Before looking ahead, I always find it helpful to take a look back first. When thinking about the last year, I’m forced to notice the tension in 2014 about raising the minimum wage, tension that has been ratcheting up since the last economic collapse. True, by 2016 California’s minimum wage earners will be raking in $10 an hour, but for many people that is no more than a gesture. As the conversation finally begins to move in the right direction, the real faces of minimum wage earners will be seen and their voices will be heard.
Right now the federal minimum wage is at $7.25, while California’s is at $9.00. The conversation, however, has moved so far in one direction that any talk of an increase is met with rhetoric about killing jobs and crushing the economy. It may then be shocking to learn that if the federal minimum wage was adjusted to reflect inflation and productivity, it would actually be around twenty bucks an hour, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Unfortunately, minimum wage earners are now fighting tooth and nail just to get it into the double digits.
In addition, such a dramatic increase could very well destabilize the already fragile job market, but only because of the fear mongering that has clouded the conversation already. If the public believes an increase will wreck the economy, then fear and indecision will make that belief come true regardless of the potential benefits.
There is still much debate in Sacramento about raising its minimum wage above the state’s $9. On one hand, Sacramento City ouncil members such as Jay Schenirer and Allen Warren support an increase. On the other hand, the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce is generally opposed to an increase, though it hasn’t weighed in on a measure for the area. Then there is Mayor Kevin Johnson, who generally supports an increase but would like to see more research on the effect it would have in the capital city (Sacramento Business Journal).
As wages continue to fall behind living costs, inflation productivity, growing frustrations have brought this conversation to its tipping point. So as tensions rise even more between businesses, employees, and lawmakers, this year seems like a defining moment for the “raise the wage” movement.
Featured image courtesy of Peter Thoeny (Flickr)