PA Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta talks what’s next in the fight for a $15-an-hour minimum wage
The popular state rep joined Ashley McBride, state director of For Our Future PA, in a discussion on Facebook about future efforts.
Last week, progressive in Washington and across the country were dealt a massive blow, as eight Democratic Senators voted with Republicans to boot a raise of the federal minimum wage to $15 from President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.
The massive relief bill has since been signed into law.
In a recent interview with AL DÍA, Pennsylvania State Rep Malcolm Kenyatta says it will go a long way in helping the Commonwealth execute major relief plans, but the absence of the minimum wage hike stung.
“It’s incredibly disappointing,” he said.
Earlier in the day on March 11, Kenyatta took part in a House Commerce Committee hearing on the minimum wage featuring a panel with leaders from the Commonwealth Foundation, self-described as “Pennsylvania’s free-market think tank.”
In it, he hammered the Republican majority that put the panel together, which “had not one worker.”
“As they railed against raising the wage, and how raising the wage will be so damaging for our economy, ignoring the damage that families are already enduring from starvation-level wages,” said Kenyatta.
Both the hearing and federal minimum wage rejection instilled in him the continued need to elect more working-class representatives to office.
“What we need to do in this moment is get beyond just a 50-50 majority to a big, broad majority that would allow us to do the bold things we need to do for working people,” said Kenyatta.
He carried that message to a talk streamed on Facebook later in the day on March 11 with Ashley McBride, the state director of For Our Future Pennsylvania.
The topic of discussion was also the continued fight for a $15 minimum wage.
“The way that we’re ultimately going to change this equation and change this political math is that we have to actually elect working people, for state representative, for state senate, for city council, for school board, and yes, to the United States Senate,” said Kenyatta in his opening statement.
He went on to highlight how the pandemic has brought the country to another “crossroads” in its history with the tragedy wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This cruel, cruel pandemic, which has stolen so many lives, has taken all the things that have been issues for a long period of time, and it’s made it worse,” said Kenyatta.
Raising the minimum wage is just one of the issues. In his talk with AL DÍA, Kenyatta shot back at opposition to the raise because of COVID-19’s subsequent economic crisis, noting the establishment of the U.S. minimum wage during the Great Depression.
“It’s disrespectful to people who are working their butts off to have to work two or three jobs and still not be able to make ends meet,” he said.
At the talk with McBride, Kenyatta spoke on how such scenarios “are not hypothetical” to him.
His first job came when he was 12 washing dishes and being paid under the table to support his family. Kenyatta’s mother worked as a home healthcare aid and didn’t make more than $11 an hour in her entire career.
“And it took her years and years and years to get to the $11,” he said.
McBride echoed Kenyatta’s experience to AL DÍA with her own while leading For Our Future, which contacts and supports working families across Pennsylvania.
“You see so many people across the state who are working two or three jobs, and I’m not talking about to buy some luxury home or car, to take a vacation, but really just to have bare necessities,“ she said.
Despite the ongoing struggle, McBride was also hopeful of her organization’s voter engagement efforts. The people they had been introduced to years ago as prospective voters are now familiar with the organization as a trusted messenger.
It means more change in the state and country in the years to come. Kenyatta himself could be part of it, as he is running for Senator Pat Toomey’s empty U.S. Senate seat in 2022.
“The solution to this in the long term is that we actually have a government that looks like the people that it ought to be serving,” said Kenyatta.