Willow Grove, Pa. -- Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Secretary Jennifer Berrier was joined by Senator Art Haywood, Representative Ben Sanchez, the CEO/founder of &pizza and its employees in Willow Grove to urge for an increase in what they call "Pennsylvania's archaic minimum wage" to help workers earn a more fair, livable wage in today's economy.
"We must give Pennsylvanians a raise for their hard work and ensure they can afford the essentials many of us take for granted like food, housing, utilities, and health care," said Secretary Berrier. "The individuals we rely on to provide the vital services we all need, often struggle to afford basic necessities themselves. Even in this pandemic, hardworking men and women have continued to struggle to make ends meet. They simply can't wait any longer."
Governor Tom Wolf says his plan to increase Pennsylvania's minimum wage to $12 per hour with a pathway to $15 per hour for all workers will help recover the purchasing power lost since the minimum wage was set at $7.25 per hour more than a decade ago.
Since the last time the minimum wage was increased, its purchasing power has dropped by nearly 17 percent, according to the administration. And the minimum wage has lost nearly 31 percent of its value compared to 50 years ago.
"Paying at least $15 per hour shows respect for the dignity of all people," Senator Art Haywood said.
&pizza said it pays its workers a livable hourly salary in addition to tips. The governor's plan supports eliminating Pennsylvania's tipped wage, currently set at $2.83 per hour.
Providing all workers one fair wage and eliminating the tipped wage has been shown to reduce incidents of sexual harassment and diminishes a climate where tipped workers must rely on the goodwill of customers and tolerate degrading or abusive behavior. While Gov. Wolf's plan would allow patrons to voluntarily tip workers, he said it would also ensure all workers earn a fair, life-sustaining wage.
Secretary Berrier toured &pizza, a fast casual pizza restaurant chain, and met many of its employees. The restaurant, with more than 55 locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia and Massachusetts, supports raising the minimum wage and credits paying a living wage to its hourly employees as an essential component to its overall growth and success.
"Our focus has always been on providing quality jobs, and higher wages are the clearest way to say to our workforce, 'we value you!'" said Michael Lastoria, co-founder and CEO of &pizza.
"Raising Pennsylvania's minimum wage will be good for business. Higher wages lead to greater consumer spending and greater workforce productivity, things every company benefits from," Lastoria said. "&pizza has opened 16 new locations since the start of the pandemic, and received well over 100 applications for each. Our new locations are fully staffed, and we plan to open another 10 by the end of the year. All of our work counts for nothing if our people cannot live on the wages we pay them."
Nineteen states have a tipped minimum wage higher than Pennsylvania's. Seven states have eliminated the tipped minimum wage and have one fair wage: Alaska, California, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.
Polls indicate strong public support for increasing the minimum wage. Over the past two decades, there have been 20 ballot referendums to raise the minimum wage in states, most recently in Florida, and each has passed. Studies have found that after minimum wage increases took place, wages overall increased without job losses.