Push for minimum wage increase comes to Bethlehem

Written by on August 27, 2021

Push for minimum wage increase comes to Bethlehem

August 27, 2021

By Hayden Mitman

The front of El Jefe’s Taqueria in Bethlehem. Photo | Hayden Mitman / WLVR

Pennsylvania has not seen a minimum wage increase in 15 years. 

Gov. Tom Wolf has called for an increase as all six states that border the commonwealth offer higher minimum wages.

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But critics of the rate hike argue businesses will suffer if wages go up. 

Locally, El Jefe’s Taqueria found just the opposite. 

John Schall, owner of the authentic Mexican restaurant in Bethlehem, credited much of his success to the fact that he pays his employees a living wage. 

“It’s just part of being a decent human being. It’s also a crucial part of a successful business model,” he said. “There are restaurants now that aren’t open because they say they can’t find staff. I haven’t closed for an hour because I can’t find staff. It’s absolutely the case that paying a living wage is a crucial part of the success of El Jefe’s.”

Schall offers a starting hourly wage of $12 an hour plus tips. 

At $7.25 an hour, Pennsylvania’s minimum wage is the lowest allowed by federal law. 

Marcos Talaba, who works at Schall’s restaurant, said his last job paid just a few cents over the minimum wage. 

“The transition was dramatic because I was able to help out my mom, even though I was helping out a lot before that, I can help her out even more,” Talaba said. 

John Schall, owner of El Jefe’s Taqueria in Bethlehem speaking at a press conference. Photo | Hayden Mitman / WLVR

A pair of bills being debated in Harrisburg would see the minimum wage raised to $12 an hour this year and then climb incrementally to $15 an hour in 2027. 

The governor said he would approve a wage hike once it gets to his desk. 

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