California’s $15 Minimum Wage

& The Enormous Impact It Will Have On Latinos In California

By Josefina López

When I saw an interview with Dan Price, founder and CEO of Gravity Payments, explaining why he raised the company’s minimum salary to $70,000 a year I was moved to tears. He said he had gone hiking with a fellow employee and when he heard that she was stressed out because they were raising her rent by $200, he realized that that amount was insignificant to him. He was making over a million dollars on his salary and couldn’t believe that someone he held in high regard was suffering because of a $200 increase. He felt her suffering and didn’t want her to suffer anymore. He did research and discovered that $70,000 is the amount you need to cover all of your basic needs so that you can be happy. Wow, a CEO who didn’t want to see his employees suffer decides to forego the Capitalist logic that you have to have a college education to make lots of money or that you have to work your way to the top. He decided instead to value the humanity in each of his employees.

So when I heard that California just passed a law to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour I was excited to know we are moving in the right direction towards fairness. The City of Los Angeles had already passed legislation to go to a $15 minimum wage by 2020 and San Francisco to $15 by 2018. Now it’s all of California! The minimum wage will go to $10.50 in January 2017, $11 in January 2018, and then a dollar a year until the $15 benchmark. For companies with less than 25 employees it will take one year longer to hit $15.

Our society has created a system where those it considers less valuable are always those underpaid. Although Latinos are the majority in California, 60% of all working Latinos in California make less than $15 an hour. 55% of all workers in California who are making less than $15 dollars are Latino. Overall 37% of all California employees make less than $15. California is one of the wealthiest states in the nation as a result of the contributions of Latinos – and it’s great that Latino efforts are being recognized.

We deserve to share in that wealth and we deserve not to suffer. Back when people were treated like machines it was radical to think we could have a 40 hour week. Now that we understand employees are human beings, $15 a hour is right. I am happy going to vote knowing that this was a cause championed by Bernie Sanders which he calls “A Living Wage.”

Josefina López is the author of over 80 plays, three books, and two movies. Her landmark creation was Real Women Have Curves, which has performed across the USA and been made into an Award Winning HBO movie.