Public Comment

Berkeley Minimum Wage Now $13.75 Hour

Harry Brill
Friday October 06, 2017 - 03:06:00 PM

Good news finally. The Berkeley minimum wage was just increased to $13.75 per hour. Beginning next October, 2018 the minimum wage will rise to $15 per hour. The hourly wage will then be increased according to the cost of living index. Believe it or not the legislation was supported last year even by the conservative majority on the City Council despite the fierce opposition of the business community, including the very influential Chamber of Commerce. 

There is a very important lesson to learn from this victory. When large numbers of activists and allies work together vigorously they can achieve important gains even though the odds seem to be against them. We are particularly indebted to Steve Gilbert of the SEIU union. He worked very hard and effectively in putting together a coalition of progressives organizations and individuals. Also important was the hard work of the Tax the Rich Group, whose role has been since the birth of the organization in 2011 to work against economic inequality. 

Not surprisingly, the business community is screaming that the higher wages could devastate their business. They apparently believe that paying a poverty wage is their only path toward survival. The problem is that the business community has been too pampered, and so they do a lot of whining when they don't get their way. 

Remember, the federal minimum wage is only $7.25. The California minimum wage is only $10 an hour. These are both poverty wages. Even $15 an hour is not sufficient. Business needs to realize that in the long run higher wages is better for business. About 70 percent of domestic spending is by consumers, who are mainly working people. In fact, President Franklin D. Roosevelt realized the importance of a good minimum wage. In 1933 he claimed "No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country."