It’s all the rage. Seattle and San Francisco have done it, and now Los Angeles is joining the pack. Last week, the Los Angeles City Council voted to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020, becoming the largest U.S. city to do so.
(Photo credit: Todd Jones Photography/Flickr)
But maybe not for long. New York is contemplating a similar move. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced that the state will consider raising the minimum wage for fast food workers. And other cities across the country raised minimum wage well above the federally mandated $7.25 per hour.
Here’s what LA’s increase could mean for you, whether or not you live there:
1. How many?
Based on a report from the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics, approximately 542,000 LA workers would be affected (37.8 percent of the workforce) to start, but the number will grow to more than 609,000 affected workers.
2. How much?
Earnings would initially grow by as much as $4,800, annually; and then continue to grow to $16,600 with the incremental pay increases. All that adds up to an estimated $7.6 billion in extra wages. Proponents argue that workers will quickly reinvest all that money, and help to reinvigorate the economy.
3. Who benefits?
According to the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics, the new $15 per hour pay increase will disproportionally benefit workers of color – more than 80 percent of affected workers. Most of the low-income workers in their 30s. (89 percent are 20 or older.)
4. Which industries are affected the most?
In general, the industries most affected are about what you’d expect: food services, healthcare, retail, and admin work. Many of the lowest wage earners also have part-time and seasonal employment. It’s the worst kind of double-edged employment sword: low wages plus a unreliable work schedule. It’s no wonder there’s been so much hubbub about the prospect of a wage hike. It’s the only real hope that low-wage earners have seen in a long time – that elusive light at the end of the tunnel. It’s about survival.
Critics of the Fight for 15 say that raising the minimum wage could reduce the number of available jobs, further hurting the workers these policies are intended to help.
“I may wish to have all jobs pay at least $15 an hour,” wrote Warren Buffett in The Wall Street Journal. “But that minimum would almost certainly reduce employment in a major way, crushing many workers possessing only basic skills. Smaller increases, though obviously welcome, will still leave many hardworking Americans mired in poverty.”
Ultimately, no matter which side of the wage debate you’re on, the LA vote means monumental changes. Even if you are making more than $15 per hour, you probably know family, friends, and acquaintances in your community who have been living on low wages their entire careers. The question is no longer whether the minimum wage will increase – it’s whether that increase will mean more income, or fewer jobs.
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