Lots of action on minimum wages in Philadelphia, elsewhere

Expect a big crowd, or at least a loud one, in City Hall when airport workers show up at a hearing Wednesday to testify in favor of wage increases for baggage handlers and skycaps.

In 2005, the city passed a law requiring that companies doing business with the city to pay 150 percent of minimum wage -- which, at $7.25 an hour, yields $10.88. But there's a loophole -- subcontractors doing business with contractors doing business with the city don't have to pay that wage. 

That's why the average wage for these subcontracted employees at the Philadelphia International Airport tends to hover just above minimum wage, at about $7.85, according to a study by the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group. A local coalition of churches and other faith organizations, POWER, has taken up their cause and will send representatives to City Council  chambers at 1 p.m. to provide support. Union leader Wayne MacManiman, 32BJ SEIU, Mid-Atlantic District Director, is also expected to be there.

After the hearing, the council committee of Law and Government is expected to vote on a possible amendment to the city charter proposed by City Councilman W. Wilson Goode, Jr.  The amendment would extend the 2005 law to employees of subcontractors.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, state Sen. Christine Tartaglione came to City Hall to announce her intention to introduce legislation that would boost Pennsylvania's minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 along with another bill that would increase the minimum wage for tipped employees, now $2.83 an hour.  That wage has not changed in 15 years. Her proposal would make the tipped minimum 70 percent of the standard minimum wage. At today's minimum wage, the tipped wage would increase to $5.07 an hour.

Supporters of Tartaglione's legislation include state Sen. Vincent Hughes, Kathy Black from the local chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, John Dodds, executive director of the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, Elizabeth McElroy, secretary-treasurer of the Philadelphia AFL-CIO, and Mark Price, an economist with the Keystone Research Center,  Click here for report on the tipped minimum by Keystone.

Busy day for the minimum wage: Oregon said its minimum wage would rise to $9.15 an hour in January, up from $9. Its minimum wage rises automatically based the U.S. Department of Labor's Consumer Price Index. Oregon uses the Index's August to August price measure and announces any change to the wage in September.  California legislators recently passed legislation increasing its minimum wage from $8 to $10 over a three-year period.

On Nov. 5, New Jersey voters will be able to decide whether to boost the state's minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25, with automatic changes based on the consumer price index.