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If Florida can raise its minimum wage, Pennsylvania can, too | Opinion

That Florida voters supported both President Trump and raising the wage, often thought of as a "progressive" cause, shows the issue's bipartisan appeal.

A group of local workers joined together for the "Latinos for Raise the Wage" rally in front of the Domino Park in Little Havana, urging the approval of Amendment 2, a ballot initiative that would raise Florida’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026, on Oct. 7. The measure passed.
A group of local workers joined together for the "Latinos for Raise the Wage" rally in front of the Domino Park in Little Havana, urging the approval of Amendment 2, a ballot initiative that would raise Florida’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026, on Oct. 7. The measure passed.Read morePedro Portal / MCT

Voting for President Donald Trump while also supporting a law that raises the minimum wage? At first glance, you might think it impossible. Trump’s campaign platform made no mention of increasing the minimum wage. Though he often claims to be on the side of American workers, many of his trade and economic policies hurt American companies and cost American jobs. Yet, on Nov. 3, Florida voted 60-40 in favor of Amendment 2, a ballot measure to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by Sept. 30, 2026. Nearly 11 million Florida voters supported this measure. This is the same Florida where five of the six statewide elected partisan offices are held by Republicans, who typically oppose minimum wage increases.

Trump won the state of Florida with more than 51% of the vote, defeating Joe Biden by nearly 400,000 votes. Many of us at Wage Local, where we are fighting for local control over wages, were not surprised by either outcome. Florida is a diverse state, full of voters who span the ideological spectrum. The issue of minimum wage, too, transcends the political spectrum.

» READ MORE: Philly has the lowest minimum wage of any major U.S. city, new study says

We know that providing workers with better pay is popular among the American people. Studies from Pew Research Center have found that, by a wide margin, Americans favor raising the federal minimum wage. Pennsylvania is no exception. A 2019 poll by Franklin & Marshall College found that nearly 70% of those surveyed supported raising the minimum wage to $12/hour. Most importantly, the support was found in virtually every demographic and region of Pennsylvania.

And yet, as neighboring states have increased their minimum wage over the years, Pennsylvania has been stuck at the federal minimum of $7.25 since 2009. Gov. Tom Wolf has tried a half dozen times to pass wage increases but has been blocked by corporate interests pulling strings in the legislature. At the same time, cities and counties across the state, eager to raise wages for their residents, are blocked from doing so by state law.

Wage Local is fighting to change the law so our cities and towns can raise their own wages. We have had countless conversations with workers and business owners across the commonwealth who support this approach. Currently, our coalition’s bill — HB 2659, sponsored by State Rep. Kevin Boyle — has a bipartisan list of more than 60 cosponsors.

Through our conversations with stakeholders across the commonwealth, two things remain constant: people trust their local officials, and local officials across the state are demanding to be free to raise the local wage.

Corporate interest groups may come out against our bill as they did in Florida, arguing that providing higher wages leads to job loss. Yet, a detailed review of research on this issue shows that minimum wage increases have little or no negative effect on employment, while they do have a significant positive impact on people’s health and well-being.

» READ MORE: Pa. has lowest minimum wage allowed in U.S. Should it be raised to $15/hour? | Pro/Con

The opposition may also complain that a “patchwork of regulations” will drive businesses from the state, but with neighboring states having higher minimum wages, what business would leave Pennsylvania because it had to pay its lowest-paid workers a bit more in one city than another? Businesses adjust already based on market conditions.

The conversation surrounding the minimum wage needs to change. It does not have to be job loss vs. providing a living wage for families. As Florida voters demonstrated, the general public is ahead of politics on this issue and stands staunchly on the side of a living wage for workers. Colorado’s legislature understood this, and last year voted to give localities the power to raise the wage. Local elected officials know local business owners, families, and communities better than anyone else. Our bill allows them to use that crucial insight and knowledge to improve conditions for their constituents.

We call on every Pennsylvanian to contact your senators and representatives and let them know if you support empowering municipalities to raise the wage. Wage Local and our coalition partners stand ready to talk with elected officials from both sides of the aisle to turn this message into a reality.

Providing a living wage is not a partisan issue. We cannot afford to continue treating it as one.

Frances Upshaw is a board member of POWER in Philadelphia and a member of its Economic Dignity Team.