Gov. Jerry Brown and the new, but weak, minimum wage law

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Most Californians are well aware that the state minimum wage is going up to $10.00/hour. But when and how? Governor Brown signed AB 10 into law last September, only after making major changes to the bill. With these amendments, the following provisions are now encased into Labor Code Law:

  1. On  July 1, 2014, the California minimum wage will rise from $8.00/hour to $9.00/hour.
  2. On January 1, 2016, it will rise again, from $9.00 to $10.00/hour. There it will stay, until such time as working people mount another costly campaign to raise it.        
  3. There   will be no annual indexing of the minimum wage to inflation, an original provision of the bill which was not set to begin until 2016 when the wage reaches $10.00.

This is not a victory for working people. The rise to $10.00 by 2016 is too long in coming and too little to help. Even fast food workers are organizing for $15.00/hour, because it will take that much for more than half of them to stop having to rely on public assistance programs like food stamps (SNAP) and CalWORKS to survive. What needs to happen is an immediate rise in the minimum wage to a living wage, with an immediate annual indexing to inflation that will end the senseless need to refight this battle every five to six years. Meanwhile, the minimum wage falls farther and farther behind the cost of living. Based on the history of changes in the state minimum wage, we will not see another increase from $10.00 until 2021 or 2022.

The working people of this country, especially the working women who represent 2/3 of minimum wage earners, need meaningful, comprehensive change - change that will bring up wages in California and all across the country to what the minimum wage of 1968 could buy: $10.50/hour!

HR 1346, introduced last spring by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), would make that change. Shamefully, "The Catching up to 1968 Act of 2013" has been co-sponsored by only three members of the U.S. California delegation, Rep. Karen Bass, Rep. Barbara Lee, and Rep. Alan Lowenthal. HR 1346 proposes to raise the federal minimum wage from its current $7.25/hour to $10.50/hour within 60 days of being signed into law. Also within 60 days of signing, the federal tipped wage - which has been $2.13/hour since 1991, will go up to 70% of the $10.50 minimum wage, and both the minimum wage and the tipped wage will be indexed annually to inflation.

Last fall, several community groups from Los Angeles, including 9to5 California, the California Faculty Association, and the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), invited representatives to a town hall on the federal minimum wage, held at Cal State Dominguez Hills.

When Rep. Maxine Waters and Rep. Janice Hahn could not appear personally, we delivered hundreds of petition signatures to their district offices. We still await their commitment to co-sponsoring HR 1346. It is time for all legislators to join Reps. Bass, Lee, and Lowenthal in standing up for working people.

Cathy Deppe is a Los Angeles resident, on the L.A. chapter board of 9to5 and a district captain for the national campaign to Catch Up to 1968. She is also a staff organizer for CLUE-LA, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice.

Photo: Jim Weber/AP

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