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Nationally the movement to raise the minimum wage has grown significantly over the last few years, and California cities have been leaders, with wage increases in San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego and Los Angeles, to name only a few.

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Raising the Minimum Wage: Five Reasons We Care

Reflections from Judy Belk, April 8, 2016

What a week it’s been! On Monday California made history once again, when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill making California the first state to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022. Nationally the movement to raise the minimum wage has grown significantly over the last few years, and California cities have been leaders, with wage increases in San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego and Los Angeles, to name only a few.

But recently I’ve been asked, “Why does a health foundation care about increasing the minimum wage?” It’s a good question, and here are five reasons we care at Cal Wellness:

  1. Income and wealth drive health. It’s no surprise that if you can’t make enough money to make ends meet you will likely struggle to stay healthy and well. Data shows this is the case, and personal stories abound about how health and wealth are intimately connected.
  2. Families benefit when wages increase. Nearly 40% of workers impacted by increasing the minimum wage are parents, according to a recent UC Berkeley study. We know if parents’ wages are better, their children will have more opportunity. Research shows that children from low-income families earn less, work fewer hours and have poorer academic outcomes than other children. Raising the minimum wage provides hope and opportunity to families in California.
  3. Raising wages moves us towards health equity. Health equity is attainable, but it requires providing social and economic resources to those who have experienced obstacles as a result of race and gender. Nearly 72% of those who will benefit from an increased minimum wage are Latino, African American and Asian, and 64% of the minimum-wage workforce are women.
  4. Higher wages increase access to health coverage. Low income workers are more likely to be uninsured for a number of reasons, but affordability is a big one. An increase in wages means workers may be more likely to accept employer-sponsored coverage or will be eligible for coverage through Covered California.
  5. 5.6 million workers will be affected by the minimum wage increase. That’s a lot of people, and let’s be real: living on the current minimum wage of $10 an hour is not enough to survive, let alone thrive. Do the math. Workers and their families in California and across the nation deserve the dignity of a fair wage.

So this week’s history-making legislation is a big step in the right direction, but there is more work to be done. A colleague shared that the day after the bill was signed, she was at a restaurant for lunch and asked a worker named Yesenia what she thought of the news. Yesenia gave a thumbs up. “It’s good,” she said, then added, “but it’s going to take a while to get there.” Right you are, Yesenia. Even with the new law, it will be years before the California minimum wage is $15 per hour. That’s why Cal Wellness works every day with grantees and partners to improve the economic security of all Californians.

Sincerely,

Judy Belk
President and CEO
The California Wellness Foundation

Follow Judy on Twitter @CEO_ CalWellness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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