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'They're Worth More Than $7.25 An Hour': Push Continues For Minimum Wage Raise In Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG (KDKA) - A state official says it's time to immediately raise the state's minimum wage.

Some call them heroes: front-line workers putting themselves at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Child care workers, home health care workers, retail and hospitality workers, construction workers, bank tellers and so many others," said state Senator Nikil Saval.

But while loved and admired, according to Pennsylvania's Acting Secretary of Labor and Industry Jennifer Berrier and Saval, these heroes are being short-changed by the current minimum wage.

"They're worth more than $7.25 an hour," said Berrier.

"These workers earn only $15,000 a year, essentially poverty level," said Saval.

Melinda Hebrank says her job as a home health worker in Westmoreland County is very important.

"The last individual I had in 2019 was blind, on a ventilator, bedridden. Her life was in our hands," she said.

Despite her high level of responsibility, her pay was only $11 an hour.

"I had to work two extra jobs to make the income I needed," she said.

To remedy that, the governor, Berrier and Saval are calling for a minimum wage of $12 with a pathway to $15 an hour by 2027.

It's a no-go for the Republican-led legislature, which has not supported any measures. However, earlier this year, GOP state senator Dan Laughlin sponsored a bill to bump up minimum wage to $10 an hour.

"If you go back a number of years and multiply out $7.25 with the cost by the cost of living index, it puts you right about $10," said Laughlin.

Laughlin's proposal would also mean minimum wage increases with the cost of living.

That said, proponents of the $12-$15 an hour minimum wage increase say it's a fight they're not about to give up.

"Working people need and deserve to earn $15 an hour, right now," said Saval.

"We cannot let this crisis continue. We need to raise our minimum wage now to allow hard-working Pennsylvanians the dignity of providing for themselves," said Berrier.

It's been 11 years since Pennsylvania has seen an increase in minimum wage. According to the federal government, eight other states are looking to make the minimum wage $15 an hour. Right now 29 other states have a higher minimum wage than the state of Pennsylvania.

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