Raise minimum wage – it’s least we can do
EDITOR: I watched the Council crew the night of Dec. 18, oh boy. Here’s the news.
The item on the Council agenda for that meeting was whether or not to have a discussion about a discussion on the thorny matter of a city minimum wage. After some cogent comments from the public, and somewhat hard to decipher deliberations by the Council, it voted unanimously to have said discussion. When that will happen is anyone’s guess.
The fact of the matter is that last night’s discussion-to–discuss decision had already been put off for three years. That’s the pace at which this Council has been moving. That’s what I call careful proceeding on a matter of vital interest to many. But no matter, the matter is now officially in the pipeline. Hopefully it won’t get impacted there as before.
What I did find enormously and ironically amusing was the sudden emotional concerns expressed by Council members Hundley and Cook that focus on a minimum wage might interfere with the Council’s erstwhile study and solution of the affordable housing crisis. The Council has dithered with this bedrock problem for at least four years now and accomplished practically nothing. Their heightened concern at this juncture felt empty and rather staged. The other bit of kabuki was the new city manager’s request for more time to study minimum wage potential impacts when this matter has been before the Council for three years now. One wonders what these folks have been up to these last years?
According to Press Democrat articles from 2015, one in nine people in Sonoma County were living at or below the federal poverty level. According to the Portrait of Sonoma study done in 2014, the Latino community is the poorest in the county, with 61 percent of families earning less than $25,000 per year.
The minimum wage was established at 25-cents an hour in 1938 (Fair Labor Standards Act) and in 79 years has risen to $7.25 an hour today. California’s minimum wage is $10.50 an hour. Know any working person who can make ends meet at $10.50 an hour or even $15 an hour, now being touted as a living wage?
Nevertheless the business community (corporations, chambers of commerce, and employers in general) has vehemently fought a minimum wage since its inception, and still argues that it will spell doom for the economy and result in a loss of jobs even though myriad studies show this is not true. The highly respected and oft-cited University of California’s minimum wage study, Berkeley’s Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics, confirms that the arguments against a minimum wage are baseless. But you can be sure these same arguments will come up again when this issue is again debated in Sonoma.
We know, unequivocally, that increased wage income for local workers is spent locally and aids all forms of business, from retail to professional to non-profits and services. We know, unequivocally, that jobs are not lost or diminished, but quite the opposite happens and local economies improve.
It is our moral responsibility and obligation to pay fair wages to all the people who work and produce what we consume on a daily basis. This is at the heart of the social contract. This is what we must demand for our children and the generations to come. And if those who traditionally speak for the business community heap the same old excuses for not paying fair and just wages, as they have for far too many decades, they must be ignored and told to move over for a new day and a new way of doing business in this city and this country.