The mayors of San Francisco and Oakland met with workers today to express their support for a statewide proposition that would increase the minimum wage by $1 each year beginning in 2017 and continue for the next five years.
While Oakland and San Francisco enjoy relatively high minimum wages, at $12.25 per hour, the statewide the minimum wage is $9 per hour, although it is set to rise to $10 per hour in January 2016.
Nationwide, the minimum wage remains stagnant at $7.25 per hour.
A full-time worker making the minimum wage in California currently earns roughly $18,720 a year.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf co-chaired the 2016 California Initiative and are leading the campaign to raise the state’s minimum wage.
Meeting with workers today at Rickshaw Bagworks, a locally-owned small business in San Francisco, the mayors explained that raising the state’s minimum wage to $11 in 2017 and then gradually increasing it to $15 in 2021 would not only be good for workers, but good for businesses.
“We’ve proven that raising the minimum wage is good for small business, good for our economy, and good for our people” San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said.
California, Lee said, is “surging in prosperity, one of the most innovative states,” yet there are working class families struggling to survive on the minimum wage.
He said nobody who is working full-time should be forced to live in poverty.
That, the mayor said, is “totally unfair.”
If voters pass the initiative, minimum wage workers in California will be earning $31,200 a year by 2021.
“All the costs are going up, how come we have a minimum wage that hasn’t caught up to those costs?” Lee asked.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said that raising the minimum wage in a predictable and affordable way is the right thing to do for the people of California.
“A gradual, uniform wage increase for the lowest-paid workers across our state is fiscally and morally responsible,” Schaaf said.
She said the time has come to ensure that all Californians who are working full-time jobs are earning enough money to survive in today’s economy.
Rickshaw Bagworks, a small business that designs and manufactures customizable bags in its on-site sewing factory in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood, fully endorses the initiative.
Rickshaw Bagworks owner, Mark Dwight, said today that his company prides itself on paying a living wage and as a result, has had zero turnover in the company’s manufacturing team over the past eight years.
Lee said the ballot initiative “is fair to workers in all industries, at all companies, of all sizes.”
The initiative is expected to appear on the Nov. 8, 2016 ballot after collection of the 366,000 required signatures. Once the minimum wage reaches $15, it would automatically go up each year to match the cost of living.
The initiative continues to permit cities to set higher local minimum wages if they choose.
Dave Regan, president of Service Employees International Union – United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), said signatures are being gathered to get the initiative on the ballot, but that unlike usual signature collecting efforts, people are “literally lining up and waiting to sign the petition.”
Regan said California needs to lead the way on this issue and said he hopes that the rest of the country will follow.
He said that fair wages need to be a priority when doing business and creating business plans.
“You just got to bake it into the cake,” Regan said.
Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News