Pa.’s minimum wage is no longer a living wage. That’s where Shapiro, Mastriano stand to raise it

Inflation may be in the headlines, but stagnating wages certainly deserve attention.

Once upon a time, Pennsylvania was ahead of the curve in raising the minimum wage. In 2006, then governor. Ed Rendell signed legislation that would raise the minimum wage in Pennsylvania to $7.15 an hour, more than the federal minimum wage.

Since then, Pennsylvania’s minimum wage has fallen behind. The Commonwealth is one of 20 states that did not raise the 13-year federal minimum wage by $7.25. Govt. Tom Wolf proposals to increase the minimum wage have been repeatedly ignored by the Republican-controlled state legislature.

With inflation at its highest in 40 years, the issue of wage stagnation is even more pressing. In the gubernatorial race, Democrat Josh Shapiro and Republican Doug Mastriano have opposing views on whether the state should change its minimum wage.

In an interview with WHYY News, Shapiro, the state attorney general, said growing an economy requires building and investing in the workforce.

“We need to raise the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour, period. Then we have to make sure that we give people the skills to do the jobs of today and tomorrow,” Shapiro said.

Mastriano did not respond to an interview request. As a state senator, Mastriano voted against amending the Minimum Wage Act of 1968 to raise the state minimum wage to $9.50 in 2019.

In a 2019 interview with News Talk 103.7FM announcing his candidacy for the state senate, Mastriano said, “let the free market decide how much to pay and not the government.”

Shapiro on Investing in the Pennsylvania Workforce and Their Rights

Along with raising the minimum wage, Shapiro thinks there needs to be a focus on workforce development.

“I think this process needs to start in our high schools. I want to bring vo-tech back to our high schools and give students the opportunity to learn a trade if they choose. If they want to learn to be a welder, an electrician, let’s give them the opportunity to do it,” Shapiro said.

Election Resources

He thinks that to grow the workforce, Pennsylvania should invest more in apprenticeship programs.

Shapiro wants easier pathways for people to get into these programs.

“We know, of course, that anyone who goes through an apprenticeship program here in Pennsylvania earns 30 percent more than their salary over their career,” Shapiro said.

According to State Department of Labor and Industry, 94% of apprentices who complete a program remain employed. Their average annual salary is $70,000.

Shapiro believes that in fund projects to address the state’s aging infrastructure, Pennsylvania can generate thousands of union jobs. His campaign also said that if elected governor, he do more to protect workers’ rights and strengthen misclassification laws.

Pennsylvania Joint Task Force on Employee Misclassification published its annual report in Marchwhich found that 389,000 workers are misclassified each year in the state, meaning workers are denied essential rights.

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Michael A. Bynum