By Leticia Perez
Californians have not seen a minimum wage increase since 2008. Although the Golden State is one of the most expensive places to live, it has a lower minimum wage than nearby states such as Nevada, Oregon and Washington.
Since 2008, gasoline prices have increased as well as the price of other goods, yet wages in California remain stagnant.
The San Joaquin Valley is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world, with Fresno County farmers receiving $6.8 billion in revenue last year. Despite this wealth, the Central Valley ranks among the nation’s most impoverished regions. Workers here would benefit the most by raising the minimum wage from $8.00 to $9.25 an hour.
The people who pick our fruits and vegetables, prepare our food and care for our children should not be expected to scrape by on $320 a week. Low-wage employees live in an economy where their paychecks remain the same while the cost of living increases. As a result, the gap between lower- and upper-income Californians is the largest it has been in 30 years with an ever-shrinking middle class. According to the California Budget Project, during California’s economic recovery, one-third of all new income went to the state’s top one percent.
Opponents of a minimum wage increase argue that businesses will suffer, jobs will be eliminated and youth will be pushed out of the labor market. However, according to economic professors at the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Massachusetts and the University of North Carolina, communities that adopted a minimum wage increase experienced a “positive multiplier” effect because struggling workers spent what extra came their way, putting back into the local economy whatever was earned.
With an abundance of low-paying jobs, minimum wage workers in the Valley often stay with the same employer and at the same pay scale for decades or their entire working lives. Without pay or professional advancement, they often remain deprived of the opportunity to provide a better living environment for their children, families and parents.
Raising the minimum wage to $9.25 an hour puts an extra $50 a week into their pockets. It is time to increase the minimum wage; it is time for us to do the right thing for the people who keep our economy going.
Leticia Perez is running for Senate District 16. One of her policy priorities upon election is to raise the minimum wage from $8.00 to $9.25 per hour.