Local voters will set tone this fall for future Minimum Wage debate

Around the state and the nation discussions regarding the minimum wage have been prevalent in recent months. President Obama has been outspokenly supportive of raising the federal minimum wage and made steps in this direction when he signed an executive order in February requiring an increase in federal contractors’ minimum hourly wage to $10.10 by 2015. Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York City, signed an executive order in October raising the hourly minimum wage to $13.13 for workers who do not receive benefits. In the last year, eight states and Washington D.C. have already increased their minimum wages and eight more states and municipalities have minimum wage ballot measures set for November. When Californians go the polls, voters in San Francisco, Oakland, and Eureka will have a chance to weigh in on these conversations. 

One hot-spot for discussions concerning income inequality is the San Francisco Bay Area, which has two proposals to increase minimum wage on November’s ballot. Proposition J attempts to solve some of these dilemmas by raising the minimum wage to $15 hourly by 2018 in incremental phases. The San Francisco Chronicle reported (http://www.sfgate.com/politics/joegarofoli/article/S-F-businesses-tech-not-blocking-minimum-wage-5724393.php) that 18 percent of households in San Francisco and Oakland areas make under $25,000 and nearly one-quarter earn less than $35,000 annually. In San Francisco, the influx of tech workers has amplified this income disparity in the city where the average home price is $1 million.  According to a UC Berkeley study, Proposition J’s raise in San Francisco’s minimum wage could reach nearly 23 percent of the city’s workforce.

Similarly, Oakland voters will decide on a $12.25 hourly minimum wage which, if passed, will go into effect March 2015. Introduced by a coalition of community members, workers, faith leaders, and business owners known as Lift Up (http://www.liftupoakland.org), Measure FF also proposes annual increases pegged to the cost of living and a minimum of five days of sick leave for all employees. Supporters argue that the Oakland measure is the most well-developed and broadly-supported minimum wage proposal. Lift Up expects the measure will directly impact 34,000 employees and indirectly benefit another 14,000 individuals. Additionally, the measure aims to benefit the estimated 68 percent of workers earning less than $12.25 in Oakland who have no sick paid days.

Near California’s northern border, Eureka is following suit with a proposed increase from $8 to $12 minimum hourly. Measure R, or the Eureka Fare Wage Ordinance, would apply to businesses with 25 or more employees who work at least two hours a week in Eureka. If passed, Measure R would go into effect 90 days after the election results were certified.

The results in San Francisco, Oakland, and Eureka will contribute to the growing debate over income inequality in the US and the effects minimum wage can have on economic growth and development in the future. 


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