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It’s difficult to find anyone who really is happy with a minimum wage.

The workers who receive it think it should be higher; the employers who pay it are aggravated by it; and, the legislators who set the legal pay floor know that no matter what they decide, a large group of people will be unhappy with it.

This is a classic no-win situation.

Today’s federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, but President Obama says he supports a $10.10 minimum but we’ll have to see what Congress thinks about that. California has its own minimum that is $8 but will increase to $9 in July next year and $10 in January 2016.

California enacted its first minimum wage – 16 cents per hour in 1916 – and the federal minimum wage was established at 25 cents an hour in 1938 to help with Great Depression economic reparation.

But increasing minimum wage is always a tug-of-war between those who believe lower-wage workers are being taken advantage of and those who think government has no business telling private industry what they should pay people. Some believe raising the minimum wage helps low-level workers to live better, while others believe it hurts workers by causing a reduction in the number of entry-level jobs offered.

And, that’s why the minimum wage never seems to be set at the right point.

Lately, though, there has been a movement to take the minimum wage away from federal and state governments. Increasingly, municipalities are looking at setting their own minimum wage.

In California, there aren’t many estimates of how many people are earning a minimum wage. But it is a fact that California has the highest percentage (23.5 percent) of families living below the poverty line. A fulltime minimum-wage job in California means you would earn $16,640 a year.

Already, San Jose and San Francisco have established their own minimum wages for workers within city limits. In 2012, San Jose passed a law requiring a minimum wage of $10 per hour for anyone working in the city, with annual cost-of-living adjustments.

San Francisco, meanwhile, has been a pioneer champion of minimum-wage workers. It set its first minimum wage in 2003 and currently requires a $10.55 hourly minimum. However, because of the high cost of living in San Francisco, any local movement to boost the minimum wage would almost certainly pass if put to the city’s voters.

The minimum wage has also been addressed by Jackson Rancheria, a small tribal reservation in Amador County. The reservation, which is a sovereign government and unaffected by California’s minimum wage, plans to boost the minimum wage to $10.60 in January. The move is expected to boost the salaries of several hundred employees among its 1,135-member workforce that is employed by a casino and ancillary businesses.

In November voters in the state of Washington approved a $15 an hour minimum wage for 6,000 workers at SeaTac airport and supporting hotels.

And, none of that counts the 120 local government across the nation which have adopted so-called living-wage ordinances that require companies that receive tax breaks or do work under government contracts to pay their employees much higher than existing minimum wage.

These things show that maybe local control is better when it comes to setting a minimum wage.

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dwbat Dec. 19, 2013 @ 11:39 a.m.

The huge fast food companies (and other major companies that pay minimum wages) can easily pay their employees more, and still make a nice profit. They can increase their prices a few pennies, and they won't be crushing their bottom line. Perhaps local "mom and pop" cafes, etc. could be given a break. The problem, of course, is that companies generally put their shareholders' interests way ahead of their hard-working employees, who allow the company to make those profits!


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