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Protesters call for increase in minimum wage

By Bo Koltnow, Reporter, BKoltnow@wfmz.com
Published On: Dec 05 2013 04:03:35 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 05 2013 05:46:48 PM CST

"We can't survive on $7.25!" is the battle cry of fast food workers across the nation.

The minimum wage has stood at $7.25 since 2009, so across the country Thursday, protesters advocated for an increase to $15 per hour.

Minimum wage started in 1914 at 25 cents per hour. Its earning peak was in 1968, when adjusted for inflation, it was $10.77.

Protesters gathered both inside and outside McDonald's restaurants in Allentown and in Wyomissing, Berks Co.

"I'm here so the employees, not the management, the employees get a fair wage," said Irvin Weinreich, during the protest in Allentown.

The nationwide campaign has fast food restaurants in its cross-hairs with the goal of raising the minimum wage.

"A raise in the minimum wage would mean in Pennsylvania the gross domestic product would increase $1 billion," said U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.

Not everyone, however, is buying in. Some fast food owners said higher wages would mean higher menu prices and possibly fewer employees.  

Bills, both in Harrisburg and Washington, would raise the minimum wage not to $15 per hour but to $10.10 an hour over the next three years.

"Raising minimum wage for a large majority of workers could actually lead to an increase in demand, might inject that money into the economy," said Erin Fletcher, an economist at Lafayette College in Easton.

The Economic Policy Institute, an advocate for low- to moderate-income families, said a raise in minimum wage could lift thousands above the poverty line.

"Fifty years ago, minimum wage was half the average wage. Now, it's a third of the average," Fletcher said.

It's a debate that's not expected to be silenced anytime soon. Casey said he hopes to have a minimum wage vote before the end of the year.