Raise the minimum wage

City Council President Kenyatta Johnson

By Councilman Kenyatta Johnson 

For the thousands of hard-working Pennsylvanians in Philadelphia and across our commonwealth who are struggling to provide for themselves and their families, 2024 must be the year that our elected leaders in Harrisburg take action to increase the minimum wage. Raising the minimum wage, as all of our neighboring states have already done – or permitting the City of Philadelphia to do so at the local level – will help to alleviate poverty in Pennsylvania and ensure that every worker receives a fair, family-sustaining wage.

Nobody reading these words needs to be reminded that Philadelphia, with a poverty rate that stubbornly remains higher than 20%, has consistently been called “the poorest big city in America”. That unfortunate label has stuck despite steady economic improvements over the last decade.

As countless reports have shown, our city’s economic gains over the past 15 years have not been evenly shared across all neighborhoods and communities, leading to what many call “a tale of two cities”. Recently published data reveals that while roughly 1 in 8 white households in Philadelphia experience poverty, 1 in 4 African American households are living below the poverty line. Meanwhile, 33% of Hispanic households in Philadelphia have incomes below the poverty level – the highest of any ethnic group. And while white, Asian, and Hispanic households saw median household income rise by more than 20% since 2010, African American families’ median income increased by just 5.7% over the same period.

Even a cursory review of the math shows that Pennsylvania’s minimum wage is wholly inadequate for supporting the needs of working Pennsylvanians and their families. According to the Living Wage Calculator, a tool created by MIT professor Amy K. Glassmeier to calculate the wage necessary in different states to pay for basic necessities, the breadwinner in a two-parent, two-child household must earn more than five times the minimum wage to make ends meet. In higher-cost localities like Philadelphia, a minimum wage paycheck would be stretched even further. In fact, Philadelphia was found to have the fourth-lowest “real minimum wage” of all American cities according to a recent SmartAsset study covered in the Inquirer, meaning that our city is among the most difficult places in the country for minimum wage workers to afford their basic necessities. Nobody working a full-time job should have to struggle to make ends meet and raising Pennsylvania’s outdated minimum wage is a matter of basic fairness for working families in our commonwealth. Increasing the wage to at least $15 per hour and tying automatic increases to the rate of inflation will help ensure that hard-working Pennsylvanians can earn enough to support themselves and their families.

While many opponents will point to anticipated job losses and business closures in the event that employers are required to raise wages, other cities’ and states’ experiences after increasing the minimum wage have shown that these fears are not founded in the data.

In fact, all of our neighboring states have already taken steps to raise their minimum wage. And thanks to the leadership of advocates and elected leaders, working families in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and New York celebrated increases in the minimum wage that took effect on Jan. 1 of this year. Delaware has raised its minimum wage to $13.50 and a further increase to $15 is scheduled for 2025. An increase to $15 took effect in Maryland, where counties are also empowered to set a higher, local minimum. Workers in New Jersey are now entitled to at least $15.13. And in New York, the statewide minimum wage has increased to $15 while those in high-cost areas in and around New York City are entitled to a $16 wage. Importantly, New York and New Jersey will continue to increase their minimums in future years to account for the impact of inflation. Hard-working Pennsylvanians deserve the same level of support as other families throughout our region.

Gov. Shapiro has again proposed a minimum wage increase as a part of his budget address to the General Assembly and it is incumbent upon our elected leaders in Harrisburg to take up this proposal and ensure that every Pennsylvanian, regardless of their ZIP code or background, has access to family-sustaining employment and meaningful economic opportunity. Now is the time for our leaders in Harrisburg to take steps to improve the lives of working families in Philadelphia and across our commonwealth. ••

City Council President Kenyatta Johnson represents the Second Council District, which includes parts of Center City, South Philadelphia and Southwest Philadelphia.

Letters to the Editor

Be an ambassador

Everyday, Americans are seeing how important it is to unite behind efforts to support American workers and the businesses that employ them.

As we continue our campaign, everyone is asked to be an ambassador for American Made and consider the following points:

• Innovation: America was the home of innovation for more than two centuries. Tens of thousands of products were invented and manufactured in America. Today, America’s private sector businesses have the power to restore millions of new jobs. It’s time for national elected leaders and business leaders to show us what can be accomplished when all levels of leadership work together.

• Technology: Is there a reason why Americans can’t produce competitive products of every type and help restore America’s industries and jobs now?

• Skilled workers: Businesses need to speak up to the public about the exact type of skilled workers they need for America’s industries now and in the future. Parents also need to make it known to local school boards that they want the full restoration of the trade and technology programs in the majority of America’s public schools, which is the key to more jobs in the United States of America.

• Every American needs to speak up where they shop and encourage businesses to seek out American-made products from their suppliers. There are more American-made products available in the United States, but they are not promoted because product merchandisers make more profits from imported items.

Working together, we are helping one another and America’s future. Thanks for spreading the word. Email your suggestions to Michael@AmericanWorkersRadio.com.

Michael Blichasz

Special platform for artists

Amidst all the doom and gloom in much of today’s news, it was refreshing to read Mark Zimmaro’s report about a unique program for artists on YouTube (“A platform to see and hear local artists,” Feb. 14).

The article describes the efforts by local artist and former art gallery director Craig Stover to create a real space for artists to display their work. He now offers a weekly program called ArtShow that allows artists to exhibit their creations for about 30 minutes at 5 p.m. each Friday.

This is just more evidence of the creativeness of real artists in solving problems. Even with the pandemic that forced closures of art galleries, this creative artist found a solution that works.

So bravo to Craig Stover for inventing this wonderful weekly YouTube channel to help local artists of all ages and talents to display their work. And as always thanks to Mark Zimmaro for making readers aware of this special platform.

Gloria C. Endres

More severe punishment

The unnecessary and selfish personal dispute shooting that occurred during the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade was an unfortunate event. Safety, at any event, whether in public or behind closed doors, is always in question. Having empathy and a caring heart for your fellow citizen is very much needed in our world today. Punishment for having and using a firearm should be more severe than ever. Innocent people should not be hurt or lose their life because of the careless, heartless act of someone else.

Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves, Gov. Michael L. Parson and Mayor Quinton Lucas need to make sure that celebration rallies in Kansas City do not erupt ever again. 

Similar to our state of Pennsylvania, Gov. Josh Shapiro, Lt. Gov. Austin Davis and Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Joanna McClinton have to find more aggressive ways to combat the gun violence plaguing our whole state of Pennsylvania. 

All people need to start being responsible for others again.

Alim Howell