Minimum wages raised in California, New York

California state government reached a deal to raise minimum wage to $10.50 an hour next year and then gradually to $15 by 2022. (On Thursday, March 31, 2016)

Just hours later, lawmakers in Albany struck a deal that will raise the minimum within New York City to $15 by the end of 2018, before gradually ratcheting it that high across the rest of the Empire State.

This wage increases follow sustained and united struggles of service sector workers from 2013 onwards. As a result more than a dozen states have passed minimum wage increases since 2014. San Francisco and county of Los Angeles have already adopted a $15 minimum wage plan that will take effect by 2020. In Seattle city Socialist Alternative party councilor Kshama Sawant campaigned for the passage of a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in the city (in 2013).

Numerous statewide polls in California showed voters would approve this hike to minimum wage. Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have both endorsed a union-led nationwide push for a $15 minimum wage.

Reaction of some workers to this news:

Sandra Carrera, 38, of Los Angeles working in a San Francisco restaurant can’t make enough on minimum wage to cover $1,050 in rent and bills each month, so she sells party supplies to make up the difference. But that income has dwindled. A wage hike couldn’t come soon enough, Carrera said.

Miguel Sanchez, 43, of Highland Park working as a cook in the restaurant puzzles through a similar math problem as he makes tortillas with masa-caked hands. After rent and bills, his income from two minimum-wage jobs leaves him about $440 to buy food and take care of his wife and two young daughters.

Jiwon Park, 22, a server at Lee’s Noodles is worried about prices going up as well. But in the meantime, a higher minimum wage means more money for textbooks and ESL classes, groceries for his mother and a chance to save up and start his own restaurant or store someday. He said the statewide wage hike that took place in January has already made a difference for him. “It’s a dollar,” Park said, “but if you work 50 hours, it’s $50. If you work 500, it’s $500.”

Reacting to this raise, businesses threaten that they will be forced to cut jobs when the wage increases come into force. However, the same workers solidarity which achieved this wage hike will thwart any efforts by employers to cut jobs. Moreover it should be noted that jobs in personal services such as restaurants can not be out sourced to low paid overseas locations easily.

Collective action by employees is the only way to force the state and employers to meet their demands even for basic livelihood needs.

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