Fifteen Is The Magic Number

New York is poised to be the most recent success in the ongoing national Fight For $15.

The increase [to $15 an hour] would be fully phased in by the end of 2018 for workers in New York City and by mid-2021 for those in the rest of the state. Currently, fast-food pay in New York is about $9 an hour. … A fast-food wage of $15 could push up wages in New York more broadly because it sets a new bar for retailers, home care agencies and other low-wage employers to meet or exceed.

It also paves the way for even more muscular use of such boards in New York, both to raise pay in other low-wage occupations and in geographic areas, like New York City, where the state’s minimum wage, set to reach $9 an hour at the end of this year, is clearly not enough to live on.

Commenters are being surlier about it than I would have expected:

I guess everyone worries that something for someone else means less for them. But as the NYT article makes clear, a change like this will ideally produce ripple effects across industries.

Speaking of ripple effects, the University of California System has announced that it is raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour too.

The move comes after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to raise the minimum wage in unincorporated areas of the county to $15 an hour; the City of Los Angeles approved the same increase in May.

Janet Napolitano, the president of the University of California, said it would become the first public university system in the country to voluntarily raise the minimum wage as high as $15 an hour. “This is the right thing to do — for our workers and their families, for our mission and values, and to enhance U.C.’s leadership,” Ms. Napolitano, the former secretary of Homeland Security, said at a meeting of the school’s regents.

That will make everyone ecstatic except adjuncts, I guess, who will continue making squat. Still: progress! And considering how flat wages have been for so long, progress on any front is something to cheer for. Yes, it’s true that there might be an awkward period where fast food workers and college janitors make more than elder care assistants, at least until the market sorts itself out; but every working person deserves a living wage. The huge UC system was inspired to change the way it pays its thousands of employees thanks to the Fight for $15 campaign, and hopefully, as momentum takes hold, more industries and businesses will do the right thing as well.

Support The Billfold

The Billfold continues to exist thanks to support from our readers. Help us continue to do our work by making a monthly pledge on Patreon or a one-time-only contribution through PayPal.