Last week, the Commonwealth Foundation was once again invited to testify about their position on raising the minimum wage in Pennsylvania. The wage currently sits at $7.25 an hour and $2.83 an hour for tipped workers. It is the lowest federally permissible wage in the country. All of Pennsylvania’s surrounding states have higher minimum wages:
Increasing the minimum wage has been proposed both by Governor Tom Wolf as part of his budget proposal. It is a crucial flank of President Joe Biden’s campaign promises. And polls have shown that raising the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour has broad support, with upwards of 60 percent in agreement.
The Commonwealth Foundation has mounted a 16-year effort to downright lie about raising the minimum wage. And they’re not only against raising the minimum wage; they are against the entire idea that there should be a minimum wage. Dating back to 2018, Vice President Nathan Benefield stated as such, adding the existence of a minimum wage bars “anyone who’s not producing that amount of value from getting those jobs.”
In 2006, CEO Matt Brouillette, in a letter to then-Governor Ed Rendell, called it “just another tax on jobs” and stated it would hurt low-wage workers. It would take a minimum wage worker in Pennsylvania nearly 30 years to match what Matt Brouillette makes in a year.
At the hearing last week, Commonwealth Foundation employee Elizabeth Stelle once again advocated eliminating the minimum wage and setting it to $0. Of course, there is a word for demanding people work for free. However, State Representatives Malcolm Kenyatta and John Galloway were not going to let the billionaire-funded front group off the hook.
Rep. Galloway pinned down Stelle that she was, in fact advocating for a $0 minimum wage – the position the Commonwealth Foundation has held for years. She went on to say that there would be no minimum wage in an “ideal world.” Rep. Galloway responded stating “I’m not so sure your testimony has any relevance to this hearing.”
Rep. Kenyatta followed up by asking how much Stelle makes at her job at the Commonwealth Foundation. She stated, “I do not feel that I need to justify my comments with my personal information,” and refused to answer. Rep. Kenyatta pressed on further, saying that the Commonwealth Foundation’s current CEO makes over $200,000. He would not stand for Stelle insulting people in his district.
For Pennsylvania workers familiar with the Commonwealth Foundation’s nonsense, Stelle’s answers align with what they’ve been paid to say for nearly 20 years of the front group’s existence. However, people unfamiliar with the Commonwealth Foundation took notice. NowThis posted a video highlighting the exchange with Rep. Kenyatta and Rep. Galloway this week. The video has been shared over 2,000 times and viewed by over half a million individuals.
The rest of the country is now seeing what has constituted the opposition to raising the minimum wage in Pennsylvania – a billionaire Koch-funded front group. Some version of the Commonwealth Foundation exists in almost every state.