Editorials ~ Sonoma Valley Sun


Sonoma’s minimum wage is a poverty wage

Posted on May 13, 2015 by Sonoma Valley Sun

On September third of last year, City Council voted to direct staff to solicit proposals for a minimum wage study to look at the issues and impact of an ordinance to increase the minimum wage for all workers in the City, which is currently a measly $9/hr. That was eight months ago and there has not been one word from Council. It has disappeared into the black hole of amnesia where such ideas go, apparently, when somebody doesn’t want to deal with them.

Who knew that without taking another vote, a new City Council could just ignore what the previous one voted to do?

What the city wanted to study are the fiscal impacts a $15/hour minimum wage would have. Well, exhaustive study of the fiscal impacts of the current minimum of $9/ hour has been done and it’s this: YOU CAN’T LIVE ON $9 AN HOUR. PERIOD. It’s life at the poverty level. At $9/hr. a family can’t afford housing, food, clothing, gasoline, a phone, utility bills or the basic necessities.

If the City doesn’t want to spend money to write a simple letter asking for study bids from consultants and only wants to know the fiscal impacts of trying to make it on less than $15 an hour, it has only to ask anyone working in a vineyard or winery, in a hotel cleaning rooms, in a restaurant waiting tables or a service worker taking care of the elderly or incapacitated. What is there possibly to find out that everyone doesn’t already know?

The city has no qualms about providing financial assistance to community groups without doing any studies. On March 6, Council voted to hand over $125,000 a year for the next two years to the Chamber of Commerce to do some work customarily performed by city staff. Was there a study? Nope. The city aids non-profits such as the Boys and Girls Club and the Community Center, which provide city residents needed and valuable services. The rationale for such funding seems self-evident; no need for research.

Meanwhile, the question of an equitable wage for the hard working men and women in our town, who want nothing more than a fair share — enough to raise a family in dignity and to work toward a better tomorrow — is totally ignored, relegated to the “low priority” stack that will be neglected until it’s forgotten. Apparently, the best that can be hoped for at this point is . . .not even a study.

Practically the whole country has come to realize that righting income inequality and paying wages that keep working people out of poverty is as important a civil right as racial and gender equality. This is not something that’s going to go away or get buried by those opposed. This is the moral and ethical issue of our time and our City Council should be on the right side of it, not ignoring it.

When the three new Council members were running for office they all gave high-sounding and credible answers about serving the public and improving lives. Our question to the Council is: Whose interests are you serving and whose lives are you working to improve?

Sonoma Sun | Sonoma, CA