Lamb, Pa. Democrats push for $15 minimum wage bill as part of COVID stimulus | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Lamb, Pa. Democrats push for $15 minimum wage bill as part of COVID stimulus

Democrats aren’t always united on issues, especially in swing states like Pennsylvania. Keystone State Democrats have disagreements over natural gas, health care, and marijuana. U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Mt. Lebanon) sits in a swing district in a swing state, and has been the center over some of those disagreements, breaking away from some liberal priorities.

But that hasn’t been the case of Pennsylvania Democrats’ push for a $15 an hour minimum wage, and Lamb has joined other lawmakers in the state in advocating for the increase as part of the broader COVID stimulus bill.

“We’ve spent the last year suddenly talking about ‘essential workers’ and ‘heroes,’” said Lamb during a conference call with minimum wage advocates. “It’s time we actually treat these workers accordingly.”
Pennsylvania’s minimum wage matches the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. It is the lowest among all the states that border Pennsylvania. Ohio and West Virginia both have minimum wages higher than Pennsylvania. Republicans in Harrisburg have balked at any statewide minimum wage increases.


The Democrats’ $15 minimum wage bill would raise the wage incrementally to $15 an hour by 2025, and then tie future increases to median wage growth. The bill has gathered support from a wide swath of liberal lawmakers, from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) to Sen. Bob Casey (D-Scranton).

On the conference call, Casey said the $15 minimum wage increase should be included in the COVID relief bill currently being negotiated by senators. He said the increase is “long overdue.” U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia), home to one of the most liberal districts in America, also advocated for the bill. Between Casey, Evans, and Lamb, a pretty full spectrum of Pennsylvania Democrats are backing the increase and including it as part of a larger relief package.

But the effort does have obstacles. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are less open to a minimum wage increase up to $15 an hour. Manchin is a Democrat from one of the reddest states in the nation, and Arizona is a swing state where President Joe Biden won by a close margin in 2020.

Biden, who is supportive of the $15 minimum wage proposal, shared earlier in February he was skeptical it would make it through the negotiating process.


However, Lamb is a strident Biden ally, and his vocal advocacy on this issue might go a long way. Lamb, like Sinema, sits in a swing district that voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and then Biden in 2020. Lamb’s 2020 race was also within a couple of points, and he is rumored to be a potential candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Pat Toomey.

According to Jonathan Tamari of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Lamb said the "idea that we as a society would tolerate someone taking that level of risk," like cooks, nursing home employees, and other essential workers, making less than $30,000 a year is "intolerable."

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