Media Statement: 15 Now Philly
Across the United States a surging movement of the working class is fighting for at least a $15 an hour minimum wage. Fast Food and Walmart workers are organizing and striking for a $15/hour wage, alongside mass demonstrations like the MLK Day of Action, Resistance and Empowerment on January 19th, 2015. During this historic march, 7,000 people took the streets of Philadelphia calling for racial justice, education funding, a $15/hour minimum wage, and union rights.
Americans overwhelmingly support this call for dramatically higher wages: a recent poll by the National Employment Law Center found 63% of Americans support a $15 an hour minimum wage. Here in Philadelphia, economists broadly recognize the need for a minimum wage of at least $17/hour for all Philadelphia workers, just so a parent can afford a two bedroom apartment in the city. For companies in Philadelphia, a $15 an hour minimum wage is a bargain.\
Even Tea Party PA Republican Senator Scott Wagner can no longer deny the power of this movement. Senator Wagner recently introduced a weak tea bill to phase in a laughable increase in the State Minimum wage to $8.75 over three years, while locking in a substandard $7.25 ‘training wage’, and only a small increase in the tipped minimum wage (which should be totally eliminated). Senator Wagner’s bill also fails to clarify the power of municipalities to raise wages on a local basis.
This bill is a naked attempt to cut across the public debate on raising the wage and divide the forces fighting for an increase by offering a ‘reasonable’ compromise. But for working class families in Pennsylvania, Wagner’s ‘poverty preservation’ bill is way too little, and way too late. The terms of this poverty wage bill are an outright insult to workers who have been organizing for $15 an hour and a union, taking risks at their workplace, confronting abuse managers and organizing their coworkers for mass strikes in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
All organizations fighting to raise the minimum wage in Pennsylvania need to come together to oppose this rotten bill. Senator Wagner acknowledges the inevitability of a minimum wage hike and wants to lock in poverty wages in PA for as long as possible. We initiated our campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour based on what working class families need for basic economic security, not on what we thought was a ‘reasonable’ compromise. It is up to those opposed to raising the wage to propose ‘compromise’ language. We do not bargain with ourselves.
We know one thing for certain: this senator and other politicians who continue to support poverty wages clearly represent the interests of the wealthiest 1%. At a time when corporations make record profits and CEOs make upwards of ten thousand dollars per hour, we must unite to fight for what working class people need. We can no longer accept the unprecedented levels of income inequality in our nation.
The fight for $15 an hour minimum wage marches forward in Philadelphia and across PA. Senator Wagner’s bill shows that business interests see the glare of pitchforks on the horizon. The polls will continue to tell what we already know: the movement for $15 is coming. And we will not be stopped.