With the start of the 2016 budget season underway, raising the minimum wage has taken center stage. Governor Wolf touched raising the minimum wage during his blistering budget address to the General Assembly. He then signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for all state workers to $10.15 an hour, and then went on a statewide tour advocating for minimum wage increases. These gestures raised wages for roughly 450 state employees and sparked dialogue on an issue it that has not received a lot of legislative action.
A number of bills calling for increasing the wage were introduced in the House and Senate at the beginning of the 2015-2016 legislative session, but the issue has seen little action since the Senate Labor and Industry Committee hearing held last May. After Governor Wolf announced the wage increases for all state workers, Steven Miskin, top spokesman for House Republican leadership, told the Post Gazette that the “minimum wage is and was intended as a ‘starting’ wage or ‘training’ wage.” and that “it is and was never meant to serve as a ‘living’ wage.”
One of the main organizations opposing a minimum wage increase is the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, a trade organization that lobbies for the hospitality and tourism industry. The PRLA held their 28th annual lobby day on the hill, and hundreds of lobbyists and members from the organization descended onto the capitol. Their festivities began at the Hilton Hotel with a legislative briefing, which Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman attended. The group then went into the capitol to talk to members of the General Assembly and then cap off the day with House Representative and House Liquor Control Committee Chairman Chris Ross and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman addressing the lobbyists and business owners who attended.
The Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association’s official stance on the minimum wage is that they do not “not support an increase in the minimum wage or the tipped wage. The minimum wage is meant as a training wage, and a tipped wage increase would only hurt those the proponents claim they are trying to help.” It’s almost as if House Republican Leadership and the PRLA are on board when it comes to this topic.
Greeting the lobbyists and organizations roaming the capitol were minimum wage activists who held a demonstration outside the capitol. Around 20 members from the Raise the Wage Coalition held a press event calling for a $10.10 minimum wage and the removal of the tipped minimum wage. The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United) called the PRLA’s lobbying agenda “anti-worker, anti-health and anti-local autonomy.”
Inside the capitol, the trade group held a press conference complaining about the lack of tourism dollars being spent on by the state. A handful of ROC United activists dropped a banner from a rotunda balcony. The banner took aim at the PRLA’s parent group, the National Restaurant Association, and the issues they have lobbied against in the past.
Protesters called out the NRA’s opposition to smoking bans, menu and sodium labeling, the Family Medical Leave and Affordable Care Acts and local paid sick leave ordinances. ROC United took at aim at Eat’n Park’s – a local food chain – opposition to Pittsburgh’s Paid Sick Leave ordinance. The food company is a member of the Pennsylvania Restaruant and Lodging Association, and they handed out “Sneezie Cookies,” which symbolizes “the struggles facing Pennsylvania’s restaurant workers, including a lack of paid sick days, a $2.83 an hour tipped minimum wage, racial segregation and more.”
Here’s footage from today’s event