HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – They came, and rallied, and sang and protested.
A few hundred strong, they were mostly from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
“We came because we will not be silent,” proclaimed pastor Shanea Leonard of Judah Fellowship in Pittsburgh. Silent, Shanea certainly was not. She summoned a Dr. Martin Luther King-style cadence and volume on the steps of the Pennsylvania Capitol just after 11 a.m.and repeatedly fired up the crowd.
She, and they, brought a message to Harrisburg.
“We stand for a fair working wage,” Leonard said to great applause.
Fair, ralliers said, would be a minimum wage of $15 an hour, more than twice the current $7.25.
“This is the birthplace of this country,” Leonard said of Pennsylvania. “And yet we don’t have a living wage that’s worth anything.”
Alicia Hamiel cheered on the pastor and sang with a rabbi as the rally wore on. She is married with a 1-year-old. Hamiel said she earns $7.25 at a Philadelphia McDonald’s.
“Me and my son and my husband, we’re basically getting ready to move into a shelter because we can’t afford to stay in our home,” Hamiel said. “The bills and Pampers and wipes, everything is just overwhelming.”
“This type of proposal is gonna cost jobs,” insists Alex Halper, Director of Government Affairs for the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business & Industry. “It’s gonna mean fewer hours.”
Business advocacy groups argue that artificially raising the minimum wage forces employers to reduce their workforce, thus hurting the very people these ralliers are trying to help.
“I appreciate the enthusiasm in this crowd but I wish we could channel that passion into thinking of creative, smart, strategic ways to help these families without a lot of them losing their jobs as a result,” Halper said.
But Hamiel rejects that theory.
“I don’t think that’s true,” she said. “I believe that (minimum wage increase) creates more jobs because people have more money to spend.”
Heavy construction on Third Street forced the marchers to detour to the top of the Capitol steps. Fitting, because success on their issue will also be a circuitous journey. There is little, if any, political will in the Republican-dominated legislature for $15. But these folks promise to keep on walking until they can celebrate a hiking of the minimum wage.Get breaking news, weather and traffic on the go. Download the ABC27 News App and the ABC27 Weather App for your phone and tablet.