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Higher wages and sick pay are now attached to Pennsylvania's incentives for companies

Julio Cortez

In a stalemate with lawmakers over raising the minimum wage or requiring companies to have paid sick leave, Gov. Tom Wolf said Thursday he will impose those requirements on companies getting loans, grants or tax breaks from the state.

The minimum wage that incentives-receiving companies must pay is $13.50 an hour, rising to $15 an hour on July 1, 2024, under an executive order signed by Wolf. State contractors already must pay that amount, under a prior executive order Wolf signed in 2016.

Pennsylvania's minimum wage has been set to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour since 2009, when Congress last increased it.

Speaking at the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers' South Side office Thursday, Wolf said his executive action will help Pennsylvania to compete for workers amid COVID-related labor shortages.

“Workers are standing up and declaring that they deserve better than Pennsylvania's embarrassingly low minimum wage. Let's be clear, it is embarrassing,” the Democrat said. “It’s a time for all of us to think about how we change the workplace, and it has to be centered on our workers.”

The sick pay requirement has no required time frame attached to it.

The state annually budgets for tens of millions of dollars in grants, loans and tax breaks for companies that make certain promises to expand in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania's minimum wage has been set to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour since 2009, when Congress last increased it.

Since Wolf took office in 2015, he has urged the Republican-controlled Legislature to increase the minimum wage, without success amid GOP opposition.

Currently, 29 states have set minimum wages above the federal minimum, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Thirteen states have enacted laws to require paid sick leave, the NCSL said. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have approved their own ordinances to require it of companies doing business in those cities.

A separate directive that Wolf announced Thursday will have state agencies explore how to put federal workplace safety standards in place at offices under the governor's jurisdiction. Public-sector employees are not guaranteed those protections, which are enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry and the state’s Office of Administration will lead the study that Wolf ordered Thursday.

State Sen. Tina Tartaglione and state Rep. Pat Harkins, both Democrats, have each introducedlegislation to extend OSHA rules to all public employees in Pennsylvania.

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