“There’s no turning back. We will win. We are winning because ours is a revolution of mind & heart” – Cesar Chavez
By Doug Porter
An ambitious demand tracing its origins to fast food workers walking off the job in 2012 took a big step towards becoming real yesterday as proposals to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour advanced in California and New York.
In California, hundreds of low-wage workers and members from supportive unions traveled to the Capitol to watch as the bill (SB3) was voted on in both legislative houses. California State Secretary of Labor David Lanier later told a cheering crowd that Governor Jerry Brown would sign the bill in Los Angeles on Monday.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made it official Thursday night, announcing the state budget deal he reached with Legislature leaders included a $15 an hour minimum wage. The New York deal is multi-tiered with different regions of the state getting different rates of increases.
In San Diego, janitors, fast food workers, and other low-wage employees marched from the Concourse Plaza to the State Building, celebrating Caesar Chavez’s birthday and supporting better pay and benefits for workers.
The California Deal
It’s important to remember in California and elsewhere that the political climate making these minimum wage hikes possible came from activism–strikes, picket lines, and basic organizing. Lots of people put their lives on hold and their economic security at risk to make the statement that change was needed.
Organized labor around the country played an important role in supporting the activism and educating the public. San Diego’s Labor Council was an early adopter of this cause, not because they’d actually gain many members, but because it was the right thing to do. Locally and nationally, many faith leaders also played a key role in making this happen.
Going back even further, some credit should also go to the influence of the Occupy movement, which made the issue of economic inequality one of its central tenets.
An estimated 5.5 million working people in California (2 million or so currently making minimum wage plus others with only slightly higher pay levels) will be seeing larger paychecks over the course of the next six years as a result of the legislature’s action.
From the Los Angeles Times:
Under the plan, the state’s hourly minimum wage would increase from the current $10 to $10.50 on Jan. 1, 2017, then to $11 the following year, and increase by $1 annually until 2022.
Businesses with fewer than 26 employees would get an additional year to comply, and Brown and his successors could delay the increases by one year in the case of an economic downturn. Assuming no pauses, the minimum wage would increase each year based on inflation starting in 2024.
Voice of San Diego quoted Oceanside Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, who opposed the measure along with other Republicans saying, “California will be on a road similar to the country of Greece.”
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez aided the bill’s speedy march through the Capitol, marshaling it yesterday through the Appropriations Committee in her first test as head of that powerful body.
Oceanside Republican Rocky Chavez, meanwhile, said the law contradicted the 13th amendment, which outlawed slavery, and warned it would send the state into economic ruin.
The bill passed the Assembly on a 48 to 26 vote and moved immediately into Senate where it passed 26-12. Gov. Jerry Brown announced soon after he would sign it on Monday.
The business section of the Union-Tribune included a story with data from UC Berkeley with an analysis of the impacts of this legislation.
More than a third of the state’s workers would benefit from those moves, the University of California Berkeley estimates.
“California’s proposal would be the highest minimum wage we have seen in the United States, and because of California’s sheer size, it would cover the largest number of workers,” said Ken Jacobs, chairman of the UC Berkeley center. “This is a very big deal for low-wage workers in California, for their families and for their children.”
Nearly half, or 48 percent, of workers who stand to get a raise have a household income that is twice the federal poverty threshold or below, UC Berkeley estimates.
The UT also ran opposing op-eds on the subject.
Small business owner Alma Rodriguez approved of the legislature’s action, noting the opportunity for San Diegans in June to enact a minimum-wage increase sooner for workers.
If Proposition I is approved on the June 7 ballot in the City of San Diego, people making minimum wage in the city will get a 50-cent raise immediately. Then, in January 2017, the wage will rise again to $11.50. The proposed statewide wage starts then, at a dollar less, and catches up to the San Diego wage by 2019.
Especially because of high housing costs here, San Diego workers urgently needed this local increase back when it was approved by the City Council in the summer of 2014. Blocked by a petition drive requiring a referendum, the raise is long overdue.
I know some of my fellow business owners object to raising the wage floor, even forecasting doom for their companies. Past experience should ease their fears.
Opponents predicted a minimum-wage increase in San Jose would force businesses to close. But in one year after the increase was implemented, the city added a total of 9,000 new businesses.
Debra Rosen, president and CEO of the North San Diego Business Chamber took the opposing side, predicting negative economic impacts.
A dangerous result of such a large increase in the minimum wage is a loss of jobs and higher costs for consumers. California already suffers and is known for one of the worst business climates in the United States and this new legislation adds one more challenge in keeping business open, operating and thriving in our state.
Businesses will be forced to cut labor costs and increase costs of their products and services. Hourly employees will likely see their hours cut to account for the impact to their employers.
Continued investment into automation will also cut into the job market by eliminating the need to have lower-skilled employees. Raising the minimum wage for these jobs may in fact accelerate the decision to invest in automation technology.
The Sky Isn’t Falling
It’s important to remember–and I’m not saying there won’t be impacts–that these predictions of economic doom are being pushed by many of the same people who predicted an unemployment spike following the implementation of Obamacare and would have us believe that decreasing taxes on the wealthy leads to higher employment.
The move to increase the minimum wage on both coasts comes just one year after the increases in Seattle, Washington began to take effect.
From yesterday’s Seattle Times:
Only a year into Seattle’s journey toward a $15 minimum wage, local economists tracking the impacts say it’s too early to make conclusions about how the city’s minimum-wage “experiment” is going, but so far, critics’ dire predictions of mass job loss have not come true.
“The sky is not falling,” said Jacob Vigdor, a University of Washington professor of public policy who is leading a city-sponsored study on Seattle’s minimum wage. “If it was really bad, a lot of people would have lost their jobs and every opening would get tons of applicants. That is not happening.”
The article makes note of a gloomy analysis published by the conservative American Enterprise Institute in February and quotes economists disagreeing with that conclusion because it was based on a U.S. Department of Labor survey using a small sampling to determine how many residents of an area are employed — not how many jobs a city has.
Weekly Progressive Calendar: Upcoming in San Diego
Bernie Light Brigade – San Diego County Democratic Dinner
Saturday, April 2, 5:30-8:30pm
Hilton San Diego Bay Front
1 Park Blvd
Info & Updates
Join us for a special event held by the San Diego County Democratic Party for their Roosevelt dinner. We will be holding our lighted letters to show our support for Bernie Sanders!
We will be greeting everyone with signs and banners and our big Bernie head when they arrive. Then we will bid them farewell as they leave with our lighted letters.
Streetlight Cadence Comes to the GO!
Saturday, April 2, 7:30pm
The Grassroots Oasis
3130 Moore St. (Old Town)
Info & Updates (Admission)
Streetlight Cadence is a four-piece Alternative Folk Pop band that started on the streets of historic Waikiki. What began as a means to pay for groceries has now turned into a full-time career for this group of friends. The band has spent the last six years honing their craft as songwriters and entertainers. Although they come from a strict classical background of musical performance, the young men of Streetlight Cadence are anything but your typical quartet.
Streetlight Cadence carries half a decade of experience performing at restaurants, venues, weddings, coffee shops, and corporate events. Driven by their infectious storytelling and whimsicality, Streetlight Cadence has made its mark on Hawaii’s musical landscape (e.g., 2015 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards Alternative Album of the Year). Now based out of Southern California, none are safe from the friendly neighborhood busking band.
Transgender Day of Empowerment
Friday, April 8, 6pm
3909 Center Street (Hillcrest)
Info & Updates
Join us in celebrating the rich diversity of San Diego’s transgender community! This year’s program is youth-focused and will include: speakers, entertainment, refreshments, awards and the announcement of the 2nd Annual Tracie Jada O’Brien Transgender Student Scholarship!
The San Diego Transgender Day of Empowerment was established by long-time San Diego community member Tracie O’Brien as a way to celebrate, empower and honor the transgender community in San Diego. More than a decade later, this event draws hundreds of community members to hear transgender speakers and enjoy community fellowship!
Important: This event will be interpreted in American Sign Language for our Deaf attendees.
Restorative Justice: What It Is And Why It Matters
Saturday, April 9 10am-Noon
Peace Resource Center of San Diego
3850 Westgate Pl.
Info & Updates
We know that our criminal justice system is not serving us well. State budgets for education have steadily decreased while funds for prisons increase. We are incarcerating minorities at an alarming rate, often for nonviolent offenses. With their zero tolerance policies, schools are calling on police to arrest children for behaviors that would have meant a visit to the principal’s office in decades past.
One solution is Restorative Justice.
But what is it? How does it work? And what makes it better than what we currently do?
As an advocate for social justice, what can you tell your representatives, co-workers and friends about Restorative Justice?
Advocating for peaceful and just solutions in our own communities requires us to be informed. Join us for a closer look at “RJ” and its proactive sister, Restorative Practices. Refreshments provided. Donations appreciated. Co-hosted by Peace Resource Center of San Diego and SD First Church of the Brethren
12th Annual Zapata March/La Marcha de Zapata!
Saturday, April 9, 10am
1983 National Ave
Info & Updates
Since 2004, la Marcha de Zapata has been organized every year by Union del Barrio in San Diego in unity with local MEChAs and with other youth oriented groups. The goal is to pay respect to the memory and legacy of the struggle of General Emiliano Zapata killed April 10, 1919. The Marcha serves to build unity among the different groups with the goal of building unity within a “movement of raza youth”.
This year’s theme is ¡Juntos Lucharemos, Juntos Venceremos! !Together We Fight, Together we Rise! We will be taking the streets to make visible the struggle for human rights, to reject state terrorism in our communities, to reject gentrification and defend our right to higher education. In order to make our voices be heard, we must unity and stand up against our oppressor. Como dice el General Emiliano Zapata, “Si no hay justicia para el pueblo, que no haya paz para el gobierno.” We must let go of our fears and stand in solidarity. So we challenge you to stand in the front lines with us and fight for our libertad porque ¡El Pueblo Unido, Jamas Sera Vencido!
Sips & Civility: Money in Politics
Tuesday, April 12, 6-8pm
New San Diego Central Library
330 Park Blvd
Info & Updates
Enjoy some free drinks and learn about the influence of money in politics at the same time. The League of Women Voters San Diego is hosting its next Sips & Civility event on April 12, a nonpartisan evening of drinks and civil discourse.
League leaders are excited to share information about Super PACs and dark money. Join us for a round-table discussion and weigh in with your thoughts too.
This event is open to the public and located at the San Diego Central Library, Shiley Events Suite on the 9th floor. Anyone age 21 and older may attend. RSVPs are appreciated.
Get your event listed: I try to list the next 10 days or so of mostly non-commercial events I think our readers might find of interest. I source my material from social media listings and press releases. In cases where there are competing but similar events or campaigns of the progressive persuasion, I do my best to list everything. (Hint, hint Hillary fans.) Unfortunately, my subscription to the psychic hotline has lapsed so if you don’t tell me or Facebook, etc., about your event it won’t get listed. See my email address below.
On This Day: 1913 – What was to become a 13-week strike began in Hopedale, Mass., when hundreds of workers seeking higher pay and a 9-hour day gathered in the street near the Draper Corp. loom-making plant. The president of the company declared: “We will spend $1 million to break this strike,” and, in fact, did, aided by hundreds of sworn “special policemen” with clubs. Police were drawn from a three-state area as well. 1984 – Marvin Gaye, at the age of 44, was killed by his father . Gaye’s father received probation after he pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter. 1991 – The Supreme Court ruled that jurors could not be barred from serving due to their race.
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