Executive order in PA could jack minimum wage to more than $13 per hour

October 23 – Governor Tom Wolf announced Thursday through an executive order that if you own a business in PA, and you get any kind of loans, grants or tax breaks from the state, you must pay a minimum wage of $13.50 per hour. It will go up to $15 an hour on July 1, 2024.

It includes paid sick time and other things that have not been able to get passed legislatively.

Court challenges are likely going to come out of this. They also haven’t defined what it means to get a loan, grant or tax break from the state.

In fact, a whole lot hasn’t been defined from this executive order.

Representative Rob Kauffman, attorney Clint Barkdoll, Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen discussed the executive order from the Wolf administration on NEWS TALK 1037FM’s local morning news and information radio show – First News.

Barkdoll said, “A liberal reading of that, you could apply that to a lot, a lot of businesses around the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and if you fall into that category and anyone is making less than $13.50 an hour on your payroll, you may be in for a big surprise very soon.”

Jansen asked, “What about all the small businesses that got help through COVID? Would that count? This is ridiculous.”

Barkdoll said, “I think it would and that’s what I say about a liberal reading. If you’re a business and you received some of this COVID money, well that may qualify as a grant. We know that there are a lot of state loan programs. There’s also all these tax breaks that businesses are often given, incentive type things, some of that was though COVID. Well if they blanket that whole thing in a liberal way, it would be almost every business in the state of Pennsylvania that could be affected by this.”

Jansen said, “This just sounds like a death knell for small businesses, for business independent. We’re just going to have to be compliant little worker bees, all under government control for our businesses. This is not what the United States is supposed to be about. Our small businesses and the freedom to work and operate, they should be supported.”

Ryan asked, “So you’re saying a restaurant, a dishwasher at a restaurant, so the restaurant gets as you say a liberal reading from this executive order from the governor, the restaurant took the COVID money, now that dishwasher has to be jacked up to $13.50 according to a liberal reading on this?”

“That’s right,” Barkdoll confirmed. “That would be one example. Even the tax break category, this EITC program in Pennsylvania, a lot of companies use that. They make these donations to say local school district education foundations. They get a tax break for that. Well again, a liberal reading would mean if you’re a business that’s participated in that, you suddenly now could be subject to this new executive order on minimum wages.”

“Vague laws with implied threats,” Jansen said. “This seems to be the MO of every Democratic leader right now. I’m going to give you a vague law that you can’t quite understand and then you’ll be threatened in your business. I can’t stand this. This is not leadership. This is authoritarianism.”

Kauffman said, “That executive order, his diatribe, is hard to interpret. There are no specifics in it. The executive order itself, I saw the press that came out, but I have not dug into and I don’t know that our staff has been able to figure out what exactly it means. The difficulty is small businesses right now, in this economic environment the one that has been created by the Biden inflation and the lack of folks going to work, small businesses are paying absolutely as much as they can to get employees to walk in the door. They’re not paying folks minimum wage. They are paying everything that they can to get employees. They’re short staffed, they’re under staffed and this is just going to rub salt in the wound.”

Jansen said, “Once again, it seems to be a vaguely worded thing that people don’t know how to interpret then they get scared, they don’t know if they’re going to have the crush of law come down on them and I don’t like this part where it says they will, the (Labor and Industry) will make publicly available a list of bad actors that violate labor laws. What is this?”

Kauffman said, “It’s just like the masking and the vaccine, there’s an intimidation factor. When you don’t have force of law, you tend to throw innuendo out, well you could get this, you could get that. We’re going to intimidate you and now L and I’s going to have a blacklist to make sure everybody knows which businesses are evil according to the progressive Wolf department of L and I.”

Jansen added, “Without any of the context or details. Sometimes stuff happens that is out of a business person’s control. We know there are some that will lie about having certain compensation, workman’s comp or whatever. But there’s also circumstances beyond people’s control that could put them on that list. But it’s just a blanket list. Here are the bad corporations. Well now you have to worry about your reputation and for a small business, their reputation is everything.”

“So what are we going to do about this?” Ryan asked. “This happened yesterday and now what? What do my lawmakers do for this?”

Kauffman said, “It will depend exactly, exactly what the executive order is. Let’s unpack for instance what Biden did. Half of what he said he was going to do via executive order actually was never written in executive order. So you have corporations who are following an executive order that doesn’t exist, so you cannot challenge in court an executive order that was just said out of one’s mouth. It actually has to be written down and treated as a true executive order. Then it can be challenged in court. So once we see what is done by the Wolf administration’s executive order and what exactly it does, then whatever components are off base can be challenged in court. It looked as though he just decided to sit down one day and come up with the labor wish list and it’s rather disturbing because that’s not how we operate in America. In this constitutional republic, this is not how we work.”

“Someone’s bucking for a job in the Biden administration,” Ryan quipped.

“Well his secretary of health got one,” Kauffman said, “So he thought he might be able to get down there and get one.”

Jansen said, “The first woman? I’m sorry, you may say it’s the first trans person by this new definition, it’s not the first woman. I’m sorry. Rachel Levine is still a man. So, no, I’m sorry, she may identify as a woman. I’ll be perfectly happy to call her she. I wouldn’t insult her to her face or anything like that, but she’s a man. So she is not the first woman four-star admiral.”

Kauffman said, “The reality is Dr. Levine got whatever Dr. Levine got in Washington, DC, because of whatever Dr. Levine identifies as. It’s not qualifications because we saw what Dr. Levine did in Pennsylvania to Pennsylvanians, to our older Pennsylvanians who were essentially trapped in their personal care facility or their nursing home during the pandemic while Dr. Levine’s mother was hanging out at the Hershey Lodge. This was simply because how Dr. Levine identifies. This was not a meritocracy. This was a we need to check a box.”

Jansen agreed, “This was an identity diversity pick rather than somebody who proved by their actions they deserve to have that position. In my opinion. If you have an opinion that’s a woman, that’s great. You can have that opinion, but in scientific reality, that’s a man who identifies as a woman and that’s what we’re actually talking about.”

Is COVID money included in Wolf’s executive order?

Kauffman said, “I don’t know. And that’s the uncertainty that they love. They love that uncertainty because then people are more easily bullied and intimidated because they don’t know.”

“How do you not know if it’s an executive order?” Ryan asked.

Jansen said, “It’s an executive order it’s just that they leave it loosey goosey and vague with what it means by accepting grants or government monies. What does that mean exactly? Does that mean if you got some money from COVID?”

Ryan added, “And is the clock ticking right now?”

“They have to wonder,” Kauffman said. “And that’s what I’m saying. It is so vague that they have to wonder okay, what money did I get from the federal government? Did I get any money from the state government? Did I get any money from the local government? Was there any kind of aid especially during COVID because there are a lot of businesses who got some kind of COVID aid.”

Ryan said, “Are you going to step on the gas with your people in the state Representatives or the state Senators? What’s going on today on behalf of that restauranteur that’s going I don’t know. I don’t know. That’s why I count on you guys to know. What questions are you going to ask today?”

Kauffman said, “We have to determine first of all, what explicitly is in this order. Then we have to determine who has standing to sue. Who has standing in the case to sue and who can challenge this in a court of law in Pennsylvania? The problem with that is that it’s so vague so we have to figure out exactly what they are enforcing. We may have to wait for an enforcement to happen to figure out what it means.”

“That’s asinine,” Ryan said.

Kauffman agreed, “It is asinine. Absolutely.”

Jansen added, “This one really bothers me. The Department of Labor and Industry shall maintain a publicly available list of organizations that have been found to have violated labor laws, very vague, misclassified their workers, owe unemployment compensation, back taxes, or fail to carry requisite workers compensation insurance until they satisfy their legal obligations. That…”

“Yeah,” Kauffman said. “And don’t think they didn’t do it this way on purpose. They know the process. They figured out by now what the process is in a constitutional republic.”

Ryan insisted, “Then I need guys like you to figure out how to go get them. No offense. I don’t want to hear any more of we need to figure this out. We need to have lawyers do that. I need someone with some stones in there to march right over to Tom Wolf and say hey look!”

Kauffman said, “I hear you, Pat, but the problem is that they don’t play by the law, but we play by the law because we believe in our constitutional republic. So the only thing we have is our guns and our pitchforks.”

Ryan said, “I’m not looking for guns and pitchforks.”

“Right,” Kauffman said. “That’s what I’m saying.”

Jansen said, “He’s trying to use the metaphorical guns and pitchforks of the law which we’re still supposed to follow.”

Ryan said, “I don’t want to sit around and do nothing. Frankly, I’d rather have you with an iPhone banging on the door or going to a Governor Wolf press conference or going to his handlers and going, hey jackwagons.”

Kauffman said, “Yes, which is what we’re trying to figure out right now is what exactly, what does this mean?”

“Who’s doing the figuring then?” Ryan asked.

Kauffman said, “We have staff who work directly, who communicate with the governor’s office to say okay, question, what does this mean, what’s this mean, what’s this mean, what’s this mean? And that’s what we’re trying to do in the meantime. There’s no enforcement happening at this point because they’re trying to figure out, that’s the thing is, Pat, they don’t even know exactly what all that means.”

Ryan said, “Right, but then I get the whole retro stuff here. Oh well, we assigned the executive order on the 21st and now we’re going to make it retroactive, even though we didn’t have the rules down and even though you guys played nicely in the sandbox and didn’t get out your pitchforks and all the rest of this stuff.”