.Open Mic: $18 an Hour or Bust!

North Bay voters can now sign petitions to place a measure on the November ballot to raise the state minimum wage to $18 an hour.

Currently, the state minimum is $15 an hour for large companies (with more than 25 employees) and $14 for small companies. If the voters approve the proposed ballot initiative, the state minimum would be phased in to $18 an hour for all employers by 2026. After reaching $18, the minimum wage will be adjusted annually based on the rising cost of living.

Why do we need to increase the minimum wage?–because $15 is not enough and the rent can‘t wait!

From 2000 to 2018, gross annual rents in Sonoma County rose by 25 percent, but annual renter incomes grew by just two percent.

Consequently, housing is unaffordable for more than half of Sonoma County renters. Most renters pay more than 30 percent of their monthly incomes on rent. The story is the same across the state, particularly in high-cost coastal areas.

According to the United Way of California, an actual living wage for Sonoma County is $23 an hour for each of two parents employed full-time to support two children. A living or self-sufficiency wage enables a family to pay for food, rent, transportation, child care, and health care without relying on government assistance such as Food Stamps or Medi-Cal.

Now is the right time to boost the state minimum wage. The pandemic has revealed how essential workers who cannot work from home are struggling–and many must work two jobs to make ends meet. If the ballot initiative passes, millions of low-wage essential workers will receive a wage hike.

The majority of these workers are women, youth, immigrants, and workers of color who now experience the highest inflation in the last four decades. Yet, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, corporate profit rates are the highest since 1950!

Public opinion in red and blue states strongly supports raising the minimum wage. In 2020 Florida voters approved a ballot measure to boost that state’s minimum wage from $8.56 to $15 an hour (phased in by 2025) with 60 percent of the vote.

Novelist and historian Wallace Stegner once opined, “California is America, only more so.”

In 2016 the Golden State was the first to require a $15 minimum wage. Subsequently, ten more states approved a $15 minimum wage. If California mandates $18, other states will surely follow.

Sign the petition!


Get more information about the proposed ballot measure at livingwageact.com.

Martin J. Bennett
Martin J. Bennett is instructor emeritus of history at Santa Rosa Junior College and a research and policy analyst for UNITE HERE 2850.

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