PA Business Owners Testify in Support of Raising Minimum Wage at State Senate Hearing

Stronger Minimum Wage is Good for Business and the Economy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 5, 2015
CONTACT: Bob Keener, 617-610-6766, bob@businessforafairminimumwage.org

Harrisburg – Business owners Bobby Fry of Bar Marco and The Livermore restaurants in Pittsburgh and Simon Arias of Arias Agencies, with five locations around PA, testified in favor of raising the minimum wage before the Senate Labor & Industry Committee at the State Capital in Harrisburg today. Also speaking in Harrisburg was Alissa Barron-Menza, Vice President of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, which is organizing a business sign-on statement supporting the increase. The three pointed out strong business and economic reasons for their support such as increased consumer demand, cost savings from lower employee turnover, business benefits from increased productivity, product quality and customer satisfaction, and reduced strain on the social safety net caused by inadequate wages.

Bobby Fry, Co-Owner and CEO of Bar Marco and The Livermore restaurants in Pittsburgh, said, “At Bar Marco, after four successful years and Bon Appetit Magazine’s Top 50 New Restaurants recognition, we did away with gratuity and began paying our employees a starting salary of $35,000 plus benefits. Counter to the restaurant industry’s conventional wisdom, paying above the current minimum wage leads to lower turnover, better employee performance and customer service, greater inventory controls, and higher quality product – all of which saves my business money. I support raising Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, increasing the tipped minimum wage to at least 70% of the regular minimum wage, and tying future increases to the rising cost of living.”

Simon Arias, Owner of Arias Agencies, with offices in Canonsburg, Erie, Pittsburgh, State College and Wilkes-Barre, and Pennsylvania State General Agent of American Income Life, said, “Our agency was named the number 1 small business workplace in 2012 by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. My hourly entry pay is $15 – more than double the inadequate $7.25 minimum wage. Our life insurance agents visit over 1,200 Pennsylvania working families a week. Every day we hear from hardworking men and women who want to protect their family’s future with life insurance but are struggling just to make ends meet. Raising the minimum wage will help insure a more sustainable economy in our state for both workers and businesses.”

Alissa Barron-Menza, Vice President of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, said, “Raising the minimum wage will be good for business, customers and Pennsylvania’s economy. Workers are also customers – and minimum wage increases boost sales at Main Street businesses as workers buy needed goods and services they just couldn’t afford before. Nothing drives job creation more than consumer demand. Businesses also see cost savings from lower employee turnover with better entry pay, and benefit from increased productivity and customer satisfaction. Raising Pennsylvania’s minimum wage and adjusting it in future years to keep pace with the cost of living makes great business sense.”

Other business owners from across the state also provided written testimony.

“As one of our nation’s fastest growing inner-city companies, we know from experience that paying people better is good for business and job creation,” said Robert Cheetham, CEO of Azavea in Philadelphia. “A higher minimum wage will be good for Pennsylvania’s economy. During the recession, hard-hit cities stopped paying vendors like us because their tax base eroded, and, as a result, many firms went out of business. Raising the minimum wage not only boosts consumer demand in our local economy, it puts a stronger wage floor under our tax base and strengthens the economic resilience of our communities. Azavea’s lowest starting pay is $13 an hour. An increase in Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to at least $10.10 is long overdue.”

“Recruiting and training employees is expensive. We need employees who are reliable and stay with us as they gain more experience,” said Mark Bortman, Owner of Exact Solar in Yardley. “We pay our people well enough that they want to come to work and are not looking to go someplace else to make a little bit more. Moreover, employees who earn enough so they don’t have to worry if they can afford the gas to drive to work, or to live in a decent place or eat decent food are going to be better employees. At the $7.25 minimum wage by contrast, people are continually stressed and struggling just to get by. That’s bad for business and bad for our state.”

These business owners have signed, and many others are signing, an online business statement that calls for a phased increase of Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to at least $10.10 per hour. In addition, the business statement calls for annual adjustments so the minimum wage keeps up with the cost of living in future years.

Pennsylvania’s minimum wage is currently the same as the federal $7.25 rate, which has not been increased since 2009. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia now have minimum wages above $7.25, including all six of Pennsylvania’s neighbors.

A recent scientific poll of small business owners with employees shows very strong support, with 61% nationwide in favor of raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour and then adjusting it annually to keep up with the cost of living.

Business for a Fair Minimum Wage is a national network of business organizations, business owners and executives who believe a fair minimum wage makes good business sense, including Costco, PA-based Dansko footwear, Stonyfield, Eileen Fisher, Ben & Jerry’s, New Belgium Brewing, American Income Life, South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, American Sustainable Business Council, and other PA-based businesses, such as Bar Marco, Girard Brasserie & Bruncherie, Lancaster Food Company, Trolley Car Diner, Arias Agencies, Azavea, Generation3 Electric, Night Kitchen Bakery, Exact Solar, West Side Auto Repair, Baldwin’s Book Barn, Valenca, Coatesville Flower Shop, Rhiza and many others.

NOTE: PA members of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage are available for comment and/or television and radio booking. Please contact Bob Keener, 617-610-6766, bob@businessforafairminimumwage.org.

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