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L&I Secretary Visits Bethlehem Business, Renews Call to Raise Pennsylvania’s Minimum Wage

08/26/2021

Bethlehem, PA – Today, Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Secretary Jennifer Berrier was joined by business owners, restaurant workers, and legislators at El Jefe's Taqueria in Bethlehem to urge for an increase in Pennsylvania's archaic minimum wage to help workers earn a more fair, livable wage in today's economy.

"While the minimum wage in Pennsylvania has remained stagnant for years, workers are paying more and more for essentials like food, housing, utilities and health care," said Secretary Berrier. "Too many working people cannot afford to pay for basic, everyday items – items that will continue to cost more. Even in the pandemic, workers have continued to struggle to make ends meet while the rich keep doing better. We simply can't wait any longer. It's time to give Pennsylvanians a raise for their hard work."

Governor Tom Wolf's plan to increase Pennsylvania's minimum wage to $12 per hour with a pathway to $15 per hour for all workers will help recover the purchasing power lost since the minimum wage was set at $7.25 per hour 15 years ago. Since the last time the minimum wage was increased, its purchasing power has dropped by nearly 17 percent. And the minimum wage has lost nearly 31 percent of its value compared to 50 years ago.

While El Jefe's Taqueria pays its workers a livable hourly salary in addition to tips, the governor's plan supports eliminating Pennsylvania's tipped wage, currently set at $2.83 per hour. Providing all workers one fair wage and eliminating the tipped wage has been shown to reduce incidents of sexual harassment and diminishes a climate where tipped workers must rely on the goodwill of customers and tolerate degrading or abusive behavior. While Gov. Wolf's plan would allow patrons to voluntarily tip workers, it would also ensure all workers earn a fair, life-sustaining wage.

Today, Secretary Berrier toured El Jefe's Taqueria, a fast casual Mexican restaurant, and met many of its employees. The restaurant, with additional locations in downtown State College and several in the Boston area, supports raising the minimum wage and credits paying a living wage to its hourly employees as an essential component to their overall growth and success.  

"Fair pay is good business, as I've seen across 25 years as a restaurant owner," said El Jefe's Taqueria Owner John Schall. "Our employees can afford to stick around and to grow with our business, which saves us money on costly turnover. More experienced staff are also more efficient, and fairly treated staff keep our customers coming back. Raising Pennsylvania's minimum wage to $15 will put more money in people's pockets and help businesses and our economy grow."

Nineteen states have a tipped minimum wage higher than Pennsylvania's. Seven states have eliminated the tipped minimum wage and have one fair wage: Alaska, California, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

Polls show the public strongly supports increasing the minimum wage. Over the past two decades, there have been twenty ballot referendums to raise the minimum wage in states, most recently in Florida, and every one passed. Studies have found that after minimum wage increases took place, wages overall increased without job losses.

MEDIA CONTACT:  Sarah DeSantis, dlipress@pa.gov 

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