A lunchtime rally at the Delaware County Courthouse on Monday was billed as a fight for increasing the minimum wage, but it took on the character of a Democratic campaign rally, with not a single low-wage earner in sight.
State Sen. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery), who has proposed increasing the hourly minimum from the current $7.25 to $12, said the only way to raise the minimum wage is to elect Democrats.
"We have 36 days to make this happen," Leach said.
Reached before the rally, Andrew Reilly, Delaware County Republican Party chairman, said an increase "would likely hurt the very people proponents are trying to help" as it would end up impacting businesses.
Speakers at the rally, attended by about 60 people, said workers were the ones being hurt.
The event was organized by the "Raise the Wage PA" coalition, which includes unions and community groups. Others were held in Philadelphia; Morrisville, Bucks County; and eight other towns in the state to back President Obama's proposal to raise the minimum to $10.10.
About 38,000 Delaware County workers are paid below that level. More than 190,000 Pennsylvanians were paid $7.25 an hour or less in 2013, according to the state Department of Labor and Industry. The state has not raised the minimum since 2007. Twenty-one states, including Pennsylvania's neighbors, have a higher minimum wage, organizers said.
John Kane, a candidate for the hotly contested 26th District state Senate seat, which represents Delaware County, said he is running to improve conditions for the middle class and champions an increased minimum wage. "We need it desperately," said Kane, a plumber and business manager for Plumbers Union Local 690.
Tom McGarrigle, County Council chairman and the Republican 26th District nominee, said in a statement that he believes the "minimum wage should be higher than it is currently, but I don't believe raising it at the expense of creating more jobs is the answer."
Not all of the speakers at the rally were politicians.
"Raising the minimum wage is not an economic issue, it's a moral issue," said Peter Friedrichs, a minister with the Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County.
Martine DeLorenzo of the Disability Rights Network said the policy of allowing organizations to pay disabled employees in "sheltered workshops" at less than minimum wage keeps them dependent on their families and the government.
"Their contribution is equal to everyone's," DeLorenzo said.
Rally organizers "tried mightily" to get a low-wage worker to attend the rally, said Kati Sipp, director of Pennsylvania Working Families.
But, Sipp said, "they can't take time off work. Most of the time there are no paid days off."