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California’s Minimum Wage Increases To $10 In New Year

Emmanuel Wimers, a City Heights McDonald's worker, at a rally to push for hig...

Photo by Megan Burks

Above: Emmanuel Wimers, a City Heights McDonald's worker, at a rally to push for higher wages for fast food workers, Dec. 4, 2014.


Lorena Gonzalez, assemblywoman

Jason Roe, political consultant, Revolvis Consulting


The minimum wage is expected be a hot topic in 2016.

Starting Jan. 1, it goes up from $9 to $10 an hour in California. Some lawmakers say that's not enough.

In the city of San Diego, a measure to raise the minimum wage to $11.50 by the year 2017 will be on the June ballot. And a proposed statewide ballot measure to raise the hourly wage to $15 could appear on the November 2016 ballot.

Democratic California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego and political consultant Jason Roe, who leads a group opposed to raising the minimum wage in San Diego, discussed the issue Monday on KPBS Midday Edition.

Gonzalez said those opposed to the bump often have the wrong idea about minimum wage earners.

"A lot of people have this belief that it's teenagers who have a summer job, but in fact 95 percent of the people earning minimum wage are over 20, and half of them are over the age of 50," Gonzalez said. "About a third have children, and we know over half of them are women. So our minimum wage earners are just like you and me."

Gonzalez said the Jan. 1 increase will make a small difference for those individuals, but she said she wants to see it go even higher. For full-time workers the new minimum wage amounts to $20,800 a year, Gonzalez said.

"Nobody believes you can actually live in San Diego on that wage," Gonzalez said. "That means taxpayers pick up the rest through social services, food stamps, Section 8 housing, (and) free lunch programs. We can either require big corporations to pay more or taxpayers will be responsible for ensuring people can get by."

Roe agreed the state increase is long overdue, but said a city increase on top of it would negatively affect businesses, especially mom-and-pop shops.

"Restaurants I frequent with my family, I am noticing increases in menu prices and fewer servers on the floor," Roe said. The state minimum wage increased to $9 an hour in 2014.

"We're talking about a very significant increase to the bottom line," Roe continued. "That will come out with the number of jobs they provide, reflected in menu prices, and at the end of the day customers will pay higher prices and we will have fewer jobs."

Gonzalez countered the idea, saying corporations like McDonald's and Walmart wouldn't leave town because of a minimum wage hike and that consumers would have more money to spend at small businesses.

Roe accused Gonzalez and other Democratic lawmakers of crying crocodile tears to right an economy stymied by their policies.

"Take affordable housing in the city of San Diego – we're nearly doubling the price of what should be a house just because of government costs. When we drive up the cost of housing, of fuel, of utilities and then we price people out of the market and left-wingers like Gonzales want to turn around and artificially prop up wages of people," Roe said. "It doesn't make sense."

The call for a higher minimum wage comes from more than just lawmakers. Workers in the fast food, home health and security industries have been taking their "Fight for 15" message to the streets with rallies in San Diego and across the nation for several years now, typically with the support of labor unions. Gonzalez said the measure is polling well and she expects it to come before voters in November.

Meanwhile, if San Diegans approve the local ballot measure in June, wages will automatically go up to $10.50. Gonzalez said the state legislature might also consider a $13 statewide minimum wage for 2017.

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