to $12 an hour and established raises each year through 2024.
This order increased the wages of 900 state employees as of July 1 and could affect an unknown number of state contractors as well, according to the state’s Office of Administration.
Each year, the minimum wage will increase by 50 cents each July 1 until it reaches $15 per hour in 2024. Once the minimum wage reaches $15 per hour, a cost-of-living adjustment calculated by the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers will determine whether an adjustment is needed in all following years, the order states.
The commonwealth has 73,000 employees with an additional 6,000 employees that are “wage employees” who work part time or seasonal hours, like temporary liquor store clerks or clerk typists.
As the wage increases, more state employees will receive pay raises once it reaches their pay grade, said Dan Egan, the director of communications for the Office of Administration. But most in the state’s workforce earn above the new minimum wage.
“For the employees it does affect, it certainly is meaningful to them to see their pay go up an hour,” he added.
Mr. Wolf raised the wage for state employees in March 2016 to $10.20 per hour.
The executive order changes the minimum wage only for jobs under the governor’s jurisdiction, including state employees, state contractors and employees who perform 20 percent of their work performing an ancillary service. It also “encourages” state-related universities, state-affiliated entities and the state’s independent agencies — like the Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Treasury and the Auditor General’s Office — to adopt a similar order.
Joe Grace, a spokesman for Attorney General Josh Shapiro, said in a statement that Mr. Shapiro supports the governor’s executive order and has implemented it within his office.
“State employees deserve a fair, living wage,” Mr. Grace added. “We strongly support the measure.”
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said he supports the governor’s order to raise the minimum wage statewide.
“We’re falling behind, certainly in the Northeast,” Mr. DePasquale added. “It’s probably been too long since we had an increase.”
The Auditor General’s Office will not issue an order in response but had already mandated that its interns are paid $15 per hour. The rest of the office receives above that hourly threshold, Mr. DePasquale added.
The Department of Treasury would also go unaffected by a minimum wage increase to $15 per hour, a spokesperson from the department said.
Trying to get a higher minimum wage has been frustrating for state Sen. Christine Tartaglione, D-Philadelphia, who championed the state’s last minimum wage increase in 2006.
“It is frustrating, some people on the other side of the aisle that feel that the state should not be involved in raising anybody’s wages,” she said. “But I think they’re starting to come around. Just like they did in 2006. More and more people are contacting their elected officials.”
In 2006, the state approved a minimum wage increase from $5.15 per hour to $7.15, before the federal minimum wage increased to $7.25 in 2009.
When Ms. Tartaglione and other lawmakers were pushing for a minimum wage increase in 2006, statewide advocates filled the hallways of the state Capitol Building to lobby for the increase. The lobbying grew from a small group of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh residents. Today, she said she sees those same signs that many Pennsylvanians want another increase.
“I see the start of a groundswell,” she added. “It’s all the same indicators that we saw in 2006. It first started with just a small faction of people in Philadelphia and in Pittsburgh. And slowly but surely … I’m starting to see that in Lancaster and other areas. They’re starting to want that minimum wage. They’re letting [elected officials] know.”
The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry opposes any government-mandated wage hike, the chamber’s vice president of government affairs, Sam Densico, said.
The last time the state increased the minimum wage, Mr. Densico said, he heard from some of the chamber’s 10,000 members that they had to shift hours or cut jobs for seasonal employees.
“A one-size-fits-all government mandate doesn’t work,” he said.
Mr. Densico said the chamber would prefer that Mr. Wolf focus on his workforce training initiatives over increasing wages or on shifting to an earned-income tax credit program.
But to Ms. Tartaglione, Mr. Wolf’s executive order is a start.
“I want to give anybody a raise that we can for doing the hard work that they do,” she said. “This is a start, and I think with other people getting a higher minimum wage in the state government, people will have to start to compete in regular business.”
In February, she proposed Senate Bill 1044 — the same minimum wage adjustment that Mr. Wolf set out in his executive order — for the entire commonwealth. The bill, which is meant to amend the minimum wage for hourly workers and tipped employees, sits in the Labor and Industry Committee.