In the last two weeks, both Evangelical Community Hospital and Geisinger announced they were increasing their minimum wage to $15 for all current and future employees.
At Geisinger, the change went into effect on Sunday. It will, a spokesperson for the health system said, impact 6,500 employees. At Evangelical, the boost goes into effect on Oct. 3 and will impact 700 employees.
The decisions of the two health care systems were not born of largesse or some sense of it being the right thing to do.
It was the necessary business move in a job market that makes the $7.25 number no longer viable or livable.
Pennsylvania’s $7.25 per hour minimum wage is an anachronism of another time.
The last increase to the commonwealth’s minimum wage came in 2009, when the final budgeted increases to the federal minimum wage went into effect.
Since then, state lawmakers have fervently opposed an increase in the state minimum wage in the state Legislature.
That’s the same state legislature where base salaries are the third-highest in the nation at $90,335 per year, according to Ballotpedia.
In 2011, Pennsylvania’s base legislative salaries were the fourth-highest in the nation at $78,314, according to a report that year from Service Employees International Union 668, which represents public, social and human services workers in Pennsylvania.
No such increases have been forthcoming for workers we learned during the pandemic are essential.
Twenty-nine states have raised the minimum wage above $7.25 an hour since then, according to Gov. Tom Wolf’s office, including every surrounding state.
Many companies are taking the initiative to increase their minimum wages on their own, including Weis Markets, Target and others.
Those opposed to raising the minimum wage have often argued that the market, not the government, should establish what employees are offered in pay.
While the market is currently doing exactly what those opponents have argued, keeping the state minimum where it is makes no sense. And raising it has wide support.
A Franklin & Marshall College poll released in March found that 67 percent of Pennsylvania voters supported raising the state minimum wage to $12 per hour.
Other Republican-controlled states have done so. In the November 2020 election, for example, voters in Florida passed a constitutional amendment to raise its minimum wage to $15 by 2026.
It’s time for the state to follow the lead of its biggest businesses and take the minimum wage to a higher, more reasonable number.
NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by News Editor Eric Pehowic and Editor Dennis Lyons.