Our fight for health and economic security of Pennsylvania families is usually waged behind closed doors, in offices and courtrooms. But yesterday, hundreds of low-income workers and advocates took that fight to the streets by calling for $15 minimum wage and union protections.
More than 1,500 workers, students and local activists in Oakland joined a nationwide day of protests Wednesday that organizers said hit 236 cities as low-wage workers walked off their jobs to call for higher wages.
The Oakland march was more than three blocks long on Forbes Avenue, which was closed for the event, backing up rush-hour traffic.
“We advocate for low-income Pennsylvanians every day,” says Sue Frietsche, Senior Staff Attorney at Women’s Law Project of Pittsburgh. “I can’t tell you how energizing it was to stand alongside people coming together in the streets to call for the simple right to support themselves. I heard story after story of people working full-time and still unable to support their families.”
The Fight for 15 movement, which began in 2012 when fast-food workers in Chicago and New York City protested their inability to live on minimum wage, also came to Philadelphia this week. “For more than two years, fast-food workers have been striking to sound the alarm about how wealthy companies are profiting by paying their employees wages that are too low to survive on,” Devan Spear, a University of Pennsylvania student, wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
A recent study revealed that when corporations are able to under-pay their workers, taxpayers get stuck with the bill. Critics of citizens relying on public assistance may sneer for them to ‘get a job,’ but the fact is that most Americans on public assistance already have a job. Families in which at least one member is working now make up the vast majority of those enrolled in major public-assistance programs like Medicaid and food stamps.
The Washington Post called it a “hidden cost” of low minimum wage. Taxpayers are effectively subsidizing corporations to the tune of $153 billion a year.
Two bills addressing minimum wage will be introduced within the Agenda for Women’s Health. The Agenda for Women’s Health is a legislative package of bill designed to address real problems faced by real Pennsylvanians with evidence-based policy solutions. The Agenda is supported by the pro-choice, bipartisan Women’s Health Caucus of the Pennsylvania Legislature.
HB 250 (sponsored by Rep. Patty Kim) and SB 195/196 (sponsored by Sen. Christine Tartaglione) would raise the minimum wage to $10.10. Kim’s bill would raise the tipped minimum wage to 75% of that rate; Sen. Tartaglione’s SB 196 would raise the tipped minimum wage to 70% of the minimum wage.
As always, we need your support as we raise awareness around these issues. To stay up to date on the Agenda for Women’s Health, follow our blog, twitter, facebook and tumblr pages. Sign up for our action alerts, so that we can keep you posted and tell you what you can do to show support for the Agenda, and be part of the expanding movement of ordinary Pennsylvanians calling for rational, evidence-based policy solutions to the problems faced by women in Pennsylvania.
If you are in Western Pennsylvania, please come out and meet our attorneys and staff at our annual Rights to Realities party, on May 1.