WILKES-BARRE — Michael Clemente manages a small business and Thursday, with Gov. Tom Wolf at his side, he said Pennsylvania needs a raise.
Clemente, regional director for Simon Arias Agencies’ Wilkes-Barre/Scranton office in the Cross Creek Pointe complex on Route 315, said the current state minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is not enough.
“Raising the minimum wage is good for business and the economy,” Clemente said. “Let’s not forget that workers are also customers. More money in the pockets of over 1 million workers will translate into more sales at businesses across the state, ours included.”
Earlier this month, as part of his “Jobs That Pay” initiative, Wolf signed an executive order that ensures employees under the governor’s jurisdiction will be paid no less than $10.15 an hour. On Thursday, Wolf called upon Pennsylvania legislators to pass a minimum wage increase for all Pennsylvania workers.
Wolf said, as a former businessman, he found that a higher wage created more employee loyalty and higher morale in the workplace.
“It’s good business to have a sustainable wage,” Wolf said. “I urge the legislature to raise the minimum wage. Pennsylvania has one of the lowest in the U.S.”
Wolf added that paying a fair wage is sound principle from a moral point of view and lowers turnover while reducing the cost to train new employees.
State GOP responds
In an email from Pennsylvania Republican Party Deputy Communications Director Paul Engelkemier, the GOP said, “Wolf is bringing his taxpayer-funded political tour to Wilkes-Barre, pushing his latest delusional budget that will take more money out of the pockets of Pennsylvanians.”
Engelkemier added, “Over the past eight months, Gov. Wolf has blocked job training programs to push for higher taxes on these hard-working Pennsylvanians. During the last year, Tom Wolf has endangered job training programs by cutting the entire $10.5 million budget for job training programs, and preventing hard -working Pennsylvanians from getting the training they require to get family-sustaining jobs.”
Dem legislators comment
State Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, and Rep. Mike Carroll, D- Avoca, attended the news conference with Wolf. Both favor raising the minimum wage.
Pashinski said some business people are concerned the minimum wage would be significant;y increased overnight, rather than phased in over a few years.
“If you show respect for employees and pay them better, you will see a better work ethic,” Pashinski said.
Asked what the push-back has been in Harrisburg, Pashinski said, “So far everything we have tried to do down there has been a fight. But the time has come for increasing the minimum wage. The people deserve it.”
Carroll said some of the objection to the hike concerns “anecdotal evidence” that shows it would harm the state’s economy. Carroll said the concern is misplaced.
“Increasing the minimum wage would be a benefit to those making under $10.15 per hour and it would benefit the community as a whole,” Carroll said.
Wolf said the increase makes good economic sense and is “long overdue.”
Clemente said raising the minimum wage would lift consumer buying power and help insure a more sustainable economy. His company’s starting wage is $15 per hour.
“Like our agency, most small business owners already pay above the minimum wage and are reaping the benefits of lower employee turnover, increased productivity, better employee performance and a higher level of customer satisfaction,” Clemente said.
Clemente’s boss is Simon Arias, a Pennsylvania general agent for American Income Life, and owner of the Arias Agencies. Arias supports the Pennsylvania Business for a Fair Minimum Wage statement supporting an increase in the minimum wag, Clemente said.
Simon Arias Agencies represents American Income Life Insurance company products and has 10 locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Florida.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.comments powered by Disqus