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Why $15 Now in California

 by Martin J. Bennett

Sonoma Gazette, July 2016

Governor Jerry Brown recently signed legislation to boost the California minimum wage from $10/hr. to $15/hr.—a 50 percent increase, which will affect more than one-third of the workforce, making the state’s minimum the highest in the nation. This minimum wage hike will be phased in over six years, then automatically adjusted annually to offset rising costs of living.

Immediately after California, New York adopted a $15/hr. minimum followed by the District of Columbia. Legislatures in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Jersey are now considering $15/hr. minimum wage measures.

However, a political puzzle needs examination. Last year the Governor and the legislature’s Democratic leadership opposed a $13/hr. minimum wage bill (phased in by 2017) introduced by State Senator Mark Leno.

Why a $15 minimum wage a year later? To answer that question we must analyze the grassroots movement for economic justice that began in the mid-1990s and has now ‘scaled up,’ forcing the Governor and legislature to act.

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Wages and Housing: Why Sonoma County Workers Can’t Afford the Rent
By Martin J. Bennett
Sonoma Gazette, February 2016

A widening gap between declining incomes and rising rents is fueling two powerful movements in the Golden State: one to raise the wage floor for low-wage workers, and another to control rents and increase funding for affordable housing.

According to the California Housing Partnership Corporation, a combination of falling incomes and high rents is driving the worst rental-housing crisis in California since World War II. Between 2000-2014 in California adjusted median household income fell 8 percent while median rents jumped 20 percent. During this timeframe Sonoma County's median renter income dropped by 9 percent and median rents increased by 17 percent.

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