The history of Labor Day in the United States dates back to February 21, 1887, when the first Labor Day law was passed by the Oregon legislature, although New York was the first state to celebrate Labor Day on Tuesday, September 5, 1882.
By 1894, 23 states had joined Oregon in honoring workers, and in June of that year, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a national holiday in the Washington D. C. and the territories. Now it is celebrated on the first Monday in September; a creation of the Central Labor Union movement and constitutes a yearly national tribute to the vast and ongoing contributions that workers make to the strength, prosperity and well being of our country.
So why are we not celebrating the worker by raising the minimum wage in Pennsylvania? To date, 29 states (including all the states geographically surrounding PA) have raised the minimum wage to $10.10; Pennsylvania’s wage has languished at $ 7.25 an hour. Raise the Wage PA (www.RaisetheWagePA.org) is a state wide coalition of over 60 organizations fighting for a fair minimum wage, including that for tipped workers. At least three bills have been stalled in the House and Senate Labor Industries Committees of the PA legislature since the beginning of 2015.
The Chair of the Labor and Industry Committee is State Senator Lisa Baker, of the 20th Senatorial District, which includes 5 counties, 116 municipalities and 22 school districts. Senator Baker is a Republican and a third term incumbent. She last held a hearing on the issue in May this year. Senatorbaker.com
The Chair of the Labor and Industry Committee in the House is Representative Mauree Gingrich, of Lebanon County’s 101st District. She is an incumbent Republican, who has not reported a minimum wage bill out of committee. Repgingrich.com
Closer to home, State Senator Charles (“Chuck”) McIlhinney and Representative John T. Galloway are each on the LI committee for the Senate and House, respectively. McIlhinney has said as recently as October of 2014 that he is supportive of raising the minimum wage in keeping with (nation-wide) inflation. Galloway, a Democrat from the lower part of the County, is a staunch supporter of hirer wages for working Pennsylvanians. He believes that “Jobs Must be Job 1!”
A minimum wage increase would affect mostly small business owners and workers over the age of 65, many of whom are women acting as head of households. The majority of these business owners, however, do support the increase, citing the ability to raise those workers out of poverty, improve employee morale and productivity and make PA more competitive in the interstate marketplace.
We ask all members of the Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition to either call, write or email Messrs. McIlhinney and Galloway to let them know that Bucks—and PA—needs to revive the Minimum Wage bills. 4.5 million Pennsylvania workers will thank you. That works for me……!
Mclhinney’s website is: senatormcilhinney.com
Galloway’s website is: firstname.lastname@example.org
by Susan Dardes, a BCWAC Partner