Philadelphia protest calls for minimum wage hike and local control on future wage increases

The goal is not only to have a $15 minimum wage, but to wrestle control for future wage increases out of state control and into local hands.

Councilmember Kendra Brooks speaks in support of raising the minimum wage. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Councilmember Kendra Brooks speaks in support of raising the minimum wage. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Supporters of increasing the minimum wage in Philadelphia held a rally outside City Hall on Tuesday morning, calling for more than just $15 an hour.

Bishop Dwayne Royster of the group POWER, Pennsylvania’s largest interfaith organizing movement, said while the minimum wage hike would be a major shift, it’s only a first step to creating family-sustaining jobs.

“We are here today in the poorest big city in America — the city that has the highest level of deep poverty of any state, of any city, any size in this country — to say that is no longer possible, and it has not been possible, to live off $7.25 an hour for a very long time in the city of Philadelphia,” Royster said.

Bishop Dwayne Royster speaks at a podium.
Bishop Dwayne Royster, of POWER, speaks in support of raising the minimum wage in the city and statewide. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY News)

Royster also wants to give local government control over future wage increases. Currently in Pennsylvania, the minimum wage is set at the state level.

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“It’s not enough just to get $15. We need $15 an hour, plus we need an end to preemption so that cities that need higher wages can set higher wages and make sure that their citizens are able to live full and thriving lives,” he said.

Royster added the move would benefit communities outside of Philadelphia as well.

“We not only need to raise the minimum wage to be able to draw people out of poverty in places like Philadelphia, and Allentown, and Lancaster, and Pittsburgh, and all across this commonwealth, but it is absolutely a moral imperative that our local communities have control over the ability to adjust the wage based on their economic conditions.”

City Councilmember Kendra Brooks also has concerns about the minimum wage. “I remember 32 years ago when I got my first job, minimum wage was $4.85. And 32 years later, the minimum wage has only increased by $2,” Brooks said.

Pennsylvania’s current minimum wage is $7.25.

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Brooks also commented how the wage in neighboring states is considerably better.

“The minimum wage in Delaware is $11.75 an hour. In New Jersey, $14.13 an hour. In New York, $14.20 an hour,” she said.

Anna Ortega spoke through a translator about the pitfalls of living on the current minimum wage.

“The problem that many families have is that they have to work more than 70 hours a week just to pay rent, to pay their bills, and for basic expenses such as food, clothing and shoes, and childcare,” she said.

Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro called for a higher minimum wage in his campaign last year and during his inaugural address, although no bill has yet emerged from the state legislature.

Broke in PhillyWHYY is one of over 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.

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