I am sure you have heard of the current deal that was struck between the Governor, labor unions and leading Legislative Democrats to raise the minimum wage in the state of California to $15.00 per hour by 2022. California would be the first State in the Union to raise the minimum wage to this level, therefore making our State the trial run for a monumental economic shift.
While I understand that nearly 23 percent of California residents live below the poverty line, what isn’t understood are the reasons that they have fallen below that line. There are larger societal issues at play when it comes to people’s upward mobility. Educational opportunities, educational priorities and the high cost of living all negatively affect the economic disparity in this State.
The minimum wage was never meant to be a living wage. It was meant to be a launching platform to achieve your first job and experience in the work field. Then, through education and experience, a person would increase their leverage to garner high wages or different job opportunities. We need to look at what educational opportunities could help this issue such as retraining and adult education programs. In the Declaration of Independence, the term “Pursuit of Happiness,” implies the opportunity to strive for a more affluent position within society. A person should never strive to be complacent in their job and always strive to reach the next level, which is what the American Dream has always told us. We need to invest more in Career Technical Education (CTE). Not everyone is a perfect fit for four year universities and we are seeing large vacancies in CTE fields such as welding, construction and electrical engineering that produce high paying jobs. Lastly, the high cost of living and barriers to affordable housing are never discussed when looking at this issue. When speaking to developers, we hear that half of the costs that go into housing go to regulations and permitting. A look into reducing these costs may make the cost of rent a much lower burden to these workers.
Largely, the arbitrary determination of $15.00 per hour is a callous decision that includes zero innovation or economic understanding when approaching the problem. People understand that living and working in cities such as Los Angeles or San Francisco is quite different than Bakersfield or the Inland Empire. This deal is a blanket policy that will negatively affect cities in California by experimenting with people’s livelihood; small businesses and workers alike.
The final argument being made for this increase was the ballot initiative was worse and at least we can control this legislation. The problem was that “we” only included members of one political party and excluded major organizations such as the California Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business and the California Restaurant Association. Without all parties involved in this process, we lose out on innovative ideas at all levels and we end up with a policy that is a one sided band-aid. This increase will not solve the economic disparity in our state, and will have large unintended consequences for the state of California.
Colonel Rocky J. Chávez – Assemblymember, 76th District 760-433-7601 760-433-7607