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People of faith in Philadelphia and throughout the state recognize that fighting for a minimum wage increase in Pennsylvania is among the top social justice issues that need to be tackled when putting their faith into action. The current Pennsylvania state minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is the same as the national minimum wage and is woefully inadequate to support the needs of the many full-time workers that rely upon minimum wage jobs to support both themselves and their families. A full-time worker working 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year, will earn only $15,080 annually on the current Pennsylvania state minimum wage, which is well below the current national poverty line, and furthermore is only half of what is commonly understood to be a true living wage of approximately $15 per hour (equivalent of roughly $30,000 per year, required for a family to support itself and save adequately for future needs).

Minimum Wage Increase in Pennsylvania and Unemployment

One of the most common objections to increasing the Pennsylvania state minimum wage is that it will lead to increasing unemployment, as employers cut jobs or offer fewer jobs to save on labor costs in response. However, the Department of Labor has found that in 13 states that boosted their minimum wages in 2014, jobs grew at a faster rate than among the other 37 states that did not see minimum wage increases: .85% versus .61%. Furthermore, researchers have found that even in foodservice and drinking establishments that rely heavily on minimum wage workers, raising the minimum wage does not negatively affect the job growth and lead to increasing unemployment. Interestingly enough, although it is commonly assumed that small businesses are particularly negatively impacted by minimum wage increases, many small business owners support raising the minimum wage. Many businesses owners see the tremendous advantage that putting additional dollars in the pockets of low-income workers will have to boosting consumer spending and thus increased business for themselves.

Support Among Small Business Owners for Raising the Minimum Wage

One executive, David Borris of Hel’s Kitchen Catering, a national executive committee member of the Main Street Alliance small business network, testified to the Illinois senate in 2015 about why he has a starting salary of $11.00 per hour and supports a raising the minimum wage. Like a lot of business owners, he takes inspiration from the late Henry Ford, who discovered that high employee turnover negatively affected the quality of the products produced in his factory. Furthermore, Ford believed strongly that the workers that produce the products or services should be able to afford that which they create. This business model was a key to Ford’s success, and a key to the success of David Borris’ food service company. What both Ford and Borris recognize is what was observed by Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching, compiled millennia ago in ancient China: “The best businessman / serves the communal good.”

Fighting Gender Inequality: The Importance of Women and Their Economic Empowerment

Raising the Pennsylvania state minimum wage is a critical component to promoting women’s equality. Almost three quarters of minimum wage workers in Pennsylvania are women—a higher proportion of the minimum wage workforce than in all but two other states. As poorer communities tend to have a higher proportion of single-parent families headed by women, raising the minimum wage is a critical step towards preserving the health and vitality of families in these communities. A low national minimum wage, combined with a lack of action on raising the state minimum wage, has allowed all of the social problems associated with poverty to persist and grow over time, leading to rising economic inequality, homelessness, and crime in Philadelphia and throughout the state.

Americans Work Hard for Their Economy. When Will the American Economy Work Hard for Americans?

When the respected financier, investor, and economic thinker Sir James Goldsmith interviewed with Charlie Rose in the early ‘90s to discuss the increasing drive towards globalization exhibited by treaties such as NAFTA and the creation of the World Trade Organization, he posed a particularly poignant question in regards to how free peoples relate to the economies in which they live.

“Do people exist to serve the economy, or does the economy exist to serve people?”

A British lord who inherited incredible wealth that had been accumulated through generations of industrial progress, Sir James Goldsmith was one of the world’s preeminent capitalists. Yet, he always stressed that public economic policy must be organized around the central principle of serving people’s needs. Today, it is clear that despite years of productivity increases, average workers, particularly at the bottom of the pay scale, are not reaping the rewards of their productivity. The results are clear: more and more Pennsylvanians are losing their purchasing power, driving down consumption, reducing the velocity of the money supply, and thereby negatively impacting the main source of growth in the American consumer-based economy.

Raising the Pennsylvania state minimum wage is a crucial step towards putting more money in the hands of ordinary citizens, increasing their purchasing power, thereby increasing the velocity of the money supply, and thus driving consistent and sustained economic growth in the state. Raising the Pennsylvania state minimum wage will also help reduce gender inequality as a majority of Pennsylvanians in minimum wage jobs are women. These same women also oftentimes head single-parent households and have children to care for, so their economic empowerment will also lead to reduced poverty among the most vulnerable children in our state, leading to better educational outcomes that will help to bolster economic growth and thus reduce the crime and homelessness associated with high unemployment.

There are few ways that religious people of all creeds can put their faith into action on important social justice issues that have more of a positive impact than raising the Pennsylvania state minimum wage. Contact us to find out how you can join POWER Metro and fight for a Pennsylvanian economy that rewards the hard work of all its laborers.