Today, state Sen. Tina Tartaglione (D-Phila.) and state Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Phila.) are rolling out legislation to raise the Pennsylvania minimum wage from $7.25, the federal minimum, to $9 per hour, the same amount President Obama targeted in his State of the Union address in February. For minimum-wage workers struggling to get by on less than $15,000 a year, it's a change that's long overdue.
A new report from the Keystone Research Center, though, illustrates that tipped workers have been among the hardest hit by wage stagnation. Their $2.83 minimum wage now buys them 29 percent less than it did back in 1998. Tartaglione is adding tipped workers to her previously introduced minimum-wage legislation this time around, and pegging both types of minimum wage to inflation. But getting the legislation through a Republican-dominated General Assembly will be a major challenge, to understate the situation.
The low minimum tipped wage has particularly affected women, according to the report. They make up half the overall workforce, but three-quarters of the tipped workforce. Further, the report notes:
• While just one in 17 employed women (6%) overall live in poverty, one in five female tipped food service workers lives in poverty. Among all tipped workers who are women, 18% live in poverty.
• Half of all tipped workers make less than $10 per hour (including tips) in Pennsylvania
• Although the vast majority of tipped workers are women (78%), tipped women make 15% less then tipped men (a difference of $1.51 an hour). Among tipped workers in food service, women make 13% less per hour than men (or $1.18 less per hour).
Raising the tipped minimum wage may sound counterintuitive to pro-business GOP types. But it would actually pull about 4,000 people out of poverty, according to the report. That, in turn, could reduce the need for people to be added to expanded Medicaid rolls or to receive food stamp benefits, which should align with Gov. Corbett's priorities after all.
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