The precarious game of tug of war between California’s legislators and Labor unions has been concluded as both parties have reached an agreement that would raise the statewide minimum wage from $10 to $15 an hour by 2022.
“It’s a matter of economic justice. It makes sense,” said Governor Jerry Brown during a news conference at the state capitol. If enacted, the plan would increase the wages of 6.5 million Californians, which is 43 percent of the state’s workforce; furthermore, it would also fortify California’s position as the state with the highest minimum pay floor. Seattle, Oregon and several municipalities in California such as Los Angeles and San Francisco that have already made $15 an hour the minimum wage. Chris Tilly, director of the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment believes that New York, a fellow “forward” state, would be next in line to participate on the $15 minimum wage legislation if California successfully passes this plan.
Governor Jerry Brown reassures the public that “This plan raises the minimum wage in a careful and responsible way and provides some flexibility if economic and budgetary conditions change”. One of the agreement’s prerequisite is Governor Jerry Brown's ability to suspend wage hikes in the face of large budget deficits or increasing unemployment rates.
The plan would raise the statewide minimum wage by 50 cents on January 1st to $10.50 per hour. This subsequent $1 increase per year would occur until it finally reaches its $15 mark by Jan. 1 2022. There is clemency for businesses with less than 25 employees; they are given an extra year to comply.
Despite its slower pace of growth compared to the timetable proposed by union leaders, it is still considered a sign of progress. President of the statewide council of the Service Employees International Union said, “This agreement puts a better future in the grasp of average Californians.” This sign of progress also disproves the futility of Labor Unions and the voices of low wage workers.
Labor Unions aren’t the only supporters of the $15 minimum wage plan; presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has made it a cornerstone of his political campaign; striving to increase the current federal wage of $7.25 - which has endured since 2009. Hillary Clinton, his adversary for the Democratic nomination, supports a $12 per hour minimum.
To many this plan seems like a cure-all remedy to the woes and perturbations of life; however, critics would beg to differ. One prevalent concern is regarding the plan’s extremity. Previous wage hikes have occurred through comforting tiers; many are concerned that such a drastic plan would only expose a weak economic infrastructure balancing on low living costs. “I think there’s going to be job loss everywhere,” said David Neumark, an economist at University of California, Irvine. “You get out of the big cities and California is not a rich place at all.”
Moreover, critics feel that the plan does not take into account its detrimental effects on rural areas. Gabe Horwitz, economic program vice-president at Third Way, a left-center Think Tank in Washington, believes that it would destroy jobs in low-cost small towns. Unlike Oregon’s more gradual increases, California’s approach is “blunt” according to Horwitz.Republicans have also been particularly opposed to the plan, especially presidential front-runner Donald Trump. A man, who’s cocksure attitude qualifies his opinion in an array of subjects from human aesthetics to illegal immigrants, believes that the plan would only lead to fewer jobs for low skilled Americans.
Michael Han Ding Widjaja
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"California Raises Minimum Wage to $15 an Hour." NBC News. N.p., 28 Mar. 2016. Web. 28 Mar.
Davidson, Paul. "California Raises Minimum Wage to $15 an Hour." USA Today. Gannett, 28 Mar.