Raising the Minimum Wage for Working Men and Women in California and the Rest of America

Working Poor's Plight a Major Issue in Year's Campaigns

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When Rep. Jackie Speier recently spent the night in a homeless shelter, her biggest shock was sharing sleeping quarters and meals alongside a married couple with full-time jobs – the wife a Safeway checker, the husband an employee of OfficeMax.

“They had to stay in the shelter to save up deposits to get an apartment,” Speier said. “It’s hard to believe that someone bagging your groceries” would be turning to last-resort housing.

Speier, D-Hillsborough, was just the latest politician to experience the world of the working poor.

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Some Democrats, and even a few Republicans, are focusing on raising the minimum wage to lift up the poorest of the 99 percent.

Last year, the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown approved an increase to $9 as of this July and to $10 in 2016, but increasingly, that’s looking like only the start.

Multimillionaire GOP activist Ron Unz is circulating petitions for a ballot measure calling for a two-step increase in the minimum wage – to $10 an hour in 2015 and $12 the next year – which would put California’s base pay at the top among states.

Many Republicans are skeptical, pointing to a Congressional Budget Office study last week that said President Obama’s proposed increase in the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 to $10.10 would cost half a million jobs by 2016.

Unz’s argument to his party is that taxpayers are subsidizing businesses that pay low wages and force workers to seek food stamps and other government aid.

• Category: California, Campaign, Notable • Tags: Carla Marinucci