On Friday, January 30 a group of minimum wage workers, community members and activists gathered at City Hall to urge Los Angeles City Council members to raise the minimum wage to $15.25 an hour. The current minimum wage in California is $9 an hour.
Recently, there have been cries from labor leaders and workers to raise the minimum wage in cities and states across the country. In 2014, cities such as Seattle and San Francisco raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and states such as Connecticut and Maryland raised the minimum wage to at least $10.10 an hour.
Raising the minimum wage is important for all hourly workers, but for many Black workers, it’s the first step towards finding and retaining better jobs.
“We know black workers are 50% unemployed and underemployed,” said Lanita Morris, project manager at the Black Worker Center.
Despite this, the fight for livable wages is difficult for many people of color.
According to the data from the L.A.-based Economic Roundtable, 64% of Latinos and 42% of African-Americans are paid less than $15 an hour.
“I work full time, pay my taxes and still struggle to make ends meet,” said Roderick McIntosh, a black sales clerk at Bloomingdale’s department store, who makes $10 an hour, or $20,018 annually.
“All L.A. workers should have the opportunity to move into the middle class. We can barely survive on $9 and hour and can’t afford to wait months for lawmakers to increase the minimum wage. We need relief from this low-wage crisis – and we need it now,” McIntosh said.
The rally also served to address workers’ concerns over wage theft enforcement, or the lack thereof.
According to a wage theft study conducted by The Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, 20% of African American workers surveyed reported minimum wage theft violations.
For Black workers, wage theft can occur in many, unexpected ways.
“The ultimate wage theft is the black worker being excluded from work sites,” said Leroy C. Grayson, a welder and member of the Black Workers’ Center and a member of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 12.
It’s not enough to raise the wage, he said.
“There’s got to be comprehensive enforcement attached to the wage being raised, otherwise black workers won’t have access to that work and they won’t be able to get to the work that’s there,” Morris said.
Locally, voters overwhelmingly support raising the wage to $15 an hour.
According to EMC Research, 69% of Angelenos support raising the minimum wage to $15.25 an hour, with annual adjustments based on inflation. Additionally, 84% of African Americans in Los Angeles support raising the minimum wage to $15.25 an hour, with adjustments based on inflation.
Those who oppose raising the minimum wage note that it would cost business owners more money, therefore reducing the amount of available jobs and money for low-wage workers.
However several business owners spoke to the fallacy of this idea on Friday, and instead emphasized the necessity of raising the wage in order to preserve the future of the American Dream.
“Management and labor need to work together,” said Phillip Goldner, president of Los Angeles-based The Harman Press. “Let’s say goodbye to the fallacy of the trickle-down theory,” Goldner said. “