At Allentown rally, supporters of $15-an-hour minimum wage say they’re “tired of hearing excuses”

Anthony Salamone
SEP 10, 2019

At Allentown rally, supporters of $15-an-hour minimum wage say they’re “tired of hearing excuses”
Advocates for raising Pennsylvania’s minimum wage held a rally Tuesday, Sept. 10, outside the Lehigh County Government Center in Allentown. (Anthony Salamone / The Morning Call)
People ask John Meyerson why a worker flipping hamburgers should make $15 an hour.

“Because that’s what it takes to live,” said Meyerson, a spokesman for Raise the Wage PA. “Any job that needs doing deserves a living wage. Period. If you don’t think a hamburger flipper is worth $15 an hour, don’t go out and eat hamburgers. Stay the heck home and make your own.”
Meyerson spoke and emceed a rally Tuesday afternoon outside Lehigh County Government Center advocating for the pay raise. It was one of several rallies in the last year organized by grassroots groups who want state lawmakers to raise the minimum pay, which like the federal minimum has been at $7.25 since 2009.

While the groups and local lawmakers favor an increase to $15 an hour, they said they could support bills in both state chambers that would set an increase at $12 an hour, with incremental increases.
Minimum wage hike in Pennsylvania could be bargaining chip for Republican Legislature »
Meanwhile, the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce recently said it would support a local wage hike to $9.50 an hour, with annual increases tied to a federal Consumer Price Index used to adjust Social Security payments.

“Our Chamber is the only one in the state that has come out and said we understand $7.25 is not a livable wage, at least in the Lehigh Valley,” said Michelle Griffin Young, the Chamber’s executive vice president of government and external affairs. “But we want to see a method put into place, not arbitrary numbers.”

Advocates said they would concede to a $12-an-hour hike.

“It’s not what I want, but it’s better than nothing,” said state Rep. Michael Schlossberg, D-Lehigh.

Said Meyerson: “If the Chamber of Commerce is yelling we’re trying to destroy business, the opposite is true. If you give people a $7.75 raise [to $15 an hour], if you give that for the working poor, you know what they do with it? They spend it … and they spend it locally and they spend it immediately.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf calls, again, for a minimum wage increase »
Carlos Perodin, Allentown’s lead organizer with Make the Road Pennsylvania, read a letter from a woman he declined to name but said she was unable to attend because of work commitments.

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Citing information from the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg, proponents say an increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour would boost the wages of 57,000 people, representing about 33% of Lehigh County’s resident workforce. About the same percentage, or 48,000 Lehigh County residents, would benefit from the boost. Their combined pay would climb about $530 million, the groups say.

“We want to keep Hamilton Street growing,” Meyerson said, standing a half-block away from downtown Allentown’s major thoroughfare. “We want to keep some of the other economic corridors growing. The way to do that is by putting more money into the pockets of the people who will spend it locally and immediately.”