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In a major development with likely a far greater significance than apparently recognized by the San Francisco Chronicle, which reported it, California House Speaker Fabian Nunez has called for an increase in the California minimum wage, now at $6.75, "significantly higher than (the) $ 1" offered by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  

"What we get today," Nunez said, "we may be stuck with for four or five years."  See http://www.sfgate.com/...

For a long time, both Democrats and Republicans have deadlocked over the mininimum wage issue in California.  Schwarzenegger's position of $7.75 without a COLA has not led the Democrats to drop their support for a voter referendum of $7.75 with a COLA.  But the Democrats have not been able to override the gubernatorial veto of $7.75 with a COLA.  

Schwarzenegger can also get his version of the minimum wage enacted by California's Industrial Welfare Commission, which has unique statutory authority to raise the minimum wage itself.  Schwarzenegger has proceeded to play this this card at a very slow speed, giving himself and the Democrats plenty of time to negotiate.

In numerous articles about the California minimum wage deadlock, the positions of both parties has been stated, but neither party has appeared to offer for public consumption any possible alternative to their stated position.

Nunez is taking a step that I believe is extremely appropriate.  If the Republicans really feel passionately about not having cost of living increases for the minimum wage, they ought to be able to support a much higher minimum wage.

Democratic positions in Congress and all 50 states have, in effect, been offers of compromise in which the longtime traditional goal of having a minimum wage that could support a family of three with a single wage earner live above the poverty line has been submerged due to concerns about issue winnability.

I am a Pennsylvania state legislator with 33 years of experience, and two successful minimum wage battles (as well as various unsuccessful minimum wage battles) under my belt. I believe that getting agreement on something that benefits people is far better than having a purist position which is not implemented due to partisan disagreement.

A bill, after all, is merely a piece of paper.  But a law is something that creates a legally enforceable right for many people.

But, as readers of my prior posts here know, I think the minimum wage increases that a lot of good and decent people around the country have won are far too low.  No state has yet passed a minimum wage increase that takes a family of three with a full-time year around minimum wage worker out of poverty.

Perhaps California could be the first.  Nunez should strongly be advocating for a minimum wage that takes people out of poverty as soon as possible.

$8.50 in 2007 would produce an annual income of $17,680 with a projected poverty level (assuming 4% inflation) of $17,264.  $9.00 in 2008 would produce an annual income of $18,720 and (again assuming 4% inflation) a poverty level of $17,952.

I believe COLAs are a good idea.  But first, we have to raise the minimum wage to a level where minimum wage workers with two dependents are not in poverty.  A COLA tied to a poverty level minimum wage will just keep the minimum wage workers in poverty.

What California does to the minimum wage will have a huge national impact: California is, of course, our largest state with well over 10% of our nation's population.

If any Californians reading this agree with this diary (and Speaker Nunez's comments), please contact your state legislators and the Speaker's office.  The state of the minimum wage is a major national issue, but, as Tip O'Neill liked to say, all politics is local.

Originally posted to State Rep Mark Cohen Dem PA on Thu Aug 03, 2006 at 07:15 PM PDT.

Poll

Should the Minimum Wage Be Raised So That A Full-Time Minimum Wage Worker With Two Dependents Will Not Live In Poverty?

94%18 votes
5%1 votes
0%0 votes

| 19 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Wow is this a dream or what? (0+ / 0-)

    a minimum wage increase that takes a family of three with a full-time year around minimum wage worker out of poverty.

    Can you imagine a Country that takes care of her people and allows them a sustainable livable wage?

    I wonder what that would be like....

    "A Government that makes peaceful revolution impossible, makes armed revolution inevitable." - John F. Kennedy

    by CTLiberal on Thu Aug 03, 2006 at 07:17:45 PM PDT

    •  That being said (0+ / 0-)

      Thank you for all that you do Representative Cohen.

      Maybe someday we'll get there (like this fall when we take back the House)!

      "A Government that makes peaceful revolution impossible, makes armed revolution inevitable." - John F. Kennedy

      by CTLiberal on Thu Aug 03, 2006 at 07:19:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm still not for this (0+ / 0-)

    California already has one of the highest cost of living in the US, and this proposed raise will only increase that further. This is clearly within their state rights, however, and it will ultimately force those who can't live with that higher cost of living (typically those on fixed incomes) out of their state.

    •  Little or No Inflation From Minimum Wage Increase (0+ / 0-)

      From 2001 to 2006, all the New England states except New Hampshire raised their minimum wages, and all the southern states except Florida did not.  The minimum wage issue disproportionately affects the restaurant industry.

      In 2001, New England restaurant prices were five-tenths of one percent higher than sourthern restaurant prices.  In 2006, New England prices were only two-tenths of one percent higher than southern restaurant prices. These statistics were recently released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as part of its regular monthly reports on regional inflation.

      The inflationary impact of the minimum wage, like the job loss impact of the minimum wage, is a big dud.  That is because increased costs in the form of higher wages are offset by cost savings arising from reduced turnover and higher productivity of workers arising from increased numbers of customers.

      Progressive Democrats have done a lot of good for our country in the past, and can do a lot more in the future. Let's keep going strong.

      by State Rep Mark Cohen Dem PA on Thu Aug 03, 2006 at 07:43:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But you are cherry-picking data (0+ / 0-)

        from one specific industry. There are plenty of small businesses (my own included) that could not break even if the minimum wage were raised.

        "That is because increased costs in the form of higher wages are offset by cost savings arising from reduced turnover and higher productivity of workers arising from increased numbers of customers."

        But also at the cost of the freedom of the business owner to set the wage the market finds appropriate, which risks their own business vitality and finances. I simply can't support such a thing since it puts a noose around the neck of anyone trying to start a small business as the overhead cost will rise significantly.

      •  Also, I would like to know the difference in the (0+ / 0-)

        areas you are referencing. Of course we know that inflation is only measrued on certain items, which often does not reflect the inflation of the economy as a whole. The cost of living in states with high minimum wages tell a more important part of this story.

        •  Please Tell More About Your Own Industry (0+ / 0-)

          What is the industry you are in?  What rate of employee turnover do you have?  How many workers do you have? What percentage of your workers would be covered by a higher minimum wage?

          Is your state one of the higher minimum wage states?  If not, does your industry exist in the higher minimum wage states?  How has it fared in those states?

          Are you in retail?  If so, who is your customer base?  About how many of them would benefit from a higher minimum wage?

          I don't think I am going to convince you by giving you more statistics--or visa versa--by I would welcome information as to what leads you to reach the conclusions you do.

          Progressive Democrats have done a lot of good for our country in the past, and can do a lot more in the future. Let's keep going strong.

          by State Rep Mark Cohen Dem PA on Fri Aug 04, 2006 at 05:07:09 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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