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Pennsylvania's minimum wage to stay $7.25 while neighboring states see increases in January

Minimum wage not going up in Pennsylvania
Minimum wage not going up in Pennsylvania 02:43

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - The minimum wage is going up in most neighboring states in January, and in some states, that increase is tied to inflation. But Pennsylvania stands alone among its neighbors in not providing any relief for low-wage workers.

The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 since 2008, which when adjusted for inflation, makes it the lowest in decades.

"It has not been this low in value since February 1956, since the time Elvis Pressley had his first number one hit, Heartbreak Hotel, February 1956," said Dave Kamper with the Economic Policy Institute. 

With Congress gridlocked from raising the wage, many states have stepped in on their own. 

"Right now about half the states have their own minimum wage but a ton of cities do as well," said Dori Goldstein with Bloomberg Law.

But Pennsylvania is not one of them. The state's minimum wage is $7.25. While Gov. Tom Wolf wants an increase to $12 dollars and ultimately $15, the Republican-controlled legislature has never approved an increase. 

"Pennsylvania is a little bit of a holdout for where it is," Goldstein said.

And it has kept Pennsylvania cities from setting their own minimum wage as many large cities do across the country. 

"The state prohibits cities like Pittsburgh and Philly from passing their own minimum wage increases, and those are pretty major cities," Goldstein said. 

Some of the fastest growing cities have much higher minimum wages. Denver's minimum wage in January will be $17.29, surpassing Seattle's by two cents. 

"There is no place in this country where you can meet the standard of living of an adult and a child on a minimum wage job in this country. None," Kamper said.    

With inflation at over 8 percent, not raising the minimum wage this year will take a toll, which is why a number of states have indexed their minimum wage to inflation. It's called a COLA, or cost of living adjustment.

"Real wages for workers, which is what a worker's wages is actually worth in terms of what they can buy, have fallen through the pandemic rather than actually gone up. Indexing minimum wage to inflation is a way to make up for that," said Kamper. 

No cost of living increase for minimum wage earners in Pennsylvania 02:36
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