Debate on $15 Minimum Wage Starts Today

Council committee to hold hearing this morning.

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Talk has been simmering for months. Today the debate begins in earnest: City Council’s Committee on Commerce and Economic development will hold hearings on raising the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Such a hike an hour is opposed by business groups, of course, but the legal obstacles might be higher. The Inquirer reported in December:

A 2006 preemption clause added to the state’s 1968 wage act – which says the law trumps local ordinances on the topic – has long been read as banning cities from setting their own rates.

A local group, 15Now Philly, says otherwise.

It argues that the intent of the state law was to protect workers from low pay. The preemption, read with that intent in mind, is unclear on whether it bans municipalities from going above, or only below, the state wage, it says

Billy Penn argues that any hike would end up in court:

The chambers of commerce in both Pennsylvania and Philadelphia have come out against the bill, saying an increase in minimum wage would lead to a loss of jobs. Those groups would probably challenge the bill, and it’d be up to the state Supreme Court to decide who’s right here.

But if there’s anywhere this could happen in the state, it would be Philadelphia. Politicians have a hard time arguing against a minimum wage hike as the city still faces deep poverty and, oh yeah, they need union support to get re-elected.

The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. in City Hall, Room 400. Expect demonstrations from proponents of the wage hike.