California’s minimum wage increase: raising hopes or doubts

by Julianna McDowell, Staff Columnist

It is the year 2022.

After working my minimum wage paying job in San Diego for 30 hours this week, I receive my paycheck: somewhere around $350 to $400 after taxes.

This paycheck will go towards a an array of things: the rent for my apartment, utilities and water and internet for said apartment, my car payment, my groceries, my insurance and credit cards bills, etc.

With this paycheck, and the ones I receive in the following weeks, I can only hope I will be able to cover my expenses for the month. But, what about my co-workers with families? Is this wage livable? And at the same time, is it economically responsible?

First, these are the basics: on the morning of April 4, 2016, Governor of California Jerry Brown signed a bill mandating a 50 percent increase in California’s minimum wage from $10 an hour to $15 over six years.

Essentially, California’s minimum wage will incrementally increase – in 2017 wages will rise from $10 to $10.50; from there, the wage will increase one dollar per year until 2022. Small businesses with less than 25 workers will have one year thereafter to comply.

Critics of this increase, many looking at it from an economic angle, are staunchly against the bill.

Contributors to this verbal assault can especially be heard from the voices of many small business owners, claiming the minimum wage increase hurts them significantly.

These individuals claim the bill victimizes their local businesses, which may not generate a significant income, causing them to have to lay off workers, subsequently causing the employees left to have to do more work with less staff, in addition to being unable to hire new employees.

The business owners also say they will have to inevitably raise prices as the minimum wage increases, causing consumers to be able to afford their products.

Opposition of the bill also states that the bill incentivizes companies to utilize technology in lieu of real life workers, enabling businesses to cut costs of paying workers altogether and costing many jobs. Many also claim that the minimum wage should not be adjusted on a state level due to city cost and productivity discrepancies, but on a local level, where the wage can be adjusted accordingly for a place like San Francisco, where according to a National Review article, costs are as much as 74 percent greater than those in Bakersfield, Calif.

On the other hand, raising the minimum wage in California seems to be an answer to a long-held cry for the rights of low-income workers.

Contrary to the opinions of right-wing legislators, the individuals working minimum wage jobs are not all students enlisted in their first jobs. Parents relying on minimum wage occupations to make ends meet for their families suffer under the burden of not being paid enough to pay the bills.

And, according to the same National Review article, California has the second highest cost of living in the nation overall. By 2022, with adjustments to costs made based on inflation, $15 an hour may still not be enough for these families, struggling to get by, but it’s a start.

Based on these facts and points on both ends, I have to conclude that raising the minimum wage, is an important step towards economic justice for employees working minimum wage jobs.

While the wage increase may hurt small businesses, the human force driving these businesses can no longer be ignored. Raising the minimum wage in California, is, from a human perspective, the right choice.