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The Worth of Work

By Judith Wilson
North Bay Biz, October 2016

A bright red and white poster at the entrance to Target in Novato reads Help Wanted. Similar signs are popping up in others areas of the North Bay, often staying there for weeks at a time, suggesting that workers at the bottom of the pay scale are reluctant to apply for jobs in areas where they can’t afford to live. It’s one of the problems that results when a living wage—the amount workers have to earn to pay for necessities like housing and food—exceeds the amount they actually earn by a wide margin. The disparity is something the state of California hopes to remedy with a series of increases in the minimum wage. It seems like a simple solution at first glance, but in reality it’s complex, with issues that make the outcome far from a sure thing.

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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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