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Senate candidate McGinty would work to increase minimum wage to $15

| Monday, Oct. 26, 2015, 1:51 p.m.
Salena Zito | Tribune-Review
Katie McGinty, a Philadelphia Democrat who is seeking the party's nomination for U.S. Senate in 2016, speaks to reporters in Pittsburgh on Monday, Oct. 26, 2015, about raising the minimum wage.
Salena Zito| Tribune-Review
Katie McGinty is seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in a three-way primary race in 2016. McGinty, former chief of staff to Gov. Tom Wolf, visited the United Steelworkers Building in Pittsburgh to talk with supporters on Monday, Oct. 26, 2015.
Salena Zito| Tribune-Review
Katie McGinty, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over four years. McGinty visited Pittsburgh on Monday, Oct. 26, 2015, and spoke to supporters at the United Steelworkers Building, Downtown.

Raising the minimum wage would help millions of average Americans regain financial footing and aid the nation's economy, Democrat Katie McGinty said Monday.

McGinty, a candidate for U.S. Senate, would boost the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9 within the first three months of a law taking effect, then incrementally increase the minimum wage to $10.50 after one year, $12 after two years and $15 after four years.

“Anyone working full time in our country should be able to provide for themselves and their family,” McGinty told supporters, many of them union members, during a visit to Pittsburgh. “It is just wrong that people working hard every day stay mired in poverty, and it is bad for our economy, too, since growth happens when people have money to spend.”

Wages for many Americans have remained stagnant since 1966, McGinty said, against a higher cost of living and rising costs for health care and higher education. Increasing the minimum wage “would be a first step in addressing income inequality, lifting millions of Americans out of poverty and boosting our economy,” she said.

Last year, 3 million American workers were paid at or below the federal minimum wage, making up 3.9 percent of all hourly paid workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. More than half of them — 1.7 million — were paid below the minimum.

At $10 an hour, a full-time worker makes $20,800 a year.

McGinty, 52, of Philadelphia was one of the first gubernatorial candidates to call for a $10.10 minimum wage in Pennsylvania during last year's Democratic primary race, in which she placed fourth. She went on to become Gov. Tom Wolf's chief of staff until resigning to seek the seat held by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, in 2016.

Joe Sestak, a former congressman from Delaware County, and Braddock Mayor John Fetterman are seeking the Democratic nomination.

Fetterman, 46, said McGinty has waffled on the dollar amount for a minimum wage since her gubernatorial bid, starting with $9 an hour and now seeking $15.

“I have long advocated for the $15 minimum wage,” said Fetterman. “It's always been my position you can't support yourself or your family in a dignified manner with anything less.”

Fetterman pointed to the national “Fight for 15” movement that began two years ago, to raise the minimum wage of fast-food restaurant workers. Nearly 40 percent of Braddock's 2,150 residents live below poverty level, according to a 2013 Census Bureau survey.

Sestak, 63, a retired Navy admiral, lost to Toomey in 2010. Sestak's campaign did not return a request for comment. His website says he “always looked out for unemployed workers as a congressman” and supported educational and training programs to help people find new vocations.

Toomey, 53, a former investment banker, pushes to reform regulations and tax policies that hinder adding private-sector jobs, according to his website. In 2014, Toomey criticized a Senate vote to raise the minimum wage as a bill “that would wipe out hundreds of thousands of ... jobs” and would “hit people who have fewer skills and younger workers the hardest.”

Toomey points to a staggering federal deficit of $435 billion in 2015, and total government debt of more than $18 trillion, as “a daunting fiscal challenge that can no longer be ignored.”

Pennsylvania's minimum wage, for the most part, has kept to the federal level since 1968. The General Assembly in 2006 passed the first state-authorized minimum wage increase since 1988 under former Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, requiring $7.15 an hour by 2007. That year, Congress authorized incremental increases from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour, overriding Pennsylvania law.

McGinty was secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection under Rendell, who is chairing her Senate campaign.

Salena Zito is a Trib Total Media staff writer. She can be reached at szito@tribweb.com.

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