Low wage workers just won’t take it anymore. They are the backbone of every community. They are the people who prepare your food, clean your house and care for your children, yet, they don’t make enough money to take care of their own families. Although women have been getting much of the attention lately as it relates to the wage gap, low-wage workers are at the forefront of income inequality.
This week, fast-food and other low-wage workers gathered in California and across the nation in protest, calling for a serious hike in the minimum wage to $15.00/hr. Currently, the federal minimum wage is a pitiful $7.25. There hasn’t been an increase to the federal minimum wage since 2009. The California minimum wage is not much higher. It rose to $9.00 in July 2014 but will rise to $10.00 on January 1, 2016. There are no other anticipated hikes. While California’s minimum wage may sound significantly higher, the cost of living is so burdensome that the difference is negligible.
Given that cities in California are able to set their own minimum wage, those with an especially high cost of living, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, have chosen to set their minimum wage above the California state-wide standard. This year, San Diego was ready to follow suit. Last year, our City Council voted to raise San Diego’s minimum wage to $9.75 in January 2015 and then to $11.50 in 2017, despite our Mayor, Kevin Faulconer, vetoing the ordinance. Sadly, opponents in the business community collected enough signatures to force the issue to a public vote in June 2016.
The rising costs of doing business is not a good or even acceptable reason to avoid paying your workers enough money to live. These people who are robbed of a fair living wage are just as much a part of our economy as anyone else and should enjoy the same opportunities to participate in the marketplace. In fact, if you think about it, raising the minimum wage and afford people purchasing power will actually stimulate the economy not deaden it. So remember to take your paid time off during the presidential primary, when the San Diego minimum wage vote comes around on June 7, 2016.