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State Official, Centre County Rep. Conklin Push $15 Minimum Wage As Boost For Rural Counties

In this file photo, workers and family members take part in a 15-city walkout to demand $15hr wages Wednesday, May 19, 2021, in front of a McDonald's restaurant in Sanford, Fla.
John Raoux
AP Photo

Department of Labor & Industry Acting Secretary Jennifer Berrier hosted a virtual press conference Thursday to demand a significant increase to Pennsylvania’s minimum wage, which hasn’t changed since 2008.

Berrier proposed an immediate jump to $12 an hour, increasing to $15 an hour by 2027. Pennsylvania’s current minimum wage sits at $7.25 an hour.

“These hard-working people deserve better. They deserve a decent wage,” she said.

Findings from Keystone Research Center say the highest percentage of workers who’d benefit from a raise live in rural counties. Berrier says a higher minimum wage could cut down on rural poverty in Pennsylvania.

She also said raising the minimum wage would benefit 71% of Pennsylvania’s families who sit at or above the poverty line.

“Each year that we wait to pass a minimum wage increase is a year that the income gap between rural and urban workers continues to grow,” Berrier said.

State Representative Scott Conklin, who also spoke Thursday, said raising the minimum wage would help working families stay afloat as everyday costs for groceries, housing, health care, and more continue growing.

“This is what the minimum wage does. It’s more than just $12 an hour, $15 an hour,” Conklin said. “It’s about individuals who are doing the best they can…They’re just trying to make ends meet and do the best they can.”

Craig Rose, a pastor from Howard, Pa., also joined the call and discussed his extensive work with Centre County food banks and churches. He said the longer minimum wage remains stagnant, the more stressed support systems become.

“We’re tired. We’re meant to be a band-aid. We’re not meant to sustain people,” Rose said. “It doesn’t really work – it just covers up the problem. We need a structural change like raising the minimum wage.”

Rose also said there’s “enormous potential” to repeal preemption laws in Pennsylvania that prevent local governments from increasing their individual minimum wages.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has repeatedly pushed to raise the minimum wage, most recently at a press conference in late May. He’s faced resistance in the Republican-led legislature.