Thu, 09 Dec 2021

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania - As businesses across the country deal with a massive labor shortage, Pennsylvania aims to entice people back to the workplace by increasing safety standards and the minimum wage.

At a Thursday news conference in Pittsburgh, Gov. Tom Wolf announced he's signed an executive order that calls on the Department of Labor and Industry to study how Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards can be implemented in Commonwealth workplaces. The governor also wants the General Assembly to pass legislation that would increase the minimum wage, which currently is the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.

"Unfortunately, while our Republican legislature refuses to act, Pennsylvanians are getting left behind," Wolf said. "Are you aware that all of our neighboring states - West Virginia, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland - all of them have higher minimum wages than Pennsylvania? That is embarrassing."

Wolf is asking the General Assembly to pass legislation introduced by Sen. Tina Tartaglione, D-Philadelphia, outlining a gradual increase to $15 an hour by 2027. The executive order also directs Labor & Industry to ensure its contractors and grant recipients are in compliance with labor and workplace safety laws, including the Minimum Wage Act and the Equal Pay Act.

An estimated 4.3 million workers voluntarily left their jobs across the country in August, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. With more than 100,000 workers authorizing potential strikes this month, Darrin Kelly, president of the Allegheny/Fayette Central Labor Council, said it shows people have had enough.

"The workers are the economic engine of this city, this Commonwealth, this country - and as we see, worldwide," he said, "and to have an engine work properly, you have to pay them properly, respect them, allow them to retire with dignity."

Wolf also is requesting the General Assembly extend OSHA safety rules to public-sector employees in the state who are not currently protected. Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Hempfield, responded to the announcement, calling it "executive overreach that hurts small businesses."

Source: Keystone State News Connection

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