Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill on Monday that raises the California minimum wage over the next six years to $15. By the time you read this, it may already be the law of the land.
Among the things I find alarming about this law is that the governor took it upon himself to "negotiate" it as a deal with organized labor. Was there a crippling labor strike that I didn't know about? Were there riots in the streets? Why on earth would the governor hold private negotiations as if there was a statewide crisis when the "Day of Solidarity" that the labor unions hosted saw less than 200 fast-food workers participate, STATEWIDE.
Organized labor groups have always padded their membership rolls to an intellectually criminal point, but let's just go with their statistic; 15.9 percent of this state's workforce is theoretically union members, a workforce that represents less than 49 percent of the population. That means that even if every union member was in favor of this absurd call for $15/hour, there would be less than 7.8 percent of the population on board.
But I could argue against today's Jimmy Hoffas all day long, so let's get back to the issue at hand.
No one is meant to live on the minimum wage, and I have no nice words to give you if you think that you should be able to raise children or support a spouse while you bag groceries. What you are supposed to do, however, is be able to go to the movies and drive your crappy car to your high school while you live at home or in a crowded college house full of roommates. You are supposed to be able to prove that you can show up and not leave early.
You are supposed to be able to put something on your resume to prove that you had worked, no matter how meaningless your previous position may appear. Most importantly, you are supposed to learn the value of work. For most, a minimum-wage job is the first time you are exposed to economic reality: You learn that certain jobs only bring in so much to the business and that a high wage cannot be justified for someone who does that job.
That is why the minimum-wage, to the law-abiding vast majority of the state, was the learning wage. Your first job is as much about you learning how to work as it is about you accomplishing anything for your employer.
But once again, this state has effectively banned learning by raising the minimum-wage to an outrageous number that will outlaw the hiring of first-time workers. The high school job is already getting rarer and yet the state wants to make it even harder for young people.
Perhaps punitive economic policy targeting young people is all you can expect out of a 77-year-old Caucasian male fourth-term governor who grew up with a powerful, rich daddy.
But let's also look at how this deal is inherently racist and classist. While the governor claims that he wants to improve the economic situation of lower-rung workers, the reality is that this law makes it even harder to climb out of poverty than before. Work that is worth $10 an hour will not get done by a human being, at least not in this state, and that means that the bar for escaping generational poverty in the black, Latino, and Asian communities will be harder than ever.
This won't raise people out of poverty! It will only cement the classes even further! The poor will stay poor, the working class will stay working class, and the rich white governors will stay rich white governors.
While in the past, someone could get a job as a junior in high school sweeping up for $5 an hour, professional cleaners offer a faster, cheaper, and often more thorough job than the nice kid who deserves a shot to make some dough down the street. Everything is becoming more and more automated and that will only accelerate as this law goes into effect.
Raising the minimum-wage hurts seniors in retirement, one of the few groups you would think Jerry Brown would care about, by devaluing their savings with relatively rapid inflation.
And let's be honest, how many minimum wage jobs will raise their wages along with the law instead of just ceasing to exist. Positions traditionally hired from within on steady payroll will become independent contractor positions if not replaced entirely by outsourcing out of the state or country or by a robot, which by the way, is no longer a joke if you pay attention to the news. Small businesses that require staff will go out of business because they already run on such a small margin in this regressive state under this self-serving government.
If you make minimum-wage, I hope you know better than to celebrate this law. In fact, this simply means that your job is now in jeopardy. You should apoplectic and do your best to prove your worthiness to your employer because now you are in the crosshairs for being laid off thanks to your state representatives.
In the end, this is a selfish, inherently racist, greed-driven, politically-motivated, socially and economically regressive act with only the short-sighted goal of raising tax revenues across the board and bolstering the few remaining strongholds for the quickly declining unions.
Is there an upside for the people, excluding that 7.8 percent? I have yet to find it.
Devon Minnema is a community college student and columnist. While his writing doesn't pay, he has a day job and makes more than minimum wage but less than $15.