Minimum wage: increase?

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By Staff Editorial

By Staff Editorial

If California could spare some change, we could really use it.

In January, California raised its minimum wage from $6.75 to $7.50. Minimum wage is slated to increase again in January 2008 to an even $8 an hour.

Frankly, it’s about time. You can’t live on $6.75 an hour, especially if you have a life outside of work. Many students have learned this the hard way. If you’ve ever had to choose between buying a textbook and having enough money to eat, you know what we mean.

Now that minimum wage is guaranteed to go up, the state expects citizens to be content. It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s far from a solution. These moderate increases are helpful, but they don’t make up the huge discrepancies between the minimum wage and the cost of living.

The California Labor Federation published its most recent minimum wage report in January 2006. According to that document, a self sustaining individual would have to be paid $9.78 to maintain an “adequate mode of living.”

Despite the obvious need for adequate pay, legislation to raise the minimum wage is always met with resistance.

The biggest opponents to raising minimum wage are businesses. Now that minimum wage is on the incline, businesses are finding a way to cut their losses by passing the cost on to students in other ways.

“It’s part of business; you have to watch labor. You have to cut hours. Sometimes you’ll lose an hour and a half. You could be losing a lot more too, in tips,” Anastasios Tsirtsis said. Tsirtsis is part owner of a private restaurant enterprise that owns the Citrus City Grille here in Riverside. “When minimum wage goes up, you have to bring certain items up to make up the difference,” Tsirtsis said.

Despite the impact on his businesses, Tsirtsis remained adamant that minimum wage did not adequately reflect the cost of living. “I absolutely agree that wages should increase,” Tsirtsis said.

So, students might be making a few cents more per hour. That looks good on paper, but their actual income may remain level or even decrease if they’re having their hours at work cut or if they’re being laid off. Even if students are earning more, they’re also spending more for the products that they normally purchase.

Other business owners are outraged at the resistance against this crucial adjustment in labor wages. Don Watson, owner of Sounds Like, a local Riverside record store, expressed his concern. “That’s a shame. Really, it isn’t that much. I don’t see why you’d have to get laid off,” Watson said.

Sounds Like employs many students from the Riverside area. “I pay them above minimum wage anyway,” Watson said.

As we see it, if people earning minimum wage were earning enough to survive comfortably, they would be spending more money too. Businesses would be paying out more in order to recoup expenses, but they would be making that money back in sales.

Here’s the bottom line: California needs to step up and pay up. We work hard, and all we ask in return is that we earn enough to put our minds-and bank accounts at ease.

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