April 2021 Newsletter
The Fight for $44?
On the national stage, many advocates are calling for an increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25/hour to $15/hour. Yet we know, in the Bay Area, even $15/hour is far from a living wage. In fact, according to the Family Needs Calculator, the living wage in the Bay Area for a single adult with a pre-school age child ranges from $24/hour in Solano County to $51/hour in San Francisco and San Mateo Counties.
Rarely do we hear calls for a local minimum wage that comes close to what it costs to live in the Bay Area, perhaps because it seems unrealistic, or out of reach. Yet if as a society we had chosen to tie the federal minimum wage to the growth of Wall Street bonuses since 1985, the current minimum wage would be $44/hour!That of course has not been the case. As compensation for the highest paid has skyrocketed in the last 40 years, it has stagnated for the vast majority of workers. Those in our society with economic and political power have opted to enact policies that widen, rather than close, economic disparities.
Tax policy is a prime example of policy choices that privilege the wealthy few over the increasingly struggling many, and corporate profits over popular prosperity. Corporate tax cuts resulted in55 large companies paying no federal corporate taxes last yeardespite earning substantial profits. This adds up to $12 billion of lost revenue that could have paid for public services and infrastructure that is not only critical to communities, but enables these same companies to earn their profits. We are told that corporate tax breaks trickle down and result in more jobs and higher incomes, but we’ve seen the opposite. The only incomes that continue to grow rapidly are those of the wealthy.
Yet, as some businesses seek to maximize profits at every turn, other businesses see how their workers and the communities they operate in are struggling to survive, and are taking bold steps to be a part of the solution. For example, during the pandemic Graton Resort and Casino voluntarily increased their workers hourly pay by a minimum of between $2.50 and $3.25. And restauranteurs like Reem Assil and the Oakland Bloom Collective are experimenting with worker-owned models as a more equitable alternativeto the traditional restaurant business model.
While reforming corporate tax policy is an important step, we also need to lift up and celebrate those entrepreneurs, small businesses and corporations who are going above and beyond to reimagine the role of business in an equitable and inclusive society.
Those who are as concerned with shared prosperity as they are with maximizing profits and building personal wealth; those who are willing to do more than issue public statements and commitments with no accountability for follow through; and those who go beyond giving away grant dollars to community organizations fighting the symptoms of an inequitable society, to address the ways their business may be contributing to the root causes of those problems in the first place.
Do you know of businesses in your community who fit this profile? We’d love to hear about them and share their stories. Email me by clicking below.