Saturday, July 15, 2006

Tony Phyrillas: Rendell's minimum wage follies

Gov. Ed Rendell recently signed a bill raising the minimum wage in Pennsylvania.

Rendell said the higher wage will help 420,000 Pennsylvania residents who are earning minimum wage. Rendell says a lot of things that have little to do with reality.

Do you know anyone earning minimum wage? Teenagers working at burger joints are in such demand that they often start at a salary much higher than the minimum wage.

I picked up a Sunday newspaper and looked through the help wanted section. There wasn't a single listing for a minimum wage job. But there were dozens of job ads seeking unskilled help for starting salaries almost twice the current minimum wage of $5.15 per hour.

A pharmaceutical company is hiring assemblers and light packers for $9.50 per hour. A cleaning company is willing to pay $8 to $10 for workers. One firm is seeking packers at $10.95 an hour. Another firm is seeking clerical help at $10. Foundry workers will be trained starting at $10 per hour. Another company is looking for machine operators, material handlers and laborers and is willing to pay a starting salary of $11.50. All this in just one medium-size newspaper that serves one county.

Where are those 400,000 workers that Rendell is trying to help and why can't he point them to the jobs paying $10.00 per hour? Has Rendell considered paying for a subscription to the local newspaper for these folks? It will be a lot cheaper than forcing employers to raise salaries. And why did Rendell wait four years into his term as governor to help these people? Didn't these people need the higher salaries in 2003 or 2004 or 2005? Does it have anything to do with 2006 being an election year?

And don't start with the tired argument that the state legislature is controlled by Republicans so Rendell couldn't get the higher minimum wage bill passed.

When Rendell wanted to raise the state income tax by $1 billion in 2003, he had no problem finding Republicans to go along.

When Rendell wanted to bring 51,000 slot machines to Pennsylvania in 2004, he found plenty of Republican legislators to pass the bill.

When Rendell wanted to raise the salaries of Harrisburg politicians in 2005, he found enough legislators awake at 2 a.m. to get the job done.

Same goes for Rendell's tax rebate plan for low-income seniors that was recently approved by the legislature or Rendell's exorbitant $26 billion budget for the new fiscal year that increases state spending at twice the rate of inflation.

If Rendell wants something passed, he has enough Republican lackeys in the legislature to do it. Which brings us back to my original question. Is there any connection between the passage of a higher minimum wage with the fact that Rendell and most of the legislature face the voters less than four months from now?

Assuming there really are 400,000 Pennsylvania workers earning minimum wage, here's another problem I have with Rendell's plan to help them pay for basic necessities.

If these people are struggling to put food on the table today, why make them wait until 2007 or 2008 to collect the higher wage?

Under the bill Rendell signed, Pennsylvania's minimum wage will rise to $6.25 an hour on Jan. 1, 2007, then to $7.15 an hour on July 1, 2007. But the increase will be delayed for employers with 10 or fewer full-time employees (although franchises of larger chains will not qualify for that exemption). Employers that fall under the new law will pay $5.65 an hour beginning Jan. 1, 2007; $6.65 beginning July 1, 2007; and $7.15 on July 1, 2008.

When the Pennsylvania legislature gave its own members, the state's judges and the governor pay raises of 16 percent to 54 percent, legislators started collecting the pay raise right away. And they took the money despite a provision in the state constitution that says legislators can't collect a pay raise during their current term.

Hundreds of legislators who were making a base salary of $69,000 -- much higher than the minimum wage -- felt compelled to violate the state constitution and collected their pay raise within weeks of the July 7, 2005, vote. The pay raise that Rendell signed into law last year was eventually repealed, but some 70 legislators still refuse to give back the money they took during the four months the raise was in place. In some cases, those politicians made more in four months than a worker making minimum wage earns in an entire year.

Do you sense duplicity in what Rendell says and does? If Pennsylvania workers want to see a real increase in their standard of living, they need to boot out a tax-and-spend liberal like Ed Rendell.

Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. E-mail him at


Internet Esquire said...

If your objective is to help the working poor, an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit would be a much more effective and equitable way of doing so than raising the minimum wage.

Anonymous said...

You might want to check that paper again McD's starts all teenage help at $5.15 in this area, call them up and ask they are very truthful. Now this is just the teen's, this they won't tell

GettysBLOG said...

You contradict yourself. "...they are very truthful" and "...this they won't tell".

So your comment is unverifiable?

Anonymous said...

Apparently, you weren’t reading the Altoona Mirror. There is one ad with a $5.15 job with the Mirror itself. And most of the other jobs with employment organizations such as Spherion, Advantages, and Adecco are for $7-$8 per hour tops. No Blair county company is going to pay unskilled labor $10/hour. And full-time, temporary with the POSSIBILITY of a permanent with no health benefits are the most common ads. And that is about what the mental health fields pay, too.

If you check PA CareerLink or PICCC, things aren’t much better in Blair county or the surrounding counties. You can’t tell what many jobs are paying because they say “competitive pay offered”. And many of the other advertisements for telemarketing (you can make up $XX.XX/hour) and sales postions that usually say “possibly up to $XX,XXX -$XXX,XXX per year salaries” which are not typical results. The jobs that pay a decent or worthwhile amount are the ones requiring a certain amount of experience, education, and/or specific background such as certified teachers, nurses, engineers, and truckers.

GettysBLOG said...

Are you ther same person who posted the first comment? This one is as contradictory as the first one.

No, I don't read the Altoona Paper, but even you say there is only one minimum wage job listed...which is exactly the point Tony is making in his post!

Anonymous said...

No. I didn't post the other, and I understand what Tony is writing in regards to. My previous writing may not have been clear enough in my attempt to show that though the paper listed ONE minimum wage job, it's difficult to find what the other jobs pay when the salary is listed as "competitive pay" or there is none listed at all. $5.15 could be the "competitive pay" these companies are offering but may been too embarrassed to publish the salary, or want to waste people's time in hopes of finding some sucker to do work for that kind of money. And this goes for both employment ads in the papers, and employment ads on job websites.

One point I do want to make is that wages that are paid in one area of the state may be much different than what the wages paid in another portion of the state for the same job.