What is the Meaning of Minimum Wage if It's Not a Living Wage?

California has been the source of sea changes of a number of kinds.  One that comes quickly to mind is the Internet.  The Information Super Highway to which we’ve all become so accustomed began in 1969 as a consortium of interconnectivity, known as ARPANET, and hosted by four Universities in the Golden State.

Recently, California again moved society forward.  This time, though, it wasn’t equal access to information that was championed.  Instead, income equality, or at least fairness, is the goal.

Emeryville, California, a small town across the Bay from San Francisco, recently established the highest minimum wage in the country.  Two months ago, the minimum in Emeryville was $9.  Now, it’s at least $12.25, and scheduled to go beyond that to a ceiling of $14.44 at the rate of $1.00 per year.

Emeryville’s mayor, Ruth Atkin, in announcing the hike, said “What meaning does a minimum wage have if it's not a living wage?  We should have a living wage."

The increases began to kick in during July 2015.  Companies or non-profits with 55 employees or fewer went to $12.25 an hour at that point, as did the process of scaling up to $14.44

Unfortunately, this progressive move hasn’t been greeted with universal approval.  For instance, the owner of an Emeryville coffee shop claimed that about 90% of his 45 employees already earn the minimum wage.  Further, he predicted that small independent businesses that had been considering locating in Emeryville might begin to reconsider such a move.

You can contact the folks in Emeryville to let them know you disagree with the coffee shop owner and to applaud their effort to provide every full-time worker with a living wage.

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Michele Petrovsky holds a Master's Degree in Computer Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh. She spent over two decades teaching in colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and currently publishes two blogs: Thoughts4Change and I Owe It All to J Thaddeus Toad. Petrovsky resides in Glen Mills, PA.


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