Subject: California’s $15 Minimum Wage Earthquake!
On April 4th, Governor Brown signed what has been touted as “historic” legislation to raise California’s minimum wage to $15 per hour. After examining the legislation, I find the excitement surrounding the legislation to be overstated. The incremental annual increases of up to $15 an hour would not be reached until 2022 — six years from now. And small businesses (up to 25 employees) — the majority of California’s businesses — will be given an additional year. Furthermore, the governor could put wage hikes on hold if there is an economic downturn, a broadly defined term. Thus, the governor has the power in the legislation to ignore the law, and if he or she does, the $15 goal could be reached at an even later date or never.
In addition, the legislation does not increase California’s sick leave law, which is left stuck at three days. Three days is just not enough.
The inadequacy of the legislation can be traced somewhat to the myth that small business owners cannot afford to pay their workers more, But a July 2015 survey disputes this myth. The survey found that small business owners say an increase “would immediately put more money in the pocket of low-wage workers who will then spend the money on things like housing, food, and gas. This boost in demand for goods and services will help stimulate the economy and help create opportunities.”
Regardless, no business has any right to continue if it cannot or will not pay at least a minimum wage of $15. And remember, a minimum wage of $15 is in most cases, not a living wage.
Much has been made about the shrinking middle class in the U.S. where the wealthiest 160,000 families own as much as the poorest 145 million families. An immediate minimum wage of $15 is a modest start toward raising the poorest among us upward. Now that would truly be historic.
Ralph E. Stone
San Francisco, CAFiled under: Letters to the Editor