It’s time for Pennsylvania to truly act as a commonwealth promoting the common good of all its workers and empowering its residents to thrive. For too long, the corporate-sponsored narrative in Harrisburg has held our communities back, and everyday Pennsylvanians struggle under the burden of low wages and unfair tax systems.

Hardworking Pennsylvanians deserve to be able to afford the basic necessities of life, provide for children and loved ones, and invest in local businesses. Every worker deserves better than $7.25 per hour—a minimum wage that hasn’t increased in the past 10 years while inflation and cost of living have skyrocketed. Wages are so low that many of our neighbors can’t cover basic staples of life, forcing working people to rely on safety nets like local food banks and programs such as food stamps and Medicaid.

When wages are low, and people struggle to get by, our local economies struggle as well. It has been shown in the states that raised the minimum wage, that when people earn more — they spend it locally. Rather than order the cheapest set of tools off Amazon, they will swing by their local hardware store. Instead of cooking all the meals at home to save money, they will go out for a family dinner at the diner. All across the state, small, locally-owned businesses are struggling to keep up while big box stores and online shopping are booming, drawing customers in need of the lowest prices. What if we could keep our money in our community?

While the idea of raising the minimum wage is increasingly popular across the state, there are still those who will push back by stating that minimum wage workers are just teenagers or folks with side jobs. I want to make sure that we are all on the same page because, in fact, those arguments aren’t true — particularly in Northumberland County!

Here in Northumberland County, 74 percent of workers who would be affected by raising the wage to $15 an hour are full-time workers — that’s 12,900 of our neighbors working full time to bring home a mere $15,080 per year! More than half of these workers are over the age of 40. These are not teenagers working a summer job — this is the woman who lives down the street from you, your best friend’s father, and the elderly person behind you in line at the bank.

I think back to when I worked a low-wage retail job — it was barely enough to cover cheap rent, food (a regular diet of cereal and buttered noodles), and transportation to work. That’s it. The hours were unreliable, and I never knew if I’d have enough to scrape by. The idea of a “savings account” was comical — there was never anything left to save. I couldn’t even support myself, yet we expect parents to be able to support a child?

There are more people than ever fighting for a fair wage, but we’re up against an agenda in Harrisburg of greed, misinformation, and fear. The change won’t happen without everyday people speaking up and telling our state legislators that we want better. I urge anyone interested in learning more to attend the “Pennsylvania That Works for the Working People” free public event today at the Degenstein Library in Sunbury. The We The People campaign, which has been fighting for everyday and working-class Pennsylvanians, will be there to discuss the issues we face and commonsense solutions.

It’s time we caught up, not only to the states surrounding us (all of which raised their minimum wages), but also to the times we live in. Because the minimum wage has remained stagnant and doesn’t account for inflation or a rising cost of living it no longer works for the working class.

I urge my fellow Pennsylvanians to support the plan to raise the wage to $12 an hour this year and continue raising with scheduled cost of living increases to $15 an hour and beyond! We all deserve better—we all deserve to thrive in this commonwealth.

Please join me this evening for a slice of pizza and an important discussion on how we can move Pennsylvania forward so that it is working for Pennsylvania workers.

Standley is with the We the People campaign and a guest columnist for Susquehanna Valley Progress.

(1) comment

Schreff

In a great society, business controls the purse not government. We should have learned our lessons of the past with the birth of unions. Yes, at one time unions were needed. Of course, not all employers were bad but some did ask for too much and paid too little. Well, the problem is the union solution was more deadly than the abuse by employers. Unions killed more jobs than the bubonic plague killed people. It seems like there is no economics of equilibrium. When the pendulum of union wages swings it never solves the problem it dissolves it. Unions along with non-union higher wage and benefit demands have killed the manufacturing sector of our economy from coal, apparel factories, cigar factories, wire rope factories and even small Main Street stores. Higher wage demands should be an unsigned contract between a good employee and a good employer. If not you could and should look for a better job. The same union syndrome has entered into the public sector in which you could be the worst employee in the world and yet not get fired. You could lie, cheat and steal yet have job security. How can this work. Public education, for one, has suffered dramatically. There is an answer and it is not having a stinky, smelly federal, state or local government make demands on what people should or should do. It hasn't worked in the past and certainly will not work in the future. Look at socialism and communism for proof that government isn't the solution but government is the problem as the great Ronald Reagan has stated.

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