On April 4, 2016, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 3 (SB-3) into law, setting plans in motion for a historic $15 per hour minimum wage to hit California by 2022.
This issue came to the forefront during the 2016 election with many notable supporters, including Senator Bernie Sanders.
While opponents may be concerned with its economic repercussions, this grassroots-driven victory makes both moral and financial sense.
Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), an interfaith worker justice organization in Los Angeles, supported the minimum wage increase, calling it the “largest and most comprehensive minimum wage policy in the nation,” and urging for protection over issues such as wage theft and sick days coverage.
Los Angeles Community Leader and CLUE Board Member Reverend Jim Conn moralized the movement, believing that the wage increase addresses the inherent right to a living wage for the marginalized worker.
“A path to $15 gives the very poorest working people a raise—a raise they need desperately to afford the basics of what it costs to raise a family in this state. I believe that if a person works full time, they should earn enough to raise their families—shelter, food, clothes, medical care—at least that,” Conn said.
Conn points to Bible verses like Jeremiah 22:13 to support the justice his argument addresses: “Woe to him who builds his house without righteousness. And his upper rooms without justice, who uses his neighbor’s services without pay and does not give him his wages.”
Sophomore global studies major Kristin Ingersoll wholeheartedly agrees with Conn.
“I think that everyone should have the right to a living wage and that a $15 minimum wage will allow workers to support their families without a fear of falling into poverty. I also think that California is making a smart choice in adding safeguards to the legislation as this could inflate our economy and the cost of living could go up,” Ingersoll said.
Proponents of the minimum wage increase not only cite the justice of a livable working wage, but its economic benefits. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti pointed to the surging city economy as proof of the wage increase success.
“I’m proud that we raised the wage—because a higher minimum wage means a stronger economy, and more opportunity for everyone,” Garcetti said in an interview with the New York Times.
In Los Angeles alone, there are 798,740 workers making less than $15 an hour, which is 45 percent of the population. Raise the Wage, an organization devoted to higher working wages, estimates that these workers spend 106 percent of their income on a monthly basis, implying that they are chronically in debt and less apt to invest in businesses.
Opponents of the movement claim that the wage increase harms businesses, which results in higher priced goods and less spending money for families.
Though these concerns are legitimate, in San Jose and San Francisco, where minimum wage increases were enacted, price increases remained minuscule in comparison to the benefits of lower unemployment.
In fact, a UC Berkeley study released groundbreaking findings that a higher minimum wage decreases employee turnover and increases worker purchasing power. The former cuts employer costs while the latter stimulates consumer demand. Though there are positives and negatives to a wage increase, they largely offset each other, the study said.
APU Director for Mobilization over the Center for Student Action Karen Rouggly acknowledged the widening gap between two polarizing socio-economic groups who have yet to fully understand each other.
“I don’t know that a healthy compromise is even attainable at this point. A lot would have to change for us to reach that,” Rouggly said.
The issue of minimum wage increase is not entirely an urban issue, but one that impacts our very own campus. At a time when UC campuses are joining many colleges in raising tuition along with rising living expenses, there needs to be a counterbalance in the form of a minimum wage hike to provide affordable education options to families.
“Jesus told a parable about paying people enough to survive for a day, no matter how long they worked. Minimum wage is like that. It enables people to live and take care of their families,” Conn said.