America needs a fair living wage

By Patrick Cochran

 

City College announced that all student-workers would see their hourly waged bumped up from $10.74 an hour to $14.00 on Nov. 9. This increase made it so that student-workers were paid as much as everyone else making $14 minimum wage in San Francisco. It was a much  needed action, and makes City College the first school nationwide to pay students the same amount as the local minimum wage.

 

Wages at City College will now correspond to the San Francisco minimum wage, which will increase to $15 on July 1, 2018. For a college student living at home, or receiving help from their parents, $15 an hour is more than enough, but for students that support themselves, or have children/dependents, the increase won’t be nearly enough.

 

While important, actions like this are only half-measures. We need to do a lot more if we want to start getting serious about fighting inequality. Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour sounds great, but for many people that wage is still wholly inadequate to support their daily needs.

 

People from outside the Bay Area probably find the San Francisco minimum wage to be high, but local residents know even $15 it is very hard to get by. San Francisco, and the surrounding counties, need to raise their minimum wage so workers actually have a chance to thrive.

 

The nationwide Fight for $15 movement is correct in that hourly wages needed to be raised. The minimum wage has been mostly stagnant for the last couple decades while the nation’s top salary earners saw their compensation increase substantially as inequality skyrocketed in America.

Fight for $15 wants the national minimum wage increased from the puny $7.25 an hour that currently exists to $15. That increase would help but I think it would be smarter to enact legislation that creates a wage formula, that can be adjusted on the state/local level as needed.

 

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has a very nifty tool for calculating the living wage needed in every state, county, and metropolitan area in America. According to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, an adult living in San Francisco needs to make at least $16.13 an hour to afford basic expenses, while an adult with one child needs to make $32.90 in order to provide the bare minimum. The current minimum wage isn’t even enough to support someone who has no children, and for a single-parent it isn’t even half what they need to make in order to support their child.

 

A minimum wage of $25, which is about halfway between the $16.13 and $32.90, would be a good first step to lower inequality in San Francisco. That increase would certainly drive up consumer prices, but it would be a great way to to facilitate wealth distribution. Yes, we might lose the ability to buy cheap food, but we would be doing the right thing by helping the less fortunate out and giving them a chance to finally prosper.

 

But even if we move the minimum wage up to $25 it might not be enough for everyone. As mentioned above, a single parent in San Francisco needs to make a minimum of $32.90 an hour in order to properly support their child’s needs. For the single parents that make less than the $32.90 a subsidy should be offered so all the kid’s essential needs can be met.

 

The best solution would be for the United State’s Congress to pass a law that creates a formula that could be applied to every state to come up with a unique minimum wage that takes into account the cost of living. A formula similar to the one MIT uses would be used to calculate the appropriate wage level for each state/local municipality.

 

Since states often have metropolitan areas where the cost of living is higher than compared to the rest of the state, like how the cost of living is higher in San Francisco than in the Central Valley, there should be exceptions made for those areas to have a higher minimum wage than the rest of the state.

 

Income inequality is one of the most pressing issues facing our society and we need to get serious about fighting against it. It might be impossible to implement this plan at the national level at this moment, thanks to Donald Trump and his sycophants, but there is no reason we can’t enact this on the state and local level.

 

Action is needed now to combat income inequality, and raising the minimum wage offers an excellent start.

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