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Despite lack of progress, higher minimum wage advocates see some bright spots

In this April 14, 2016, file photo, union organizers, students, and supporters for a $15 an hour wage march through the Oakland section of Pittsburgh. (Keith Srakocic/AP Photo, File)

In this April 14, 2016, file photo, union organizers, students, and supporters for a $15 an hour wage march through the Oakland section of Pittsburgh. (Keith Srakocic/AP Photo, File)

Several groups intent on raising Pennsylvania’s minimum wage are rallying in Harrisburg Thursday in an effort to nudge the General Assembly — once again — to consider raising pay for workers.

Every year of his tenure as governor, Democratic Governor Tom Wolf has proposed a wage increase above the federal $7.25 minimum. It never made much progress — thanks largely to conservative lawmakers who argue the hike would drive out businesses.

Rick Bloomingdale, president of the commonwealth’s federation of labor unions, said despite being an advocate for higher wages he is “cynical” about a hike happening any time soon.

“Until it becomes a big electoral issue and people could lose their seats over it … we’ve just got to make it a political issue,” he said.

Bloomingdale — who’s part of Thursday’s rally — said one thing does give him some hope that a hike is becoming more politically viable: both candidates for governor now support one — Wolf and conservative Republican Senator Scott Wagner.

“Given the fact that Wagner’s even proposed an increase — at least there’s an acknowledgement that something has to be done,” he said, though he noted, Wagner’s proposal is more modest and has also failed to get through the legislature.

Pennsylvania’s minimum wage is lower than all its neighboring states, and is also among the lowest in the northeast.

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