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Hosted by: Scott LaMar



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Smart Talk: Should PA raise its minimum wage?

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Jan 6, 2014 8:42 AM

What to look for on Smart Talk Monday, January 6, 2014:

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The minimum wage for hourly workers in Pennsylvania has been $7.25 per hour since 2009.  That's the same as the federal minimum.

A person who is paid the minimum wage would have an annual income of $15,080. 
That figure is above the federal poverty level, but those who advocate for raising the minimum say it is not enough to live on. 

Opponents counter that the majority of minimum wage earners work part-time and are young. They say that a higher minimum wage would mean fewer jobs because small businesses wouldn't hire as many workers.

A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found more than 60% of those surveyed support an increase to $10.10 an hour.

Dauphin County Democratic House member Patty Kim has proposed legislation that would hike the minimum wage to $10.10 after an initial increase of nine dollars an hour.

Monday's Smart Talk features a discussion of the minimum wage with Gene Barr, president of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry and Rick Bloomingdale, president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.

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Gene Barr & Rick Bloomingdale

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Comments: 22

  • Mark img 2014-01-06 08:50

    I think that as wealth is further accumulated in the upper echelons of the economic strata, smaller- and medium-sized business owners will realize that the success of their businesses depends on the financial well-being of the lower and middle classes. These businesses will agree that their workers need to have more discretionary income to afford their goods and services (think Henry Ford).
    Since no business wants to be the first or only one to raise pay, an equitable means of having all businesses say “go” at the same time is needed. A mandated raise in the minimum wage, and its concurrent upward ripple effect for all lower-paid workers, will thus be quietly promoted by those who normally would not support such a “lefty” idea. Although there will be much ruckus raised by some folks on the ideological right, there will be enough support by practical-thinking members of the Chambers of Commerce that a minimum wage rise is inevitable.

  • Lisa Carl Wagner img 2014-01-06 09:14

    The great irony...we are supposed to raise rates because of cost of living increases, however we don't DARE touch prevailing wage thresholds in over 60 years despite an OVERWHEMING increase in the cost of supplies in those 60 years.

    The reality is raising minimum wage is just going to force businesses to further automate themselves leading to further layoffs of the people Bloomingdale and his leftist union executives CLAIM to represent (even though more than 50% are opposed to what they are doing).

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-01-06 09:27

    Nicole emails:

    The demographics that your guest quotes re: individuals living at home or having no children just underscores why there is such a need for an increase the minimum b/c these individuals have no opportunity for upward mobility in the current work force. The reality is that small businesses would benefit if low paid workers were paid more b/c that means that is more money being put into the economy. Also, big corporations like Wal-mart and McDonalds like to hide behind this small business argument for a higher minimum wage; meanwhile taxpayers like me pay to subsidize their low-paid workers with services like food stamps, healthcare, energy assistance, etc. You keep mentioning small businesses, let's talk about Wal-mart and McDonalds.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-01-06 09:27

    Carol emails:

    Just heard the comment that part-time workers, college students, high school students, housewives, "want" to work but the word should be "have" to work. College costs are too high, husbands make too little to support a family.

    Students would much rather study and many mothers much rather care for their children, both full-time jobs.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-01-06 09:31

    Thomas in Manheim Township, Lancaster County emails:

    In my view, they should not increase the wage. No way should a fast food worker make 15$ an hour. Then there is not incentive to move ahead.

    Also the companies are in business to benefit their shareholders, the shareholders own the company, they deserve the profits. No business needs to ashamed of making money for their owners, as long as it is made legally.

  • Jen Schellings img 2014-01-06 09:36

    Personal story here - all of my life I have only earned minimum wage, with merit raises every so often. I earned no more than $15,500 a year at the highest. Minimum wage workers are NOT all high school students or part time spouses. Many are single adults working two jobs, single parents, senior citizens. As for the earned income credit, there was a wage earned cut off and an age restriction. I aged out of the earned income credit and once I began to earn just over the income cut off, I no longer qualified. My rent included utilities and was that was more than half of my monthly earnings. My apartment was not the very good, but it was shelter. No phone and no cable tv. I did not qualify for any type of assistance because according to state and federal stats, I earned enough to survive, there was only me after all, so that paltry sum should have been enough. I could not afford to go to school. I lived well within my means, and it was mean. I barely made it. Because I was single, my wages were supposedly enough, but I know quite a few single mothers who are struggling to survive with children in poverty only able to work minimum wage because it's what they can find.

    McDonald's is not small business, Walmart is not small business, Tower Records (now gone), Border's (now gone), Giant, Boscov's, Red Robin, Sear's, Hoss's, Sheetz, all those stores everyone shops at in every mall and off every highway are NOT small business.

    I find it insulting that these guys think raising minimum wage is a bad thing. REAL people are out here struggling just to survive while the cost of living increases.

    • Robert Colgan img 2014-01-06 10:33

      Excellent comment, Jen. Thanks for it !! And I agree completely---claiming that "small businesses" are the major ones to suffer from raising a minimum wage is a false argument, one that should have been attacked for its wrongness---the world now is predominantly corporate.

      If there were to be an exclusionary exception to paying a minimum wage for a small business in its start up year, it would make sense----but that's about the only exclusion I can think of.

      The minimum wage to have kept up with inflation should actually be close to $11/hr.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-01-06 09:40

    Sue in Gettysburg emails:

    I have 3 employees and pay them more than $2 an hour over minimum wage.

  • charlie.crystle img 2014-01-06 09:43

    Other options are to 1) sell more and 2) cut your own pay and suck it up so you stop paying immoral poverty wages.

    If you can't afford to pay a decent wage for an honest hour's work, you probably shouldn't be in business in the first place.

    Shameful.

    • Mark Myers img 2014-01-06 09:59

      Charlie Chrystal is exactly right. Let's look at recovering the economy. There's a lot of talk about Walmart and McDonalds, and there is certainly valid arguments there. My employees, however, never made minimum wage, nor were most of them the primary breadwinners, but I certainly got caught in the ripple effect. Minimum wage goes up, everyone expects a wage increase. The only choice I have short term is raise prices. There's a limited pool of money for those employees to be paid from.

      • charlie.crystle img 2014-01-06 10:06

        There's a reason your employees want a raise--it's not that they're greedy. You seem incensed that they would have the gumption to ask for more pay. The business reason to pay better wages is 1) to get better employees and 2) reduce turnover 3) build more equity in the business faster 4) it's the right thing to do.

        What's your business? How much are you paying yourself?

        • Mark Myers img 2014-01-06 11:19

          Charlie - you know me, and the employees. You know I was not paying myself any more than any employee was making. In some cases less. While no one was getting rich, no one was making minimum wage.

          Yes, I was incensed. There was no increase in sales, no increase in productivity, no reason for a merit increase at that time. The only reason to ask for a raise was because the minimum wage went up.

          That doesn't change the fact that short term, there is a limited pool of money. Not everyone has the deep pockets of some companies. The only immediate way to cover wage increases is price increases.

          • charlie.crystle img 2014-01-06 11:36

            Oh--Hi Mark. Didn't recognize you. When I worked there it was minimum wage, but that was a very long time ago.

            When employees are looking for a raise, there's a real economic reason behind it and it can be an opportunity to improve their contributions. Make it conditional--set a reasonable higher standard for them to meet in exchange for the raise. They meet the standard, they get the raise. Tie the standard to revenue & gross profit. You end up with happier employees delivering better results, both of which make for a better company and a happier Mark.

            • Mark Myers img 2014-01-06 17:07

              You worked for the previous owner.

              We have no disagreement here. What you say is absolutely correct, but it's spoken from an entrapenure's viewpoint which of course you are.. If everyone thought as you do, there would be no need for a legislated minimum wage. Unfortunatly that's not the case with many employers, or employees. Many employees feel entitled to more money when the minimum wage goes up irregardless of any increase in productivity. Many employers simply view staff as unfortunate but necessary overhead.

              My first point was that you can not simply assume the money is there immediately to cover a pay increase with no corresponding increase in pricing, and that many proponents of a higher minimum wage seem to think it is 'found money' that just exists somewhere. You can't legislate money into existence. It has to come from somewhere. My second point was that the increase I minimum wage causes a ripple effect and raises payroll expense across the board.

            • Mark Myers img 2014-01-06 21:57

              You worked for the previous owner.

              We have no disagreement here. What you say is absolutely correct, but it's spoken from an entrapenure's viewpoint which of course you are.. If everyone thought as you do, there would be no need for a legislated minimum wage. Unfortunatly that's not the case with many employers, or employees. Many employees feel entitled to more money when the minimum wage goes up irregardless of any increase in productivity. Many employers simply view staff as unfortunate but necessary overhead.

              My first point was that you can not simply assume the money is there immediately to cover a pay increase with no corresponding increase in pricing, and that many proponents of a higher minimum wage seem to think it is 'found money' that just exists somewhere. You can't legislate money into existence. It has to come from somewhere. My second point was that the increase I minimum wage causes a ripple effect and raises payroll expense across the board.

        • Mark Myers img 2014-01-06 11:28

          Charlie - you know me, and the employees. You know I was not paying myself any more than any employee was making. In some cases less. While no one was getting rich, no one was making minimum wage.

          Yes, I was incensed. There was no increase in sales, no increase in productivity, no reason for a merit increase at that time. The only reason to ask for a raise was because the minimum wage went up.

          That doesn't change the fact that short term, there is a limited pool of money. Not everyone has the deep pockets of some companies. The only immediate way to cover wage increases is price increases.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-01-06 09:47

    Gary comments on our Facebook page:

    Yes. anyone who works should not have to live in abject poverty....esp. given the fact that corporate 'merica controls most of the job market

  • Robert Colgan img 2014-01-06 10:21

    It was infuriating to me listening to Gene Barr and his lies-----many of which went unchallenged (I know that Scott raised objection to some, but not most).
    The simple fact that America has lost a hefty portion of its middle class who simple merged with the lower class, the simple fact that corporations which will do ANYTHING to increase their profits including outsourcing and offshoring American labor costs/shortchanging their American workers by withdrawing benefits/parttime workers/reduced hourly wages/and firing workers who clamor for more pay or hours or benefits or unionization/replacing workers with machines-----means that the average American worker no longer has a say in the outcome of their own lives.
    They are disempowered.
    Forced into a very different form of slavishness.
    Victimized, instead of dignified.
    And even the small business owners are at the mercy of the corporate rulers.

    Keeping the minimum wage as low as possible is the ambition of people like Gene Barr: not that they're evil people----just that their own greed gets in the way of them having a sense of fairness toward other human beings.

    Profit sharing, stock options, and giving employees a sense of participation in the business (including employee ownership) goes a long way toward creating people invested in their work, and their lives.
    Unfortunately, that's at odds with the views of those like Barr who see workers as expendable cost liabilities ---not fellow human beings.

    • Gene Barr img 2014-01-06 12:11

      Mr Colgan

      Let me make a couple of responses. I don't believe that any guest goes on this program and lies. I certainly do not. You and I clearly have a difference of opinion. You also take the liberty of making other personal comments about me even though we have never met. My goal and the goal of this organization is to allow our citizens to make as much as possible. We simply oppose government wage increase mandates that hurt many of those trying to find that entry level job. Workers are the most important asset that any company has. And despite your claim, most businesses are not large corporations and most minimum wage workers work for small business--as defined by the federal government.

      • Robert Colgan img 2014-01-06 21:46

        Mr.Barr,
        You don't think "any guest goes on this program and lies" is about where it starts with you---you speak in platitudinous projections of what reality you wish to foist as genuine, instead of being authentically realistic.
        Of course there are guests on this program, as there are on any talk program, who lie either by misstating to enhance their own perspective/to minimize the views of others/to deny their own involvement, whatever. But that's another topic----I cite it merely to point out that what you say (as exemplified by your statements on the RST this morning) doesn't sync with that vaguery called "truth."

        When you say things such as "the minimum wage argument is disproven by statistics from States where it has been raised showing a serious decline in the workforce" you don't cite actual statistics that show a temporary adjustment and then revived economic indicators in those States....therefore you lie.
        When you claim that "most businesses are small businesses" ---do you realize how flagrantly ignoring of the corporate involvement throughout the commercial world this claim is? Granted there are small businesses which are not corporate. Granted there are mom and pop businesses that struggle to make it, and don't-----statistically there is still a hefty failure rate within the 1st five years...and blaming labor costs on their failure is usually a cop-out rationalization.
        Where you really stretch all credibility is your failure to include ALL the LARGE businesses, WalMarts, etc which have made their fortune heavily through scrimping soundly on employee pay and benefits (and screwing subsuppliers)---yet you protect those businesses MORE than you protect the smaller businesses when you argue against a higher minimum wage and it is for this omission that I believe you lied the most today.
        And yes, you're not a direct liar....more of a passive-aggressive one.
        To your way of thinking, workers are not THE MOST IMPORTANT assets at all-------or you would soundly endorse a higher minimum pay for them to feel valued, to be given more of a footing in a slippery economy: but you say they are.. . . that's lying.

        • Gene Barr img 2014-01-07 14:56

          Mr. Colgan

          Looks like you and I will disagree on this one. Unfortunately, you seem unable to do that without resorting to personal attacks on a person's integrity. Too bad as it reduces the quality of our public discourse.

          If, as you hint, raising the minimum wage leads to "revived economic indicators" then why stop at $10 per hour or even $15? Let's raise it to $50 or $100 and really get the economy going. We don't because implicit in that hesitancy is that raising the level for entry level work does have an adverse impact and the higher it goes the more adverse the impacts. As I said on the show, let's focus on getting the assistance to people who truly need it.

          • charlie.crystle img 2014-01-08 17:14

            right. subsidize those who keep their workers in poverty--simply push them over to the taxpaying public. that's an inefficient approach and a lot of people fall through the cracks. The direct approach is to ban poverty wages. You should be ashamed for advocating for poverty wages.

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