As of July 1st, the minimum wage in California increased from $8 to $9 an hour. It will increase again in January 2016 to $10 an hour. Any increase in the minimum wage is a good thing. But we're not limited to thinking small like this. In the Los Angeles Unified School District, SEIU Local 99 (which represents more than 30,000 workers in jobs like teacher's assistants, special education aides, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and custodians) just negotiated a historic contract that would provide for a $15 minimum wage by 2016.
With nearly 20,000 Local 99 members earning less than $15/hour now, this will lift working families out of poverty. Workers earning $11/hr. today are making $22,957 a year. A worker earning $15/hr. in 2016 will make $31,305 a year instead. The poverty guideline for a single person is $11,670, and for a family of four with two children it's $23,850 -- which is more than what many LAUSD workers are earning today. Keep in mind that the cost of living in California, and the Los Angeles area is significantly higher than other parts of the country.
In the Fight for 15 over the past couple years, fast food workers have been organizing around the country for a $15/hour living wage, and the right to form a union without retaliation. Because of that work, Seattle has passed a $15/hr. minimum wage, several states have increased their state-specific minimums, and President Obama signed an executive order to increase the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10/hr.
We're winning the fight. The new LAUSD contract shows that when we organize and work together, we can help working families make their way into the middle class. Hopefully it will be a model for other school districts around the country. How can kids focus on learning in school, when their working parents can't feed and shelter them without multiple jobs? We'll never close the achievement gap until we lift entire families out of poverty. A minimum wage increase is one tool to do just that.
Read more about how this increase will affect Raul Meza, a custodian for LAUSD. He works two jobs now to make ends meet for his family. http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2014/07/07/what-lausds-new-minimum-wage-means-for-my-family/ideas/nexus/