YORK, Pa. — The minimum wage debate is heating up once again in Pennsylvania.
In a Thursday press conference, political leaders gathered at the York City Pretzel Company to call on the General Assembly to raise the minimum wage for the first time since 2009.
“Shame on Pennsylvania. Shame on $7.25 an hour," said Democratic State Representative Carol Hill-Evans. "“General Assembly, it’s time for us to do what we’ve been elected to do: make the lives of our constituents even better.”
Representative Hill-Evans is backing a proposal that's been endorsed by the Wolf Administration. The proposal would hike up the minimum wage to $12 an hour by July, and would gradually increase to $15 an hour by 2028.
“All surrounding states of Pennsylvania have a higher minimum wage," said Jennifer Berrier, Secretary of the Department of Labor and Industry. "Let’s show our workers that they mean something to us.”
Hill-Evans and Berrier took time in their press conference to praise the York City Pretzel Company. The local pretzel maker is paying all 17 of their employees well above minimum wage. And many of them are making above $12 an hour.
"For us, at the end of the day, it’s about treating our employees with respect," said Philip Given, co-founder of the York City Pretzel Company. "Frankly, I think Pennsylvania needs to get behind this because we do have people who are ready to work and want to work. They’re just demanding a fair, living wage and I think that’s the responsible thing to do.”
The proposal, however, isn't receiving universal backing. Alex Halper with the PA Chamber of Business and Industry says many businesses across the state have been naturally increasing wages without government intervention.
However, he says there are many small businesses, which pay minimum wage, that would be impacted by the proposed legislation.
"Look at the restaurant industry, who are still struggling to recover from the last few years. This proposal calls for those employers to increase their labor costs by over 400 percent," said Halper. "For many, this proposal is just not attached to reality when you consider the strain they’re under."
Instead, Halper is encouraging lawmakers to help local businesses in other ways.
"Expanding the workforce, encouraging individuals into employment, and helping employers through, what is still, a very difficult time for the business community," said Halper.