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Fighting On

We Need $15 an Hour by 2020

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The Fight for $15" continues to gather momentum across the nation and the state. On July 15, the Petaluma City Council will vote on a citywide minimum wage law boosting the minimum wage for 9,000 workers from $12 an hour to $15 by Jan. 1, 2020. In 2021, the city's minimum wage will increase annually based upon the cost of living.

Currently, the state minimum wage for businesses with more than 26 employees is $12 an hour and $11 for small employers. The state minimum will phase in to $15 by 2023 for all employers.

North Bay Jobs with Justice and the Alliance for a Just Recovery have launched a regional "Raise the Wage" campaign and proposed a $15 minimum wage by 2020 in six cities: Sonoma, Petaluma, Cotati, Sebastopol, Santa Rosa and Novato. Sonoma passed the first $15 citywide minimum in June and Santa Rosa will hold a study session on July 16 and Novato on July 23.

Why should local government implement accelerated $15 minimum wage laws?

Because the rent can't wait! Wage stagnation and the catastrophic housing crisis are driving the "Raise the Wage" campaign. According to the report, "State of Working Sonoma 2018," since 2000 real wages have remained flat for the bottom 60 percent of Sonoma County wage earners and dropped by 11 percent for the lowest paid 20 percent. Simultaneously, between 2000 and 2016 median rents increased by 24 percent, yet median annual renter incomes rose only 9 percent—and then rents soared by 35 percent after the 2017 Tubbs fire.

The grassroots "Fight for $15" has compelled 26 California cities and one county to approve minimum wages higher than the state's, and 45 have done so nationwide. Moreover, seven states and the District of Columbia have implemented $15 state minimums before 2025, and numerous other states have approved minimum wages ranging from $11 to $14.75 an hour.

Martin Bennett is Instructor Emeritus of History Santa Rosa Junior College and a member of North Bay Jobs with Justice. Dennis Pocekay is a retired Kaiser physician and member of North Bay Organizing Project. We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write openmic@bohemian.com.

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