Whenever a debate rages over any minimum wage hike, the battle lines that form are both predictable and understandable. On the pro side are the workers, which makes sense, seeing as it's their paychecks that will have a few extra bucks thrown in if the hike takes place. And on the anti side are the business owners, which also makes sense, seeing as their profits are going to take a hit if they're forced to pay more to their workers.
So when news came out that California legislators voted to bump up the state's minimum wage, and that Governor Jerry Brown was going to definitely sign that bump into law, reactions were expected to take on an almost sleepwalking-like quality to them. Everyone going through the motions. Business as usual.
And indeed they did/it was.
But first, let's break down just what was agreed upon in Sacramento.
According to the passed bill -- which won with a 51-25 vote -- the minimum wage, which currently sits at $8 an hour, will be bumped up to $9 an hour on July 1st of next year. Following that, another eighteen months later on January 1st, 2016, the minimum wage will once again be raised, this time to $10 an hour. Compare that to Washington, the state that currently offers the highest minimum wage at $9.19 an hour, and you can see it's a pretty big bump. This hike is not an insignificant piece of legislation. It's a 25% increase over the next 27 months, something that will certainly help bank accounts all across the state.
So, then. The reactions. Let's start with the pros, which can be summed up like this:
- Everyone who makes minimum wage in the state of California. At least, everyone interviewed in every piece written about the hike, as well as people I've spoken to on my own. Which isn't to say that workers are completely satisfied, as many are still pushing for the $15 an hour hike that's been the goal of the recent fast food strikes. (Most workers who make minimum wage do so in a "food preparation and serving related" occupation, it should be noted.) But the minimum wage increase is still a step in the right direction.
And now, those who are against the hike:
- The California Restaurant Association went the classic scare tactic route by claiming the hikes will have a negative effect on jobs, predicting that restaurants will have to deal with paying their workers more by "cutting back employees' hours and reducing hiring."
- The California Chamber of Commerce used the same tactic by calling the proposed hike "a job killer."
- "California's Minimum Wage Increase Will Hurt the People It Is Meant to Help," wrote Vance Ginn, policy analyst for the Center for Fiscal Policy with the Texas Public Policy Foundation. He used a bunch of graphs to show it's "clear that many states with a higher minimum wage have a lower employment-population rather and a higher unemployment rate." Except, well, the graphs don't exactly show that.
- The Olive Growers Council of California in Visalia believe that the minimum wage hike may actually cause their workers to earn less, as field workers paid by the bin usually negotiate a higher price than $10 an hour when they're performing their job. Which is a point of view that, no, doesn't entirely hold up to scrutiny, as the workers should still be able to negotiate their usual wage with a minimum in place.
Which is all to say: Opinions over the minimum wage are the same as they ever were. But all of those doomsday predictions from the anti side, and celebrations from the pro side, don't change the fact that a change is a-coming to California. And then we'll get to see which side, ultimately, is right.
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