On Tuesday May 19, 2015 the Los Angeles City Council voted to increase the city’s minimum wage from $9 to $15 dollars over a five year period. The change came after weeks of rallying from community members urging for higher wages in the Los Angeles area. The change couldn’t come at a more convenient time, as more and more major companies have made similar decisions to raise the wages of their lowest paid workers.
In February, Walmart announced that it would raise its minimum wage to $9 an hour, and eventually reach $10 an hour after a couple of years. Facebook has also been in the spotlight for announcing a $15 hourly wage as well as a $4,000 bonus for having a child.
The most progressive move for wage increases, however, was made by Gravity Payments’ CEO Dan Price. Price, who after reading a Princeton study on emotional well-being and income, decided to raise his company’s yearly salary to $70,000 a year. Price made this decision with customer’s in mind, arguing that with less financial troubles to worry about his workers would be able to provide more for their customers. As noble as Price’s decision was, he received a lot of criticism from different professionals in the business industry. In an interview Price was asked, quite bluntly, “Are you crazy?” A question that he responded with, “Maybe.”
Regardless of the criticism Price might have received, the issue of wage disparities in the United States has been in the spotlight multiple times this year and with Los Angeles’ vote to increase minimum wage, low-income workers might just get the momentum they need to increase minimum wages across the country. Currently, a minimum wage worker in the U.S. would have to work over 60 hours a week to lift their family out of poverty. Sixty hours compared to only 25 hours in the United Kingdom.
In a map of cities across the U.S. showing minimum hourly wages, Los Angeles now stands as one of the cities with the highest rate per hour paid out to workers. Various other cities including New York and Washington D.C. have proposed similar $15 wages. Critics of these proposals have argued that increasing the minimum wage would only harm businesses by forcing businesses to move out of the cities with high minimum wage policies. Other’s have claimed that even though a $15 hourly wage seems promising, it will only cost people their jobs in the end, due to layoffs as a result of increased financial stress on businesses.
Whatever the end results may be, it is clear that workers across the United States are working harder and harder to make it apparent to capitalist america that $16,000 is not an adequate, let alone sustainable amount to survive off. No one should have to live in poverty, especially in a country where some of it’s richest citizens own more than “the bottom 40% of America.” It’s about time America started to bridge the ever deepening wealth gap that has plagued this country for so long.