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California's Century-Long Labor Poverty: The Ethical Wage Gap

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

How much would employers pay their employees without the federal and state minimum wage guidelines? Would it be what they pay institutionalized workers? What would a fair wage be without localized unions who fight to keep the working middle-class families above the poverty line? While I appreciate the intent of President Biden's 15.00 dollar minimum wage proposal, the rejection by congressional leaders hit a fuse. My curiosity led me to research California's Minimum Wage History. My findings were startling. The Department of Industrial Relations created a minimum wage history chart that included the dates of new and old wage increases. According to the statistics, the California minimum wage started at 0.16 cents in 1916. A century later, one hundred-five years and two months to be exact minimum wage has barely reached $14.00 in 2021. Not sure what this means? It means the cost of living continued to soar while working-class families worked for dollars that made little cents. See for yourself.

"California minimum wage increases have remained between the nickel and the one-dollar bill for over a century."

So, let's review the facts. Look at row one. From 1916 to 1963 the minimum wage increased by $1.25. That is forty-seven years and six months. Move down to row two. From 1964 to 1988 the minimum wage increased by $3.00. That is another twenty-four years and two months. Continue to row three. From 1996 to 2014 the minimum wage increased by $4.75. That is an additional twenty-six years. Finally, check out row four. From 2016-2021 the minimum wage has reached a $5.00 increase. adding seven more years. Add it all up. Since 1916-2021 the minimum wage reached a $14.00 increase, totaling, one hundred-five years and two months. There you have it. The California minimum wage has remained between the nickel and one-dollar bill for over a century. Need I say anything about the $7.25 federal minimum wage that is about 55% less than California's state wage? In my research review, I want to tell you the truth. Although $15.00 is a mild stepping stone, it will not bridge the one-hundred-year-old minimum wage gap.

"We don't have to be mathematicians to see the facts. There's a really "BIG" wage gap.

We don't have to be mathematicians to see the facts, there is a long-standing history of short-changing workers that created this really big wage gap. If this is not unsettling to you, keep reading. Between the missing wage gaps and cost of living spikes, California became the homeless capital of the Nation. I found an article that compared California's unfair wage pay to its housing costs while adding my twist. Consider the following chart.

Legally, a renter cannot be required to pay more than 30% of overall income for housing. The Los Angeles County minimum wage base pay in 2018 was $11.00. It cost 67,976.00 dollars to live in Los Angeles County. That is equivalent to 60.00-hour base pay (see grey area). The affordable renter made 62,745.00 dollars (see blue area), while the $11.00 minimum wage worker totaled 21,120.00 dollars (see green area), three times less than affordable living. So, someone making $11.00 an hour, $21,120.00 a year could only afford to pay $528.00 a month or $6,336.00 a year.

How realistic is that? Can this be one of the reasons the poverty line in California is at its highest peak ever? According to Proverbs, poverty comes from the stingy, lazy, drunk, gluttons. So how have hardworking-class citizens been forced into the same poverty category? Maybe because Congress hasn't done what's fair concerning big business owners' refusal to do what's right, and small business owners' tax breaks? I believe "the just lives by faith," but that does not negate our responsibility to keep "fighting the good fight of faith" for what is right.

One more thing. The Wage and Housing chart shows that in 2018, a person making $32.68 an hour or $62,745.60 a year could afford a 2BD at $1699.00 and still have about $42,357.60 to spend on other living expenses. Sadly, the statistics show the average wage allowance for California in 2018 was $41,280.00-purple area. That means the average renter could only afford to pay $1118.00 for a 2BD or $23,416.00 a year and barely have $17,864.00 to spend on other expenses. However, the average homeowner charged between $1300.00 and $2200.00 minimum, which forced this group of renters to afford poor housing conditions in at-risk neighborhoods. It is a form of discrimination, known as redlining. Is it fair for landlords to collect more if businesses pay less? I can assure you that the majority of California renters did not reject rent control. So, how did it pass twice? There is no doubt. In my observation, we need an affordable living wage.

I reanalyzed the wage history. Look at column 3. In 26-27 years, $15.00 would have been affordable between 1969 and 1994. So, what does this mean today? It means we have to push for a more affordable living wage. The wage gap is impacting hardworking people. Each state needs a fair wage pay to aid its residents with its cost of living, starting with California. After 105 years, not only should the overall cost of living in California be $52.50, the minimum wage should be $38.50. However, the economy would plummet to jump straight to this. So, I divided the numbers in half to create a more realistic achievable goal. The living wage turns to $26.25, subtract that from the base federal wage of $7.00, and you get the affordable living wage of $19.25. So, where do we start affordable living?


LA~ Pointers

  • First, change the name from minimum wage to affordable living wage, and start with $15.00.

  • Second, collect new data to start increases. My wage proposal increases each year by $2.25 for the next five years. (Businesses can stretch $2.25 out over one year).

Wow, a new $26.25 living wage will be met by 2026, reaching $19.25 by 2023. It's not abracadabra. It's a life mission to lessen the wage gap and create an affordable living.

  • Third, hold elected officials and lawmakers accountable for the century-old minimum wage gap that few see as a problem. Lawmakers are proposing $15.00, by 2026, totaling one hundred-ten years. It's good to pray, but don't forget to cast those votes.

  • Fourth, join a Cause to be your voice. Unions and advocates are constantly fighting for working-class families, such as Stacy Abrams, SEIU, and others. They'd love your financial assistance, support, and prayers to fuel their advocacy, legislation, and litigation power.

Finally, remember no matter the outcome, "In God We Trust," for our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness."

God promises believers "hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places." Isaiah 43:1.

Blog-it LA~ Truth-Media (Like-Follow-Share)


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