Editorial by Rep. Seth Grove (R-York)
It’s highly likely everyone has seen an ad or a massive billboard touting impressive starting salaries. One billboard I recently saw while driving on Route 30 was for work at a local York County manufacturing plant with pay of $35 an hour.
It wasn’t the stroke of the governor’s pen that drove up these wages. Rather, it was the free market.
In fact, the free market has done more to get people off minimum wage pay than any government-sanctioned minimum wage increase could ever do. The number of people making minimum wage dropped 14.2%, down to less than 64,000 Pennsylvanians in 2021. More than half of workers still making minimum wage are just starting out in the workforce and are ages 16 to 24, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.
Contrary to Gov. Tom Wolf’s social media posts and ad nauseam talking points, the majority of workers (75%) making minimum wage don’t have young children. In fact, most workers (51%) who make near minimum wage are part of households that have an income of at least $60,000 a year, while 15% are in households that make at least $75,000 a year. Additionally, 19% of workers making minimum wage or below are part of households with a yearly income of $100,000, while 11% have a household yearly income of $150,000 or more, department data shows.
In fact, Wolf often points to other states as examples of where he believes Pennsylvania’s minimum wage should be. However, Target recently announced it is setting its starting wage at $24 an hour, up from $15. Both the current and forthcoming starting pay, dictated by the free market, are more and much more, respectively, compared to the minimum wages in states Wolf often cites.
Jobs paying minimum wage are not meant to be family-sustaining, and data shows the majority of such workers don’t rely solely on the minimum wage to make ends meet. These jobs are a springboard toward better-paying jobs. Instead of setting an artificial wage base, House Republicans have taken great strides to help workers achieve the skills needed for careers.
In late 2019, omnibus legislation, House Bill 265
was signed into law. Act 76 of 2019 enhances job training and workforce development, while also providing high school and college students with access to information regarding the transfer policies of other educational institutions, with the goal being to save them time and money. The law also simplifies the process for schools to establish vocational courses; creates a Schools-to-Work program to develop employment and training pathways; requires guidelines for the application of STEM course credits; requires the Department of Education to outline the state’s workforce needs, including training opportunities and future earning potential; and allows representatives from community colleges and CTE schools equal access to meet with students during career and college fairs.
Unfortunately, the pandemic threw some of the work off course. But as things return to normal, this legislation positions Pennsylvania students for the future. For example, $2.5 million has been allocated for the Schools-to-Work program for the coming school year.
These bills are readily available resources at Pennsylvania CareerLink locations, as well as online at PaCareerlink.pa.gov, are what will get Pennsylvanians who want to make more money out of minimum wage jobs and into careers. And it remains the free market that continues to dictate wages, not the government.
Representative Seth Grove
Pennsylvania House of Representatives