donate or subscribe
Follow Us Twitter Facebook

Richmond to have highest minimum wage in California

March 27, 2014

by Malcolm Marshall

Last week, the Richmond City Council voted in favor of a city ordinance that will increase the local minimum wage from $8 to $12.30 an hour by 2017. The increase will be phased in over three years and positions Richmond to have the highest minimum wage of any city in California.

Richmond activist Melvin Willis campaigns to raise minimum wage by David Meza
Richmond activist Melvin Willis campaigns to raise the minimum wage. – Photo: David Meza
While the minimum wage increase was initially going to be left up to voters in November, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin opted to have City Council members vote on three minimum wage proposals of $11 an hour, $12.30 an hour or $15 an hour. The council voted 6-1 in favor of the increase to $12.30, with Council Member Tom Butt casting the lone dissenting vote.

“I wish it could be more, but it showcases that Richmond has the political will to move forward,” said Mayor McLaughlin.

After hearing from staff and community groups in the weeks leading up to the City Council meeting, McLaughlin said it was clear that residents supported a minimum wage increase and she wanted to respond by voting on it as soon as possible.

If the council approves a second draft of the ordinance next month, the first increase to $9.60 per hour will go into effect in 2015, with successive increases to come in phases.

The Richmond City Council voted in favor of a city ordinance that will increase the local minimum wage from $8 to $12.30 an hour by 2017. The increase will be phased in over three years and positions Richmond to have the highest minimum wage of any city in California.

Melvin Willis, 23, lives in Richmond. He works with the community group Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), whose mission it is to raise up the voices of low income, immigrant and working families across California. Willis supports the increase in minimum wage because “it is just unrealistic to believe that people can survive and maintain a life, maintain family and bills on $8 an hour.”

Willis says $15 an hour would be amazing for people currently earning minimum wage working jobs in the fast food and retail industries, but he’s happy with the increase to $12.30 for now. “I have to ask myself, is $8 an hour enough for people to afford today’s rent, enough to sustain a family, some people being single parents? My answer is no.”

Willis supports the increase in minimum wage because “it is just unrealistic to believe that people can survive and maintain a life, maintain family and bills on $8 an hour.”

Robert McCauley, 61, also of Richmond, is another of the many residents who are happy about the increase. “Employers like Wal-Mart and Target direct people (employees) to get food stamps and public assistance because they pay so little. I don’t even shop at those stores, but I’m subsidizing those stores (with my tax money going to social services).”

McCauley said that if those companies want to make billions in profits, they should pay their employees enough to live on. “When FDR (Franklin D. Roosevelt) passed the minimum wage, it was meant to be a living wage.”

Pamela Davis grew up in Richmond and now lives next door in El Cerrito, after she lost her home in Richmond when the housing bubble burst. She is currently living with family. She worked for Wal-Mart at Hilltop Mall but says she was fired for speaking out against Wal-Mart’s employment practices.

“I had an excessive work load and I was being treated unfairly … Wal-Mart treats people bad on so many different levels,” Davis explained. “I was approached by some union organizers that asked me to join OUR (Organization United for Respect) Wal-Mart,” a group made up of current and former Wal-Mart employees, that she says is trying to change the way Wal-Mart treats employees.

McCauley said that if those companies want to make billions in profits, they should pay their employees enough to live on. “When FDR (Franklin D. Roosevelt) passed the minimum wage, it was meant to be a living wage.”

“When I became an OUR Wal-Mart leader, they retaliated against me,” said Davis. “What Wal-Mart is doing now is cutting back hours and laying people off or just getting rid of the older people … and if they make $10 or more (per hour) they just get rid of ‘em, just phase ‘em out.”

Malcolm Marshall, Richmond Pulse young journalists by Robert Rogers
Malcolm Marshall works with young journalists at the Richmond Pulse, where reporting is led by young people who seek to create dialogue and find solutions to the issues that plague the Richmond, California, community. – Photo: Robert Rogers
Until the Richmond wage increase, San Francisco was the city with the highest minimum wage in the Bay Area at $10.74 an hour. San Jose is next at $10.15 an hour. The current California state minimum wage is $8 an hour with an increase to $9 set for July 2014 and to $10 in 2016.

But not everyone in Richmond is on board with a minimum wage increase. Critics say raising the minimum wage could slow hiring and raise prices for consumers. Some say businesses and customers could end up leaving Richmond for other cities.

Richmond resident Don Gosney supports a minimum wage increase, but only on a state or federal level. “I do not support a minimum wage that is regional only. We don’t live on an island. As for where I’m at right now, if I wanna get my bucket of KFC I’ve got a choice – I can go to the KFC in Richmond and spend $16 for it, or I can buy it from San Pablo for $12. It makes a big difference.”

Gosney believes the increased cost of labor will hurt local businesses. He also takes issue with a part of the ordinance that exempts small businesses with fewer than 10 employees. “If you’ve got nine employees and I’ve got 10, the cost of my labor is higher than yours. How do I stay in business? How do I compete against that? I don’t. I pack up and go someplace that is more business friendly,” said Gosney. Fifteen dollars an hour – I have no problem with that at all, but you can’t just do it here.”

Malcolm Marshall and staff publish the Richmond Pulse, a youth-led community newspaper committed to amplifying the voices of the city’s under-served residents, where this story first appeared. Contact the Pulse at http://richmondpulse.org/about/.

 

0 thoughts on “Richmond to have highest minimum wage in California

  1. CWG (USA)

    This is how "sewer socialism" works to keep sub-living wage workers enslaved at the deep fryer, so the bourgeois coupon clippers can continue to super-exploit oppressed peoples, all the while pointing to those vicious class warriors who increased the workers share from sub-living to just a little higher sub-living wage. The stock markets stays happy, because they get away without paying a living wage, the "sewer socialists" are happy because they are the hero's that (while not bringing home the bacon) brought home more table scraps!

    This is shaping up to be an important debate for the working class and will be brought to the Labor Notes conference in Chicago, as Mike Parker and the RPA (Richmond's popular front between the capitalist Greens and fake Trotskyist Solidarity) along side the ISO and the Democrats in Oakland are busily collecting and soliciting accolades for throwing food scraps to the super-exploited.

    Their method, legislation and city council resolutions, does nothing to mobilize the working class to use class struggle methods to win a living wage. Rather they rally limited forces of labor, generally bolstered by the left, the union staffers and the CBO's, on the streets but not for real strike actions that shuts shit down (for more than the 1/2 hour rolling "strikes" at fast food joints) and forces wage concessions but to build moral outrage of the consumer public, embarrass the profit takers and secure votes for ballot measures and city council legislation.

    This is the method applied when alien class forces control labor. They do everything they can to prevent workers actions from developing into united and sustained (more than half hour) strike action that can win. Thus the RPA, the ISO and the Sawant campaign et.al., find a happy home together with the "progressive Democrats," with whom their only quibble is, over how much further from a living wage to keep the sub-minimum wage workers.

    It was poignant, Thursday in Oakland at the Slave Wage workers rally, where the ISO was pushing the petitions for the campaign for $12.25 alongside a Democratic council man and the union leadership. Just after the Democratic councilmen did his big hoopla about winning $12.25 via petition, a working class elder, an original Black Panther currently working as a low wage concession worker at the A's stadium, made an impassioned plea for a living wage stating that you need at least $20.00 an hour just to get by! Of course the speaker who followed him was a union bureaucrat (a youth but an effective political actor for the labor aristocracy) who tried to unwind all that militant energy he mustered from the crowd, with the admonition to the assembled that $12.25 is just a start then we go for $15! …..

    But read the Richmond article from the Bayview paper below and you will notice their increase is set to come into play in a few years…by then inflation will cut it back and the fight for the next step increase toward the living wage (in a few years) will leave the workers with the same depressed standard of living they currently have. This is clearly a scam, it keeps the "poverty pimps" like the Democrats, the CBO's and the labor fakers, themselves employed at a living wage, selling "pie in the sky" while the workers know "thats a lie!"

    Slightly tangential but to the point, Yvonne Williams President of the ATU 1555 (who opposed every effort to guide the BART strike to fight for the low wage workers to build the class solidarity needed to win) just got her payoff for keeping the BART workers in line, she has been moved up to the international! YOU PLAY THEY PAY!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

BayView Classifieds - ads, opportunities, announcements