On Friday, Assembly Bill 10 gets California to 10 – a $10-per-hour statewide minimum wage. The final step of a two-stage increase under legislation I authored in 2013, it will give California the nation’s highest minimum wage, along with Massachusetts.
All Californians will benefit, not just those workers who will get a raise. The increase will help close California’s growing income equality gap and it will provide additional economic stimulus for our state.
AB 10 previously raised the minimum wage to $9 per hour on July 1, 2014. This increase of $2 per hour over the past 18 months means that full-time minimum-wage workers will earn an additional $4,160 each year. In households with two or three minimum-wage earners, this equates to $8,320 to $12,480 more a year to help make ends meet. This is a significant increase in the standard of living for these families.
Recent findings also suggest that increasing the minimum wage will boost the economy and create more jobs. Last year more than 600 prominent economists signed a letter to President Barack Obama and Congress that said raising the minimum wage would stimulate the economy “as low-wage workers spend their additional earnings, raising demand and job growth, and providing some help on the jobs front.”
Recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor showed that states that raised the minimum wage added jobs at a faster rate than those that did not.
A department publication also debunks many of the arguments we have heard against raising the minimum wage. Raising the pay of the lowest-earning workers does not kill jobs, nor does it hurt the economy or burden small business.
Since California’s minimum wage increased to $9 an hour 18 months ago, the state has continued to be a national leader in economic growth and job creation.
Raising the minimum wage was a personal issue for me.
My mother-in-law works two minimum-wage jobs as an agricultural worker in the Central Valley. At one job, she has worked for the same employer for more than 20 years and never received a cent above the minimum wage until AB 10 took effect. She shows up early to work each day, is loyal to her employers and is well liked by her coworkers. In a second job, she only earned 10 cents an hour above the minimum wage after eight years of employment.
Like many other hardworking Californians, instead of advancing or rewarding her for her dedication and sacrifices working in the vineyards and packing sheds under the hot Central Valley sun, her employers had kept her at minimum wage all these years.
Nearly 90 percent of minimum-wage workers are over the age of 20 and two-thirds are 26 or older. And many work two or three jobs to provide for their families. In 2013 the California Budget Project calculated that the purchasing power of the state minimum wage was nearly a third of what it was in 1968.
Ultimately, raising the minimum wage is about equality. It is the least we can do for the lowest-paid workers in a state that has the highest wealth equality gap in the nation.
Luis A. Alejo, a Watsonville Democrat, is chairman of the California Latino Legislative Caucus and represents the 30th Assembly District. He can be contacted at email@example.com.